Saturday, October 31, 2009

All Hallows Eve

Halloween night . . . a time when, the old stories say, the veil between this world and the next is thin . . . a time when spirits walk . . . when signs and portents abound . . .

Does this crow bring a message from that world? His eye has a meaningful gaze . . .

From all the coves and hollows, pale mists swirl and rise . . . spirits of the Cherokee . . . the Scot-Irish, the English, the Germans . . . all those who called these mountains home. . .

The mist clings; it whispers in your ears. . . twines in your hair . . . you breath it in and with it all the history of these haunted hills . . . you are part of us forever . . . the voices echo and recede . . .

It's a good night for drawing near the fire and telling ghost stories . . .

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Drummers

As I pulled into the parking lot of the school where my writing classes are held, I was thrilled to see that a drum rehearsal was underway. This happened last fall as well, and on some nights there were lots and lots of fancy marchers too. I don't know if it's for an upcoming parade or what; I just know I love watching -- and wish I could have recorded the sound as well because these guys are GOOD!

I love that they're of all ages . . .

I love the parents watching -- grinning and tapping their toes just as I was to the infectious beat . . .
And I love the way the big kids are showing the younger ones how it's done . . . not in a superior overbearing sort of way . . .

But with tremendous joy and enthusiasm and a shared sense of accomplishment.

Not a lot of things make me tear up -- but this drum practice did.

I'm hoping there'll be marchers too next week.

I'll be there early.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Three More Books

Due to lack of room in my baggage, I was very restrained in my purchase of books in Indianapolis but I managed to bring home three goodies . . .

A Duty to the Dead is the first of a new series by the talented mother-son teams writing as Charles Todd. It's set in England of 1916 (not 1016 as I originally typed!) and Bess Crawford, the protagonist, is aan engaging young woman serving as a volunteer nurse in France and later on a hospital ship.

I always enjoy visiting this time period and the Todds' writing is both rich and compelling.

Click on the book cover to visit their website and to learn more about this and their other books.

I've mentioned more than once how much I like Laurie King's books. This ninth entry in the Mary Russell series continues the high standard of writing I always know I'll find in King's work.

It could be read as a standalone but I recommend beginning at the beginning so as not to miss any of the fun in this clever, complex, layered, intelligent story of young Mary Russell and her mentor/partner/husband, the much older Sherlock Holmes.

This book is set in England (and Scotland) in 1924 -- earlier entries range from Palestine to San Francisco to India and beyond.

Click on the book cover to visit Laurie's website (one of the best I've seen.)

And here is a long postponed pleasure. I met Beverle a few years back and was intrigued by the setting and subject of her series. She writes about Titi Amato, an 18th century castrati singer in Venice.

Tito is a likeable protagonist who inhabits a fascinating world. I can see that I'm going to have to read the rest of the series.

Again, click on the book cover to learn more.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Royal Flush of Oysters

These are such beautiful fungi!

Recent damp days and warm temperatures have brought forth flushes of mushrooms on the inoculated logs.

Blue oysters . . . and pink ones too. (No, they don't taste like oysters -- I suspect they got their name because of the way they grow in little colonies.)

It's such a treat to see these delicacies appear!

And there are shitakes too . . .

A big basket of oyster mushrooms . . . what shall we do with them?

I found a recipe for Pasta with Oyster Mushrooms, Sage, and Parmesan.

Saute' garlic, onion, and mushrooms in butter. Add some chicken broth and chopped sage. Finish with light cream and toss with shredded Parmesan and cooked pasta. Salt and pepper to taste.

It's a lovely, simple recipe that lets the delicate taste of the mushrooms come through.
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Monday, October 26, 2009

Another Autumn Album

As promised -- assorted photos from the past few days . . . you shold be able to click on the image for larger or even full screen pictures.

Late Autumn Album

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I was sidelined by a lack of internet connection most of yesterday, company for dinner, and a muscle spasm in the back that has me spending time with the heating pad today. I'll be back later with a web album of more autumn pictures.
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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Back by Popular Demand ?

No, not Elvis -- but Harice (whom I imagine as looking something like Elvis, but better.)

Harice, the bedroom eyed, snake handling preacher from my first book, Signs in the Blood.

"He was broad shouldered and slim hipped, with a wide, unexpectedly sensual smile that flashed white against the rich tan of his face."

He also had dark hooded eyes and he and Elizabeth were more than a little attracted to one another during the course of that book. And more than a few of my readers have asked me what happened to him. The other night in my writing class, during the break, Sallie presented me with a whole bunch of good reasons why I ought to bring him back.

And I thought, Why not? He does make an appearance in Birdie's forthcoming book, The Day of Small Things, but this Elizabeth book I'm working on now affords a very nice opportunity . . . oh, yes, a very nice opportunity for an interesting complication.

So I'm going to go with this idea. My editor, Herself, may disagree, of course, (some of you remember how she made me get rid of Myrna Lou in the Birdie book.) But I think this will work. And I'm kind of excited about it.

Another thing lots of folks have asked is if I've ever been to a snake handling church. The answer is no. But now, thanks to Mr. Google and You Tube, we can take a quick peek at a service in progress.

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Real Butter and Faux Champagne

Yesterday was John's birthday and we began the celebration at breakfast -- as we've done since we were married almost 46 years ago -- with champagne and Eggs Benedict.

Well, actually it wasn't champagne -- it was Prosecco, a sparkling wine from northern Italy. Come to that, maybe it wasn't Eggs Benedict as I made Bernaise sauce, not Hollandaise.

Whatever it was, it was really, really good.

In the afternoon, I made a chocolate pound cake for the family celebration. More butter. Lots more.

This cake has long been a family favorite -- as you can see by the condition of the page in the Southern Junior League Cookbook. I've modified the recipe over the years, adding a dab of cinnamon and making more icing so that it fills the center of the cake. Everyone likes a little extra icing, don't they?

The dinner itself was nothing fancy. At John's request, I made fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy -- family comfort food. And there was more champagne -- or rather, more sparkling wine -- this time Spanish rather than Italian.

A bitter-sweet occasion -- Ethan and Aileen were with us but after dinner they had to get on the road to Atlanta. The movers came today and packed up their household stuff and will be unloading it at the new house in Atlanta tomorrow.

Here's my Bernaise recipe, given to me a long, long time ago by Eleanor in Tampa.

1 stick butter (1/4 pound)
2 Tbs. lemon juice
3 egg yolks
Salt and pepper
2 thin slices onion
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. dried tarragon
a few sprigs of parsley

Put the egg yolks in a blender, along with all the other ingredients except the butter. Melt the butter till bubbly. Blend the yolks and other stuff for 15 -20 seconds then slowly add the bubbling butter while the blender is still running. Run blender a few more seconds.

At this point, the sauce will be quite runny. I like to put it back in the pan I melted the butter in and set that pan in another pan of hot water while I fix the English muffins, Canadian bacon, and the eggs (which should be poached but which I fry over easy, never having quite gotten the hang of consistently turning out a perfect poached egg.)

When these elements are assembled, the sauce will have thickened a bit and be ready to crown the lot. Finish off with a drift of paprika and another sprig of parsley.


And here's the Chocolate Poundcake --

3 sticks butter
3 cups sugar
5 eggs
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 heaping Tbs. cocoa
1 cup milk
1 Tbs. vanilla

Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time. Add sifted dry ingredients, alternating with milk. Add vanilla.

Bake in a well-greased and floured tube or bundt pan at 325 F fo one hour and twenty minutes. Turn out of pan and ice while still hot.

The Icing on the cake

1 stick butter
3 Tbs. cocoa
2 cups confectioners sugar
3 or more Tbs. strong hot coffee

Cream butter well. Sift sugar and cocoa together and stir in. Add coffee to make a spreadable consistency. (This is more of a glaze than a traditional American cake frosting.)

And the cake is especially good if you make it late in the day so that it's still a little warm when you eat it. With vanilla ice cream on top.
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Friday, October 23, 2009

In Search of Autumn

Abundant rain and only a few cold nights have resulted, so far, in a muted display of fall color. The Burning Bush above has not fully committed to its usual scarlet and the trees along the pasture's fence line are subdued shadows of what they have been in previous years.
The yellow-orange of the tree behind the Freewill Baptist Church down the branch caught my eye . . .
. . . and I stopped the car in the middle of the road to snap this sourwood below -- which is doing its best to bring color to a (so-far) less-than-spectacular Fall.

Things could change. I seem to remember that last year the color was slow coming but the reds and oranges finally burst forth.

I'm keeping an eye on the maples.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Good Read

This book made a delightful traveling companion as I flew first to Atlanta and then to Indianapolis. If you loved the movie Julie & Julia, or even if you just loved the Julia parts, this book's for you. It deals in loving detail with Julia's years in France and her voice comes through beautifully.

I find it a little weird that it's Meryl Streep on the cover rather than Julia but suspect that it was a Marketing decision. And anyway, by now I'll wager that Ms. Streep is the image that comes to mind when many of us think of Julia.

. . . and now for a few pictures . . .

The Morning Star -- it's there, really! Maybe if you biggify . . .

Closely watched geraniums (pelargoniums)

Happy to be back with my Nikon and trying to learn its ways.

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