Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Next Chapter

If you regularly visit this blog, you'll notice my posts have been rather sparse of late. I think about blogging a great deal, but quite frankly, there's just not a lot more I want to say here. 

I started the Halcyon Days blog in February 2012. I was spending 10 hours each day away from home
at my workplace, yet I still posted a blog every day. One of my objectives for starting it was discipling myself to write EVERY day. 

I shared a portion of my life: my interests in cooking, gardening, reading. You came to know my dear dogs and followed the story of the cat who came to eat and stayed and gave birth to six kittens. I showed photos of family, the area where I live; told you family stories -- both recent and from days long past. You saw photos of my clothes, accessories, my hair styles and items found while shopping. You learned my position on certain current issues and came to "know" me through the blog. 

To those who have followed me on this journey I say thank you -- you have often been the highlight of my day and I feel I know you, too. The interaction through comments posted have been the highlight of the blog. I will continue to read your blogs and comment as time permits. I don't want to lose you forever. 

Having said the above, I feel it's time to move on. The stories that have been swimming and gestating in my head all these years must be written; some already have been; others are yet to come. They exist clearly but the challenge is to commit them to paper.

Time doesn't exist in our lives forever and if I don't tell my stories who will?  Is my objective to have them published? That remains to be seen but is not the reason I'm writing them. I'm doing so because I must. Even if other eyes never see them.

Are they fiction? Well, yes -- mostly at least! I'm a believer there's mostly no such thing however, unless the story presented itself in a dream. None of my stories did. Some are a part of my life, some happened to people I know, or stories told by family members and acquaintances. But fictionalized in a different place, time and circumstance. Names have been changed to protect the innocent. And the guilty

Here are some working titles for a short story collection:

JoBell and Aaron -- the story of a mother and her son
The Funeral -- Joan Dell's boring summer day
The Banker Takes Charge - Or how to snag a husband
I Love My Aunt -- playing the trump card
Poppy Takes Charge -- first time driving an automobile
Moon Over Mount Hood -- A long way from home and missing chocolate pie
Tales from the Cotton Patch -- shut up and take a nap
Rodeo Queens -- all the lovelies in their chiffon formals on a dusty football field
Getting Even in a Mustang -- a triumphant local returns
Drag Racing  -- Boys just want to have fun
Meet Me at the Frosty Dip -- small-town USA in the 60s
Dark Days, Judy's Story -- I wanted my step-father to die
Through an Open Window -- they said he was a peeping tom
Mr. A and the Negligee  -- having a blast at the taxpayers expense
Mama's Story -- Tales from the Great Depression
The Lost Family -- how do such things happen?
Priscilla's Story - coming to terms with the past
Roland's Revenge -- I hate my children because they are just like me
Letters from the Front -- two brothers write home during WWII
Betty Sue's Train Case -- an overnight guest owns many delightful things

If you have read this far and your eyes aren't completely glazed over, allow me to say this is only a short list of my stories. It's always been a curiosity to me that most things that happen in life become a plot for a story. I've been doing this since I was a child. A vivid imagination? A need to right the wrongs of life? Escapism? I certainly do not know the answer. 

In the future I might post a story. If you are signed up for an email when I post you will be notified. I am not closing out the blog for that reason. 

Meanwhile, goodbye for a while. And thank you. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Word Annoyances

Credit BBC
http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/news/2009/10/091008_annoying_words_wup_sl.shtml

I don't know about you, but some words and phrases are so overused I cringe when I hear them. Words that don't mean anything in the context of their usage; words that stall for time; words that indicate the speaker is uninformed on the subject at hand. Laziness, conversationally speaking. 

This is not a complete list. Other lists abound, but here are some of the expressions and utterances I hear and read that are trite and overused and personally annoy me:

Whatever - a conversation killer.

Like - a perfectly good word when used properly, as in "I like apples," but most annonying when inserted into sentences constantly, as in "I, like, drove to the mall today and, like, the traffic was, like, horrible."

You Know - same usage pattern as "like" above.

Seriously? - of course I'm serious. Why else would I say it?

At the end of the day - this is probably the one I'm most tired of. A favorite of politicians stalling for time to provide answers to questions asked of them. 

Totally - what can I say about this one?  Reminds me of bouncy teenage girls effusing about anything/everything. 

Cool - can't you think of a better response?

Awesome - see "cool" above. 

Just 'sayin - slang that was fine for a while but has become much overused. 

That's my list. I know I've failed to include many so please add your favorites in the comments below. 





Sunday, August 31, 2014

Bags of books

It's difficult to resist sifting through tables of books when, for one dollar, you can fill a bag. 

And I didn't, when I stopped by the local library to return a book and discovered this sale. Those pictured actually filled two plastic shopping bags because two of them were quite large and heavy. 

Would I have purchased them at their regular used book price? Maybe not. But here's the reason for the choices I made:

The Secret History by Donna Tartt - I have read this book recently but it was stored on my Kindle reader, which is now "gone" because I inadvertently placed it in the washing machine. I bought this for my sister. 

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck - read it decades ago but don't own a copy. I may want to reread it someday. 

The Cat who Came for Christmas by Cleveland Amory - Sounds like a fun read. Gave it to my brother-in-law. 

The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher - I have this one in paperback and have read it more than once. Love it and wanted a hardback copy. 

Perrine's Literature - am not familiar with this college textbook but noticed it includes several authors' stories/poems I want to read. Very heavy book, in both weight and content!

Eat More Weigh Less - contains some good low-fat recipes. 

Fortune's Favorites by Colleen McCullough - have never heard of this book. Picked it because my sister loved The Thorn Birds by this author. It's hers when she's ready for it. 

I came home with lots of books for $2. Have you read any of these?  Do you ever buy second-hand books?



Thursday, August 28, 2014

Going to the Fair

Does anyone still go to the Fair? Apparently they do, as they continue to be held each year.
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I saw a billboard along the highway last week announcing the upcoming yearly event. I wonder what it’s like going to the Fair now. I haven’t been in years.

It once was the highlight of early Fall, kids saving up their money and going to the Fair. It was such a big event that one afternoon was designated “School Day” and the fairgrounds were closed to all except for the schoolchildren who were bused there from all over the county. That was great fun, going to the fair with your friends.

But the best time to go was at night, when the lights were bright and the place seemed magical. And our family always attended one night during the week. It was something daddy always dreaded but mother enjoyed it as much as her two daughters.

Here’s a side note you may not be able to imagine: Saturday night was designated “Colored” Night at the Fair, meaning that was the only time African-Americans were allowed to attend. Of course, this was the result of Jim Crow laws in place in the Southern United States up until 1965.

The crowds were huge at the Fair, as I remember, and in the eyes of a child, there was so many things to do there! 

The Midway was where all the activity was going on.

The rides: Merry-Go-Round, Bumper Cars, Tilt-a-Whirl, Roller Coaster and of course, the Farris Wheel. I’m sure there were other rides whose names I cannot even recall.

The Music: It seems it was always organ music playing as you wandered over the Fairgrounds. Sawdust covered the ground to keep down the dust from so many feet stomping through.

The Games: Toss a coin and try to make it land on a glass plate and you could take it home with you. Toss balls to hit an object and take home a teddy bear. Pick up a rubber duckie floating past in a trench and claim some little insignificant prize.

The Sideshows: For an admission behind a curtain you could see a goat with a woman’s head, a child with two heads and all sorts of tricks devised to take money from gullible people. Fortune Tellers. Hoochie-coochie shows (we were instructed to turn our heads as we passed by those!)

The Food: Candy Apples, Cotton Candy, Pronto Pups (also now known as Corn Dogs), greasy hamburgers and hotdogs, popcorn, peanuts. And I wanted to sample all of it! I don’t recall ever getting sick, but the odds were I should have!

The Exhibits: An entire hall was given over to displays that reflected the skills of area homemakers: homemade jam, jelly, pies; sewing; handwork. These were judged and ribbons given to winners.

Livestock: A barn with all manner of cows, horses, pigs, chickens and I don’t even remember what else. Prizes were given for the best specimen raised.

And finally there was the Grandstand Act, for a separate admission. Seated in the bleachers, you saw flying trapeze acts, clowns, tigers jumping through flaming hoops, girls performing tricks on horseback.

Many things have changed. Going to the Fair is no longer the highlight of a rural child’s Fall life. The lights and delights of the Fair are overshadowed by many other exciting activities. But I’m glad I got to experience County Fairs back then.

What is your experience, past or present, with Town, Village, County or State Fairs?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Mules

I write this post not because I have knowledge or any particular interest in mules. I have never owned or lived with an owner of mules, although I’ve heard many stories told by ancestors who once owned them.

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I present this excerpt from William Faulkner's Flags in the Dust to illustrate how a skilled writer pens words that grab you and won't let you go; captures a solid sense of time and place; explores the deep strata of history and legend.

The fiction of William Faulkner is populated by unforgettable characters caught up in the brutality and tenderness of the human condition, during a tragic time in our nation's history. His themes are universal, however: tradition, family, community, the land, history, race and the passions of ambition and love.

Sometimes, he gives us a slice of downplayed humor, as in his discussion of mules.

“Some Cincinnatus of the cotton fields should contemplate the lowly destiny, some Homer should sing the saga, of the mule and his place in the South. He it was, more than any one creature or thing, who, steadfast to the land when all else faltered before the hopeless juggernaut or circumstance, impervious to conditions that broke men’s hearts because of his venomous and patient preoccupation with the immediate present, won the prone South from beneath the iron heel of Reconstruction and taught it pride again through humility and courage through adversity overcome, who accomplished the well-nigh impossible despite hopeless odds, by sheer and vindictive patience. Father and mother he does not resemble, sons and daughters he will never have; vindictive and patient (it is a known fact that he will labor ten years willingly and patiently for you, for the privilege of kicking you once); solitary but without pride, self-sufficient but without vanity; his voice is his own derision. Outcast and pariah, he has neither friend, wife, mistress nor sweetheart; celibate, he is unscarred, possesses neither pillar nor desert cave, he is not assaulted by temptations not flagellated by dreams, nor assuaged by visions; faith, hope and charity are not his. Misanthropic, he labors six days without reward for one creature whom he hates, bound with chains to another whom he despises, and spends the seventh day kicking or being kicked by his fellows..”

In typical Faulknerian style, paragraphs and sentences are long, the punctuation at times irregular. The above is only a portion of a paragraph that runs on for approximately 430 words!

If you want to learn interesting facts about mules, information is at the American Mule Museum. There are fascinating facts here, most of which I didn't know. It gives one a new appreciation of the humble mule.

*****

If you regularly read this blog, you know I am on a quest to read all Faulkner major works by the end of 2014. And I am making good progress. So far I have completed (and thoroughly enjoyed):

The Sound and the Fury
The Unvanquished
Flags in the Dust
There Was a Queen (short story)
Today I will begin reading Light in August.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Counterpane


“The topmost covering of a bed, often functioning as a blanket; a coverlet”

I added a new word to my vocabulary last week: Counterpane.



Mother said while her day sitter was getting bedsheets from a drawer, she pulled out an item, which she calls “counterPIN,” that mother made more than sixty years ago.

It is simply a white topsheet onto which a large design is stamped in the center and four corners. The designs are then embrodiered with brightly colored floss.


Mother said she remembered both her mother and grandmother making them, and she herself made one shortly after she was married.

Traditionally, it functions as a bedspread during hot summer months, something to dress up a bed but without much weight.


Seeing it on her bed brings to mind hot summer days when there was no air conditioning, when windows were thrown open to bring into the house whatever breeze existed on those sultry Southern days. The colorful handwork reminiscent of flowers cut from the garden and brought inside to adorn tables.

Her bed now sports the counterpane. When I asked if in all these years if she’d ever used it she said no.


Surely, at 93 years old, it was high time she uses this beautiful heirloom to adorn her bed in lieu of it lingering in the bottom drawer of bedsheets.


I'm very glad it was "found" and I was able to learn the "history" of counterpanes in general, and this one in particular.

Are you familiar with the word counterpane?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Lost Art of Conversation

Have you noticed? Most people, at least many of those I come in contact with, are narcissistic.

We see it everywhere. People almost totally focused upon themselves, their activities, their interests, their need for attention (read this as the definition of the entire social media realm).


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You meet up with someone and ask how they’re doing or what they’ve been doing. Fifteen minutes later they’re still prattling on, with never a thought of asking you one thing about yourself.

Even worse, you share some personal story with a friend or acquaintance, and without even acknowledging what you said, they launch into their own story, seeming to want to “top” your story with a better one of their own.

Some otherwise very nice people are guilty of this. I wonder if they're even aware of how selfish their actions are perceived by others. 

Has it always been this way? I think not. I can remember the day when a real conversation was possible. The give and take of sharing ideas and opinions. 

Oh, and don’t even get me started on the way folks interrupt you when your’re talking! This is the one thing that most irritates me.

Talking over someone else has reached epic proportions, especially on television, which is the main reason I can no longer bear to watch anything other than a straight news broadcast.

I used to enjoy turning on tv in the morning while having breakfast, to catch up on the latest news. I no longer do that because of the cutesy tv personalities sitting around the news desk, five people talking at once, to the point that viewers don’t hear a word any of them said. Yikes, why do they do that?

So now I get my morning news from radio, thank you very much.

People who do this, are they conceited? vain? emotional need for attention? think they are clever/cute? Yes, probably all, plus narcissistic -- both the tv personalities and also the people we come in daily contact with. Just sayin'.

Can we do anything about this trend? Probably not. I used to be surprised and disappointed that a person didn’t want to get to know me or know anything about me. Now I just expect less.

Some psychologists attribute this current excessive narcissistic behavior to being raised in a family so lacking in parental attention that they play out in adulthood an unquenchable need for others to listen to them and make them feel significant.

Wow, all I can say is there must have been a great many bad parents out there who didn’t listen to their kids. But still, I cannot totally accept this explanation, because for at least the past 25 years parents (most) have done nothing but spoil, pamper and dote on children/grandchildren, to the point of ridiculousness. And we still see this narcissistic behavior in that group as well.


Anyone will tell you the secret to the Art of Conversation is Being a Good Listener. But wait, I'm already doing that! And what I get is constantly listening to someone talk about themselves ad nauseam.

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Tell me your experiences with this subject. And if you haven’t experienced it I’d sure like travel in your circle!  

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Faulkner, Finally

For more than 30 years I've kept a list of the order in which the writer William Faulkner's books should be read, thinking "one day I'll get around to reading these."



The list was shared by a college professor who was a bit of a Faulkner scholar himself. And while there may be some disagreement among experts on where to start, my old list looked good to me.

So I'm on a quest to get all the major works of Faulkner read before the end of 2014. (Admission: I'm actually reading The Sound and the Fury first, simply because the local bookstore didn't have The Unvanquished in stock. I'll be using the local library or Amazon to secure the remaing books).

I've read around the edges of Faulkner for years, dipping into his short stories here and there (A Rose for Emily is a good place to begin if you're new to him). But I've never been serious about reading and understanding him. Until now.

Faulkner is not an easy read. His stream of consciousness narrative (think James Joyce in Ulysses and Virginia Wolf in Mrs Dalloway) can be tough going.

His prose often sounds as if someone sat down with a piece of paper and wrote everything that went through his mind with no worry about grammar or form; extended sentences, descriptions and details; actions in one scene that then recall a past or future scene; complex sentence structure. 

But there is a point to it all. It mimics the human brain and we're being placed inside the various characters' heads.

One critic has suggested that Faulkner be read as if the reader were sitting in a courtroom listening to and sifting through various testimonies of a parade of witnesses and knowing he'll have to make up his own mind about what actually happened and who is and who's not telling the truth.

Another has suggested reading Faulkner's stories as if they were a detective novel, each piece of information not complete or understandable but becoming a part of the larger whole as more information is revealed. The reader must rely on emotional instincts to embrace and unravel the ambiguities woven into each passage.

If all this sounds like to much effort to -- like work instead of reading pleasure -- let me say that the effort expended is well worth the work!

He evokes a sense of place and time like no other; he's brutally honest and truthful; his characters are so real you feel like you know them.

He is one of the most important writers in American literature generally and Southern literature in particular. Although his work was published as early as 1919, and in the 20s and 30s, he was relatively unknown until receiving the 1949 Nobel Prize in Literature. 

In 1998, the Modern Library ranked his 1929 novel, The Sound and the Fury, sixth on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. Also on the list were As I Lay Dying (1930) and Light in August (1932. Absalom, Absalom (1936 is often included on similar lists.

Here are a few Faulkner quotes from his books:

From As I Lay Dying
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From Requiem for a Nun
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From As I Lay Dying
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From Requiem for a Nun
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From The Reivers
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From The Wild Palms
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From The Sound and the Fury
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From The Sound and the Fury
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From The Sound and the Fury
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From The Sound and the Fury
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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Meandering.....


Meandering:  following a winding course; to wander aimlessly; ramble; a direction or route taken; a particular manner of proceeding.

On a day's outing, driving leisurely though southern Tennessee, one doesn't expect a castle. Or is it?

There were no signs or markings to identify the structure, but a quick Google search on the town -- Sherwood, Tenn. -- indicated these castle-like ruins are of The Gager Lime Manufacturing Company, which was established in 1892 and operated until 1949.

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From Wikipedia:

The castle-like ruins of the lime production facilities and silos, which are unusual for their Egyptian Revival and Gothic Revival styling, remain in the community. The Tennessee Preservation Trust included them on its Ten in Tennessee Endangered Properties List for 2002–2003, citing their architectural distinctiveness and expressing concern that a "continued lack of maintenance" threatened their survival.

Wow, such an unusual thing to see on a leisurely drive through the countryside.

If you want to read more about the town and the Gager ruins, visit this page

Monday, August 11, 2014

In the gazebo

My first blog post on iPhone. The first one disappeared and I don't have the heart to re type each word!

The gazebo is our little outdoor retreat. A place to share a meal, a cool refreshing drink or rest from garden chores. 

It's covered in late summer with Sweet Autumn Clematis. We enjoy it's delicate blooms and faint scent. Sadly, when it blooms we know summer will soon be gone. 

Where do you take a break to rest outdoors?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Lost in the '60s



The past week has been one of reminiscing with old friends and acquaintances. The class reunion was held Aug 2 and was a great success -- far beyond my expectations.

I wore my black dress and shoes, black stockings and my real pearls. I was the only woman there in a dress. It is indeed a casual world we live in today. Oh, I know that trousers are perfectly appropriate at any given venue these days, and some attendees looked perfectly stylish in their trousers. Call me old fashioned, but I think some occasions call for a dress. Please feel free to disagree with me on this point!

Fortunately, no one was dressed in the style of the 60s, as in the image above.

I saw classmates I had not seen since our graduation day. In my memory, they had remained as they looked in the 60s, so yes, in some cases their appearances were, well, shocking. I am sure the same was the case for them as well!

I also spent a lovely afternoon with two other high school friends, a  couple of my closest friends who were not in my class. We recounted some of the crazy and fun things we did when we were 16 and 17 years old. For instance:

We were three of five friends who called ourselves "The Deadbeats." We thought that was such a cool thing! Each of us had a number and we would count off each time we met up. We had charms on our charm bracelets with our "number" on it.

We tooled around on Sunday afternoons in one of our group's little yellow Ford, checking out the normal spots where teenagers hung out: the Dairy Dip at the River; the Elk River pier; Joe Wheeler State Park picnic grounds. We rolled down the car windows and called out to friends, acted so silly and laughed our heads off at everything and nothing.

One time, one of our number was mad at her boyfriend and she had the idea we would break into the "boy cave" he shared with his friends. It was a little hut they had built themselves down on the creek bank. The boys used it as their hangout -- a fishing cabin and a place they could go to drink beer!

We drove there one Saturday night when we were fairly certain they wouldn't be there. Yes, we broke out and climbed in through a window. We didn't really destroy anything, just messed things up a bit. We felt so big and brave that we'd been so naughty.

The "break in" was the talk of the school on Monday morning. It remained our secret. In fact, one of our group eventually married one of the boy cave members, and we believe she never told him of our "crime." Alas, she departed this life way too early, a victim of cancer, in the 1990s.

Another incident we discussed was the cold winter night at a spend the night party where we tried beer the first time. We we being REALLY naughty here. A little dab will do you! At least it did me, as I had the bright idea to go across the street and "beat up" the girl who had "stolen" my boyfriend. I took off in my pjs and robe, onto a snow-covered lawn, intent on my mission. My friends, fortunately, had the good sense to run out and save me!

Ah, so many things we did when we were young and stupid. But it has felt good to remember these times. And I'm reminded of the saying, "there's no friends like old friends." 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Avon Calling

 forties-fifties-sixties-love.tumblr.com

Does anyone remember visits from the Avon Lady?

The local lady carrying the big black bag filled with treasures was a highly anticipated event in the life of this pre-teen girl. During summer vacation from school, I was allowed to sit with mother while the Avon lady dramatically opened her bag and showed mother all the newest products.

We never knew exactly when she was coming, but when she arrived Mrs. Verta parked her old Dodge in the driveway and stepped out immaculately decked out. Always in high heels and stockings, her hair carefully coiffed and face made up perfectly, she seemed the perfect representative for a cosmetics company. I was most intrigued with the large black product bag tossed over her shoulder

Whatever work was in progress -- inside or outside the house -- stopped when Mrs. Verta arrived. Sissy and I were allowed to sit alongside mother while the Avon lady removed one bottle or tube after the other, allowing us to sample or sniff.

I don't recall that mother ever visited a department store cosmetic counter back in those days. Why would she? Avon had everything she needed. Rich Moisure Cream, Skin So Soft Bubble Bath and hand cream were the standard purchases, along with To A Wild Rose and Here's My Heart bath powder, soaps and spray cologne.

When I became interested in make-up, I got my first samples from Mrs. Verta. And during those tender years I thought Here's My Heart in the beautiful blue bottle was the epitomy of grown-upness.

As a teenager I lost interest in Avon and wanted cosmetics from the drugstore. Max Factor pancake makeup, Windsong cologne, Revlon lipstick.

Avon is, of course, still around today. Representatives no longer make house calls in these days of Internet shopping. I occasionally see their product brochures in beauty shops and other places of business. Avon ladies are still around; but there are no longer any Mrs. Vertas.

*****

The company was established more than 120 years ago. Becoming a representative offered a unique way for women to take control of their lives and move toward economic independence at a time before before women even had the right to vote and when most were expected to remain within the home rather than going out and earning a living.

It also was a way women living in rural or remote areas had a way of purchasing beauty products without having to travel into the towns.

In 1954 the famous "ding-dong, Avon calling" ad was first heard on US television. Below is an ad from 1962.



The company has an interesting history, which you can read about here.

Did the "Avon Lady" ever visit you?



Friday, July 25, 2014

How to Dry Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a gift of summer. Finding myself with more Romas than I could use fresh, I decided to dry them.

In the past, I've sun dried tomatoes, leaving them outside in the bright sun all day, but it usually takes more than one day and that means bringing them inside at night and dragging them back out the next day.

I've also dried them in a dehydrator, but that appliance heats up the kitchen too much.

So this time I dried them in a 200 degree F. oven for six hours.

It's very easy. Half the tomatoes, no peeling necessary. Scoop out the seeds.


Sprinkle with a little salt and turn them skin side up to pull out as much moisture as possible. It's best to do this on a rack in the sink so there's no clean-up.

Toss them with olive oil, minced garlic, black pepper and fresh herbs (I used basil). Dried herbs also will work.

Place tomatoes on a cake cooling rack set on a pan lined with parchment paper. Any pan will do, and parchment is not absolutely necessary; it just makes for easy clean-up.
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 Leave them in the oven for at least six hours. Mine required a bit more time -- another hour. For the last hour I turned them over to ensure both sides were relatively dry.

They will be leathery, which is ideal. You don't want them to become crispy.

At this point you can either freeze them, or do as I did and place them in a jar, layered with more fresh herbs and covered with olive oil.
These are so good chopped into salads or tossed into the cooking pot when making spaghetti sauce or chili.  They have an intense "tomato-ey" taste, much stronger even than tomato paste.

Now it seems to me I've read somewhere it's not safe to leave garlic infused oil outside the refrigerator, so I'll refrigerate. That will ruin the looks of it, as the oil congeals. But I'll simply take out what I'm going to use and bring it to room temperature and the oil will melt for use in salads.

If you've bought sun-dried tomatos, you know that they're quite pricey. I'm not one totally into preserving food, but with an abundance of tomatoes on hand, and for the little effort required, it made good sense to dry tomatoes for later use.

Next up: salsa. Another easy thing to make with tomatoes. Just chop everything up and store in the refrigerator. No jar processing for me. With the acidic of the tomatoes and added vinegar, it will last for weeks in the refrigerator.

Are you a big tomato fan? If so, how do you eat yours?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Rosemary REALLY IS for Remembrance

Shakespeare may have been on to something when he penned the words “rosemary is for remembrance” in a famous scene from Hamlet. 

Actually, the exact words were, “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray, love, remember.”

The words were spoken by an unbalanced Ophelia, who talks, sings and babbles about her father’s death. Shortly afterwards, Ophelia dies, so many interpretations of the scene revolve around a convention at the time of placing rosemary on the bodies of the dead. In this manner. Shakespeare is said to have been foreshadowing Ophelia’s impending demise.

Myths and Folklore

The perrenial herb has a long tradition as a symbol for remembrance during weddings, war commemorations and funerals by ancient Egyptians, early Greeks and Romans. Mourners would throw it into graves as a symbol of remembrance for the dead. 

Greek scholars often wore a garland of the herb on their heads to help their memory during examinations. In the ninth century, Charlemagne insisted that the herb be grown in his royal gardens. The Eau de Cologne that Napoleon Bonaparte used was made with rosemary.

The Virgin Mary is said to have spread her blue cloak over a white-blossomed rosemary bush when she was resting, and the flowers turned blue. The shrub then became known as the 'Rose of Mary.'

It was believed that placing a sprig of rosemary under a pillow before sleep would repel nightmares, and if placed outside the home it would repel witches. Somehow, the use of rosemary in the garden to repel witches turned into signification that the woman ruled the household in homes and gardens where rosemary grew abundantly. By the 16th century, men were known to rip up rosemary bushes to show that they, not their wives, ruled the roost.

All of the above looked at somewhat suspiciously by we moderns, right?

But wait! Recent research suggests a connection between rosemary and remembrance in people who are very much alive. Several studies evaluating aromatherapy found that rosemary actually stimulates memory and may preserve some cognitive function. 

If these studies are accurate, a sprig of rosemary is not the harbinger of doom that it was for poor Ophelia. Instead, it may be an aromatic preserver of the thoughts people hold dear. 

From the Telegraph,9 April 2013

"Essential oil of rosemary boosted healthy adults' ability to recall past events and remember to perform future tasks, which could include taking medication or sending a birthday card, at the correct time.


The improvement was unrelated to the participants' mood, suggesting it was having a chemical influence which improved their memory, the study found.


Researchers, who will present their findings at the British Psychological Society's annual conference in Harrogate on Tuesday, said the results could improve the everyday lives of people with age-related memory loss.
Previous studies had already suggested that compounds in rosemary aroma could improve long-term memory and mental arithmetic, by inhibiting enzymes which block normal brain functioning.

Dr Mark Moss, who led the study, said: 'We wanted to build on our previous research that indicated rosemary aroma improved long-term memory and mental arithmetic.

'We focused on prospective memory, which involves the ability to remember events that will occur in the future and to remember to complete tasks at particular times this is critical for everyday functioning.'

Sixty six participants were divided into two groups and asked to wait in different rooms, one of which had been scented with rosemary essential oil.

The volunteers then completed a series of memory tests, which included hiding objects and finding them again at a later stage, or passing a specified object to a researcher at a particular time which had been specified earlier.

People who had been assigned to the rosemary-scented room performed better at both types of test, and were also found to have higher levels of 1,8-cineole, a compound found in rosemary oil, in their blood.

The compound has previously been shown to influence chemical systems in the body which impact on memory.

Jemma McCready, a research intern who carried out the study, said: "These findings may have implications for treating individuals with memory impairments.

'Remembering when and where to go and for what reasons underpins everything we do, and we all suffer minor failings that can be frustrating and sometimes dangerous. Further research is needed to investigate if this treatment is useful for older adults who have experienced memory decline.' ”

So go ahead. Buy a rosemary plant or essential oil, make sachets, take a rosemary aromatheraphy bath.

Add rosemary to the shopping lists, before we forget!



Friday, July 18, 2014

It Doesn't Get Much Better Than This

July 18, 11 a.m. and the thermometer reads 70 degrees. Unheard of!

Windows open for two days and nights and a soft rain falling this morning.

An occasional breeze flutters through lace curtains bringing the soft summer scents inside.

What better way to spend a not-often-experienced summer morning than tucked in bed with a good book, dogs sleeping contentedly nearby.

Strong coffee, chocolate croissant (a once ever-so-often treat) and Vivaldi.

Ah, the good life. Fortunately, my needs and wants are simple.

***** 

I got my first Moonflower bloom this week and the size was beyond my expectation, because last year they were quite small.



They are somewhat later opening this year because I was later getting seeds started. Moonflowers are always worth the wait! Watching the emerging and slowly developing buds each day, anticipating and trying to predict which night they will open. And finally, about 6 p.m., there they are in all their magnificence.

Almost other-worldly in their size and luminescence. Their scent assaulting you as you draw near. 

I cannot wait until numerous flowers open; so far, there's only been one each night. But many buds are on their way.

I did something different with one of the plants this year: tucked it among nasturtiums in the window box outside the kitchen window.

As you can see, it's climbing the screen and forming buds. Standing before an open kitchen window smelling the sweet scent of the Moonflower will certainly lighten the load of kitchen chores, I think!

Hoping the cool weather lasts long enough to have windows thrown open when the first flower emerges.


I have just finished reading All The Light We Cannot See, one of those reads you don't want to end. Get it and you will not be disappointed.

From the inside flap:
 The back cover:

Wishing you cool summer breezes wherever you are!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

T.S. Stribling's Book

When T.S. Stribling’s novel The Store was published in 1932, it wasn’t the first time residents of a town were upset to see their town unfavorably depicted in print. (Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward Angel, and its reception by the residents of Asheville, N.C., comes to mind).


Set in Florence, Ala., The Store is the second installment of a trilogy that traces the lives of a family after the Civil War and through post-Reconstruction years. The books explore social, economic and political injustices that existed in the South, and discuss taboo subjects such as race relations.

The book's publication caused an uproar among the citizens of Florence; they threatened a libel suit soon after the book appeared. Stribling was saddened and offered his apologies but never denied using the town’s citizens as character models. It was said the town library refused to shelf the book and citizens were forced to join book clubs to obtain a copy, or drive across the river to check it out from the Sheffield library.

The Store received rave reviews in the U.S., but like the residents of Florence, many readers in the South were not happy. Today, I believe the novel has been largely forgotten.

It would be more than thirty years before he would return to the town that was once his home. He was invited and accepted a speaking engagement at the University of North Alabama in 1965. Afterward, his novels became required reading for UNA freshman English classes.

I “rediscovered” Stribling a few days ago as I was searching for previous Pulitzer Prize for Literature winners. After reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (the 2014 Pulitzer recipient), I thought it might be neat to see how many previous winners books I’ve read.

And there on the list was Stribling’s 1932 book. I read it a long time ago – in the early 1970s -- and have mostly forgotten the story. I plan to read it again soon.

Stribling was born in Clifton, Tenn., in 1891 and graduated from Florence Normal School (now the University of North Alabama) in 1902. He lived and worked in Florence for a time, but his career took him to many other locales, During the final months of his life, when he was in declining health, he and his wife moved back to Florence, where he died on July 8, 1965.
 
You can find out more about Stribling’s life and career here and here.

To read more about the town’s reaction to Stribling’s novel, see here and 

If you want to see how many Pulitzer winning novels you’ve read, there's a list
here.  I have read 14 and saw the movie of 7 others. There are several here I am adding to my reading list.
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