Friday, December 31, 2010

Auld Acquaintance

Perhaps you have often wondered where I've been this year. Well, I have, too. It's been a busy one, full of many continued transitions, adjustments and a few minor blips on the radar. Nothing bad–just disconcerting at times and occasionally transformative. I realize it is the year, of the five of the In the Pantry blog, that I've written the least. It's not that I haven't wanted or intended to blog, it's just that some things–like real life–take precedence at times.

Books and gnomes––two of my favorite things.

We have been busy on the farm and building more needed buildings, while increasing our cattle herd. I tried, for much of the year, to pursue several full-time writing-related jobs off of the farm. Several potentially ideal opportunities were presented to me but none came of anything. What did happen, after six months of pursuit and follow-up, is that I realized, for now, that I'm supposed to stay in my own back yard. And I'm meant to write, right here. I've been publishing, too: several articles this year. It's never all for naught, just remember that!

I've been told these gnomes are really creepy, perhaps even inebriated.
A favorite gnome from a dear friend.

So, 2011 will begin with a new and renewed focus. I'm going to be launching a new blog in the coming weeks, one that better reflects my life as it is now. When I started In the Pantry I was living in an 1803 Federal mansion, filled with family heirlooms and layers of history. We were in the midst of a Currier and Ives New England village setting. I was writing my first book. Our daughter was a teenager and our boys were eight and five! Visions of a farm of our own were dancing in our heads with various scenarios and outcomes. I have often shared those here and will continue to do so in the new format.

Our hen house on Christmas morning––of course we were up before dawn!

Fast forward and here we are, five years later, on a farm on a ridge in Kentucky. Now we have land spreading out so far and wide, we have stuff in storage and we live in a comfortable doublewide. We raise much of our own food or buy it from local farmers. While there is much I often think about or miss in New England, we are blessed!

My husband's birthday "Robert E. Lee" cake.
I promise that my new blog will be integrating the essence of In the Pantry that you enjoy, while also adding other "bits and pieces" of my life [thank you, Katherine Mansfield for forever imbedding that quote in my mind]. I will also still post here on occasion, especially if it is pantry-related, or The Pantry book-related. [And copies of the book are still available from my website at]
Our annual pudding of York! [Yes, that's its real color: from our own eggs!]

I am also looking forward to starting my 11-year journal tomorrow! I just ordered a 10+ Journal from Lehman's (on sale!) and it chronicles 11 years (A decade plus) in small format on one page per date (with eleven entries: one for each year's date, in five lines or less). So you can track, in Twitter-like brevity (or let's make that more like haiku-style notation, as I will never be a Twitterer!), the events of your life, day by day: or the weather, or your diet, or highlights in your family. I used to keep many extensive hand-written journals, many years ago, but this will be a short chronicle. I'm looking forward to the exercise and the meditation of it, while the blogs will continue to be my postcards to the world.

I wish you a very happy, healthy and special New Year and thank you for visiting here all of these years! I'm not going anywhere, I'm just shape-shifting a bit. Stay tuned for an announcement of the new blog in the weeks ahead.

My very best wishes to you and yours,


Thursday, December 2, 2010

"Snow Sifting Down"

Snow on the ridge ~ a few winters ago.

Today there are flurries on the ridge and a scurry of activity inside, too. Yesterday it was snowing starlings: thousands of them, in great whirls of blackness and clatter. I am reminded every year at this time of our dear Lucy, who the starlings seemed to lift heavenwards in the days after she died on December 3rd.

It is December, the darkest month of the year and yet a time of shining light within our hearts, within ourselves and our families, too. Let there be light and peace on Earth (please?)!

I just wanted to share this beautiful poem which arrived in my inbox today, as they do, every day, from The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor: a most wonderful compendium of literary tidbits and poetry.

Everywhere, everywhere, snow sifting down
a world becoming white, no more sounds, 
no longer possible to find the heart of the day,
the sun is gone, the sky is nowhere, and of all
I wanted in life – so be it – whatever it is
that brought me here, chance, fortune, whatever
blessing each flake of snow is the hint of, I am
grateful, I bear witness, I hold out my arms,
palms up, I know it is impossible to hold
for long what we love of the world, but look
at me, is it foolish, shameful, arrogant to say this,
see how the snow drifts down, look how happy
I am.

"Manna" by Joseph Stroud, from Of This World. © Copper Canyon Press, 2009. 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

How to "Pie Up!" in the Pantry

From my vintage postcard collection.
Yesterday I cooked another large second turkey, just because it was at the bottom of the freezer. Time to "pantry up," as my friend Edie recently said (and "freezer up," too). Throughout the busy week ahead the juicy 25+ free ranger, from an Amish farm last winter, will be transformed into turkey salad, turkey soup, turkey pie, creamed turkey and sandwiches. [One reason is because I have an article deadline on December 1st and many book orders to process].

Today I'll be making turkey tetrazzini, with roasted beets and parsnips on the side and more rhubarb and pumpkin pies. We're having our Mennonite friends Melvin and Anna Hurst over for a Sunday supper of "leftovers" (well, not really, but that was the premise) later this afternoon and I'm looking forward to a nice leisurely "catch up" as I haven't seen either of them in a month. I'd even intended to host a "leftover" potluck for friends last night but it just never materialized.

As for food this Thanksgiving, back to our "simplicity" kick. I didn't make homemade cranberry sauce this year, or homemade rolls, or even cranberry nut bread. But the stuffing was arguably my best yet––from a recipe I came up with in college that I've been tweaking for the past 30 years. This year I added dried cherries and chopped pecans, as well as the Italian sausage, chopped apples and fresh cranberries that I have always included.

© Anne Taintor, Inc.
But we also had P I E! Homemade! By me! I say this so enthusiastically, and with great unabashed pride in my heart, because I've always had pie phobia–big time. The fillings are never the problem, it's the crust. Usually it is the one thing I ask guests to bring at Thanksgiving: dessert (and dessert at Thanksgiving usually equals pie). A few weeks ago my friend Rosemary back in New Hampshire sent me a pie dough recipe she had tweaked from Joanne Chang's Flour Bakery in Boston. It was the best pie dough, and easiest, I've made yet. If it sounds like there is a lot of butter, there is: but you're worth it (Rosemary also added a few more tablespoons to the original recipe). Rosemary, I should also add, was the frequent pie lady at our house (as well as my friend Linda, but I don't want to start a pie war between these two friends!).

Rhubarb pie awaits baking on Thanksgiving morning.
Rosemary's Second Amazing(ly Simple) Pie Dough
[Here is her first recipe: click here for blog archive!]

• 1 cup flour
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 10 Tbsps cold butter
• 1 egg yolk
• 2 Tbsps milk

Eli loves to help.
Put flour and salt into food processor, with blade (I used my plastic blade). Add cold butter, one tablespoon at a time, while pulsing. I combined the egg yolk and milk in a bowl and beat it quickly before adding to the flour-butter mixture in the food processor. Pulse all ingredients a few times until mixed and turn out onto floured board. Knead and flip several times and press with the back of your palm. (Rosemary said this is called "fraisaging" the dough–rhymes with "massage" and that's exactly what you are doing.) Then pat into a disk, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and chill for at least an hour. The chilling is absolutely essential for ease of roll and a resulting flaky crust. [I doubled this for a 2-crust dough and you can also freeze your disks of dough for another day.]

A perfect pie trifecta!
When sufficiently chilled, roll out dough disk on a floured board to the desired size. You will find, having chilled it, that it will roll very nicely and should feel all satiny to the touch. After it bakes, your pie will have the flakiest, melt-in-your mouth flavor and texture. I can't wait to try it with turkey pot pie later this week! As much as I like Rosemary's other pie recipe, I might just be a convert to this one.
Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie is akin to sacrilege.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Afterglow

A locally-made wooden painted turkey kit from nearby Bear Wallow Farm and a lovely pumpkin from Casey County, just a bit nibbled on by our chickens. The kit would be an easy thing to make with your children if you are crafty. (Alas, I am not.)
Here's what I love about Thanksgiving–it just extends into a nice, long weekend of leftovers and doing whatever it is that we want to do. Like hunker in on our ridge: playing games, watching old movies and family programs on television, chopping wood, general puttering around. Thanksgiving remains my favorite holiday, even though this year it was just our immediate family (minus our daughter, for the third year in a row, who works at a ski resort back in Vermont where the holidays are a blur of accommodating skiers and their families). Our boys even had an entire week off from school, which we appreciated, even though we didn't travel anywhere. [And who wants to these days?]

This little fellow has the right idea after a hearty bowl of slop.

Henry chops pumpkins for the pigs.
We were thinking of going to the Liberty Christmas parade last night, and to the Clementsville Variety Show later on today (MCed this year by our friend Joberta Wells: and check out her new blog at The Casey County News where she is a columnist–she is our local "hoot" and deservedly so, as well as having coined the phrase). We were even going to see the new Harry Potter movie (which would be Henry's second time in a week). But we're not.

A late fall bull calf, born just before Thanksgiving on our farm.

Instead, our entertainment over the past few days has consisted of moving some cattle (including some of the neighbor's that had escaped). We watched our great friend, Chuckie Willard, back in New Hampshire, and the coverage of his trebuchet-building for Science Channel's On the Road to Punkin Chunkin [on the link, click on the "Tired Iron" video]. We also watched The Fabulous Beekman Boys first-season marathon on Planet Green (what a joy they are, and their animals, friends and Farmer John, who lives on the premises, and we can't wait for their Christmas special on December 8–on so many levels this is a worthwhile new reality series). Oh, yes: my husband's favorite actress of all time, Marjorie Main, had several feature movies on TCM this week, too. And who can not watch the annual reshowing of The Wizard of Oz? I still cry each time that Dorothy goes home again and it is delightful to experience this movie with our own children.

A daily reminder on my mantel.

Our wine glasses!
This year our holiday mantra will continue to be "simplify." Our Thanksgiving set the tone for that: we were all clean and well-scrubbed but changed into our comfortable pajamas after feeding the animals on the farm. Our boys wanted a "Jammy Thanksgiving" and they got it. If you are not entertaining anyone but yourselves, I highly recommend it! I didn't even pull out all of the decorative stops that I usually do. And we used paper towels for napkins! (OK, so I haven't ironed in a while.)

Part of my "Country Fare" in the hutch in NH.
We did pull out our silver and paired it with our Country Fare–my favorite every day pottery, made by Zanesville Pottery from the 1940s-60s (eventually bought out by Louisville Stoneware in Kentucky). Who knew one day that I–an Ohio girl, born and bred, raised in New England–would eventually be living in the state that adopted my favorite Ohio pottery?! Those are our farmer friends Peter Sawyer and Eric Tenney in our kitchen in Hancock in early December 2007, when we had another Thanksgiving dinner all over again, but our last in New Hampshire. [Our dear bull mastiff, Lucy, is curled up for a nap: she passed away here in Kentucky almost two years ago now.]

John, Tom and Patch in January 2009. Today was their second birthday (but Patch disappeared when he was six months). This is my favorite photo of them altogether, on my favorite chair.

Our former Hancock home in a Wallace Nutting print.
Thanksgiving is time to give pause to our many blessings, the love of each other, and memories of holidays past. I'm glad that I am at a point in my life now where I can remember the magical holidays of childhood and beyond without a full immersion of bittersweet sorrow, or even a tinge of it–where I can be in a memory or a feeling or a place in my mind and linger there, a bit, but not dwell too much in what has past. It's not always an easy thing for me. ["Dwell, Stew, Obsess!" in the words of cartoonist Roz Chast.]

Edward Henry Corbould (1869), Cold
I know why the holidays can be the hardest time of year for some people: I have been in that place. I now embrace the winter months like a warm, cozy throw. It is admittedly less wintry here in Kentucky but still just as dark, cold and bleak as any mild winter we have experienced in New Hampshire. Winter is now something I am happy to put on and to wear, like a shroud, as I tuck in for a few months of reflection and repurposing. It's a necessary system reboot for the soul.

What Sting said so poetically about the winter season of darkness in his notes for his beautiful album, If On a Winter's Night, captures what I feel about winter now:
Peter Ilsted (1861-1933), Woman Reading by Candlelight
Walking amid the snows of Winter, or sitting entranced in a darkened room gazing at the firelight, usually evokes in me a mood of reflection, a mood that can be at times philosophical, at others wildly irrational; I find myself haunted by memories. For Winter is the season of ghosts; and ghosts, if they can be said to reside anywhere, reside here in this season of frosts and in these long hours of darkness. We must treat with them calmly and civilly, before the snows melt, and the cycle of the seasons begins once more. 
A Footnote:
Seeing the credits roll past at the end of On the Road to Punkin Chunkin, we realized it was Chucky's tractor trailer driving out of town, east on Main Street in Hancock where we used to live in New Hampshire. But seeing it, in such a blur, we were able to stop the frames with the slow motion feature of TeVo, and there was our old house, in the top photo (at left, with the brick end). A strange encounter, indeed. The whirring of the sped up film also reminded me of how I process memory: that it flies through me in a blur and then it is gone again, like the wind. But where does it go?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours ~ may your blessings and gratitude be in abundance and your hearts and kitchens filled with family and friends ~ and good things to eat!

Our boys, now 13 and 10 1/2, and my husband, happy on our farm. The only thing missing is daughter Addie,  working hard back in New England--we love and miss you! 

We are having a PJ Thanksgiving this year: all the food and fixins and best silver (not polished in a while, however!) but in our comfortable pajamas (a good call, too, because our boys have bad chest colds). Really the opposite of what we've done for so many years and a fun change this year as we hunker in from the raw stormy weather after an eventful year and fall. 

I am sorry not to have been posting regularly. If you troll through the archives at this time for the past five years you can read about Thanksgivings Past in the Pond home or search on any number of ingredients for recipes: I highly recommend Rosemary's pie dough and I'm about to make a rhubarb pie with her crust.

If you've ordered a copy of The Pantry it will be on its way to you very soon and I appreciate your patience. And, a reminder that they make wonderful holiday gifts: I am happy to inscribe them and ship them to anyone on your gift list.

As always, thank you so much for stopping by here in The Pantry and reading along with me for the past five years. There are changes to come, but all good ones.

We are blessed and so very grateful.


Friday, October 8, 2010


Our creek pasture in the fading late afternoon October light.
Concord grapes in NH.
O hushed October morning mild, 
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall; 
Tomorrow's wind, if it be wild, 
Should waste them all. 
The crows above the forest call; 
Tomorrow they may form and go. 
O hushed October morning mild, 
Begin the hours of this day slow. 
Make the day seem to us less brief. 
Hearts not averse to being beguiled, 
Beguile us in the way you know. 
Release one leaf at break of day; 
At noon release another leaf; 
One from our trees, one far away. 
Retard the sun with gentle mist; 
Enchant the land with amethyst. 
Slow, slow! 
For the grapes' sake, if they were all, 
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost, 
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost-- 
For the grapes' sake along the wall.
~ Robert Frost

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Things He Carries

One of the things I love about doing laundry is discovering what is in my sons' pockets. Unlike my husband, they tend to forget to empty their pockets before tossing their stuff in the laundry room (perhaps this is a learned behavior only when one does their own laundry?). Eli, in particular, is a pack rat (like his mother) and thinks nothing of cramming in his pocket a few pebbles (he is an avid rock collector) or recent fortunes from a Chinese restaurant dinner. He is also sentimental and I suppose that tweaks a few extra heart strings in me. Just as long as he doesn't become a hoarder, like his mother!

Little boys are so different than little girls. It's trite and stereotypical, but true enough.

Pebbles and pocket knives and keys to the tractor: that's what little farm boys are made of.

Our son is also an "old soul" who appreciates the the wisdom of his elders––on occasion!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Harvest Home

I've never been so glad to see the summer end. It's not that I don't enjoy summer, it's just that it is prolonged here in Kentucky and sometimes unbearably hot. By early August you're done already! Fall and spring are lovely, and also long, and you enjoy going outside whenever possible. [We have four seasons here, which I am glad about, and this reshifting of what we're used to having back in the northeast for seasonal duration also provides us with a much shorter winter in Kentucky.] Today was in the 90s, but it's a dry heat and a cold front this weekend will bring more seasonable nights and days again. Despite the lingering heat, fall has arrived in the landscape and in the air. IMAGE: The last of the summer watermelon, along with an assortment of knobbly pumpkins and giant cushaws at our local Casey County Produce Auction.

Usually I get a bit melancholy with the earlier darkness, the shorter days and the cooler weather. Or saddened to see the Big Dipper start to drop down into the starry night of the northern skies by late August. Not any more. This year, summer's end is like a welcome balm. I am glad to see pumpkins and squash, crisp apples, withering cornstalks. I continue to can great quantities of things from summer's bounty. 

This was the sunset exactly a month ago, on August 22, 2010, with a tinge of fall in it. I love to watch the changing big skies throughout the seasons here in Kentucky. This is the view from my office window looking up towards the knob.
We have already enjoyed some cooler nights. I look forward to quiet time spent knitting, reading, and long hours working on new writing projects and other lingering tasks. I like a reason to be indoors and yet, here in winter, it is often possible to be outside, too. It will be great to go out walking again without misery.

Come, ye thankful people, come, raise the song of harvest home;
All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin.
God our Maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied;
Come to God’s own temple, come, raise the song of harvest home.

In the coming weeks and months I will try to blog more, too, and have some photos and other things to share along the way. Thank you, as always, for stopping by here in the pantry!

As the sun set on summer for the last time in 2010, the Harvest Moon was rising to the east over a distant storm front. Both photographs were shot around moon rise/sun set at 7:15pm on September 22, 2010 from the top of our knob on the farm.
My son Henry and I had supper together on a rare after school time to ourselves. At dusk we went to the top of the knob to watch the Harvest Moon rise and the sun set on summer 2010. Today is the first day of Autumn ~ one of my favorite words in the English language (next to "summer afternoon" and "crisp" and "luscious," of course).
Meet Woodrow. Bull about town. He's a ladies' man who knows what he likes. Prefers green pastures and strong women. Not into the dating scene or even monogamy and wants to get right down to business. Loves children. Surprisingly sweet, too (but you can never turn your back on a bull!).
Our first eight Angus calves, here with some of their mamas: born from early May to early August. This is our "Long Field" where they will spend much of their autumn days munching on Kentucky grasses.
Farewell to the summer!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Try to Remember

Our Valley View Farm from the top of our knob.
This song, sung by Patti Page and written for the musical, The Fantasicks (1959), has always prompted a nostalgic longing for me, even when I was barely verbal and first heard it on my parents hi-fi in our Akron living room in the early 1960s. What thoughts or memories does it conjure for you?
Try to remember – Patti Page


MP3 search on MP3hunting

And a Happy 100th to RMG ~ wherever you are!

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Sometimes I land upright and realize, yes, that's it, it's been this way all along. Perhaps it was there all the time but I wasn't seeing and I wasn't listening. Rather than have that "ruthlessness to rest," as my great-grandmother used to write to her children (here "rest" as in "pause"), I have had a wanderlust for many months.

The Shaker hymn "Simple Gifts" speaks to this necessity to pause right where we are: "Till by turning, turning we come round right." That's exactly what I've done these past few months: whirling and twirling and now fortunate to have landed on my feet again, but glad for having had the journey.

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain'd,
To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right.

In the past six months I have been presented with several job opportunities, all from my own searching but each one, in its own way, something I feel I have been qualified to do and to do well. Problem is, I sense, with an especially tough job market now, that options are limited for writers or historians and certainly more competitive. I made the deliberate choice when my last job was downsized in 1997–– from site manager of an historic museum house to a part-time docent: I chose "I don't think so"––that it was time to have more children. We had been married not even a year and I was thirty-three, my husband forty-one. Our two boys were born within two-and-a-half years. ["The heir and the spare," as it is often referred to in jolly old primogenitured England.] I had our daughter in my mid-20s but that's another long and wonderful story.

My point is that well-educated little old me, who had worked hard at developing her career in historic preservation, public relations and freelance writing, felt it was important to be at home with her children. I had been reared in the "you can have everything you want" school: career, husband, children. But I knew better and I knew myself better than that: I have believed, for some time, that you can have everything you want, within reason, but certainly not all at the same time. If someone tells you otherwise, they are fooling themselves: their house-of-cards has to give somewhere (or they have a lot of hired help).

So I was able to be a stay-at-home mother and I hope it has served my children well (although perfectly organized, crafty and polished mother, I am not). Then we moved here several years ago, over the span of a year, and life has been busy and hectic and still not quite settled. We still have things in boxes and our real estate situation has more settling out to do yet. As my husband stretches out into the farm that we are creating, I'm often running around like some of my hens, cackling and scratching and generally in a twirl. He is project-based and linear where I am circular: he moves from A. to B. with great finesse, while I am dabbling in G., thinking about finishing A. and pondering X., Y. and Z. Occasionally I screech or peck at those around me, but I've been able to keep that to a dull roar. And, I've kept writing in some form, still selling the occasional magazine or newspaper article or copy of The Pantry from my home coffers (thank you all, for that!).

With each potential job opportunity there has been this expectation: what would the job bring in terms of challenges and income and benefits? How would it change our lives? But each job, as great it has been on paper, and as polished as I've been on paper, has not even led to an interview. This has been a bit discouraging, and also quite humbling. It has also been illuminating because I realize, finally, that I am meant to remain at home for the foreseeable future, perhaps consulting or working away from the ridge when the right opportunity may present itself, but not now. A few weeks ago when I realized this, I received a hearty check for a forthcoming article and some press-related queries on The Pantry. Around the same time I found some amazing writings from my grandmother, in an old college trunk of mine, some of which seemed to speak right to me [she was also a farm wife and a published magazine writer––and we share a focus issue, too]. The Universe was speaking to me and with a big, LOUD BANG!

So what am I going to do with all of this newly allowed "free" time, you may be asking? Well, I've given myself permission to write the stuff I want to write, to try to sell more articles and books. To blog more. To can food for winter and organize our house while we transition some more on the ridge. To be a more organized wife and mother. To start tackling a family archives project at last: for myself, for my extended family, for posterity. To walk again now that the hot summer is behind us and glorious warm fall days are here. To be more present with my family and have no regrets about what I'm not doing in the world, but to better focus on what I am doing. To be right where I am, "where I ought to be."

I've felt a bit like Dorothy in the past few months: looking for a different scenario than the one in my own back yard. Not only did I try so hard to get the right job that sometimes things backfired on me, despite my own efforts: like the time I was a "strong contender" last spring for a publications manager position, but they never received several key emails from me that would have weaned out the group to be interviewed. [I found this out two months after I first applied, when I had the guts to inquire as to what was going on: I have never had "dropped" emails before in my life, at least for something so significant!] There are other stories, some humorous, some pathetic: like when I virtually begged a headhunter (excuse me, a "Culture Catalyst"–don't ask) to convince the ad agency to let me write them some sample copy. I think that guy went running, and fast, leaving me a mere quip: "The agency is no longer in a particular urgency to hire at this time."

Finally, my own personal catalyst for this recent epiphany was this email response, when I inquired as to my status, after spending eight hours about a month ago crafting the pitch-perfect college development letter as another test of my writing abilities: "Thank you for your inquiry. We are in the interviewing stage for the position now but will bring in additional candidates as necessary. We hope to have some resolution to this search soon and will be informing all candidates of our decision." Perhaps I am reading too much into this but my gut says that, in other words: "You are way overqualified for this position (you nitwit), you will probably want a lot of money, and, most of all, you are old. And remember, don't call us, we'll call you for an interview, but only if our other younger, less qualified candidates don't pan out. As a lovely parting gift, you will eventually receive our generic 'We've filled this position but thank you and we wish you the very best in your job search' email. Now, thank you and go away."

"Ladies and Gentlemen, my name is Sally O'Malley. I'm proud to say I'm fifty years old and I like to kick, stretch, and KICK! I'm FIFTY! Fifty years old..."

I've been out of the workforce for some time. I'm graying naturally and I kind of like that. I'm definitely middle-aged but my eyes can still laugh and twinkle or be tinged with melancholy. In my heart and my head I am still that idealistic, passionate twenty-five year old young woman. So, that woman is going to be my driving force now to accomplish the things at home and with my family, and in the world via my writing, that I want to do. Let's face it: writing is an ageless profession. Many women novelists, especially those who raised a family, got their start later in life. One of my favorite books on farm life, Little Heathens, was written and published by a woman in her 80s!

Now that this midlife crisis is effectively over (unless it is just beginning), I'm going to finish my canning this weekend: salsa today, peach jam and bread & butter pickles tomorrow. Then I'm going to tackle projects: both writing and otherwise. Little bites, one life at a time. Most of all, I'm going to "write and KICK!" as my now twenty-two year old daughter has so wisely advised. Because I'm (almost) fifty: fifty years old! And time waits for no one.

Friday, August 6, 2010


As I've posted in this blog before on numerous occasions, I love berries but especially blackberries. [Just do a blog search of my blog on "blackberries" in the column at left: yes, it's too hot and I'm too lazy to link them for you today!] Blackberries are the blueberries of the South and if you live in the Northeast or northern locations where blueberries prefer the acid soil and grow readily, you will know what I mean. Warm and juicy from the sun, not too sweet and a bit tart, all purply and plump, they are the perfect medium for so many things: fruit salad, peach-blackberry cobbler, jam, yogurt and even tossed onto French toast. Oh yes, and muffins: we've already made several batches of those, too.

An early trade card for Butter-Nut Bread, with gnomes!
Here is my easy recipe for French toast: it is the only breakfast I can get everyone to agree upon without a fuss. Of course, when you make it with your own farm-fresh eggs, maple syrup from a former neighbor in New Hampshire, and blackberries picked right from your own bushes, you can't go wrong. I have to say, however, that Butternut® White Bread, the equivalent of Wonder®, makes a fine vehicle for the egg batter. It is even better when you've left the bread out overnight or just barely soak it in the egg mixture. Otherwise, you will have French glop!

French Toast (serves four)

•  4 large eggs
•  3 cups milk (or combine cream, milk, Half-n-Half or whatever is on hand**)
•  1 teaspoon vanilla
•  1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
•  2-4 slices of white bread per person
•  butter for your skillet and for slathering
•  real maple syrup (accept no substitutes: otherwise you are drinking high fructose corn syrup! OK, so you could also use sorghum molasses, too, a favorite here on biscuits)

**just don't use skim milk

Mix all ingredients with an egg beater, except for bread. In the meantime, heat a generous tablespoon of butter in your skillet on medium high. Let sizzle. Have plates ready. Briefly, especially if bread is fresh, dip one piece at a time in the prepared egg batter (I can fry 3-4 pieces at once in my skillet) and take right out of the batter and place on skillet. Cook, briefly, on each side of bread until firm, browned and no liquid is showing.

Stack and serve with butter, maple syrup and a handful of your favorite berries or fruit. Also goes well with thick bacon or sausage patties.

We'll probably have this in our house on our first day back to school on Wednesday. Yes, the school year is here again, even though August is probably the hottest, most summer-like month in Kentucky. This was the fastest summer ever, even though the boys had three months off (but we get a lovely temperate May and all of June on the other end so we can't complain). Despite the heat here, we do enjoy this season on the farm and we plan to languish in our last days of summer vacation together.

On that note, I'm nursing a summer cold so I'm off for a nap and a good read--not necessarily in that order. For me, and with everyone in a routine again, the fall months will bring more structured time for writing and I'm looking forward to that. I may, if the fates allow, even have a real, live salaried writing-related job opportunity in the wings, too. I'll keep you posted. Either way, I'll keep blogging when I can. And I may as well nap while I still can, too!