Saturday, June 28, 2014

"One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain." ~ Bob Marley

Today finds me at The Old Songs Festival in Altamont, NY. I have gone for several years now, and always enjoy it. The weather is picture perfect. I have been to this in downpours before - the music was still wonderful, but it is a much more pleasant experience in the sunshine! Below you will find a small sampling of performers who are scheduled to appear. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

"The world is my lobster." ~ Henry J. Tillman

So, Bruce is away on a golf trip for a few days, and lobster is $5.88 a pound. Whatever is a girl to do?!
(Tee Hee!)

Saturday, June 21, 2014

"What nicer thing can you do for somebody than make them breakfast?" ~ Anthony Bourdain

Happy summer my friends! And happily, summer weather of the nicest kind seems to be gracing us at the moment (not too hot; not too cold; a lovely combination of sun and clouds). All the perfect setting for our most recent BITE gathering at Tierney's home. Breakfast was the theme this go-round, and we all agreed, we enjoy breakfast foods at any time of the day! When it came to who had what course, I couldn't remember if I had appetizer or side-dish, and I guess that when it comes to breakfast, it doesn't really matter! My selection was probably not either, but it was delicious just the same. 

I made Lemon Blueberry Pound Cake. I think that I have grown more comfortable with trying my hand at baking and I just kept going! I made a couple of modifications - nothing big. If you check out the recipe, you will see that it does not specify the amount of vanilla in the batter, just says "1/2". As I checked out the comments, she provides that it should read "1/2 tsp." The recipe calls for 3 cups of blueberries. Well, I had two 16 oz. containers and just used them both, holding a couple of handfuls out for scattering around the top and sides. Also, she calls for two bread pans - a traditional pound-cake presentation. I chose to use my aunt's old bundt cake pan, which I think worked perfectly. Lastly, the glaze calls for a small amount of milk. I omitted that and added extra lemon juice. No drastic modifications - just letting you know what I did!

Ellen cooked up Individual Parmesan Hash Brown Cups - just scrumptious, and she indicated that they were very easy! Ellen also brought Strawberry and Quinoa Parfait, which was wonderful, and healthy!

As host, Tierney did our main dish of Steak and Eggs Benedict. Well, she had me at "hollandaise sauce", which I love, but have never been brave enough to try! This dish had all of my favorite food groups in it! For our beverage, Tierney appropriately selected Summer Sangria, a perfect choice for the day! Also on tap was a minty tea - so refreshing!

Last, for our breakfast dessert, Chris baked up Apple Fritter Pull Apart Bread. It is described as "ooey and gooey" - yes it is - and delicious! I'm sorry to say that I did not get any very good photos of it. This looks a bit "Andy Warhol-ish"! Doesn't do it justice!

When we meet next month, Ellen is choosing to continue the summer love with fruit as our theme. My head is already swimming with fruit-fresh ideas!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

"There is no frigate like a book, to take us lands away" ~ Emily Dickinson

With the official start of summer nearly upon us, it is time for me to once again give you MY recommended summer reading list. I confess to being somewhat "off" reading at the moment. We are busy, busy busy, and what little down time I seem to have has been spent knitting. Unlike my friend Judy, I have been unable to master knitting and reading at the same time. I will occasionally listen to an audio book, but my short bursts of time are not conducive to completing anything within a reasonable  period. That does not mean though, that I don't have good intentions, and my good intentions are listed below!

"With his fourth novel, The Farm, Smith is venturing into the territory of Scandinavian thrillers, which first caught international fire thanks to the fiction of the late Stieg Larsson. It’s a field associated with deep, dark family secrets, long-buried crimes and shocking revelations. In The Farm, Smith manages to simultaneously deliver the goods promised by this subgenre and also something completely unexpected. The result is a thriller you shouldn’t miss.

When his parents sell their London home and relocate to a remote farm in his mother’s homeland of Sweden, Daniel is convinced they’re headed for a quiet retirement. Then he gets a call from his father informing him that his mother has had some kind of mental breakdown, that she’s imagining awful things. He’s prepared to go and tend to her, until he gets another call from his father, this one telling him his mother has checked herself out of the hospital and disappeared.
The next call is from his mother, and it’s even more alarming than his father’s news. Daniel’s mother claims his father can’t be trusted, that he’s part of a terrible conspiracy in their rural Swedish district, that he’s been seduced by a powerful farmer into doing something horrible. Daniel’s father insists his mother is mad. Daniel’s mother insists his father is a monster. Caught between them, Daniel has no choice but to go to Sweden himself and investigate what’s really happening." Book Page

Simon and Schuster's video preview of the book:

"In the opening sentence of Elizabeth McCracken'sThunderstruck & Other Stories, we meet the ill-tempered child-ghost of Missy Goodby, who "sleeps curled up against the cyclone fence at the dead end of Winter Terrace.... Late at night when you walk your dog and feel suddenly cold, and then unsure of yourself, and then loathed by the world, that's Missy Goodby, too." All nine tales in this bewitching and wise collection ruminate on loss, yet manage to be playful, even joyful.

McCracken's characters lead lives as cluttered as our own ("Too much cleanliness made a place dead," observes a woman who designs museum exhibits)—and like us, they strive to clear away the excess from the essential."

"The Lowland, an intricately plotted, melancholy family drama that plays out over half a century in India and America, will more than reward readers’ patience.
Most of the novel’s Indian action takes place in an enclave of Calcutta called Tollygunge. From the first scene, when adolescent brothers Subhash and Udayan Mitra steal onto the grounds of the exclusive Tolly Club, their sharply different personalities emerge. By the time they reach their mid-20s, in the late 1960s, the brothers, separated by only 15 months, are launched irrevocably on divergent paths. Udayan, the younger, joins a Marxist-Leninist political movement called the Naxalites, while Subhash moves to Rhode Island to attend graduate school.
When Udayan’s marriage to the alluring and intellectually restless Gauri ends abruptly, the young woman marries Subhash and returns with him to the United States. Though the novel periodically revisits India, both in real time and in memory, much of the drama thereafter focuses on the unremitting tension that surrounds Subhash and Gauri’s attempt to adapt both to a marriage neither ever intended and to life in a foreign land, even as they raise a daughter, Bela, amid the shadows of their past." Book Page 

"The author of the best-selling Harry Hole series now gives us an electrifying stand-alone novel set inside Oslo’s maze of especially venal, high-level corruption.
Sonny Lofthus is a strangely charismatic and complacent young man. Sonny’s been in prison for a dozen years, nearly half his life. The inmates who seek out his uncanny abilities to soothe leave his cell feeling absolved. They don’t know or care that Sonny has a serious heroin habit—or where or how he gets his uninterrupted supply of the drug. Or that he’s serving time for other peoples’ crimes.
Sonny took the first steps toward addiction when his father took his own life rather than face exposure as a corrupt cop. Now Sonny is the seemingly malleable center of a whole infrastructure of corruption: prison staff, police, lawyers, a desperate priest—all of them focused on keeping him high and in jail. And all of them under the thumb of the Twin, Oslo’s crime overlord. As long as Sonny gets his dope, he’s happy to play the criminal and the prison’s in-house savior."  Amazon

"The Vacationers begins as the Post family is getting ready to leave their Upper West Side apartment for a two-week vacation on the island of Mallorca. Franny is a zaftig travel writer who treats food as a means of therapy; her husband, Jim, was just fired from his longtime job as a magazine editor after having an affair with an editorial assistant barely older than his daughter. Only mildly aware of her parents’ marital problems, Sylvia is focused on starting at Brown in the fall, far away from the brutality of high school bullies.
Joining the group is Sylvia’s older brother Bobby (a Miami real estate agent) and his personal trainer girlfriend, Carmen. Rounding out the bunch of vacationers is Franny’s best friend, Charles, and his husband, Lawrence, who are awaiting possible good news from an adoption agency.
But while Franny meant for the trip to celebrate her and Jim’s 35th anniversary along with Sylvia’s high school graduation, the vacation turns into something much heavier as tensions are inflamed, jealousies are ignited and, ultimately, those pesky family secrets are revealed.

But when he learns a stunning, long-hidden secret concerning his father, he makes a brilliantly executed escape from prison—and from the person he’d let himself become—and begins hunting down those responsible for the crimes against him . . . The darkly looming question is: Who will get to him first—the criminals or the cops?" Book Page

"Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge." Amazon 

"For her debut novel, Yanique (author of the story collection How to Escape from a Leper Colony) has written an epic multigenerational tale set in the U.S. Virgin Islands that traces the ambivalent history of its inhabitants during the course of the 20th century. The story follows two sisters whose genteel prospects are shattered after the sudden death of their father, Owen Arthur Bradshaw, a descendent of West African slaves and owner of a cargo ship. Eeona, the older of the two, is a famous beauty who terrifies men with her radiance and high-caste pretensions, while her younger sister, Anette, is sensuous and passionate, holding on to her local dialect and identity. Ever recalling memories of her father, Eeona struggles to escape St. Thomas and achieve a measure of freedom. Anette, meanwhile, falls desperately in love with Jacob, who, unbeknownst to her, is actually her half-brother. The novel shows how global conflicts, including World War II, and America’s legacy of racism shape the lives of Jacob and other islanders." Publishers Weekly

"48-year-old Nantucketer Dabney Kimball Beech has always had a gift for matchmaking. Some call her ability mystical, while others - like her husband, celebrated economist John Boxmiller Beech, and her daughter, Agnes, who is clearly engaged to the wrong man - call it meddlesome, but there's no arguing with her results: With 42 happy couples to her credit and all of them still together, Dabney has never been wrong about romance.

Never, that is, except in the case of herself and Clendenin Hughes, the green-eyed boy who took her heart with him long ago when he left the island to pursue his dream of becoming a journalist. Now, after spending 27 years on the other side of the world, Clen is back on Nantucket, and Dabney has never felt so confused, or so alive.

But when tragedy threatens her own second chance, Dabney must face the choices she's made and share painful secrets with her family. Determined to make use of her gift before it's too late, she sets out to find perfect matches for those she loves most. The Matchmaker is a heartbreaking story about losing and finding love, even as you're running out of time." Amazon 

“That was it. That was all of it. A grace so ordinary there was no reason at all to remember it. Yet I have never across the forty years since it was spoken forgotten a single word.” 

"New Bremen, Minnesota, 1961. The Twins were playing their debut season, ice-cold root beers were selling out at the soda counter of Halderson’s Drugstore, and Hot Stuff comic books were a mainstay on every barbershop magazine rack. It was a time of innocence and hope for a country with a new, young president. But for thirteen-year-old Frank Drum it was a grim summer in which death visited frequently and assumed many forms. Accident. Nature. Suicide. Murder. 
Frank begins the season preoccupied with the concerns of any teenage boy, but when tragedy unexpectedly strikes his family—which includes his Methodist minister father; his passionate, artistic mother; Juilliard-bound older sister; and wise-beyond-his-years kid brother—he finds himself thrust into an adult world full of secrets, lies, adultery, and betrayal, suddenly called upon to demonstrate a maturity and gumption beyond his years. 

Told from Frank’s perspective forty years after that fateful summer,Ordinary Grace is a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him." Amazon 

"Thirty-three-year-old Shea Rigsby has spent her entire life in Walker, Texas—a small college town that lives and dies by football, a passion she unabashedly shares. Raised alongside her best friend, Lucy, the daughter of Walker’s legendary head coach, Clive Carr, Shea was too devoted to her hometown team to leave. Instead she stayed in Walker for college, even taking a job in the university athletic department after graduation, where she has remained for more than a decade.But when an unexpected tragedy strikes the tight-knit Walker community, Shea’s comfortable world is upended, and she begins to wonder if the life she’s chosen is really enough for her. As she finally gives up her safety net to set out on an unexpected path, Shea discovers unsettling truths about the people and things she has always trusted most—and is forced to confront her deepest desires, fears, and secrets."Amazon  

So there you have it my friends! What's on your list of summer reads?

Saturday, June 14, 2014

"So the pie isn't perfect? Cut it into wedges. Stay in control, and never panic." ~ Martha Stewart

When we went to my nephew's reception in Vermont weekend before last, I made some cookies to add to the dessert table. I have said many times that I am not much of a baker, but I found a recipe that I thought would appeal to me - and it did! Buttery, Lemon Lace Cookies were very easy to make, and were delicious (at least to me - I ate way more than my share). I made them again to share at our knitting gathering last weekend. The end result however, was that I was left with several naked lemons (having been zested for the cookies). Knowing that my birthday group would be meeting to celebrate our June birthdays, I offered to bring Lemon Meringue Pie. I had never made it before, but figured that it would be a good use of my leftover lemons.

The first thing that I did was make a Press-in Shortbread Pie Crust. While I love shortbread, I confess that this choice, over a traditional crust, was because the last regular pie crust that I tried to make was a complete disaster. That pie was saved because I had a store-bought crust in the freezer. While crumbly, the shortbread crust was just right for this pie. I will try my hand at traditional ones again - sometime!

Cooking the lemon custard stove-top.
Into the pre-baked, shortbread crust.
We met at Laurel's house for our gathering. There were oohs and aahs as we toured her new kitchen, and further exclamations as we sampled her chocolate and peanut butter convection (pictured below).

I must say that the pie tasted great, though it was a bit soupy, and not particularly beautiful when it was cut.

I love that my friends like to eat and laugh as much as I do!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

"God must be a knitter." ~ Judy V.

We were trying to remember the other day if this was the 4th or 5th time our knitting group has gotten together for World Wide Knit in Public Day. The official day (actually week) runs from June 14th through the 21st. We have always done our public knitting at the Homer Blue Grass Festival, which, this year, was held the weekend before WWKIPD. Since no one has ever shown up who wasn't a member of our library group, we figured that we would continue with tradition and knit at the festival.

One good laugh along the way - some of us took cellphone pictures and posted them to Face Book while we were there. Colleen was not able to join us, but she texted me at one point, saying:

"You might want to tell Sue to edit her FB post. Knitting in "public" leaves much to the imagination...."

As you can guess, she had not included the "L" in public! Yes Sue, we will have a good laugh about this for years to come!

We could not have asked for a more lovely day (hence Judy's quote from above). A lively crowd, good friends and blue skies - wonderful! 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

"Good news is rare these days, and every glittering ounce of it should be cherished and hoarded and worshipped and fondled like a priceless diamond." ~ Hunter S. Thompson

If you have been reading my blog since its beginning, you know that I have a thing about the ocean, and a thing about Cape Cod in particular. I vacationed there growing up; as a young adult; as a parent; and in recent years, as a retiree. Bruce and I have spent a week these past three Octobers in a lovely, simple cottage, right on the edge of Pamet Marsh. Heaven on earth - plain and simple. 

You may recall my dismay when we learned that our cottage would not be available for rent this coming fall. I'm not kidding when I say I cried. There is simply no way that we can afford this spot in-season, and we have become accustomed to, and love, going in the fall. I had done some cursory hunting for another spot, but my heart was not in it. While we were in Florida, I even e-mailed the owners, asking if they had reconsidered their decision to not rent past September. I received a very prompt, pleasant, but unsatisfactory "no". The reason given was completely understandable, but that doesn't mean I had to like it.

Happiness! I received another e-mail from the owners just a few days ago, and yes, they have decided to rent in October once again - our rental contract is in the mail! Guess what - I cried again! I realize that the day may come when they will sell the cottage (it has been for sale for some time now), or they will no longer rent it, or the rent will be out of our reach (there has been a steady increase). Until that time. I will continue to dream of our next visit, and buy lottery tickets. Hey, you never know!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

"Across the miles......I carry your heart." ~ Pinterest

This past weekend, I traveled back to Vermont for a family celebration. We all gathered (minus my nephew Brian who is currently in Montana) to celebrate the marriage of my nephew Scott and his wife, Changting. Scott and Changting were actually married two years ago in a civil ceremony in China. None of us were in attendance that time. Then, last summer, Changting's family hosted a formal, traditional ceremony in China (I have concluded this post with a few photos from then). Scott's family and a few friends traveled to China for this occasion. Now, two years later, with Changting finally in the US as of November, Scott's family has hosted a celebration in their honor, and to welcome Changting to our country and our family - Whew!

Scott and Changting met while sitting on the same bench in China four years ago. When Scott returned to the US, a two-year skyping romance blossomed. When Scott returned to China two years after their first meeting, they were married. A lovely courtship!

The reception was held in a lovely old opera house in the village of Vergennes. I discovered after the fact that I had my camera on the wrong setting, so many of my photos are in a bit of a blur - so be it!

While sitting in the car at one point over the weekend, my father turned to me and said, "You know, we have a wonderful family." He is oh so right.......

Scott and Changting, with my sister and her family.
The Rhodes women, minus my sister Robin.
I made soap as reception favors.
The Rhodes Family!
My father broke his glasses the day of the reception, but did not let this stop him from enjoying the reception, or the company of two of his granddaughters.

My mother and Alex!

These final photos are from the traditional ceremony held in Changting's hometown in China last August.

We love you Scott and Changting, and wish you every happiness in the years to come!