life between the pages

“I spent my life folded between the pages of books.
In the absence of human relationships I formed bonds with paper characters. I lived love and loss through stories threaded in history; I experienced adolescence by association. My world is one interwoven web of words, stringing limb to limb, bone to sinew, thoughts and images all together. I am a being comprised of letters, a character created by sentences, a figment of imagination formed through fiction.”
Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Still Summer Harvest Muffins


It is late in August, nearly September, and even though fall is beautiful and I'm sure I'll relish it when it comes, like always, I do tend to feel a bit wistful this time of year, and savour each hot, humid afternoon like a cat, stretching its paws towards the sunlight playing on the trees outside our window. The berries from the market still give off that lovely aroma of fresh, ripe summer days. There is nothing cleaner than biting into the crisp flesh of sour apples, and crunchy walnuts are my topping of choice, lending a dark smoothness to my summer desserts.

Perhaps these fruit-and-nut emblazoned muffins will entice you to savour the last of summer's sweetness. Perfect for afternoon tea with a slice of melon or a few figs, and a dollop of butter.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Wipe lard into muffin tin.
Chop approx. 1 c ripe strawberries, hulled, into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces.
Chop 1 ripe green apple, mix into strawberries, set aside.
Chop 1/2 c. whole or halved walnuts, set aside.

Sift together:
1 1/2 c unbleached flour
1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp mace (or nutmeg if you don't have it)
1/2 tsp cardamom
2 tbsp raw unbleached sugar

In a separate bowl, whisk together:
2 eggs
2 tbsp plain greek yogurt
3 tbsp honey
1/4 c vegetable oil
3/4 c milk
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp flax seeds

Combine wet to dry ingredients and blend well. Fold in fruit and nuts and stir.

Drop by 1/3-to-1/2  cupfuls into greased muffin tin cups.

Bake for 6 minutes at 400, then reduce heat to 375 degrees. Bake for approximately 16 to 18 more minutes until tops are risen and slightly browned.

Yield: 1 dozen

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Review: Small Island

Small IslandSmall Island by Andrea Levy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Andrea Levy uses words the way a surgeon uses a scalpel - with fine precision designed to cut away everything that isn't story. The spareness of this technique takes a bit of adjustment, especially for someone like me who appreciates paragraphs filled with adjectives that fill in all the gaps and leave no room for guesswork or imagination. But don't get me wrong. The characters are set carefully on the stage and allowed to tell the story in their own words, leaving out details that escaped them, that may or may not be later filled in from the point of view of another character.

The tale here is one of history, and the intertwined lives of two couples - one black, one white - set during the hellish time of German attacks on British daily life during the second World War. Although the language is sparse, the details come through in the reactions and observations of Gilbert, Hortense, Queenie, and finally, Bernard. Alternately concerning and enlightening, you will find it difficult to leave the story at its logical end, even after five hundred pages. These people will live on, hauntingly changing what you thought you knew about race and social justice in mid-twentieth century Britain. And that, my friends, is the mark of an excellent work of fiction.


View all my reviews

Monday, February 22, 2016

Hating America

Innocent children accused of rape who would serve years in prison for a crime they did not commit.
Image froNew York Daily News Archive/NY Daily News via Getty Images via The Guardian.

We can do better than this.

In a thoughtful, engaging piece in The Guardian, Oliver Laughland reminds us of the charade some folks are currently watching in a dangerous flirtation with "what if"?

Donald Trump and the Central Park Five: the racially charged rise of a demagogue

Mr Trump is not funny.

The ridiculously and perhaps initially humorous fact of his claiming to be presidential material and actually throwing his hat in the ring is not funny anymore, if it ever was. It's a narcissistic whomping of our collective social consciousness in a self-centered, hateful attempt at grabbing control of the overwhelming and abusive level of power that odious old white men used to have in this country.

And it just has to stop. We were doing so well in spite of their carping, insidious obstruction to one of the finest Presidents in the modern age. Trump's bid for the presidency must be called out for what it is. It is no longer just okay to ignore the clown car and hope it will fall of the cliff through its own refusal to look where it's going.

See, they think they see where they're going. They have a fixed vision of the world they hope to re-create, and it's very, very ugly.

It's not a world we want to live in again.

And in case this isn't obvious: they don't want us to live there either.

They want the future all for themselves. They have no intention of sharing.

So if that's what anyone believes, we need to disabuse them of that irresponsible and childlike notion.

See, it's pretty clear that anyone who thinks Trump has an answer that will make their own life better who is not a member of the .01% who own most of the wealth in the entire world is not thinking rationally. It's a misguided belief that if the rich are richer, they will share some with us. That doesn't happen in real life, and most of us know that.

There's no such thing as the proverbial Santa Claus. remember? Santa Claus is the people who love you. He's not some fat white guy with bad hair and an eye-popping wardrobe who works his ass off to bring you and all the good boys and girls treats and toys one night a year. That guy is an elf, and There are No Such Thing as Elves.

Except the people who love you, of course. Does Donald Trump love you?

Unless you're covered in gold and are ready and willing for him to take it, then no, Donald Trump doesn't love you. And he's not bringing you any presents.

Donald Trump is the guy who's going to take all your presents and keep them for himself. He's the Christmas Thief. Unfortunately, he doesn't just steal things from people who don't deserve them. He steals from anyone who is stupid or desperate enough to do business with him and a lot of other people who never met him and have nothing to do with him.

We must denounce every single person who thinks what Trump and his ilk are doing are okay. It's so not okay. It's wrong, and it's dangerous to overlook that wrong in an attempt to play nice. He's not going to play nice, he's going to lie and cheat and steal his way forward for the rest of his life. He doesn't know how to do it any other way, poor guy.

And we can't let him have our country. Too many people have died to keep us free. As Yusef Salaam, one of the Central Park Five, says: "What would this country look like with Donald Trump as being a president? That’s a scary thing."

How many more will die if people like The Donald keep committing statutory rape against our economy, our civil rights, and our common good?

What would that world look like, in all reality?

We've been there, guys. We know exactly what it would look like. Please tell me we are too smart to go there ever again.


Compliance is all they ask. It's all they need. All that evil needs to succeed is that good people sit by, and do nothing.

So we gotta aim to misbehave, you know? Every time that golden hair flap appears in public, somebody send some chewed-up bubblegum its way, okay? We need to be relieved of that thing. He's got a thing about baldness. He hides behind the fear and loathing we all have of our true selves. He doesn't have the right to do that, you know - not unless we give it to him.

We need to show that this would-be Emperor is as naked as the day he was born. As naked as we all are.

He's not the leader we need. He's not a leader at all. He's a masthead, a figurehead for perceived wealth and class and privilege. He's a charlatan, a con man, and he's counting on you buying the tinsel-covered pack of lies that he's selling.

He's telling you to help him steal the freedom right out from under you. He wants us to exchange places with those who went before us, and died for that freedom. He wants you to give up, and let him take the reins, so he can drive that golden chariot across the sky while you shiver and dry up below him choking on your mass-produced Turkish Delight.

It's the oldest trick in the book.

Don't fall for that. Be the beacon. Point to the earth, and the sky, and the people around you - the ones who love you - and stand up for the truth and help others do likewise.


You,
It's you and me,
It's you and me won't be unhappy.
"C'mon, baby, c'mon darling,
Let me steal this moment from you now.
C'mon, angel, c'mon, c'mon, darling,
Let's exchange the experience, oh"
And if I only could,
I'd make a deal with God,
And I'd get him to swap our places,
Be running up that road,
Be running up that hill,
With no problems.
--Kate Bush, Running Up That Hill

We all got problems. They won't be solved unless and until we stop looking to rich people in power to do it. We've got to do it ourselves, we've got to hold hands, work together, help each other, and elect people who do likewise -- who really do love us, who have demonstrated by their actions that they love us, and they'll do right by us, and will do their damnedest help us get out of whatever mess we are in. Who won't be one of those people who take what we have and keep it for themselves, even though they already have so much they don't know what to do with it all.

Don't be so blind that you cannot see good when it's right in front of you.

Arrest photo of young activist Bernie Sanders emerges from Tribune archives

In America, we think differently, we act differently, we live and work and play differently from each other, and that's supposed to be okay. We believe different things and our homes and families reflect that. We've come a long way to get here. Today it's okay to love whom you love, and marry that person so you can be happy together for the rest of your lives.

These things irritate some people. They make it complicated. In order to live in this country effectively you've got to have an open heart, open eyes, and open hands. You've got to be willing to accept the fact that your experiences are not universal, that your life is very different from your neighbor's and sometimes an entire world away from someone on the other side of the street. Yet we are all Americans. We belong here. We're part of the system and society.

This is how it should be.

But for those for whom these ideas are complicated, this is perhaps a threat. They feel threatened because part of their way of life is at risk. If everyone really has an equal chance, the outcome they want might not happen - because that outcome benefits them. They see life as a struggle to make sure their outcome happens and their neighbor's does not. They use fear as a tool to try to get you to buy into the outcome where they have all the power and they might give you some autonomy to do what you want - as long as it doesn't threaten what they have and want.

They are very good at using fear. We've got to stop seeing the fear as an adversary, and start using it for what it is: a tool. Turn it around, point it right back at them. Make them see that what they fear is actually you. It's us. It's our freedom to do and give and love whom we want and live as we choose; it's our autonomy.

Strip that fear naked and look at it for exactly what it is.

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

We all know the horrific things nations accomplish because of fear - you know them, you can name dozens. We are better than that.

We are Americans.

The terrible thing about fear is that it is so easily inflamed and becomes hatred. For whatever reason, hatred tends to get things accomplished. It builds walls. It makes rules to control people's differences. It makes wars.

We are better than that. We are Americans.

"Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in, to prevent them from leaving us." --John F. Kennedy
Berliners didn't build that wall. Fear and hatred did. That same fear and hatred that you and I feel when we think about what we might lose. We need to shun that fear. We need to laugh at the hatred so it will wither in shame and die, writhing.

"Freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free." --John F. Kennedy, Ich bin ein Berliner speech

Who benefits when people are not free to live and love and work and play and be who they are? 

Who, indeed? 

The only people who would benefit are those who hate who we are, how we live, the way we love, because it means we think for ourselves, and cannot be controlled.

Who benefits when people are controlled, when choices are limited? 

The people who are doing the controlling, so they can limit our choices to the things they, and they alone, offer.

These people are not, and should never be in, government. Government speaks for the people and does the wishes of the people, not the other way around.

Commerce can be a lively thing, when it's a healthy exchange and is equitable between the parties. It can be manipulated so it draws from one to give to another. When one party is clearly drawing more and more from everyone else it is anything but a healthy exchange; it's a disease. It's a sick system that needs our attention to fix the inequities and the only thing that's going to do this is to elect responsible representatives and keep watch over them.

Government for the people, by the people, and of the people is not something to be squandered because of fear and hate. But it needs a lot of love to counteract the fear and hate, to balance the squandering manipulative parties and to re-distribute things equitably according to need and actual contributions. It's easy to see a successful businessperson as a good and intelligent person because that's who they want you to see, and if they're controlling the outcome by limiting your choices you have no opportunity to vote your conscience. But they cannot limit your voice. They can limit your opportunities but they cannot touch who we are.

We are Americans. Do not hate us because we are different. We can be divided by our differences, but then we will fall, and always have. Hopefully we learn from our failures. 

Hopefully we have not learned to hate ourselves because of them.



Love us, love America, believe in our goodness and celebrate our differences, or we will simply cease to be Americans.






Monday, January 18, 2016

Equal Opportunity for All

Today we honor Dr Martin Luther King, Jr, who fought for equal rights and opportunities for all people, no matter their race, color, or creed. He was adamantly supportive of fair labor laws, and warned against deceptive practices designed to diminish the value of individual workers.

     “In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights.Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone…Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We demand this fraud be stopped. Our weapon is our vote.” —Martin Luther King, speaking about right-to-work laws in 1961

Not to take away from the celebration of his life and work, but we still have an awful lot of work to do. Some would say that the best way to celebrate Dr King's legacy is to continue to fight on for better conditions for all workers, everywhere.

Aside from fair labor laws, perceptions must be addressed that harm a worker's - any worker's - ability to prove themselves. These perceptions include those about age. I wrote about this awhile back, recognizing that the best way to destroy perceptions that limit our opportunities is to refuse to bow down to them.

Five Things that Make a Difference in a Later Career Job Search

Revisiting this particular issue, because it's been a few years and it's apparently still a thing - perhaps even more so.

A recent PBS Newshour segment further elucidated the general public on this problem. Clearly, it's still a great idea to de-emphasize the length of your work history in favor of highlighting skills, accomplishments, and knowledge. In fact, this is where those of us with long work histories should be shining. After all, with years of experience we've had enough time to gather rosebuds and honors in bulk. Instead of listing each one in chronological order, we have the distinctive capability to pick and choose among the best of those.



Don't let some of the general public's perception of older women be the rule: that is gender bias at work. In study after study, the facts remain clear: there's no good reason for this. Women often work harder, persevere longer, think more creatively, juggle priorities and tasks more skillfully, and are better at focusing efforts toward a positive outcome than men. Why wouldn't we be able to continue being valuable, productive members of any team as long as we wish it?

Why, indeed.

In an article published by the John C. and Nancy D. Whitehead Chair in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution, Dr Gary Burtless, of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, describes his study that makes it clear that aging does not affect productivity. In fact, his research shows that older workers frequently command a premium wage that reflects their contributions to the workforce.

Unfortunately, in a time of hard scrutiny of a company's bottom line, this premium - even well-deserved - can be a factor in a decision to hire a new, older-aged worker. Sometimes, we are forced to agree to wages that are competitive with those earned by younger workers, or lose the job. Counter-acting these decisions may not be something that is in everyone's control. Only by demonstrating repeatedly how well we do can we expect to change the perception that our value may be diminished by our age.

We must continue to educate ourselves, to diversify our incomes, to seek out opportunities to cash in on our knowledge and experience. One way to do that is to publish. Another way is to teach. Of course, the wiser employer will encourage knowledgeable, experienced employees to mentor and demonstrate to younger, less experienced. However, we can't always count on this. As employers continue to pare back (whether or not it is in anyone's best interests, even their own), we cannot limit ourselves to what "the market will bear." The promise of capitalism isn't The American Dream, no matter what we once believed. It's just a chance to compete. That is all.

The American Dream is the fact that we actually can imagine ourselves better.

What does this mean, exactly? To be quite honest, it's a myth that creativity and imagination coupled with hard work that leads toward a better life exists solely in the United States. It's a human challenge that frankly, other countries do just as well, perhaps some even do it better. The real challenge for all of us no matter what our age is to do our best, every single day. Some days will be better than others. Some days will plainly be forgettable.

Don't settle for less than your best, every single day. And it's up to you to define exactly what that is.



Monday, December 14, 2015

Review: A Place Called Rainwater


A Place Called Rainwater (Jazz Age, #3)A Place Called Rainwater by Dorothy Garlock
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sometimes this author really nails it with a story, and sometimes she falls a bit short. Elements and characters I loved were Blue & Radna, Hunter & Laura, Justine, and the setting in a small town undergoing great change due to oil fields nearby. Her villains are beyond creepy, and the one in this book takes the Christmas pudding. But Thad & Jill, who were the focus of the story, just didn't really have the synergy and chemistry of the main characters in some of her books. I like them well enough, but their difficulties seemed to be contrived. Maybe I've just read too many in this series.

This story is fiction but contains a couple of characters based on real-life lawmen who lived in Oklahoma. Would really like to have seen a bit more of Laura's backstory as well as Radna's. Garlock's secondary characters in this book really carry the story, and are the main reason I gave the book three stars instead of just two.


View all my reviews

Monday, November 23, 2015

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

the anarchy of nature

A forward shift in time and possibility ...eglantine - the sweetbrier rose - with graceful blushes lets us know that fall approaches, celebrating the last burnished notes of summer

...and in like manner, willow heralds the spring with effusive yet subtle gestures in palest green.

In the fall, the summer birches shed their green for pumpkin, burgundy, rich yellows, molten gold. They stand, godlike, unaware and unheeding of our passing.

In November the world is setting the stage for sleep, to rest awhile before the cycle begins again. The promise of delicious, rose-colored fruit glistens in the midst of soft rain, held aloft on greenbriar branches, steady and peaceful. In the quiet you can feel the gentle pinpricks of preparation, feel the heartbeat of movement that carries us, blissful, through the coldest months until the rising sap presses up the stems and new life bursts upon us once again.

Wishing you a restful winter, and a joyous awakening in the months to come.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Sunday is a day of rest, goes the old adage, and I do subscribe to it. But today I'm making jam with plums my aunt, uncle, cousin, and I picked last Sunday afternoon from the ancient tree in my yard. I also hung out a load of laundry earlier, a ritual I crave for its simplicity and tactile pleasure.

It isn't work if you love it and it relaxes, reaffirms you. No, I truly believe it's part of the dance of the good life.







Together we picked 25 pounds of fruit last weekend. My aunt usually makes a simple jam based on an old USDA recipe. The wonderful thing about fresh-picked damsons is, in spite of the fact that they are a clingstone fruit, there is usually very little waste. From the entire batch I only found three plums I had to discard due to blemishes or rot. They are sturdy and simple to clean; the stems usually pop right off without tugging.


Here's my recipe for the jam, or rather preserves since I don't grind up all the pulp and fruit skin in a blender and it uses less sugar. I like the texture of the simple combination of fruit in its own rich nectar, and the slow simmering preserves the most flavour:

Damson Plum Preserves

10 lbs fresh plums, washed & picked
3 c water
6 c organic cane sugar

Place plums and water in large dutch oven, cover, and heat slowly at medium temperature, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. When the mixture boils, set timer for 30 minutes. Keep covered and reduce heat to medium-low, stirring occasionally. Stir with wooden spoon and press lightly to encourage splitting of the pulp, which will make the pits easier to remove later. Reduce heat if necessary to keep from boiling over, and continue simmering for an additional 20 minutes.


When the mixture has cooked thoroughly for at least an hour, pulp has absorbed the dark red coloring of the mixture and the liquid has reduced slightly, turn off and set aside half-covered for about an hour until it is cool enough to touch. Stir lightly and pour mixture through a sieve into a large plastic or glass bowl, pressing to get as much pulp as possible to separate from the pits. Stir and return to dutch oven; set mixture aside.




Working over a second clean bowl, carefully remove pits from the remainder of the mixture in the sieve and discard them. When the remainder has been picked clean of pits, return it to the rest of the mixture and combine with sugar. Stir thoroughly.

Place mixture back in heavy saucepan or dutch oven, cover, and heat slowly to boiling a second time. Be careful not to heat too quickly or scorching can occur. Cook carefully over medium- to medium-low temperature until mixture reaches 220 degrees. This may take an hour, more or less. Boil for ten minutes until jell stage is reached. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly, checking for thickening.

Pour into hot, clean jars, seal, and process in water bath canner for 10 minutes. Alternately, I am told you can skip the processing if your jars have been boiled and sterilized. A friend does it this way:
... when I do jelly and jam I try to take the jars out of hot water or dishwasher and fill with boiling jam. Then put on lids and invert on counter for five minutes and then turn right side up and wait for ping. I don't use a canner for jelly or jam as the product is hot and sterile, the jar is hot and sterile, and the lids are hot and sterile and they seal nicely. Never lost a jar this way, only in pressure canner.
While the jam is cooling, go check the laundry. Stretch your arms up high. Breathe in the goodness.

Images and content copyright (c) 2015 Susannah Eanes. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Goodreads Giveaway: Free Copies of Lucky Southern Women!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Lucky Southern Women by Susannah Eanes

Lucky Southern Women

by Susannah Eanes

Giveaway ends August 21, 2015.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Five Basics of a Healthy Diet

Often, people ask me if I might help them shop for groceries. It seems that they believe I must know some secret for making quick and efficient work of this chore.

Well, perhaps I do.

Over 20 years ago I was diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus, or SLE - commonly referred to as just "lupus." Through trial and error I found a few keys to making life easier. One of these was a diet based on these five basic ideas:

1. Simple
2. Fresh
3. Local
4. Organic
5. Varied

You can remember them by looking at your hand, where it just so happens that there are five fingers - one for each basic idea.

Cool, huh?

These five keys do simplify grocery shopping, meal planning, and food preparation a great deal. Choices that aren't so good for you are immediately eliminated by keeping them in mind.

Each key can be further described as follows:

Simple
In its most basic terms, simple means as few ingredients as possible. It is the first tenet of a basic lifestyle and diet. For instance, when you take a look at the ingredient list printed on a container of food - a loaf of bread, a can of soup, a box of cereal, you should be able to cover it lengthwise with one finger. If a few words or lines of text peek out below that finger, put it back. It isn't simple. Too many ingredients mean food additives and things that aren't really food. You don't need that stuff in your life.
Simple means basic, plain vegetables, fruits, meats, and grains. You can combine them in your kitchen. If you decide to purchase something someone else has made, keep that simple rule in mind. Their list of ingredients shouldn't be any longer than it would be if you'd made it yourself.

Fresh
Not canned, frozen, pickled, dried, or otherwise preserved. Eat predominantly fresh foods every day. Use preserved foods sparingly. Preserving food is sometimes necessary, but be mindful that it introduces extra ingredients (see "simple") such as salt, flavorings, sugar, and other things you don't want too much of. If you want to preserve foods you can do it yourself. Make your own jams, bread, yogurt, chili beans, pizza, cookies, meat loaf, pudding. You'll know what's in it, and you don't have to worry about things you can't pronounce cluttering up your intestines and causing all sorts of unpleasantness.

Local
The closer something is to your table, the less likely it is to have additives and other questionable unpleasantness like extra sugar, salt, and preservatives. Local means the farmer just outside of town, the dairy up the road, catfish from the river. If you're eating foods from your neighborhood you're going to be more aware of things that might affect your health. Local means fresh, simple, and varied. Local also means fewer environmental impacts in getting that food to you. And that's always a bargain.

Organic
One day, we'll all eat this way. Pesticides, herbicides, feedlots and unnecessary pharmaceuticals in our foods cost more and drive up the cost of production. Don't reward bad behavior. Remember, eating organic means you're putting less questionable things in your body. It's better for the earth -- better for our streams, soils, and the air we breathe. But do your research - make sure the company behind the label is reputable and isn't just "greenwashing."

Varied
If we go by what's in season not only will we be eating the freshest, healthiest food, but we're assured of a constantly changing variety. Sure, you may go on a binge and want to eat peanut butter for lunch three days in a row, or a week's worth of salads, but normally you won't want to press it beyond that. A varied diet means plenty of choices in color and texture; it means meats and potatoes, soups and sandwiches, nuts, fruits and cheeses. It means raw and cooked, bland and spicy. Use herbs, vinegars, piquant vegetables, peppery spices and creamy milks to add interest and nutrition when you prepare meals. Variety also means don't do it all yourself. Ask for help - children and those who might not normally be found in the kitchen will enjoy meals they helped bring to fruition.



A few final thoughts - 
Given a choice between an organic vegetable shipped across the country and a local but conventional one - choose the local. Many local farms actually use a minimum of artificial pesticides and additives, but haven't been certified because of the cost of the labeling. Bottom line - know where your food comes from. Make sure the actual cost of the food is reflected in your choices. "Cheap" is rarely better, and almost always doesn't take into account the cost to the earth or society. Which means - we'll be paying for it in the long run.

Good food is like medicine. It's an investment in your health. Choose wisely, and you'll reap the rewards of your wisdom!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Handful of Breakfast

"Handful of Breakfast" Bars

Yield: 9 bars
Pre-heat oven to 375 and prepare baking sheet with light coating of vegetable oil


Into large bowl, sift together:
1 c whole-wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Add in and combine:
1 1/4 c old-fashioned oatmeal
2 tbsp whole flax seed
1/3 c currants
1/3 c blanched almonds
1/2 c toasted pepitas
1/4 c brown sugar
1/3 c mini chocolate chips (optional)

In separate smaller bowl, blend:
1/2 c. plain greek yogurt *or* regular yogurt
2 eggs
1/4 c apple juice

Add all together and mix well.

Form by handfuls into small rectangular flat loaves and place on oiled baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 18-20 minutes. Remove from pan immediately and place on waxed paper to cool. Wrap individually to store.


Friday, March 06, 2015

Dreams and Second Chances

Heartbreak Ridge to Heartsong Rise


It sat on the high hills surrounded by a magnificent view, overlooking a cool and inviting stream, as it had for over two hundred years. Each brick had been formed by hand from the clay of the riverbottom, and painstakingly laid in neat rows, held in place by mortar of ash and lime. A small but beautiful plot of land remained of the original plantation, the best nine acres that nourished three springs and beautiful willows. The skeletal remnants of a boxwood garden and a family cemetery stood in silent testament to the families who had lived in, and cared about, this place.

Unfortunately, when we visited sixteen years ago, the mansion was a crumbling wreck.

The foundation was failing, due to someone's uninformed decision to cut through the summer beam that supported the central portion of the house to expand the stairwell descending from the first floor into the basement kitchen. The house was collapsing in on itself, the south wall cracking in protest where a huge failure was visible and would only grow without substantial investment of time, money, and even prayer. The home had been largely otherwise untouched, boasting much evidence of pride, craftmanship, and bustling activity dating from the original late 18th century construction date, including candleboxes in all the first-floor windowsills, thumbprints in the brickwork, once-polished and gleaming hard yellow-pine floors, horsehair plaster, and original paint finishes on the upstairs bedroom doors.

The wooden lintels had collected rain and leached moisture into the brickwork on the outside, causing the mortar to crumble, sad evidence of imminent failure under the sagging weight of the entire front facade - it looked like an old man with the baggy undereyes and downturned lips of a hard life etched across his cheeks.

So many reasons, so much work to do that involved thousands of hours of labor and dollars. So many dollars.

We turned in despair and walked slowly away, taking many dreams and heartfelt agonies of lost potential with us. Husband called it "Heartbreak Ridge," in an attempt to make light of the situation.

But no more. Someone with the wit, patience, and an adequate bank account, had saved it. Unbelievably, now it stands, a larger and steady presence, ready to be occupied once more by a family, a business, someone with even larger dreams.Some of what was done isn't really historically supported, but hey - it remains. It didn't collapse, after all. Hurrah!

Here's to living history, and second chances.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

the writer as pilgrim

Two articles leapt at my consciousness this week, both about writing. And suddenly, I know how to go forward from here.

The first, The Price I Pay to Write, by Laura Bogart and published online in Dame Magazine, reflects on the difficulties of wedging time to write within the framework of days fraught with other responsibilities having to do with caring for children, putting food on the table, and - oh yeah - doing the work you actually get paid to do.

The second, about Annie Dillard and entitled The Thoreau of the Suburbs, by Diana Saverin, didn't so much tell me things about the author's experiences in writing a Pulitzer-winning nonfiction work in her twenties as it revealed something of what I already knew. (The Dillard's home is well known to us in the Hollins community, and while it surprised me for an instant to see the somewhat nondescript brick ranch just over the little bridge where she lived while working on the book, it didn't really register what a marvelous feat of alchemy she had performed in getting most of us to believe she lived alone in the woods while writing.) As Saverin points out, it's what she left out that instills in us the knowledge of her experience. And isn't that what we're told in writing class - omit that which doesn't contribute to the story, and therefore does not need to be included? Trim, trim, and cut and trim again, until we have the fine, distilled essence of truth.

No one is ever going to know - or care, really - that you went to the grocery store, had two kids in college, and worked a rather boring but remunerative nine-to-five while crafting your massive, awesome book. Can you tell that this frightening yet exhilarating treatise on fecundity was penned while living an ordinary life in a city of about 100,000 people? No? Moreover, does it matter - does it make it any less powerful and interesting? Well, then.

Sometimes things are so subtle I miss them the first - and second and even third - times.

But here it is: you don't have to change your life to write. You just need to do it. Do it when you might otherwise be watching a movie, reading a novel, cleaning off the staircase and putting laundry away. Those things will wait, at least until tomorrow. Today, we can write. A friend noted recently that if you write only 250 words a day by the end of a year you will have 90,000 words - a decent body of writing in anyone's world. And from thence you can whittle and shape and re-arrange, much easier now through cutting and pasting than in the days before word processors when Dillard used index cards.

In these few stolen moments between phone calls I've made tea and written nearly 500 words. By the time this is done it will be closer to six hundred. This is what is called progress. Exercise the fingers, broaden the links between mind and word and screen (or paper, if you prefer). No one is picking up the tab, nobody's awarding us an honorarium for letters, and there's no housekeeper to answer the phone or the door. But we can keep going, we keep writing and we end up with words - words for tomorrow, next week, and the week after - and as they accumulate they turn from sentences into paragraphs, paragraphs into essays, stories, and yes, even novels. Or nonfiction - truth, if you will - distilled from life.

Bravo! Now keep going!