Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Decorate with Tissues?

Need I say more?

This is some pretty sad marketing. Perhaps the creatives are imagining you have a very sentimental holiday needing tissues while you watch It's a Wonderful Life with your family. That would be better than suffering through Christmas with a drippy nose or allergies when you visit friends with pets.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Consumer or Citizen

I'm switching gears a little here.

Late October, November and early December have been spent in much the same way as in previous years. Picking cranberries and turning them into sauce. Making a hearty Thanksgiving meal from CSA veggies and great stock from the turkey bones, etc. I felt it would be kind of repetitive posting that stuff again.

Instead, I've been toying with the idea of posting my impressions of the marketing and political messages that come my way. My sources are limited since I rarely watch commercial TV or listen to anything but public radio. I don't go to malls and have tried to limit the catalogs and marketing that comes to my mailbox.

Still our world is filled with messages to consume and the detritus of that consumer lifestyle.

This came into my mailbox this week:

 An unsolicited plastic sleeve containing a cardboard flyer with coupon, a styrofoam pad and a plastic and foil Nutella container with less that .5 oz of product. The entire mailer weighted 1.5 oz. This week I found a blog about a zero waste living. While I'm not there yet, I do compost, recycle everything I can and try to reduce and reuse what I buy. Getting things like this in the mail doesn't help (and in fact makes me quite angry). I plan to send a critical email to the company that makes Nutella asking them not to market in this way. They will probably get far fewer complaints than the number of people who will use the coupon to make a purchase. Nutella, by the way, while marketed as a nut spread has sugar and palm oil as its first 2 ingredients.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

In My Kitchen and Colorful Yard

 This week I'm again joining Heather at Beauty that moves in her kitchen.

A beautiful purple cauliflower from our CSA share.
It caused me to get a bit artistic. Of course, once it was cooked I was too excited to eat it to take a photo.

The following photo is of an apple/apricot chutney I made with a friend. She had the recipe from her mother, but didn't know how to can. I offered a pleasant afternoon canning lesson in exchange for a couple jars, a wonderful exchange. I'd say I became a knowledgeable canner last year when I did lots of canning with friends. We bought hundreds of pounds of peaches and apples and learned together. I've learned a new skill and fun method of saving and sharing with others. Priceless!

Here's some chutney. It reminds me of fall and looks great set against our most glowing maple.

I've been distracted by the yard. I pause from the food photographs for a bit of local color.

Our sky was too cloudy to see the early morning lunar eclipse, but later it looked like this.

The reflection of my favorite tree in a newly washed window.

These are some photos from a couple weeks ago when the share was full of tomatoes. The gratin was for a pot luck dinner we attended. Too bad I again forgot to take an after picture. It was beautiful cooked too. And delicious with purple potatoes, tomatoes, and zucchini. The underlayer was made of sauteed leeks, and it was topped with Emmental and panko.

Gratin in progress. A good use for my mandolin.
Parsley is my best crop this year. Too bad we don't like it very much.
A rather fussy but delicious lunch, tomato sandwich and salad with cabbage, beets and blue cheese.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

This week in the Kitchen

 This week I'm joining Heather's weekly In the Kitchen update:

Veggies and berries are dominating our kitchen this month. We get a weekly vegetable share from the wonderful Siena Farm. Here is the latest one:

These food photos combine the end of last week's share and some of this week's.

I shredded 1 1/2 lbs of Chioga and red beets for a sweet, hearty pasta dish. The video is from the New York Times and is easy to follow.


Chopped radicchio and kohlrabi went into a wonderful salad* one night. Another night I roasted kohlrabi and potato "fries". If you're not familiar with kohlrabi, it's like a round broccoli stem.

For one week's favas I peeled, steamed, peeled again and sauteed with butter and salt. Delicious but a lot of work. The following week, I oiled and grilled the whole pods, and then we popped out and ate the favas like edamame. Yummy and much easier.


On the grill along with the fava pods were maple glazed carrots. They start cooking on the stove with butter and salt. Then you put on a little syrup and move to the grill to roast and concentrate and caramelize the sweetness. 
A lovely foccacia that my hubby brings home from Bricco Bakery in Boston's North End rounds out the meal.

I like to make this type of salad with corn, beans, peppers, green onion or garlic, cilantro, lime... whatever is handy.

Now onto the plentiful berries and cherries.
I've been buying the cherries on sale in the supermarket. We've been eating them with many meals, and I've been pitting and freezing them for smoothies and snacking through the year.

We grow our own raspberries and I pick about a pint or so each morning and evening. We snack on them and I freeze them until there's enough for making jam.

 * Kohlrabi Salad  adapted by Anna Sortun from Yotam Ottolenghi's book Jerusalm
3 medium kohlrabi (2/3 pounds / 750 grams)
1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves, large ones, torn
1 head of radicchio, roughly cut and washed
1/4 teaspoon sumac

2 large tablespoons Greek yoghurt
2 large tablespoons sour cream
1/2 small garlic clove, finely grated
2 scallions, finely minced, white part only
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
fresh ground black pepper to taste

Peel the kohlrabi and cut them into 2/3 inch dice, and place in a large mixing bowl.
Mix the dressing ingredients until smooth.
Add dressing to kohlrabi. Place in serving bowl, top with mint leaves, spoon over radicchio and serve.
(I chopped and added radicchio to the salad)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Perennial Edible Plants

It's been a long time. The seasons have progressed from the cold of winter into the greening spring. While I've planted new specimens in the gardens, it is the perennials I'm most thrilled with. Yet again without much effort from me, here comes the rhubarb, the asparagus is multiplying, the strawberries are spreading, and the raspberries are thicker than ever.

This spring I've added a new bed with blueberries. I've planted a gooseberry bush. I am watching the garlic I planted last fall grow tall and strong. These type of plants are the ones I want to surround me. Ones that return and enrich me year after year as I feed them with compost and caring.

feathery asparagus plants at the edge of their bed

leeks to the right, garlic to the left

chives in the foreground, rhubard behind

strawberries coming along

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Sweet Valenversary

Yesterday was our anniversary, and today is Valentine's Day. I always joke that we got married on Valentine's weekend so my husband would never forget our anniversary. He never does. Last year for our 20th, we spent a lovely snowy weekend in a luxurious B&B. This year (21) was more low key although equally snowy. But I love giving my husband and kids a little extra love, a few more hugs and lots of yummy sweet treats.

The beaded Valenversary card from our kids.

My sweet boy helped me bake some thumbprint cookies.

We used our homemade raspberry jelly. Yum.

Finished cookies were a little crumbly but very yummy.

I made little pocket book cards for the kids, my mom and other friends.
The idea came from Making Handmade Books by Alisa Golden.

The holiday haul: french lollipops, Lindt chocolate bars in the kids favorite flavors,
and dark chocolate covered almonds. The card shows a photo D took of us in a wavy
reflection on the Prudential Building during last's years snowy B&B outing.

Wishing you all have a sweet, delicious Valentine's day.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Turn, Turn, Turn A tribute to Pete Seeger

On my way to church last Sunday morning, I picked up the detritus of our McCulture, a plastic bottle, a can, and a discarded coffee cup, all likely thrown from car windows. I went into the building, recycled the waste, washed my hands, and went up into the sanctuary.

There my ears heard Pete Seeger's Turn, Turn, Turn, and my mood turned. The  music was why I had come to church early. I knew we'd be singing Pete Seeger anthems, and I sought to fill my heart with his hopeful spirit. He had died a few days earlier, yet his spirit lives on in his songs.

The previous evening I had watched PBS's American Masters program about Pete Seeger's life. Against the odds of fascism, racism, political hypocrisy and environmental degradation, he fought using music and love. I came to church to sing together with the congregation and catch his spirit, catch the power of many voices calling for change and peace together.

Every day there are new inescapable stories about poisoned rivers and droughts, extreme weather and sea level rise. That morning I had read about the severe drought in California. Earlier in the week there had been stories about the decline of Monarch butterfly populations and the threat to bees from monoculture fields of GMO crops. There was a story about a report released by the State Department declaring that proceeding with the Keystone pipeline would not harm the environment. 

Monday I gathered with others at the corner of routes 20 and 27, right in front of our church, to hold signs and protest the pipeline. I tried to bring Pete Seeger's positive attitude that things will change.

It is so hard to read story after story about what human industrialism is doing to the environment. Perhaps soon the weight of the stories along with more and more visible signs of climate change will lead far more people to take action. Attitudes, even those of our leaders, can change. After all Pete Seeger, who had been brought before the House Un-American Activities Committee and charged with contempt of Congress and blacklisted in the 1950s and 60s, received the Natioanal Medal of the Arts in 1994.

I attended a lecture late last month where the speaker Charles Eisenstein, an environmental economist, talked about a change in people's attitudes occurring quicker than we might anticipate. He supposed that for many, the change had already occurred. But few are ready to admit it and take action. He posited that already few people believe stories told to us by mainstream media, corporations, or even our government. When we drive among the ugly strip malls along the sides of our four lane streets, we are repulsed by the ugliness. Here I paraphrase Eisenstein who asked, How is it that 5000 years of architectural advancement could lead to this? Do we believe the slogan on the billboard? Do we believe the Congressmen denying scientific facts?

Do we really believe the repeated story of American exceptionalism? Are Americans citizens in a land of broadening democracy and opportunity or are we mere consumers? Last Sunday evening I spent time at a Superbowl party. Ads costing companies millions of dollars played. They didn't convince me that Coke is better than Pepsi or that I'll love McDonalds. Did they convince anyone? Yet a hundred million people watched this game absorbing its message of commercialism and conflict. I watched too, but the next day I stood with about 50 people holding signs to protest a pipeline that will further enable inefficient dirty energy to be pulled from the ground and its carbon dioxide to further pollute our air. I stood with those turning to a different story.

Thursday, January 16, 2014


I was back at the Pine Brook Conservation area today with my camera. I noticed bright green moss, the only colorful thing among the brown leaves, grey bark and gloomy sky. There were puffball mushrooms along the trail spreading their spores with the slightest jostle. There was fragile ice along the shore. I saw the bottom half of a mouse on top of a broken stump. The raptor with the other half was no where to be seen.

I went to take pictures of some out-of-place Americana turned to sculpture: a jumble of old, rusted cars at the bottom of a ridge. I'll have to investigate how they got there. It will be a new urban myth or ghost story.

Please leave a comment if you can identify the make, model and year of these fine vehicles.

Friday, January 10, 2014

2013 Book List

Here's my 2013 book list. You can see 2012 here and 2011 here.

It was a rather unsatisfying year of reading. There were few books I loved. I read many books for my book group. The ladies tend to choose light, short novels. I also read some YA books for library work. Some of them can be well written, but they are generally about young people, young romance and problems that generally get resolved happily by the end of the book.

The books I enjoyed most over the year were ones I chose for their literary awards or because I had enjoyed the author's work previously. I also read more memoirs and diaries. I tend to get the most inspiration from women who, like me, struggle to find and distinguish themselves amidst the (in my case self-imposed) pressures to care for family.

The books I liked best this year are:
  1. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
  2. Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon
  3. The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson
  4. Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan/Sis Neruda

People of the Book was not my favorite Geraldine Brooks novel, but it had a very interesting structure and wonderful writing. The main character was a selfish young woman who had very little appeal. Luckily her part was short. The real primary driver of the story was a book, an illustrated Passover Haggadah. The novel traced how the book was created. It followed the book back through time and told the story of the silversmith who made the clasps, the book binder, the calligrapher, and the illustrator of the remarkable codex. In each time period from the Middle Ages through modern history the book is a witness to prejudice between sexes, races and religions, primarily antisemitism. The book serves to make a bridge between the hostile parties.

I listened to Telegraph Avenue on CD, and the amazing voice of the actor who read the story may have swayed me to love it. I find reading and listening to books to be quite a difference experience. So while I here endorse the audio, I don't know how it would read on the page. The novel is a mess of complicated characters and family dynamics. There are 2 couples (or maybe 4) because the 2 husbands work together (at a failing record store), as do the 2 wives (in their own midwife practice). So there are relationships between the men, the women, the couples and their teenage children. The relationships are complicated and tender. There are a lot of plot twists, smart language and a satisfying conclusion.

The Orphan Master's Son was definitely the best book I read this past year. I picked it because it won the Pulitzer in 2012. I had never read a book like it before. It was a sweeping novel about a North Korean man who holds many jobs and plays many roles: kidnapper, signal operator, spy, prisoner, husband, father. Usually I would be turned off knowing I was going to read about prisons, torture, and hunger. But somehow, this novel came to the edge of horror and turned it into beauty. A man being tortured was able to sink deep inside himself and block pain with his memories and hopes. A man seemingly played with his children while, without their awareness, teaching them skills they would need to survive under the harshest conditions. A story of the severest deprivation and pain somehow was also a story of love, and sacrifice and hope. Read this book!

Finally on a lighter note, I'll recommend The Dreamer. It is meant for a young audience, perhaps for 4th to 6th graders. But like much of the best literature for the young, it is beautiful and inspirational for all ages. The text is by Pam Munoz Ryan, and the integral illustrations are by Peter Sis. The book is a small biographical novel about the poet, Pablo Neruda. Both the text and the illustrations are playful and charming. Like Neruda's book of questions, this book is full of questions like, "Which is sharper? the hatchet that cuts down dreams? or the scythe that clears a path for another?" The book is the journey of a young man escaping a fearful childhood and finding himself through his love of language. One fanciful vignette has the young poet taking slips of paper, on which he writes compelling words, out of his desk drawer and scattering them on the floor to make poetry. Some of the words are puma, liana, oregano, locomotive and chocolate.

The rest of my list:

1. Virginia Lee Burton, A Life in Art by Barbara Elleman (YA)
2. Life at home in the 21st Century by Jeanne Arnold
3. War Within and Without (1939-44) by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
4. Bring Me a Unicorn (1922-28) by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
5. Light Between the Oceans by M.L. Steadman
6. The language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
7. The Good House by Anne Leary
8. Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Her Life by Susan Hertog
9. The Empire of Illusion by Chris Hedges couldn’t finish, too grim, violent,depressing
10. The Girls from Ames by Jeffrey Zaslow
11. On a Farther Shore, Rachel Carson by William Souder
12. Pomegranate Soup by Marsha Mehran
13 Always, Rachel editor Freeman intimate letters of Rachel Carson
14. Lions of Little Rock (YA) by Kristin Levine
15. Gossip of the Starlings by Nina De Gramont (YA)
16. Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman
17. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
18. The Outermost House by Henry Beston