owl in winter

owl in winter

Sunday, June 26, 2011

My Love of Books

One of my fondest memories from my childhood was the summer Dad packed us all up in the car, us being my mother, sister and brother, and drove us to Alexandria, Minnesota to a cabin on the lake. We lived in Worthington then. A retired couple from his church invited us for a weekend and so, Dad bundled us into the stationwagon and we journeyed to Alexandria to spend a weekend fishing, building campfires, singing "kum by ya" and relaxing, generally.

It was a beautiful setting. The lake was so clear I could see to the bottom of it as Dad rowed the boat around the lake, picking out colored rocks, watching the little fish scurry about. The weather was fine, the sky was a pristine blue. We caught plenty of fish and fried them over an open fire with potatoes and onions every night. The summer cabin was a square white structure with big multipaned windows (complete with window seats, I might add), a multipaned door that stepped out onto a plank walk that led down to the slip. It was a perfect summer spot.

But, about the books.

I no longer have a clear memory of the husband of the retired couple who invited us. His wife, however, I will never forget and it may be her in part who fostered my love of books and maybe a few of my eccentricities too.

It could have been her hair, the wild orange curls that flew about her head as she marched around. Her glasses, the way they were always hanging at the end of her freckled nose. Maybe it was the blue and black paisley caftan and sandals she wore for most of the weekend, or the bangles that went nearly to her elbows. Perhaps it was the idea that she had better things to do than clean house. Or maybe, it was the piles and stacks of books, magazines, newspapers, periodicals of every kind, that took up every square inch of space in that vacation home. I mean it when I say walking room only. The place was a paradise. How lucky was I to have been dropped into a virtual literary treasure trove.

The only thing she said to me about books was, "Read. Read everything." But that was enough. The image of that little white cabin, filled to the rafters with reading material, will never dim.

What brought you and books together?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

It's Beautiful, This Summer Solstice

I don't have a photo yet but plan to get one soon.

I grew up in a quiet God-fearing farming background. My people were agricultural, people who loved and respected and used the land for the community's good. I came from farmers. Pure and simple. And I love that, for so many reasons; maybe the first of that is because I believe in real and I believe in hard work and I do believe in America, still, even though we have our problems and challenges. I believe in working with one's hands, producing good, and I believe in sweat equity. I believe in those things.

Pure and simple is good, quiet, unchallenging, traditonal....peaceful...Okay. Get up.

Think about tables stretching long, laden with bowls of glistening orange cantelope slices, mounds of green-husked corn on the cob, perky red strawberries, crisp roast potatoes, mounds of some meat smoked and grilled...think about that.

Well, I thought about that, and I came up with the following recipe. I came up with it simply because I remember sitting with my grandmother in the summertime as she taught me how to shell peas and break green beans. I remember, when our grandfather could no longer eat corn off the cob, how Grandma Davis tenderly sliced the corn from the cob onto Grandfather's plate. What love that was, yes?

And so, here is the recipe for my corn-tomato bake, a certain summertime treat.

3-4 slices bacon, sliced and fried until crisp.
1/2 C. onion
1 bag frozen corn, a large bag.
1/4 c. butter
basil to taste
Thyme to taste
salt and pepper
2 roma tomatoes, sliced and diced

Okay, cut up the bacon into bite-sized pieces, and brown.
In another skillet, melt the butter, drop the onions in for about five minutes, and then add the frozen corn. Drop in the basil and thyme to taste (you know what you like). Let this simmer for 5-6 minutes. Spray some non-stick coating into a small casserole dish and preheat oven to 350°.

By now you should be able to mix the bacon into the corn mixture. Pour this into your casserole dish and then throw the tomatoes in and scramble it about a bit just to make sure the tomatoes are seriously represented. And then, bake at 350 for 30 Minutes and all should be well.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

On the Journey and Along the Way

I feel fortunate on this writing journey that I've made some friends in the writing world along the way, and I'm talking real friends, not facebook acquaintances.

What I want to share with you today are some thoughts on an article my friend, Barb Samuel, posted to Writer Unboxed. If you, as a writer, are not connected to that magazine, you really should be. I find it invaluable. The title of Barb's article is, "So you want to be a professional writer, " and it was posted on May 25, 2011 if you'd like to find it for yourself.

The dream is to be published, but what does that dream look like? How do you visualize yourself in that life? Barb asks these questions to make us think, really think about what that dream is versus what we imagine it to be. Next, she clues us in on qualities that we will need to fall back on as professional writers.

1.Flexibility - you have to be able to shift with the times and the market. If you only write one thing (and a lot of us do), there will be dry spells. As writers, we need to hone our voice and skill to flow with the changing tides.

2. Positive thinking - Barb says the writer who persists and succeeds knows that good things might happen tomorrow.

3. A hide like a rhinoceros - well, let's face it and it's true. Not everyone is going to like your work and some are going to be quite vocal about it. Sometimes their reasoning for hating it have nothing to do with your work at all. But, like #2, good things might happen tomorrow. Don't let it break you down.

4. Animal cleverness and devotion - well, Barb says professional writers are like cats, independent and clever, making quick leaps. Professional writers are also like dogs, hungry for attention. As Barb says, why would anyone sit for hours in a room, tapping away on a keyboard if they didn't want someone to pay attention to them?

And finally, Barb states that there is a "deep bone of satisfaction" in seeing that row of books against the wall, work that would never have existed at all unless you stuck to it.

So, as writers, we need to link arms, support one another on the journey, make friends along the way, and persist. I want to feel that "deep bone of satisfaction" as I gaze across a row of books, my books. How about you?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Let's Eat

So, here we are, standing on the brink of summertime. Yes, summertime, that glorious, sundrenched, never-ending golden carefree time...summer...ahhhh, yes.

It makes me think of summertime food. Delicious, carefree, summertime food. Pork and peaches. That's what I thought about this morning. That's summertime food, no? Yes!!!

So, in keeping with my summertime thoughts, I dropped two pork loins, sufficiently rubbed with the following in the crockpot:

1/4 cup chili powder
1 TBSP cumin
1 teas. ground cloves
1/4 teas. cayenne
1/2 teas. cinnamon
1/2 teas. garlic powder
1/2 teas. onion powder
1 TBSP salt
1 teas. oregano

and, I also poured about 3/4 c. water and dropped two beef bouillon cubes into the mixture, let it go on low for about ten hours.

Well, after all that time, I was able to pull the pork loins out, shred them, and put it all in a bowl for others to come and dump on a toasted bun with bbq sauce, cole slaw or whatever else they pleasure in a pulled pork sandwich.

So, that was the pork. Let's get on with the peaches.

Peaches, is there no more a sweet summertime fix than those pretty, blushing pink peaches??

I don't think so.

I had a bag of peaches in my freezer from last year at farmers' market, no kidding. Not sure whether it was a quart or not, but probably pretty close, and a quart is a pretty good measurement for this recipe. At any rate, take those frozen peaches, and drop into a bowl. Let thaw. Pour about 3/4 c. sugar over, squirt out the juice from half a lemon and 5 TBSP flour. Now, dump your peach mixture into a casserole dish and cut up about two TBSP unsalted butter, drop over. Pour into your casserole dish, cover tightly with foil. Make sure oven is preheated to 400°. Bake at 400 ° for about 45 minutes. Take dish out.

Now. Gather one egg, 1/4 c. milk, 1 1/3 c. buttermilk baking mix, such as Bisquick, and take the other half of that lemon and squirt over all. Mix until smooth. Dump in spoonfulls all over the peach mixture, put back in oven for about 15 more minutes. Take out, serve warm with ice cream.

It's simple, it's doable, it's not a big chore.

And it's really nice and delicious.

Happy summertime, everyone!