Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wednesday's Book Notes

“How is it that, a full two centuries after Jane Austen finished her manuscript, we come to the world of Pride and Prejudice and find ourselves transcending customs, strictures, time, mores, to arrive at a place that educates, amuses, and enthralls us? It is a miracle. We read in bed because reading is halfway between life and dreaming, our own consciousness in someone else's mind.” 
Anna Quindlen

Funny Confession Ecard: Book hangover: Inability to start a new book because you're still living in the last book's world.
A week or so ago a friend, who reads with the same enthusiasm as I,  posted the above on pinterest. I commented back something to the know this is where I am.

A few afternoons later we met at a bookstore for an iced tea, some chat time and to browse the books.  I had just finished  The Time In Between by the spanish author Maria Duenas.  I confirmed I was suffering with a full fledged (book) hangover.  I touched several books, turned a few pages and left empty handed, all because of

The Time in Between

A typewriter shattered my destiny.  The culprit was a Hispano-Olivetti, and for weeks, a store window kept it from me.  Looking back now,  from the vantage point of the years gone by, it's hard to believe a simple mechanical object could have the power to divert the course of an entire life in just four short days, to pulverize the intricate plans on which it was built.  And yet that is how it was, and there was nothing I could have done to stop it.

The beginning paragraph pulled me in and kept me intrigued through the first slow paced pages.    Setting the foundation for her story,  Sira, the fatherless daughter of a seamstress, tells us what she could expect from her life in Madrid.  She seems to be a woman of  little ambition.  She meets a stable man and becomes happily engaged.

While planning her wedding and her life she makes a life altering decision.  With the Spainish Civil War seeming inevitable,  she finds herself in Morocco abandoned, penniless,  pregnant, and with serious legal troubles.  Falling back on a trade she learned at her mother's hem, she rises out of the ashes of a ruined life to payback debts, build confidences and a new life, albeit a dangerous one, as she is pulled into the world of the fashion conscious rich, the politically powerful, and the British Secret Service.

Filled with well developed characters, a beautifully designed plot and lusciously descriptive language we are taken on a journey through the Spanish Civil War and carried to the doorstep of a Nazi occupied Madrid via Morocco and Portugal.  Lines are drawn and sides taken.   Sira finds herself dangerously caught up in secrets, schemes and betrayals not knowing who is friend or foe.  You will find yourself holding your breath to the end.

Six hundred plus seemed far less.

Since finishing The Time In Between I've opened several books not finding one that pulled me in.... thus the "book hangover".   Well... 

until I visited the library yesterday....
I can't wait to tell you about the book I am exploring now.

Do you ever suffer from "book hangover"?  My friend said when she finds herself there she pulls out Jane Austen.  What is your prescription?

Happy Reading!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Monday's in the Kitchen-- Peaches and Tea

Do you love peaches?  I love peaches! 

 One of my favorite things about this time of year is the abundance of those delicious juicy globes of goodness.   Yes, yet another of my weaknesses.. sigh..  I am fortunate to have several peach orchards in and around my area supplying me with my summer fix.  When I don't make it to the farmer's market I've been able to find locally grown peaches at Whole Foods.  This week, wanting to preserve some of summer's gold, I went in search of a peach preserves recipe.

After browsing through books, magazines and several web sites I happened upon two separate links for Lord Grey's Peach Preserves. The ingredients were simple... no preservatives... I was sold.

Lord Grey's Peach Preserves

5 pounds ripe peaches
4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
5 Earl Grey tea bags, divided
(The tea adds just a hint of a floral flavor.)

Cut a shallow x in the bottom of each peach.  Working in batches, blanch in a large pot of boiling water until skin loosens, about 1 minute.  Transfer to a large bowl of ice water; let cool.  Peel, halve, and pit.  Cut into 1/3 inch slices.  Combine with sugar and lemon juice in a large bowl.  Let stand 30 minutes.

Place a small plate in the freezer.  Transfer fruit mixture and 4 tea bags to a large heavy pot.  Open the remaining tea bag and crumble leaves slightly; add to pot.  Bring to a boil, stirring gently, and cook 15 to 20 minutes.  Test doneness by dropping a small spoonful on chilled plate and tilting.  It is ready if the preserves do not run.  (The longer it cooks the darker it becomes)  Remove tea bags.  Skim foam from the surface of pan.  Ladle into jars.  Wipe rims, seal and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Nothing makes me smile like the popping of the jar lids once they are out of the bath.

The recipe reads that it yields 2 pints.  I actually filled 8 1/2 pint jars.  The finished product looks a little like peach slices in a cup of tea.  One of the reasons I wanted to try this recipe was it did not ask for a pectin.  The syrup didn't gel quite like I thought it would.  I will take responsibility.  I am still a newcomer to preserving/canning;
I am sure the mistakes are mine.

This morning I spread a couple of the peaches on a slice of toast
I love the hint of the tea.

I think it will be wonderful spooned over vanilla bean ice cream or maybe on pancakes or french toast.  Oh, or over pound cake. 

Bon Appetit'!

Have a tasty week!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Come Walk With Me

through the San Francisco Botanical Gardens.

I could tell you the garden consist of 55 acres of landscaped and natural gardens.

Or that it holds over 8000 species of plants from all over the world, many of which are extinct in their natural habitat.

But, I would rather we walk quietly down the garden path and lose ourselves in it's beauty.

sh-h-h do you see the eagle? 

Thank you!

Have an amazing weekend!

all photos were taken by me.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

So Many Books


 This is how I have been feeling the last week or so.  I want to do nothing more than stick my nose between the pages of a book, enjoy a glass of iced tea and escape the summer temperatures.  When I am not reading I am thinking of my book list and what I will read next.   There is a stack of books by the bed waiting to be revisited,  possibly this summer or possibly not.  Possibly to just be dusted until one night I am seeking an old friend.

I pulled Rebecca after returning from Sweden.  It was on the flight I read Daphne, Justine Picardi, igniting the desire to become reacquainted with Rebecca.  It seems though I should wait for a cold rainy weekend to pick up Daphne Du Maurier's classic of mystery and suspense and once again venture through the doors of Manderley.  It may be a few months.

Cold Comfort Farm found its place in the stack just last week after visiting the only surviving independent bookstore in my area.  I stopped in hoping to find Stella Gibbons's Nightingale Wood.

Nightingale Wood

I was told they didn't have it in stock but they did have a copy of her book Cold Comfort Farm.  I told him I had actually read it a couple of years ago but I would continue to browse.  I love small intimate bookstores, don't you?  The shelves were uncharacteristically sparse giving me cause for a little concern;  not wanting to leave without a purchase I did, in fact, walk out with Cold Comfort Farm (you do understand it was totally in an effort to support a local merchant, don't you?  Oh okay,  it may have slightly been I just couldn't resist the new Peguin cover design.)  to reread at my leisure.

The last book in my stack, Notes from an Italian Garden, I rediscovered while standing in front of a bookshelf one afternoon several weeks ago.  I immediately thought of my good friend who loves gardening and a good gardening book.  I pulled it thinking she might enjoy it.  Upon it's return I placed it by my bedside anticipating a need to reread.  Joan Marble begins her account of developing what she calls "an unpromising piece of land" in January as she discovers and falls in love with Etruria.    I thought it would be nice to read it chronologically beginning in January when I am wanting to be out digging in the dirt.  Maybe next August when I am sweltering and wanting to give up on my own gardens I will appreciate reading her August chapter, Cooling Off in the Greenhouse.  No matter, I am sure I will once again find inspiration and enjoy her gardening adventure.   (The author, Joan Marble Cook died in 2004 at the age of 84 just weeks after her book Notes from a Roman Terrace was released in paperback.  Possibly another book for my list.)


I recently read Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter.  The story begins in 1962 in a small town on a rocky coastline of Italy.  The young innkeeper, Pasqualle, is trying to build a beach along the cliffside when a beautiful movie actress is unexpectantly delivered to Porto Vergogna (Port of Shame) and to his hotel.  

Beautiful Ruins

"Twenty meters away, Pasquale Tursi watched the arrival of the woman as if in a dream.  Or rather, he would think later, a dream's opposite: a burst of clarity after a lifetime of sleep.  Pasquale straightened and stopped what he was doing, what he was usually doing that spring, trying to construct a beach below his family's empty pensione. "

He soon discovers his newest guest had been in Rome filming the movie "Cleopatra" along the side of  Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor when she became ill and was diagnosed with cancer.  She makes an unexpected detour to Porto Vergogna on her way to Switzerland for a medical treatment arranged by the movie's producer.

The story moves to present day Hollywood as an elderly Italian gentleman arrives at a prominent producer's office in search of a lost love, stirring up old memories and igniting new ambitions.

Filled with colorful and well defined characters we are taken on a riotous and entertaining ride as Jess Walter moves us from past to present allowing us to come to our own conclusion of what is truly beautiful and real in a world made of celluloid and sound bites.


I'm presently reading Maria Duenas's The Time in Between.  It's been on my ereader since Sweden.  Desperately wanting something to read late one evening I started browsing my titles; there it was just waiting for me to begin.  I haven't been able to put it down.  I have less than 50 pages remaining....I am definitely feeling the need for a trip to the bookstore or maybe the Library.

If you need me you know where to find me.....between the pages of a book.  Or looking for my next great read.

Do you keep a stack of books nearby to  revisit or collect books in anticipation of desperately needing something to read late at night?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Summer Plans

I had hoped to post more pictures from San Francisco, or maybe write about the book I finished last week or the one I'm reading now.  I thought I might tell you about our afternoon showers we've enjoyed.  I tried out a new shrimp recipe tonight I could have shared, but alas I didn't have time to snap a photograph.

It is summer and I am just enjoying the time to be.

I will leave you tonight with a picture and a favorite quotation.

"I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve (or save) the world and a desire to enjoy (or savor) the world.  This makes it hard to plan the day."
E.B. White

all photographs are mine 
unless otherwise noted.

Monday, July 9, 2012

From the Island...Aging

painting by my daughter
This morning catching up on everyone I spied an ad on the sidebar of a favorite blog about aging.  I will just be honest I usually block advertising out.  Now that I am wearing glasses (this aging thing) most of the time it isn't really that difficult.  The peripheral lens is a little blurred.  Well, for some reason this particular ad still caught my eye.   It was about how bloggers feel about aging.   They threw up a few emotional catch words...uncertain, angry, optimistic.  I think there might have been another, I can't remember.

As the clock ticks away I do think about aging, although I know there is little one can do about it.  The only year I began to dread was my 39th turning to 40.  We had just moved to Northern California, leaving everything we knew and loved for a new adventure.  Each day as the birthday drew nearer I assured myself it was really only a day and nothing would change.  I still remember waking that morning, laying in bed and thinking I felt the same as I did when I went to bed.  I quietly slipped out of bed; I wanted to be the first one to look at me just incase something dreadful had happened overnight.  As I suspiciously looked closely in the mirror, turning from one side to the other,  I came to the realization everything was exactly the same as the night before.  There were no winkles that appeared during my sleep.  My hair had not suddenly turned gray.  I had spent days wasting precious time worrying over something that would not change one thing in my life other than a number.  I had fretted over something I would never be able to control.

With this lesson learned I really try not to worry much about aging.   Don't get me wrong each year brings different frustrations...a few extra wrinkles, waning eyesight, pounds get my point.  I just cannot use my time worrying about the passing hours or days.  I have no more control of time than I do of the weather.

I do however get to control how I use each moment given to me.  Rather than bemoaning the things that have passed me by or worrying over things to come, I am learning to take pleasure in and give thanksgiving for the small, the minute things that make me happy...morning solitude, birds splashing around in the birdbaths, hearing my husband coming through the door after being out of town, my lemon tree loaded with lemons.

Yesterday morning, while Roger was making breakfast, I took my coffee outside to look around.  I like to see what is going on in my backyard.  The air seemed a little lighter, the birds were singing, everything seemed a bit happier after our little sprinkle the day before.   When I went back inside my husband said,  "I wish I had been able to give you a kingdom to rule.  You looked so happy just standing there looking around your little backyard.  I could see you as Queen going out and checking on all your lands and subjects."  I had to silently laugh, because I was actually out giving thanks for my little piece of earth and all the little things in it.

It has been over a decade since I woke to look in the mirror at my forty year old face in search of something different.  I no longer worry.  I still have heartaches and things happen that scare me.  There will be things that will trip me and take me to my knees.  When my Dad was first diagnosed with cancer he said,  "This is life, you just have to walk the path put in front of you".  I choose, while walking my path to spend time stopping to look at everything and giving thanks for the small things.  The big things are going to find me.

gift from one of my bluebirds

No matter the fretting, I can't stop it.
I can't stop bad things from happening.
But I can stop to enjoy each blessed little moment of pleasure.

What little things bring you joy?

Look around I know you will find more.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Matter of Perspective

I have spent the last week sighing, whimpering and whining about the heat.  I am going to try and hush, because in truth....okay those who know me know what is coming...
it is what it is.

While I am sure I will continue to moan and groan, however,  I am going to try, as a friend puts it, "build that bridge and get over it". 

I had thought we would spend a quiet fourth of July evening at home.  Maybe we would go out for a bit of barbecue, but plans change.  Our good friends called and wanted to go listen to the "Pops on the River" and watch the fireworks.  When I called Roger to see what he thought,  he was in the process of checking into getting tickets to the baseball game.  We would watch a little baseball (how American can you get?) and have perfect seats for the fireworks.  With a few more phone calls our evening was planned.

Our friends came over for cocktails, hor'dourves and pre-baseball conversation.  We left late for the game (it was a bit too hot at 5:30), and ended up not getting to our seats until close to the 7th ending stretch.   We still had time to spend with

our "boys of summer".

When the last ball was thrown and teams exited the field it was time for

for the children to run the bases.  They ran and they ran....all ages and all sizes...until the very last child touched home plate...we thought.

And yet there was one child left...the stadium became silent as a young mother pushed her daughter's wheelchair out onto the field stopping at first base.  She let go and the child began her run.   The crowd exploded.  Everyone stood and began cheering louder than I have ever heard at a sporting event as she pushed off on her own.  She was met at each base with a high five, and as she left third they began sweeping home plate for her arrival. Her mother stood waiting, camera ready.  I thought of snapping a picture, but I was too busy applauding; to be honest, my eyes were a bit misty.

After watching this mother's courage to let go, and the child's determination to make it around the bases, the heat didn't seem quite a big deal.

The stadium lights went out and the field was darkened.

The "1812 Overture" could be heard over the speakers...
the fireworks over the river began.

We had perfect seats!