Cider Press Hill

Frightful weather, but my house smells great!

Saturday, 9:49 pm

By Kate





We are drowning in the remnants of Ida. At least we don’t have the strong winds to go along with it, unlike what the folks to the south had to endure. Just pouring rain, breezy, and damp. The cure for crummy weather is a nice warm fire in the stove and a simmering pot of chicken soup. Even better on a Saturday evening.

Currently, there is a large pot of chicken soup on the kitchen stove.  Just smelling it makes the world a better place. My chicken soup recipe is a little bit different every time I make it. It all depends on what I have in the vegetable crisper drawer. Tonight, I didn’t have very much beyond one large sweet onion, two large potatoes, and four carrots. So, I dragged myself out into the deluge and went to the grocery store.

I scooped up a green pepper, a small bag of parsnips, some celery, and a bag of extra crusty hard rolls. I brought it home and added more stuff to the soup and it is still gently simmering. It won’t be ready to eat until tomorrow, but it surely smells fine tonight.

I haven’t added parsnips to my chicken soup in a long time. I’d forgotten about the possibility until I browsed through a cookbook tonight. Parsnips aren’t everybody’s favorite vegetable. In fact, I don’t know too many people who’d go out of their way to eat them and I’m inclined to agree if they’re cooked like carrots and presented on a serving dish. But when added to a stew or soup for flavor, they add just the perfect touch. Absolutely delightful.

I don’t’s distinctly possible that I might end up having chicken soup for breakfast tomorrow. Don’t know if I’ll be able to wait until later in the day. I think it’s becoming my favorite food. A little bit different every time and, I suppose, there are still a lot of vegetables and flavors to try.

Maybe I should try for the farmer’s market tomorrow morning instead. They’ve extended the Sunday moring market through the end of December. Not sure what they’ll sell during December. Perhaps I should go and find out.


My Autumn 2009 Reading List

Thursday, 9:00 pm

By Kate





I have little bit of a library book logjam going on. I should not be doing anything but sticking my nose in a book when the opportunity presents itself. These are all mostly new books, so they are not renewable at this time. That means I have about 2000 pages to read in a week and a half. I have my doubts, but I’m going to do my best.

How does this happen? Well, I put in interlibrary requests for books and go on the waiting lists. I had assumed that my place in line was not an arbitrary number, but it appears that it is. If my hometown library gets in the book I want, then the next person on the list From My Town goes to the head of the list. Just so happens, I ended up jumping from something like 57 on a waiting list to number 1. A couple of times. Messed up my reading schedule something awful.

My autumn book list currently looks like this—I just didn’t anticipate having all of them in my possession at the same time.

This Quiet Dust: And Other Writings by William Styron

I’ve had this one for a little while now and have renewed it once. I can’t renew it again and it’s due on Monday, so this is at the top of my list. Interesting begins as a response to both black and white critics who beat Styron to a metaphorical bloody pulp over his book The Confessions of Nat Turner. Styron was born and raised in Virginia, but was a transplanted New Englander. Viewing the situation from both sides of the geographical fence, he was correct is judging the critics hysterical—and not in a funny way. Nat Turner was written at the height of the Civil Rights movement. You could possibly suppose that Styron was either a very brave writer or the book’s timing was most unfortunate. A fine book, in any event. The essays in this book are a worthy read so far as I’ve gone. Quite thought provoking.

An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon

This book is number 7 in an ongoing series. Historical/paranormal romance and actually, pretty darned good writing. Gabaldon is in a class by herself. These are good reads with lots of reality, a little bit of magic, lots of history, action, and lots more history. (Well, quite a lot of tupping, too. At least in the early books.) The saga of Jamie and Claire continues.

This book is 814 pages long. I was number 118 on the library waiting list when I reserved it back on September 19. A week ago, I was number 57. Suddenly, the next day, it was waiting for me at the library. I gotta read it quickly because I don’t imagine anyone will be able to renew it until there is no longer a waiting list. That may take a few months. This book is due back at the library on November 17.

The End of Energy Obesity: Breaking Today’s Energy Addiction for a Prosperous and Secure Tomorrow by Peter Tertzakian. The author asks the question: How can the world reduce its energy appetite and change its diet of fuels for a prosperous and secure tomorrow? I am quite keen to know the answer to that question. I am skeptical that Tertzakian has the consummate answer(s), but I’ll betcha he has some good ideas. Tertzakian is Chief Energy Economist at ARC Financial Corporation and has a commendable track record in analyzing and forecasting energy trends. His is not always the consensus view. I was surprised to see this book promoted by my library and placed right in the front lobby where you’d almost have to trip over it to get in the door. Huh. Times must be changing. This one is due back on November 10.

Gabriel GarcÍa Márquez: A Life by Gerald Martin

I think Márquez is a remarkable writer and this book devotes 545 pages to telling us who he is, with 16 pages of photographs included. According to the dust jacket blurb, this is the first full and authorized biography of the 1982 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. This is a man’s life I want to know more about. What made him the writer he is?

This hardcover edition of the book is gorgeous with deckle edged paper. (I am quite tempted to run off to the bookstore.) I am sure that the written material is equally as gorgeous, too. With surprises. Can’t wait to dig in. I have until the 17th to start and finish it.

Small Wonder by Barbara Kingsolver

This book started out as a library book, but I wanted to buy a copy for myself so I Kindled it. I’ve read about a quarter of this book of essays so far, but it’s on hold until the other library books are finished and returned. Now that I own a copy of it (and a paperback edition of High Tide in Tucson), I can read it at leisure, which is how Barbara Kingsolver ought to be read.

Apparently I’m still conflicted over which I prefer—Kindle books or paper books, even though it is easier reading on my Kindle.

Beyond the Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West by Wallace Stegner

A few weeks back I watched a PBS show about Wallace Stegner. This biographical work, along with others, was highlighted as relevant to his life as an environmentalist/conservationist. In the old fashioned sense of the word. It wasn’t fashion or fad with Stegner. He was plain-spoken in his belief that the masses of people who moved willy-nilly into the west like a plague of locusts were as bad as a plague of locusts.

This book is about John Wesley Powell who worked for the US Geological Survey (he and his team explored the Colorado River and its canyons) until he was booted out. Some things do not change with the passage of time. Powell relied on science for his projections and analysis for land and water use policy, the government relied on politics to formulate land and water use policy. This is a classic book about water rights and water use in the American West and probably one of the most important ever written on the subject. Many of the West’s environmental problems arising today were forecast by Powell (and Stegner). Purchased paperback.

Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner

A novel for which he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1972. This will be the first work of fiction I’ve read by Stegner. I love his non-fiction and essays—I understand that this novel is as seamless and lovely as his non-fiction.

It is, not surprisingly, a story about the American West and a family that settled there in the latter half of the 19th century, researched and told by a 20th century, disabled history professor descendent.In reading the synopsis for this, bits of it sound a little familiar from Stegner’s book of autobiographical essays, Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs. A Kindle book.

Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free by Charles P. Pierce

As far as I know, this book was sort of catapulted to the top of the author’s To Do List after a curiosity visit to Kentucky’s Creation Museum. On the dust jacket I read:

It was the saddle on the dinosaur that did it. In a legendary journalism career, Charles P Pierce has interviewed vacuous movie stars, disingenuous politicians, cretinous sports heroes, and all manner of charlatans, demagogues, and fanatics. But it wasn’t until his visit to the Creation Museum in Hebron, Kentucky, that he realized just how far gone America is. At the center of this popular tourist spot are models of dinosaurs, one of which is wearing a saddle. “We are taking the dinosaurs back from the evolutionists!” cries the proprietor, who runs something called Answers in Genesis....

Naturally, I had to buy the book. Someone should probably put one in a time capsule somewhere, just in case. We obviously aren’t getting any smarter. Purchased Hardcover.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

I have to admit that the reason I discovered this book was because my book store had it on the shelf with the cover facing outward. It was pretty. I was intrigued and reached for the book. The rest, as they say, is history. I’d never heard of the book before, but within hours of buying it and bringing it home, I’d stumbled across three different references to the book. Accolades, even. A cynical little girl and an ugly, cranky, brilliant autodidact (art, philosophy, music, Japanese culture), both hiding their lights under a bushel basket for different reasons and both outed by a Japanese interloper who sees straight through them to the delightful people they are. How wonderful. I look forward to reading it.


Between times for Whacking Good Escapism....

James Rollins’ SIGMA Force Series. I’ve polished off the first two, so far.

And that’s it for my Autumn 2009 Reading List.

Autumn officially ends in 45 days. I’ve gotta read faster.


Planning ahead

Monday, 5:51 pm

By Kate





On Halloween night it was 70 degrees outside and I had the windows and doors opened. I even wore a tee shirt because I was also cooking and my kitchen was warm. That was two days ago. We’re back to unseasonable weather on the other end of the spectrum today. We couldn’t clear 46° today (actually 45.6). And normal for this day of the year is 55°. I don’t think we’d recognize “normal” anymore, even if it walked up and smacked us between the eyes. By the end of the week we’re threatened with snow flurries and low 40s during the day with mid to low 20s at night. We haven’t had winter yet and I’m already sick of it.

Well, this evening my house is on the chilly side—about 59°. It’s looking like a fire in the wood stove sort of evening. And because I anticipate (I mean, really, why wouldn’t I at this point?) the Yankees winning the World Series tonight, I figured that a little comfort food was in order, too. So, into the oven went a nice large meat loaf loaded with onions, mushrooms, garlic, and parmesan cheese. I tell you, it smells just fine in here.

While that’s cooking, I’m walking around with a glass of Pinot Noir in one of my recently purchased inexpensive wine glasses (because I am afraid of breaking my good ones since my track record trends in that direction lately) and listening to Phantom of the Opera at ear shattering decibels because my neighbor isn’t home and I can get away with it. I have to say that, despite the snotty reviews by some critics, my backbone disagrees—this music sends chills up and down it and I’m no music neophyte, let me just say this about that.

I’m in a good place tonight.

So, let me just say, if the Damn Yankees win, I don’t care. Life is good in this house tonight and I simply refuse to let them ruin it.

So there.



Sunday, 8:32 pm

By Kate




partly cloudy

Sitting here watching the Phillies and NY Yankees play ball. May the best team win as long as it’s not the Yankees.

Last night was Halloween. Did you all have little ghosts and goblins come a knockin’ at your door? I actually had a rather large number of vampires this year. I attribute this to the popularity of the Stephanie Meyer Twilight book series. I found it curious that almost all the vampires were female. The only male vampire knocking on my door was about 5 years old and looked more like Eddie Munster. Adorable, though. His little sister, twin, I think, was a petite princess all decked out in pink and sparklies. Their Mom came along dressed up as a cat and, if I was a guy, probably would have closed the door afterwards and howled a little bit. Wow.

Anyway, back to the vampires at my door. Mostly female as I said. And there was a distinct difference between this year’s vampires and the ones of the past. Once upon a time, vampires were scary things and the vampire make-up was geared to freaky scary.

This year, the vampires were decked out in normal attire with make-up that would make Hollywood jealous. These vampires were attractive. We might even go so far as to say some of them were downright hot. There was some talent behind those paint pots and various make-up brushes.

But there was one vampire who stood out. Not only was her make-up outstanding, but she had the voice and the manner that were so smooth and icy and strange and elegant, that I was almost stricken dumb. I came close to babbling. She was a little frightening. And she had the faintest smile as if she knew it. She brought her little sister with her and the little sister took her vampire sister in stride and told me, “She thinks she’s Bella” and rolled her eyes. The vampire sister smiled and showed her vampire teeth and yanked her little sister (gently) off the front porch. LIttle sisters can be such pains. Really.

I laughed. I still am.

So, did anyone else notice a sudden neighborhood influx of attractively appointed vampires this year?

(Still waiting for the Phillies to load the bases and get a homer. Pleasepleasepleaseplease...)