Monday, February 27, 2017

Ready for More Close Ups . . .

Calla lilies have such strong personalities  . . .

Quick to stand out in a crowd . . .

Insouciant in their private affairs . . .

And always ready for the spotlight.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Keeping Calm?

My sister-in-law Fay sent me this mug -- so appropriate when every day there is some new and worrying story about where this country seems to be headed.

Two Hindus shot because the shooter thought they were Middle-Eastern;  five squad cars sent to deal with nine senior citizens (complete with canes and walkers) who were trying to slide a letter under the office door of their so-called representative; a Jewish cemetery vandalized; innocent people traveling on legitimate business denied access to the US; Congress persons refusing to hold town halls; the Administration planning to cut funding for the arts while running up a bill for travel and security that dwarfs the paltry amount NPR or NEA receives; people who have lived and worked peacefully in the US for years being deported; the White House choosing not to include in a press conference certain members of the media that have been critical of the administration . . .

(deep breath) and that's only the tip of the iceberg. Our government is in the hands of mad deconstructionists -- people who would destroy the village in order to save it. 

They want to defund Planned Parenthood -- even though their birth control services have contributed greatly to the lower number of abortions; the ACA is in their cross hairs, along with Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; down with the EPA -- who needs clean water and air as long as Big Business can make a few more bucks; build those pipelines to benefit the Big Donors; encourage prisons and schools run for profit (though they've been shown to be inferior); trample on the rights of LGBTQ people to placate the base . . . oh, I could go on and on . . . but it's mostly about money -- keeping the pay to play crowd happy.

In addition, every day, in every way, this administration is contributing to the dumbing down and lack of civility that is beginning to characterize our once great nation.

I'm going to need that mug every day. And I may need something stronger than tea or coffee in it. 

Keep calm? Maybe. Resist? Definitely!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

What Remains . . .

I'm reasonably sure that this is the skeletonized seed pod of a Jimson Weed -- a type of wild datura.


Out in the pasture its elegant structure caught my eye. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Longer Walk

A beautiful beginning to the day and I decided to take a longer walk to the bench in the pasture.

Since I want to avoid the steepish bit at the top of the road, the walk involves going downstairs to the basement, out the basement door, and through the front yard to cross the driveway.

The hellebores were blooming by the little log garden shed.

These are something the increasingly troublesome deer don't eat, thank goodness.

At the bench there was a fine panoramic view, well worth the hobble!

And on every side, signs of renewed life.

A good time to be alive...

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Back to Baking

Just as it felt good to get my fingers in the dirt last week, it felt good to be kneading dough again and filling the house with the yeasty fragrance of onion rolls. It's been a long hiatus in my baking but I'm back!

Onion Rolls (12 large)
Our friend Cory, who was Justin’s college roommate, once said, “Justin thinks I come here to see him but really it’s for the onion rolls.”

3 packages yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
¼ cup lukewarm water
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 cups warm milk (or buttermilk)
6 cups (approx.) flour
More melted butter, coarse sea salt or Jane’s Krazy salt, dried oregano or mixed Italian seasoning, and finely chopped onion for topping

Dissolve yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in lukewarm water. Heat milk (not quite to a boil), add 2 teaspoons salt, 2 tablespoons sugar, and the butter. Stir till blended and sugar is dissolved. Cool to lukewarm. Add yeast and slowly add flour, mix well, cover and let rise till doubled. Punch down, knead, let rise twice more.

Divide into 12. Form into balls and put on greased cookie sheet.
Flatten; brush with melted butter, sprinkle with chopped onion, herbs and salt. Let rise till double in bulk.  Bake at 375 about 20 minutes, till brown on top. Cool on rack. These freeze well so you’ll be happy you doubled the recipe.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Most Obliging of Spring Blooms

The flowering quince is one of the first things I planted in the spring of 1976.  It was an offshoot of a bush down at what was the Freeman's and is now Justin and Claui's house and it has persisted and spread to the point that every year I hack at it, trying to control its spreading tendency. But those early buds and blooms -- ahh!

Many of my daffodils date back to that spring -- the gift of that same neighbor. Daffodils multiply into big clumps that need thinning and resetting every few years -- another thing for the to do list. Daffodils also seem to be impervious to the various critters that wipe out tulips -- alas for all the beautiful tulips I've planted over the years that are only a memory now.

Forsythia, or Yellow Bells as my neighbor called them, is another vigorous and hardy spreader. It's nice to bring inside for some early blooms and it also roots quite easily, making it easy to share with friends.

 So much in my garden that dates back to those early years was the gift of friends and neighbors, and I think of many of them, now gone, especially when the blooms return in the spring -- the eternal return.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Neil Gaiman's Norse Mythology

I grew up reading Greek mythology and knew those gods and goddesses and their carrying on backwards and forwards. But somehow I was never much attracted to the tales of the Norse pantheon -- for one thing the names were so hard to pronounce (and there are so many of them, even for inanimate objects like Mjollnir and Gjallerhorn.) 

And though I was aware that my literary heroes C.S. Lewis and J.R. R. Tolkien were deeply influenced by these stories, I managed to avoid knowing much more than the bare details of Odin, Thor, Loki, and Valhalla.

When I read Gaiman's wonderful American Gods and realized that it was all about the Norse gods, albeit in modern form, I thought to myself that I really needed to pursue this.

But I didn't. 

Now the perfect introduction has come along. Gaiman's very personal story telling style introduces the Norse pantheon in manageable doses. And since I have the audio version with Gaiman doing the reading, now I know how those tricky words should be pronounced.

It's not a scholarly approach -- it's a story teller's version. Indeed, in the introduction Gaiman encourages readers to make these stories their own, to retell them -- just as they have been retold down the centuries. As I listened to the tales, I could remember echoes of them in various books and see parallels in other religions and cultures.

I adore listening to Gaiman read. And here he's made these stories his own -- the Norse deities speak, not in the high flown language some might ascribe to deities but in colloquial English -- British English with a variety of accents. 

I highly recommend this book on its own merits and because it's a great start -- I foresee doing some more reading, serious reading, to broaden my  understanding of this mythology. 

 HERE is an excellent review from the Washington Post that pretty much coincides with my own reactions.

Neil Gaiman image by Beowulf Sheehan)