Friday, July 30, 2010


Dana Aldis is an artist is a painter based in Seattle. Some of her work is available at Etsy. She can be contacted through Facebook.



These are some paintings by D. Prizzi, an artist based in  New York. Please visit her site. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


The first tomatoes of the season make dream of a bustling kitchen where a capable cook prepares huge batches of tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and  ketchup for canning.  I think the image in my mind's eye comes from an old Judy Garland and Margaret Sullivan movie, Meet me in Saint Louis.  Plump and  gravel voiced  Marjorie Main played the  cook, Katie,  who labored over a vat of ketchup in a Victorian kitchen complete with Willoware. Watching her, one could almost almost could easily imagine that savory scent  of allspice, cinnamon, cloves wafted through house, calling up memories of  picnics and  barbeques. 
There are no faithful  retainers in my house, more is the pity. Canning is a labor intensive chore usually performed in the dog days of summer. It requires fortitude and dedication along with the certainty that there is a serious demand for the  product of one's labor.
The reality is that it makes no economic sense to make ketchup for my small family. A few years ago a friend brought me such  a large quantity of mangoes I felt compelled to make mango chutney. It was good chutney, as chutneys go. I gave away several jars, my family ate a few and there reamained such a vast number of jars  we slapped our FLAGRANTLY DELICIOUS label  on them and tried to sell them at a town fair. I found out that ours is not chutney country--the salsa vendors did not fare that ell either. I think that ketchup would go a bit faster and no doubt the home canned variety would be superior to stuff available at the store.   It makes more sense to think of my tomatoes as ingredients for salad, sandwiches and pasta primavera. Still, I like to think that someday I will have a reason to dust off my pressure cooker and fill dozens of canning jars with FLAGRANTLY DELICIOUS ketchup.

Monday, July 26, 2010


chocolate cake

An explanation for  those of you who have been craving the chocolate banana cake from Jane Green's novel PROMISES TO KEEP and who wanted a recipe. It was my feeling that readers should buy, beg or borrow the novel in which it was published. On second thought, maybe  the author's recipe and my variation on it will encourage those who visit this blog to discover--or rediscover--Green's work.


1 cup plain baker's chocolate
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup plus two tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 bananas, mashed

Preheat to 350 F
Melt chocolate in bain-marie
Cream  butter and sugar. Add eggs gradually while beating. Stir together flour, baking powder and cocoa and fold into the mixture. add melted chocolate and mashed bananas.Bake for 45 minutes.



Preheat to 350 F

 1 cup plain baker's chocolate
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup plus two tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
4 bananas, mashed
1 teaspoon double vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon Saigon cinnamon
1/8 cup confectioner's sugar
2 cups hulled strawberries or raspberries

Melt chocolate. Cream  butter and sugar. Add eggs gradually while beating.
Stir  together flour, baking powder and cocoa and fold into the mixture. add melted chocolate and mashed bananas.
Bake for 30 minutes.
Dust with confectioner's sugar.
Decorate  with berries. 

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Host an ice cream social.

Ice your bathtub.

You can keep your hat on.

Have an ice cold vodka and caviar feast.

Look at Russian paintings such as this one by Repin.

Watch  The Nutcracker ballet. Concentrate on the snowflakes.These are from the Moscow ballet.

Read Doctor Zhivago.

See Doctor Zhivago.

Get yourself a vintage fan. Remember that fans were not always  frivolous objects. Japanese samurai learning  the art of Tessenjutsu  used war fans made of iron. Follow the middle course. Get a Spanish lace fan and slay only  with your eyes. 

Buy a fancy parasol. 

Look at Ivan Kramskoi's cool lady with a parasol 
                                                      Look at Repin's portrait of his daughter.
 Make several pitchers of   lemonade. Flavor each with mint, ginger,  rosemary and lavender. Invite friends over for a degustation.

               In the cool of the night, have a moon viewing like the people in Gakutei Harunobu's paintings.
                                           Don't forget the manju, moon viewing cakes.

                                           Remember last winter.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


                                             David phlox blooms in the intense July heat.
Fixings for Bellinis.

" With my whole body I taste these peaches, I touch them and smell them. Who speaks? I absorb them as the Angevine Absorbs Anjou. I see them as a lover sees, As a young lover sees the first buds of spring And as the black Spaniard plays his guitar. '" Wallace Stevens

While  Spain  dithered, Syria banned the Burka.  France gears up for a tremendous s debate on the constitutionality of its anti-burka law. Strange world. Katherine Mansfield thought so too. Lately, I have been rereading her LETTERS with intent. That led me  to research on a  writer I  have yet to read, the Provencal  poet and naturalist Jean Henry Fabre.   I found his poems online with translations from Provencal to French. I also found his entomology books at online used bookshops. These little jaunts into literary cyberspace have their dangers. Inevitably, I find books I absolutely must have, such as the complete Shakespeare--my late husband got custody of the copy I used to read. He moved to the steppes to set up housekeeping with Gertha Klavichord, a  person of Teutonic extraction, and so it was goodbye Shakespeare. I have replaced the late husband before I replaced  Shakespeare--an omission I am about to correct. 
Buying books when one's stash has already reached critical mass is folly, I know. Surely I can  get Charles Lamb's LETTERS, Fabre's SOUVENIRS ENTOMOLOGIQUES, John Forster's LIFE OF DICKENS from the local library.  The catch is that I want my books at my fingertips for those occasions when I wake up in the middle of the night wondering exactly what Fabre had to say about nougat,  what is the second verse in Walter de la Mare's Song of Enchantment and like that. It happens, you know. I could read some this online I if I were willing to share my bed with my laptop. I can't. There is too serious a risk that the mountain  books  teetering  on my bedside table would choose the occasion to collapse and on it, crushing it forevermore.
So I raise a glass of Belllini made with some divine white peaches I found at our grocery store. Here is to France, Syria and online bookshops!  

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Finally, we have tomatoes. Having taken the trouble to start and cosset seedlings I feel that it is only fair that there should be some reward for entire process. This year my  veggies and herbs are planted in containers. I have switched, reluctantly, to plastic pots. Unglazed terracotta is  aesthetically pleasing, but it allows water to evaporate too rapidly and the result is distressed plants that cannot survive our 100F weather. I also use whisky half barrels which I tuck behind thorny rose bushes to keep the deer away. So far so good. The pear tomatoes are way ahead of the Tigarellas. I  confess that I am impatient for them to ripen. We have been baking bread with  whey  left from goat milk cheese and the idea of bruschetta, chevre and olives  dances in my head.
Working on novels and book reviews takes up most of my time. I have recently posted a review of Robin Oliveira's novel, MARY SUTTER in my book blog, This coming week I will be reading from a treasure trove of goodies  I received  Simon and Schuster-- Eric leMay's book about cheese, IMMORTAL MILK,   THE WISDOM OF THE LAST FARMER, David Mas Masumoto's reflections on organic farming, ABIGAIL ADAMS,  a biography, by Woody  Holton , BETWEEN ASSASSINATIONS, a novel by Aravind Adiga, and  THE MADONNAS OF ECHO PARK,   by Brando Skyhorse. Additionally, I will review Carey Wallace's THE BLIND CONTESSA'S WRITING MACHINE and Alan Furst"s SPIES OF THE BALKANS. I am looking forward to a guest post  Carey will be writing for richtexts and I will be giving away a copy of THE BREAKING OF THE EGGS--see richtexts for details.

Friday, July 9, 2010


Finally, we get the rain the weatherman has been promising. Perhaps this will save the corn crop and the parched gardens. The temperature may drop below 100F and we will throw away our air conditioners. I intend to float paper boats in the creek with help from the neighborhood moppets, in celebration.
There is good news in the automotive front as well--the car passed inspection. Its temperamental air works well enough. I shall kick the tires to make sure the are absolutely A OK.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Too hot to blog. 99F and climbing. The whole week will be just as hot. We live on gallons of iced beverages and chilled fruit. We read and watch movies and try to remember how cold it was this past winter.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


The way to Sally’s goat farm is not without perils.  Herds of   suicidal  deer  whose supreme joy is the prospect of  close encounters with compact cars,  lurk in the woods. The ancient trees that border the road tend to shed branches large enough to impede traffic. If that is not exciting enough, we never fail to leave our maps behind. Inevitably, we try to call Sally for directions only to be reminded  that cell phones do not always work in her neighborhood. The best  thing to do in these circumstances is to  go to the Bakerton Fire House where the firepersons know every inch of the county.
You’re five minutes away almost there, mi’ja,” says a fireperson who will pass us in her  very cool red Mustang convertible a few minutes later.

Our arrival throws  the resident flock of  chickens into a panic. They cluck and run as if  voracious predators were in hot pursuit. We are not that hungry. The goats are, but they usually stick to a vegan diet. The chickens are safe. So are e as long as we keep our hands to ourselves.   Starbuck, an overenthusiastic fan of raw human blood, rushes to the fence in the fond illusion that we will forget that last time we met he thought  my hand with a tasty tidbit. I considered waving a borrowed blood donor card under his nose. He favors O pos. 

     I cast an envious eye on Sally's asparagus and strawberry beds while she fetches fresh eggs from the chicken house. The chickens are not amused. They  cluck  the Internationale. e ignore them. Sally gives us  a  gallon of milk. Later in the day, the infanta ill make make a batch of herbed chevre. The following day she ill collect the hey and soak the cheese in brine  so that it will form a substantial  rind. Friday  we will be bake whey bread for a gathering at Murdoch Mountain.  We hope that Doug will be there with his cello and that  Berto will be there to tell jokes in Nabokovian English. We know  that the hummingbirds will make  an appearance and that we will be able to pick ripe wineberries when we hike to the lake. We will come home at dusk to watch the fireflies bathe  the heart shaped leaves of   the catalpa tree   in flickering greenish light.  We will have a bit more chevre, bread and a glass of wine and we will forget the difficukties of getting to Sally’s place.