Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Barrowfields



The Barrowfields by Phillip Lewis

     Henry Aster's father comes from a small town in North Carolina called Old Buckram.  A town he never belonged in because he was nothing like the others.  From the start there was something different about Henry.  He loved books and couldn't read enough of them.  No one in the town or his family ever finished school, but Henry was going to be different there, too.  He does leave, finishes school, marries and starts a life far from Old Buckram.  He is glad of that. He never intends to go back.  Until one day he does, because he must.
     Henry packs his pregnant wife and moves back for what he hopes is a short time, but he buys a house.  This house is a monster in size and disposition as it looms over the side of the mountain like a vulture looking down from a tall tree.  The house is even called a vulture. 
   Slowly, slowly, Henry finds himself stuck.  He thinks he can write his book anywhere and with a tormented soul he tries.  Old Buckram is not where he wants to live, raise his family, go back.  Henry never thought he would have to go back.
   His son, also Henry, grows up in Old Buckram and finds himself trapped living with  his father's tormented soul. Slowly, slowly Henry's father is consumed by his demons, affecting the whole family.
   Young Henry now faces the same decisions his father did.  He knows he has to leave that mountain, that house and his mother and sister in order to save himself.  But how do we ever really leave and come to grips with the hand we are dealt, especially when that hand is doomed from

Monday, March 20, 2017

Great Grandma Day

 Elizabeth declared yesterday Great Grandma Day by the time it was finished.  We started in the morning making my grandma's cruschiki, or Polish bow ties, something we had every Easter when I was growing up.  I'd go to her house on Good Friday and watch her.  That's how I learned to cook.  I watched her and I watched my mom.  You can learn a lot if you just observe.

So yesterday was the girls' turn to watch. Or so I thought!  They are quite comfortable in the kitchen and it wasn't hard to let them do all the steps with just a little instruction.
   Like here, where I thought I was going to show them two ways to separate eggs.  I was quickly hip bumped out of the way as they took over separating the eggs with complete confidence. They knew what to do and did it.
 Using the mixer wasn't an issue either.  Sometimes we forget how smart they are.
 I did show them how to put themselves into kneading, the one task I find boring.  Look at Elizabeth's stance.  She was putting her muscle to the chore.

 Rolling was a little harder for Adelaide, who said, "the dough just keeps coming back!"  She was eating more than she was rolling.  Raw dough. Ugh.
The object was to get it paper thin, my Busia's cruschiki didn't have a bite to them.  When you take the first bite it's supposed to fall apart down the front of your shirt.
 Cut them with a pizza cutter, put a slit in the middle

  Give them a stretch to make them even thinner and twist into the bow
 While Adelaide kept stuffing the raw ones into her mouth Elizabeth carried trays outside where we had the deep fryer going

    Back inside and cooled, the powdered sugar was sprinkled on and they were ready to eat.  Adelaide decided she doesn't like them but Elizabeth pulled up a chair and started gobbling them down.  I told Adelaide that she was going to have to teach HER children how to make them.  We then decided she could take her children, all ten of them, to their Aunt Elizabeth's house for their lesson. 
 Phew!  A hard morning's work.

   Later that afternoon they came back for a spaghetti dinner with the sauce recipe from my Sicilian grandmother's recipe.  While we sat at the table talking about the things we cooked and ate that day and where they came from, Elizabeth said, "This was Great Grandma Day!"

Friday, March 17, 2017

How Do You Mark Your Page?

    I read an article this morning about what people leave in library books. Sometimes those things are really disgusting. It made me think of what I leave in my books.
    How do you mark your page?  The grand girls are fold overs.  They both dog ear, fold over the corner at the top.  I tell them every time I see it that they're making their book cry. They laugh and say, "Grandma, books aren't alive!"  And aghast, I tell them, "Oh, yes they ARE!" And they say, "Grandma, they can't feel it."  And I say, "How do you know?  Can't you just use the bookmarks I give you or grab a piece of paper and give the poor book a break? The benefit of the doubt?  Maybe? Can't you hear it cry?"  But now it's a power play. 
    Usually, whatever I'm doing at the time is what I use as a bookmark and I tend to leave it in the book when finished.  Mostly I use bookmarks.  I never, ever dog ear or turn down the corner. Books cry when you do that.  I try not to break the spine or at least bend it back too much, but sometimes it happens especially in a book I read over and over, like To Kill a Mockingbird.  Once a year with that one.
     I've left photographs,  sometimes money (not more than $1.00, I mean, come on!)  ticket stubs, once, a feather, ribbons, bookmarks that are pretty, and sometimes nothing at all.  In that case I've used something so inconsequential it tells nothing about what I was doing at the time.  I told the kids that they should flip through the pages of my books after I die because there are things in them. The bookmark is never left in the last page.  It's always just tucked in somewhere. 
     I don't use the library much for adult reading because my shelves are full of waiting-to-be-read (top picture is one of three sections full right above my head as we speak. And this doesn't show the bottom shelf.)  The list is long and my time spent on this earth isn't getting longer. And those darned authors just keep writing so I'll probably never catch up.   I do use the library extensively for books I read to the kids at school so no bookmark gets left in those.
     Do I share?  Sometimes, with people I trust to give them back.  If I don't want one back I'll say so at the loaning.  Yes, I do contribute some to daughter's Little Free Library.  I get a lot of books free for review and used to pass them on to kids at school but now pass them on to the grands.  Mostly, my books are old friends,  holders of information,  calm feelings when I look and remember,  some revisited.
     Do I read when I eat?  Yes.  Have I spilled?  Not really, not bad spills, once in awhile a drip but I have left crumbs and every time I do I think of  Geraldine Brooks' book People of the Book. Every time.  I read anywhere I go anytime I can and I take a book everywhere, even to meetings and quilty gatherings.  Never, ever leave the house without one, and just in the teeny, tiny case that I do, there is a book in each car.  Just in case.
   

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

I See the Light

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel on my raven quilt.  Yesterday I spent most of the day, all of the afternoon, cutting the pieces for the last two squares.  I was ready for one of them and decided to just finish it up and get them both cut out and be done with it.  I'm not sure about the sashing yet.  The outer sashing is nothing but tiny triangles.  Torture. Never going to happen.  I might do small squares at the intersection of each block, even the outer rim sashing.  I've changed other things, shimmied some pieces, left a piece or two out and will change the final block placement of some (my newspaper training says don't have something looking OFF the page) but basically, it's the design from the book. 

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I know I'm close to finishing because my mind is starting to wander to other project ideas.  If I'm piecing something I stick with it - for the most part - until at least the piecing is finished.  I don't like having many started but nothing finished at least to the point of having a completed top.   It's kind of like reading a book.  One at a time. 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Testing, testing...

While it did work last year when I deep fried on the gas grill, sometimes the flame got out of control and when it was suggested that the runaway flame could maybe possibly ignite the gas line into the house and start the house on fire I thought I maybe possibly should come up with a different way to make cruschiki this year. 

 So I bought a small portable deep fryer.  I don't deep fry anymore because I don't like the lingering smell of boiled fat in the house nor the greasy smoke that coats the kitchen.  My days of washing ceilings is long over.  I studied these little things as an alternative.  I COULD take it outside and put it on a table and fry out there if the weather is good (Read: not raining.)
    Cruschiki is a labor intensive thing so I went back to the corn fritters as a fry test.    I kept the fryer in the kitchen. This model has a lid so that was part of the test - does it keep the smoke down?
I think fresh corn cut off the cob is the secret to this goodness.  Not canned, not frozen, and the first of the Florida corn is just slowly beginning to find its way to Michigan so I bought some, cut the kernels and made these this morning.

The fryer works great as fryers go.  It IS portable so that's good.  But the lid concentrates the smoke to chimney like action and the smoke is still escaping into the kitchen.  I rode my bike down to daughter's house to give some to her and when I came home and walked back into the house it was obvious someone had been deep frying.  So.  Gas grill frying is a thing of the past but the unit goes outside on a table. Cruschiki in a couple of weeks!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Placzek

     It's time to snap out of the winter slug I've been in and think of Easter coming soon on the horizon. Time to fill the freezer with the baked treats we expect to see each year.  I always, always, always do whatever can be done ahead of time well in advance.
     We are a traditional kind of family.  If a grandma made something and it was on the table every year then we've (Read: me) tried to make sure that food tradition continues.  Our daughter is quite the historian and traditionalist and there were times we cringed for trying something new for fear it wouldn't be accepted or she would declare it a 'new tradition!'  and we'd have to do it forever.
    I let things go for several years but daughter now has two daughters and she wants the girls to learn what's a part of their DNA.  She and the girls make PH's mother's noodles for each holiday. So, last year I made cruschiki
    This year it's Busia's placzek.  I don't do well with yeast. This bread is very eggy (6 large eggs) and buttery (3 sticks of butter) and holds about 5  pounds of flour.  Busia used to make it in one huge mound filled with raisins.  Well, putting raisins in it now would guarantee no one would eat it so that's one change I made.  The old recipe also called for 2 oz. of compressed yeast.  The kind that's shaped like a butter pat.  I spent a day last week driving to several different grocery stores looking for compressed cake yeast and had luck at two stores 30 miles away.  One had expired cakes on the shelf and one had cakes that would expire this week. I bought one.
    Because this recipe is made with so many ingredients I don't want to ruin, this bread makes me nervous.  I think bread can sense nervousness. It surely knows when I'M coming around.
    I decided today was the day.  I woke up earlier than I wanted to, schlepped into the kitchen to put the eggs and butter out to warm up and took out the yeast cake.  It was moldy.  Now I'm not happy.  I know my grocery store doesn't carry it and I'm not going to drive the 30 miles to the store that did!
After googling how to convert cake to dry yeast I decided if this bread was ever going to be made in the future it was going to be with active dry yeast and I had to just bite the bullet and do it.
     I gave our big, big  Tupperware bowl to our son during the move and remembered when I had to add 10 cups of flour to this gooey, buttery, eggy messy dough that I don't have that bowl anymore. Digging in the cupboards I found the turkey roaster and mixed the buttery, eggy dough in that.  I have just one loaf pan since the move so I really scrounged around for something else to bake this in. I got an interesting round pan last time we were at Ikea so I tried that and still had enough dough for three small personal sized loaves.


     It worked! And the house smells wonderful.  I have to sit in another room so I don't devour this warm, buttery, sweet, luscious bread with slathers of butter.
     Next up, the lamb cake.