Another Turn of the Page: And Then There Were Six

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
Rainer Maria Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge

Yes, you’ve guessed right, the Snowbirds have not returned. On top of that we have two members that keep forgetting to put our meeting time on their calendars and two others who are involved in a health study that meets at the same time. So there were six stalwart readers at last month’s round table gathering. Nevertheless, we managed to fill up the hour because we had time for discussion. When there are 14 in attendance I do have to keep everyone on task. I don’t expect March to be any larger but I do know it is always good when readers get together. 1. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (2001) 336 pages. A coming-to-age novel set in South Carolina at the height of desegregation. Lily is a lovable pre-teen who’d grown up believing she killed her mother (accidentally) and is trying to escape a brutal, abusive father. Lily runs away with Rosaleen, a black servant, and finds herself in the home of three black beekeeping sisters.

2. Gone by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge (Michael Bennett series #6) (2013) 386 pages. This novel opens with the Bennett family in Witness Protection, as a crazed drug lord is after them in revenge for his wife’s death. Detective Bennett’s family is comprised of a huge clan of adopted children, Michael’s grandfather, and an Irish nanny.

3. The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware (2016) 340 pages. Laura Blacklock is a travel journalist given an assignment to cover the maiden voyage of a luxury cruise liner headed to see the Northern Lights. On her first night there she meets a mysterious woman in the cabin next to hers, cabin 10. Later that evening she hears a scream and the sounds of a body being dumped into the sea. After seeing what she thinks is blood on the neighbouring railing she reports the incident, except the cabin is empty and no-one on the ship matches the woman’s description.

4. Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly (2016) 349 pages.

5. Holy Cow by David Duchovny (2015) 206 pages. Elsie Bovary, a cow, escapes her paddock one day and instead of flirting with the bulls, she goes up to the farm house. There she learns the truth, that humans eat cows. Suddenly she realizes where her mother went…

6. Rosalie Edge, Hawk of Mercy :The Activist Who Saved Nature from the Conservationists by Dyana Z. Furmansky (2009) 376 pages. Rosalie Edge (1877-1962) was the little-known and unheralded mother of the modern conservation movement. She began life as the favorite child of an over-indulgent well-to-do father and developed into a conversationist only in late middle age. Her first significant action was to question the propriety of National Association of Audubon Societies’ close ties to ammunition manufactures and hunters when she was nearly 52 years old. She goes on to develop the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Pennsylvania.

Another Idea to Try: The Street Store

Lately in some of the various magazines and publications I read I have been coming across little ways to make a difference. Some are just simple ideas or information that might just make life easier. Whether that be in my life or in the lives of others. Many times it has something to do with the environment because that is where my mind is these days. Some I can do personally but many times there are projects or initiatives that I know someone or a group of someones out there might just seize on. Maybe you are in the right place, or have the right resources or you know someone who would be the perfect partner.  Anyway, I’ve decided that when I find one of these I am going to do a very short post. Who knows? It might make a difference somewhere.

Today I went to send out a link to The Street Store. It is a pop-up clothing store for the homeless. Watch the video. It is a great idea and if you live in a city or town it might be perfect for you. It started in Cape Town, South Africa but it has expanded to many places around the world including the United States. So what is: “The world’s first rent-free, premises-free, free “pop-up clothing store” for the poor, found entirely on the street.

Their mission is to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor, making it easier to donate and more dignified to receive.

This store is made just out of posters where you “hang up” donated clothes and drop shoes into “boxes”, and then the homeless help themselves. All of the art work is sent to you, free of charge.”

So watch the video, pass it on if you know someone who might be able to do this, or just be amazed that in spite of it all there are good things going on in this world.

A pop-up Street Store

While looking for Swans We found a New Restaurant

Right now we are involved in the Great Backyard Bird Count. This is a 4 day worldwide birdwatching deal that anyone can participate in. No matter if you don’t know the names of all the birds, just identify and count the ones you know. And yes, you know more than you think. I know you can identify cardinals, sparrows, goldfinches, seagulls, geese…and if you happen to know more so you can say Northern cardinal, House sparrow, Tree sparrow, Lesser goldfinch, Herring gull, Canada geese, well then, all the better. It’s fun, lasts 4 days (Feb 17 -20) and you can do all four days and watch on and off all day or just one day for 15 minutes and then quit. Today is the last day for this year.

We get a bit more into it, so yesterday since it was 50 degrees on February 19th in NE Wisconsin instead of huddling in our house viewing birds from our windows we decided to take a field trip up to Door County, specifically Baileys Harbor where friends of ours reported seeing Tundra Swans.

BUT, this post is not about birds it is about lunch. Once we got to the town in question, about 60 miles north of here, and, finding no swans anywhere, we looked for a lunch place. In the winter not many places are open up there, especially on a Sunday but we did see a restaurant called Chives which had an OPEN sign in the window. We had heard of this restaurant but thought it was on the west side of the bay of Green Bay. And yes it is, same owner. Friends had given it good reviews. So, with not many other options in sight we went in.

Chives, Baileys Harbor, WI

Chives, Baileys Harbor, WI

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was nice looking inside. First room had seating and a bar but we were taken to a second room that had a very nice view of the Lake Michigan. Later we discovered a small room with couches, casual seating and small tables and a dining area that looked like a library.

Looks like a great place for dinner.

Looks like a great place for dinner.

We had a nice corner seat by the window.

We had a nice corner seat by the window.

The waiter brought the menu that was a combination brunch/lunch. It was sweet and savory/ breakfasty and lunchy.

menuLots of good choices. The menu reminded us of a favorite restaurant we frequent in DePere, WI called The Creamery. When he found out it was a charcuterie, Curt ordered the first item called House-made Grilled Sausage. It was composed of a ramp & morel sausage, three aged cheddars: Dunbarton Blue, Hooks 7 year & Blue Mont. A schmear of brown mustard, a mustard seed caviar and two slices of crusty bread. He paired that with a side salad. He said if he ordered it again he would asked for two sausages because it was excellent.charcuterieI decided on The Bistro which was a grilled cheese sandwich ( Muenster and White cheddar on a rustic bread), soup of the day (white bean and smoked ham) and a salad. The salads were already dressed with an interesting vinaigrette. The soup was wonderful and so hearty I really didn’t need the sandwich but it was great cheese combination and I ate it all.

Sorry, didn't remember to take photos until after I had started in

Sorry, didn’t remember to take photos until after I had started in

Service was very good. We didn’t have to wait long at all for our food. Wait staff was attentive but not overly so. It just was a pleasant lunch all around. If you go, hours are limited because it just isn’t super busy in Door County in the winter. Matter of fact, this is the first winter this restaurant has decided to stay open but it is only Th – Sat: 4pm to close ( dinner service) and Sat/Sun: 9 – 2 (lunch/brunch). Well worth the trip. However if you are looking for swans I hope you have better luck than we did. We did see a lot of Herring gulls, Common crows and Red-tailed hawks. Better luck next time.

Another Turn of the Page: The Need to Escape

“I was burning through books every day – stories about people and places I’d never heard of. They were perhaps the only thing that kept me from teetering into utter despair.”
Sarah J. Maas, A Court of Mist and Fury

full-shelfYes, our country right now is in such a state of turmoil and uncertainty that only escape into a book can keep the demons at bay. As the quote so apply says, keeps us “from teetering into despair.” Is it as bad as all that? Well sometimes. We have a narcissistic egomaniac in the White House and if it wasn’t for our humorists (who are gifted with tons of material every day) and our books, we might all just explode. Immersing oneself into an adventure, a mystery, a romance, another life, another world can be so fun and so comforting. Here’s what we escaped into in January.

jan1. Before the Fall by Noah Hawley (2016) 391 pages. A plane crash, eleven on board, only two survive, Scott, a painter, and a young boy, J.J. who Scott manages to save by swimming to shore with the boy on his back. Other occupants, like J.J.’s father, were controversial and powerful figures. Could they have been targeted? Is Scott a hero or villain?

2. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (2014) 460 pages. Something awful happens at the annual Pirriwee Public School fund-raising. You know the What but not the Who or the How. Along the way you discover some of the dangerous little lies that people tell just to be able to face the day.

3. As You Wish : Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes (2014) 259 pages. If you have seen the movie The Princess Bride you will love this book. And then you will want to watch it all over again.

4. Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier (1997) 449 pages. The story of a soldier gone AWOL from the Civil War and his perilous journey home through the devastation the war has left in its wake. But also the story of Ada, who he is trying to return to, and her struggle to survive on her farm alone after her father dies.

5. The Gulity by David Baldacci (2015) 672 pages. Will Robie series #4. This book continues the life of Robie, a government assassin who now finds himself at a crossroad in his life. His last assignment, where he killed an innocent bystander has resulted in him questioning his capabilities.

6. Rules for Old Men Waiting by Peter Pouncey (2005) 240 pages. A book about an old guy examining his life, a book about a young man who thinks about the world, a book about a marriage relationship, a book about facing oneself, a book about discovering the effect one has had on others. Also WWI, WWII and even some rugby.

7. Pecan Man by Cassie Dandridge Selleck (2012) 146 pages. When the white police chief’s son, who we know has raped a young black girl, is found stabbed to death in the woods, the first person accused is Eldred Mims, known as the Pee-can Man. Eldred is a homeless black man who mows lawns and does yard work for a living. Though innocent, Mims is sentenced to prison.

8. All the Stars in Heaven by Adriana Trigiani (2015) 447 pages. This novel is a fictional account of the relationship between actors Loretta Young and Clark Gable on the set of The Call of the Wild in 1935.

Stitching My Way Through the Year

flossWay back in December when the world seemed yet a bit normal I received a post on Facebook from a friend about a project called 1 Year of Stitches. I clicked the link and discovered a very interesting post from a Sara Barnes about joining a group of embroiderers and essentially starting a year-long stitching project and posting one’s progress on Facebook or Instagram or both. She was inspired by another embroiderer who was just finishing her 2016 year. All I had to do was fill out a brief survey, respond with a yes and instructions would appear in my email before 2017 and then we would all get started. By December 22nd I had a response that it was on. I was only just getting a sense of the scope of this project. About a week later the “rules” of the game were sent out.

1. Make at least one stitch every day. (If you can’t do this, it’s okay. At least take a            picture of it that day)
2. Take a picture that shows your project. Don’t get discouraged if progress looks slow (or not at all).
3. Date your picture and write a sentence (or a few words) about the embroidery or your day.
4. Share online—through social media or a blog. On Instagram, tag it with: #1yearofstitches and @1yearofstitches  Post for sure once a week on Sunday.

A private group was set up on Facebook and as mentioned above #1yearofstitches was put on Instagram. Never having used Instagram I decided now might be the time. I do have an account (I guess that is what it is called) but my learning curve is a bit stunted so even though I post I am not really sure how to post from my phone or actually find anyone I am following. Well, least of my worries I guess.

What is really fantastic is the scope of this group. I am not sure of the total participants but the private FB group alone has 2822 members. There are a bunch on Instagram as well, some are duplicates but not all. As to the rules, well everyone got so excited in the beginning they were posting all the time. Sara started to have to dial people back a bit because everyone’s feed was getting clogged with pictures.

Where everyone is from is also amazing. When the first responses started I could see that we were a worldwide mob of stitchers. At some point in week 2? or week 3 someone posted, “Where are you all from?” Replies came from almost every state in the US, almost every province in Canada and tons of Australians. I also saw notes from New Zealand, Argentina, Mexico, Germany, France, The Netherlands, Scotland, Iceland, England, Poland, India, So. Africa, Israel and the Czech Republic. I am sure there are many I missed. We were a worldwide group of women, men and children all connected by embroidery floss. And once the pictures started appearing it was apparent we were also people with a wide range of talent. Some are rank beginners who said they always wanted to try embroidery, others have been doing this for years and are very proficient. Some have exquisite technique while others who have minimal technique and range are fabulous artists. Some are literally trying many different embroidery stitches, others are sticking to one or two or they are quilting or cross-stitching or adding beads. And it is all good because we have this interesting connection, this common language of thread and fiber. Here are a few of my favorites.

Starting upper left and going clockwise: Dartford, UK - Sheffield, UK - Utrecht, Netherlands - Toronto, Ontario - Pennsylvania, US - Wexham, UK.

Starting upper left and going clockwise: Dartford, UK – Sheffield, UK – Utrecht, Netherlands – Toronto, Ontario – Pennsylvania, US – Wexham, UK.

I put my self smack in the middle. I am using just a few stitches and concentrating on imagery. Also being in the season of winter I have time to work on the piece a lot. (It is 7 degrees outside today with a stiff breeze). I decided to divide my piece into months but I am almost done with February already.

My piece, Week 5

My piece, Week 5

So I started a second piece just to keep my hands busy and off the yearly project. I am doing it entirely in a stitch called knotless netting, a stitch I learned in graduate school where I studied under Renie Breskin Adams. I forgot how much I loved this stitch till I started working with it again.

Other piece, working title: Garden Dreams

Other piece, working title: Garden Dreams

So along with journals, knitting, travel, working out, reading and trying to avoid politics, that is how I am spending my winter and also, it looks like, my year. It is a very welcome distraction.

Just Who Was Wearing Those Hats?

hatsSaturday, January 21, 2017 was the Women’s March, a significant and historic event. I was not available to march but lent my support by knitting 13 pink hats known as Pussyhats. Three of my hats went to the Washington March with a High School friend and two of her companions. They reported that the experience was amazing and on their way home they continued to proudly wear their hats. At rest stops and gas fill-up people asked to take their pictures. The hats also served as very positive conversation starters. By the way, the latest numbers I saw on the Washington Women’s March was a half million.

My Washington Marchers from Illinois

My Washington Marchers from Illinois

Two of my hats went to Madison, WI with two very close friends. They marched with 75,00 to 100,00 other participants. At one point near the end of the march a young woman asked my friend Marjorie where she got her hat and how could she get one. Marjorie immediately removed her hat and gave it to her. Then Patricia gave her hat to the young woman’s companion. It was that kind of day.

My Madison Women in front of the the statue 'Forward" A Wisconsin Women's Memorial from the Columbian Exposition 1893. Sculptor: Jean P. Miner

My Madison Women in front of the statue ‘Forward” A Wisconsin Women’s Memorial from the Colombian Exposition 1893. Sculptor: Jean P. Miner

Proud owners of new Pussyhats courtesy of two amazing women.

Proud owners of new Pussyhats courtesy of two amazing women.

As you can see from the last picture not all people who marched on Saturday were women. There were many men there in support of women and women’s rights. And a lot of them were wearing hats, yes Pussyhats, with courtesy and permission from their ladies. They didn’t just take them. Here is an album of Wisconsin men at the march from the blog Each Little World. All photos copyright of photographer Mark Golbach.

The remainder of the hats I knitted went to Washington to be distributed to whoever needed one. But now what? The march may be over but there is still alot of work to be done. Here’s my pitch if you want to be part of the movement. The Women’s March project has initiated 10 Actions in the first 100 days. Follow this link to get involved. First action, postcards to your senators. Go ahead, do it, do it now.

An Inauguration Day Project

Already tired of the wall to wall coverage of the US Presidential Inauguration? Do you feel that this is the beginning of a long four years of insane tweets and the mangling of the English language? Not interested in celebrating a man with low values and no integrity? Well turn off the television, switch off the radio and toss the newspaper in the recycle. Stay away from social media as well today. This may be history in the making but I am still having a hard time with acceptance.

If you are like me and want to keep your blood pressure in check and stay sane, today is the day to organize a closet, clean the garage, chip more ice off your driveway or get your Tupperware in order.

I bet most of you have a cupboard or drawer or shelf where your plastic covered containers live. Mostly in a big jumbled mess. Mine take up one whole shelf in a lower kitchen cupboard and for a long time now it has been a real treasure hunt to find the correct corresponding lid for the chosen bottom. So, needing a mind-numbing project I took every piece out and piled them all on the dining room table. I suggest you put on some music in the background but definitely keep the television off.

jumble

 

 

About an hour later, I had tossed the broken ones, the yukky ones, and all the parts that didn’t match anything. Organized all by size and nested all the similar containers.organized

Then neatly back into the cupboard with all the lids organized by size and type in separate baskets.back

 

lids

So there you go, a nice positive activity for you while the man with the orange head drones on or rants or tweets or whatever goes on today.

Now that only killed about 90 minutes and I made the mistake of doing this two days ago. But there are always those closets or sorting my tax papers. And this container cupboard will probably only last a month before I have to start over. On a positive note in four years I’ll have the most organized and clean house in the world. Good luck to all, we are going to need it.

Cookie Book Cookies: Savory

img_0014For Christmas my son gave me Dorie’s Cookies by Doris Greenspan. It is a cookie recipe book. It was an especially nice gift because he had heard about it while listening to a podcast on Public Radio. Yes! I knew I had raised him right. The book itself is quite beautiful, great cover, lots of pictures ( my kind of recipe book!) and it weighs a ton.

bookThat poundage is because there are 160 cookie recipes in this book. While my son was home he mentioned that he was interested in the savory cookies and sure enough Dorie has a section called Cocktail Cookies that looked pretty interesting. So since the weather outside for the last week or so has certainly been nasty I decided it was time to try two of the savory selections. Half for us and half to be mailed to Nathan.

 

My first choice was Cranberry Five Spice Cookies. Chinese five-spice powder is a blend that includes star anise, Sichuan peppercorns, cinnamon, cloves and fennel. Dorie loves this spice and says it is equally good in sweet or savory dishes. She likes it best when paired with something tart or tangy so that’s why she has put cranberries into the mix. Here’s the recipe:

Makes about 50 cookies

5 Tbls sugar
1/2 C fresh or frozen cranberries, coarsely chopped
1 3/4 C flour
1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut in chunks, room temperature
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 large egg
1/2 C salted peanuts ,coarsely chopped

Coarsely chopped cranberries and nuts

Coarsely chopped cranberries and nuts

Mix 1 Tbls sugar and cranberries in a bowl, set aside.

Whisk flour and five-spice powder together.

In another large bowl with a mixer or by hand, beat the butter, remaining sugar and salt together till smooth and creamy. Add the egg and beat for one minute. (The mixture will look curdled, that’s ok.) Add flour mixture all at once and mix till it becomes a dough. Spoon the cranberries (drain off any liquid first) and the nuts into the dough and mix just to incorporate. You can do this with a spatula or with your hand. I found my hand worked great. Turn dough out onto counter and knead gently. Divide in half and pat each into a disk.

Put disks between parchment paper and roll to about 1/4 inch thickness. She says then freeze for about an hour. I found this too long. You need the dough firm to cut out cookies but if it is frozen you have to wait till it softens enough to get your cutter through it. Use your judgement.

Preheat oven, 350°, line cookie sheet with parchment paper. Using approx. 1 1/2″ cookie cutter, cut and place cookies on sheet. Bake 12 -14 minutes, rotating sheet half way. Cookies should be lightly brown on edges and just firm to touch. Mine needed about 18 minutes.

Cutting out Cranberry Five-spice dough

Cutting out Cranberry Five-spice dough

Repeat with remaining dough and don’t forget to use the scraps as well.

Recipe #2 was Smoky, Cheesy Cookies.

Makes about 45 cookies.

1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces
4 ounces cold smoked Gouda, cut into tiny cubes
2 ounces shredded sharp cheddar
3/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly grd black pepper
pinch of cayenne
1 1/4 C all purpose flour

Put the cold butter, Gouda, Cheddar, salt, black pepper and cayenne in a food processor and pulse until butter is in bits and mixture forms small curds. Add the flour and with long pulses mix until dough is moist and forms large popcorn-like curds. (Should be noted, mine took forever to get large popcorn-like curds. They never really were large but the dough finally started to combine and it felt moist so I just turned it out and scrunched it together and then kneaded it.)

Shape into ball, divide in half and do the same rolling, freezing and cutting as above with the Cranberry Five-spice cookies. Put on parchment paper or silicone sheet.

Almost ready for oven

Almost ready for oven

Bake 350 degrees. Bake 16 -18 minutes, rotating half way through. Mine went a little longer here too.

The verdict?

In the Cranberry Five-Spice, I couldn’t detect the five-spice flavoring that Dorie gets all excited about but the nuts and cranberries come through nicely, especially the nuts. She suggested sprinkling salt on the tops before baking and I did this for half. Both are good but my husband prefers the ones with salt. I also think they were better on the second day.

Left: Smokey-Cheesy Right: Cranberry 5-Spice

Left: Smokey-Cheesy
Right: Cranberry 5-Spice

On his initial taste of the Smoky, Cheesy ones my husband said, Cheez-its. Oh no! I went to all this trouble and they taste like Cheez-its. But not really. Yes, they may give you that at first bite but then the smokiness of the gouda comes through. These are quite nice with a little sausage and a glass of red wine or with eggs and bacon for breakfast.

I will definitely be trying more of Dorie’s recipes.

My son’s share went into the mail today. Hope I packed well.

Another Turn of the Page: Last Books of 2016

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.”
Edith Lovejoy Pierce

ruthsbookshelfWe ended our year with ten readers. Some were heading out to warmer points south soon and others were planning to leave after Christmas. All will continue to read but won’t need hot chocolate and thick socks. The rest of us will gather throughout the winter and share our literary finds with each other. It is good to come together and leave most of the crazy world behind and bury ourselves in the books. One of the reasons I continue to blog about our books is so the Snowbirds can keep up with the group. The other reason is everyone likes to get a suggestion for their next good read. So, eclectic as ever, here is what we read in December.december1. Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham (2015) 344 pages. This is a story of Lawyer Sebastian Rudd who represents people who no one else will touch such as drug dealers and murderers. The novel follows his life and the cases he is working on. Feels more like a short story collection than a novel.

2. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (2016) 342 pages. On the way home from the local bar, Jason Dessen is kidnapped by an unknown assailant in a mask. After being injected with something, Jason wakes up in a world he does not recognize. I have to quote a review from Goodreads which sums this book up perfectly: It is the perfect balance of suspense, action, sci-fi, romance, and WHAT THE HECK!?!?” Best SF I’ve read in years.

3. Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James Swanson (2009) 194 pages. Based on rare archival material, obscure trial manuscripts, and interviews with relatives of the conspirators and the manhunters, this book is about the twelve day pursuit and final capture of John Wilkes Booth.

4. The Mistletoe Secret by Richard Paul Evans (2016) 320 pages. Our charming Christmas book of the year, this is the third in Evan’s Mistletoe Collection. The first two being The Mistletoe Promise and The Mistletoe Inn. All standalone stories.

5. True Crime in Titletown, USA: Cold Cases by Tracy C. Ertl & Mike R. Knetzger (2005) 203 pages. Mike, a Green Bay, Wisconsin police officer, and Tracy, a police dispatcher, offer profiles of three historic unsolved crimes including a 1931 bank robbery, an extortion case and a restaurant murder.

6. The Ringmaster’s Wife by Kristy Cambron (2016) 356 pages. Spanning the years from 1885 to 1929, this novel reveals the true nature of life “Under the Big Top’, behind the sparkle and glitz of the performances.

7. Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom (2015) 512 pages. Music, the narrator of this book, tells the story of Frankie Presto—the greatest guitar player who ever lived—and the six lives he changed with his six magical blue strings.

8. Memory of Muskets by Kathleen Ernst (2016) 408 pages. Chloe Ellefson is a Curator at Old World Wisconsin and her supervisor wants her to plan a major Civil War battle enactment.  However, when a reenactor’s body turns up on one of the farms the celebration becomes more complicated.

9. Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly (2010) 551 pages. A historical fiction tale about what the Irish went through during the Potato Famine, and what led many to emigrate to America.

10. Cooking for Picasso by Camille Aubray (2016) 400 pages. A fictional story of Picasso’s stay in the French Riviera in the spring of 1936. In those few months he had a lasting impact on Ondine, the seventeen-year-old who cooked for him, and the generations that followed.