Saturday, February 3, 2024

Dragon-Sitting and Donating Books


These pictures are a few months old, meant to show a stack of books to be donated that I no longer wanted to take up valuable bookshelf space. 

And the dragon atop the books came to visit me after he appeared on my son's YouTube channel as an optical illusion. (I suppose he would be called a Mona Lisa effect illusion where the eyes continue to stare at you?) 

Here's a link to my son's channel showing the illusion.

I won't be able to see if the link works until it publishes but I hope it works for you. If it does, isn't that a weird optical illusion?

If you have a husband or son or grandson who is into odd technical devices like geiger counters, I know my son would welcome new subscribers. Of course I subscribe simply to see my son's hands show his latest acquisition and listen to the current music he's chosen. He has always loved classical music. 

Anyway, I couldn't understand what I was seeing and he brought the dragon to visit one day, forgot it when he left and I continued to dragon-sit until the next visit. 

And now to a quick, I promise, glimpse of the books that aren't getting a permanent space on my shelves.

Do you recognize any that you might have read?

Let's start with one I thought was superbly written, La's Orchestra Saves the World by Alexander McCall Smith.

While I love McCall Smith, it is only his Isabel Dalhousie mysteries set in Edinburgh that I collect and keep. This book was set in England in World War II and what impressed me about it was that the author wrote the book convincingly as someone from that era would have. Most of the time historical romance is so obviously written by someone of the future trying to be of that time period. It must be very hard to pull off, I've tried it, but McCall Smith does it so naturally. 

Are You Hungry, Dear? by the inimitable Doris Roberts was a fun and interesting and sometimes sad read of her life and favorite recipes. I guess I will always think of her as Marie on Everybody Loves Raymond who has an opinion on everything and isn't shy about letting the world know it. 

But did you know that she was married to author William Goven? I didn't until I read her book and strangely enough, on a visit to Goodwill after reading it, his name leaped out at me in the book section. I love reading published letters of celebrities lives and this book was Selected Letters from a Writer's Life. 

I admit I gave up halfway through and just skipped ahead to his marriage to Doris. Actually, I don't think I ever finished one of his novels. These both went to Goodwill for someone to discover. 

Not going to even mention the rest of the books in the donate stack. I'm sure that the fault of them not clicking with me is simply because I love old books better than most contemporary ones. 

I did donate this old book though, even though it was rare online. Perhaps a reseller will pounce on it.

Earl Derr Biggers was the author of the Charlie Chan mysteries that I remember seeing in black and white television in my youth. And then Charlie Chan seemed to disappear, evidently because he became thought of as portraying stereotypical roles that were rightly no longer tolerated. 

There, that's fairly short, isn't it? For me?

Monday, January 29, 2024

What I should be doing is not always what I do.

 I should be doing so many things right now other than an admittedly boring food blogpost. I set out ingredients earlier to bake cookies but haven't started yet. Instead, I started changing things around in my kitchen and then my bedroom and then the dining area of our great room. 

And then I came to a stopping point, needing RH to come home and help me with some of the heavy stuff--a large picture to move from the dining area to my bedroom, the upper open shelf in the kitchen for him to clean and move things around on like I had done the lower shelf. There are things sitting on my counters, the dining table has hammer, nails, dust cloths and polish sitting on it and a few final Christmas things I took down and need to be stored, the laundry  basket sitting in a chair by the dining table waiting for the table to be cleared so I can fold white things, the vacumn pulled out on the floor for him to use it on the top of a large armoir, a stepladder waiting for him to climb. And now he's home and wants to wait until tomorrow for his honey-do list. 

So I'm sitting down to rest and wanting to change a blog post here at Across the Way that has not been changed since December 9, that's December 9. 

And everything I wanted to blog on requires this little thing or that little thing to finish up first. So I am going to dump on my poor few readers one of the many food posts that I never got around to posting. And it's a ham based menu at that, Ham, on readers who include vegetarians and people who probably never fix ham because they always blog such beautiful healthy meals. 

All I can say is, please, please, please don't feel as if you have to comment, not even my faithful few who still come here. You are totally excused! This is just for my own family because we love ham. Or at least some of us do. About every three months RH buys one at Costco and we have ham and vegetables, and ham and eggs for breakfast, and ham sandwiches, and the ham bone goes in the freezer for flavoring dried beans.

And then the last scraps of ham go into a ham and potato casserole. And it is delicious!

I don't have a written down recipe but I cook the potatoes first in a pot till tender and slice them and it has sliced onions and milk and cheese and pepper and whatnot in it.

I serve braised cabbage with it.

And this particular time I had cranberry sauce in the fridge.

And that small bowl to the left was Silver Palate's Pineapple Bake, a bread pudding that is so good with ham.

Here's a link I found to the recipe that shows how simple the recipe is.

And I might as well include the recipe from Food & Wine that I use for ham broth that I make from the ham bone to flavor dried beans. Maybe you can read it if you're interested.

It's kind of fun to make, just as is any stock. At least I always feel thrifty and housewifely when I make my own stock. 

Now if tomorrow I can finish up all those little projects I started today. Anyone else ever do that? Oh I forgot, you're not supposed to leave a comment on this one!

Saturday, December 9, 2023

A Christmas Mystery: Corpus Christmas by Margaret Maron


I enjoy the Christmas novels of my favorite mystery writers, none more than this 1989 one by Margaret Maron who wrote mysteries from the 1980s to her last one in 2017. Do you know her work? This sentence alone from a speech she once gave should tell you why I'm a fan:

"From the beginning, I loved language, I loved words, I loved the tricks that you could play with them." (Margaret Maron)

Maron's mysteries are the proof of that, especially those of one of her two strong women sleuths, Sigrid Harald of the NYPD.

While Louise Penny's mysteries are top shelf in this bookcase, Margaret Maron's take up the entire second shelf, the hardbacks on the left about Maron's other sleuth, Deborah Knott (Judge Knott--get it?) of North Carolina, and the paperbacks on the left that are about Lieutenant Sigrid Harald.

Corpus Christmas is a beautifully written, complex novel of a mystery that weaves together the fascinating story of a family home of the late 1800s to early 1900s that is currently an art museum of works collected in Europe by the family's son, and site of where the murder takes place, along with the story of Sigrid Harald, the investigating officer, and Oscar Nauman, described as "an artist of his own time and one who isn't afraid to leave the loose ends." 

While Sigrid's art appreciation belongs with pictures that look like what they are--as in the oil painting above that sits on my living room floor during the Christmas season (a story there) that my Aunt Teenie painted for us over 50 years ago--the older man Oscar Nauman is of the persuasion that "the high purpose of art is to remind us that something is always left undone."

Just as all the words in my beautiful old Webster Universal two volume dictionary weave together a language, Corpus Christmas uses beautiful words to weave together the story of the art world of the 1800s and the 1980s and the family life of a comfortably situated New York family from the past with the unfolding modern romance of two very different people.

This murder mystery, the ending of which was a complete surprise to me, is as pretty as the old Polish Fantasia Fish Scale ornaments I've collected for years.

Leaving one only to wonder how the relationship between the very confident self-assured Oscar and the very reticent reserved Sigrid will end.

Ah, only the last book in the series will tell.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Peppers, Mainly

I love peppers. Other than the onion family, they may be my favorite vegetable. This year we grew Serrano, JalapeƱo, Cayenne, Super Chili, and Anaheim (my favorite), and Tabasco peppers. 

The day before our first freeze was predicted RH cut all the Tabasco peppers, one pepper I hadn't used all summer, saving them for hot pepper sauce.

I save pretty glass bottles that are perfect for hot vinegars that enhance pots of pinto beans or collard greens all winter.

This is the easy kind of preserving that is all I do anymore. No more chili sauce, corn relish, pepper relish, pickled peaches, and every kind of jam and jelly that I made as a younger homemaker.

Here's a picture of my mother who keeps me company in the kitchen, the expert chili sauce maker. I especially love this picture that was used at her celebration of life service the week before everything shut down in 2020. I was sitting by her when the picture was taken, our arms around each other, and I think about that when I cook.

Dewena was her middle name, as it is mine.

I stepped out on the kitchen porch later that day to cut the rest of peppers and some herbs for Bolognese sauce for supper.

Our little cayenne plant remained small all summer, not producing enough peppers to string and hang in the kitchen.

I'm wondering if I can just store them in a glass jar after they all dry? 

Look what RH brought in from a friend later that day. Wow, the mother lode of peppers! Perfect for stuffed peppers!

It was also a day for bringing in a few houseplants and I asked RH to bring in my favorite outdoor pot with three shade plants that was still so pretty. I picked them out with birthday money early summer, two different tiny ferns and the tall plant I can't remember the name of. Will they survive in the house? 

I also cut a few blooms from the Mandeville vine I bought with my birthday money.

This was our first time to buy this plant and it rewarded us with blooms all summer long in the garden.

I wish I could have brought the whole vine in for winter. Naturally after the hard freeze we were back to beautiful days. 

Perhaps we'll even have a Tender Tennessee Thanksgiving. 

What's it looking like where you live?

P.S. Here's the Bolognese sauce cooking away!

(This little plaque was in my mother's kitchen! Wish I knew it's history. Maybe my sisters remember?)

Thursday, November 2, 2023

"Try November's Love"

 With apologies to Melanie...

Winter's Lover by Joan Story Wright

Come now, forget your April-bitten heart,

And try November's love. He's strong enough

To tear your frail, beribboned dreams apart

And make you scorn the tender for the rough

Sureness of his love-making. Come be wise;

Put springtime's wistful fantasies away

And wipe the blatant rainbows from your eyes.

Rainbows will fade, but never the gusty gray

Of winter's bleak caress. Spring buds deceive;

Not so this bitter lover. Take his hand.

He offers frank commands for weak appeals

And he will trade cold truth for make-believe,

And, for rain's phantom fragrance, the demand

Of a little muttering wind to pluck your heels.

When I read this poem the other night in my November 1951 issue of Ladies' Home Journal, it filled a hole in my heart I didn't realize I had. I can't express how much I needed it.  I needed tough vigor and trust, not sweetness, not this November. 

I needed belief in this month that is my favorite, belief that we will make it through the headwinds that winter might bring. 

When we moved here seven years ago, RH planted two Natchez crape myrtles out front. I dearly love them but it is the old crape myrtle above that steals my heart each summer and now in the fall. 

This scene is what I see outside the bathroom window. I love this tree dressed in its summer beauty but it turns my heart to mush in late October and early November. Somehow the poem seemed to go with the pictures and they both give me strength.

Because it's a long way till summer.

I'm going to try November's love.

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Beauty, When You Can

This is a last minute effort to post here at Across the Way before October is gone as it's been almost two months since I've been here. 

The pretty pumpkin placemats that I only use in October, and only for non-messy meals were perfect to illustrate a point that's dear to my heart from one of my favorite books, No Trumpet Before Him by Nelia Gardner White. 

I have ten other posts here with White's label and I even posted about this book here in 2019 when we discussed reading depressing books. I pulled out this book once again this month when I needed a book to comfort me. 

Every time I read one of her books I get something different from it and this time it meant even more to me than before. This time I needed the Methodist bishop's wife, needed her positive but not Pollyanna personality. 

Maisie Fellowes, an author as well as Bishop Fellowes' wife, puts her husband's apple on a pretty blue dish before taking it to him. It's important to her. Beauty is important to her, in her garden and her home. This one little detail about Maisie has stuck in my mind for a decade or more since I first read it. 

I had a post planned for this with pictures of my table set prettily for a plebeian supper of Tuna Fish Casserole and spinach. I took the first picture above but then put my phone on to charge and used RH's phone for pictures of the meal on the table. Little did I realize that RH's iCloud was full and when I went to send them to my phone later there were no pictures. 

So without Maisie's touch of beauty, here is my meal, in the kitchen, on the stove, not on a pretty autumn table.

There, how inspiring is that?

But I did manage to change my current post from Back To School clothes, so there's that. 

Maybe, just maybe, the plainer the meal, the more important beauty is. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Back to School Clothes, 1965


From this picture can you guess which movie influenced back to school clothes in 1965?

Another clue...

And this darling third clue?

Naturally, it is the movie that for five years made more money at the box office than even Gone with the Wind.......

The Sound of Music!

I remember seeing the movie when it premiered at Nashville's nicest movie theater in 1965. How I loved it! RH and I had only been married a few years and didn't have any children yet but if I'd had school age children I most likely would have been wanting to dress them this way for the first day of school.

And that first day of school back then was always the day after Labor Day, not some barbarous day in August when we would have still been at Pleasant Green swimming pool or Myrtle Beach.

I loved the songs from the movie, still do. You still hear These are a few of my favorite things on Instagram, don't you? I think one of the most memorable scenes from the movie was So Long, Farewell when the von Trapp children bid adieu to their house guests one evening and disappeared one by one up the staircase, cute little Greti  going last. And then of course when the song is repeated at their performance at the Salzburg Festival when they bid adieu to the audience and escape  through the Alps to Switzerland. 

But back to fashion! Here are two more fall fashion pictures from my August 1965 issue of Ladies' Home Journal.



 I see a slight influence of the movie in the second woman's dress, do you? 

Would school children today be caught dead in these clothes?

Do you think the style will ever come back?

Did you ever wear a dress similar to these, as a child or as an adult?