Stuff & Nonsense: August 2010

15 August 2010

"Today I Live In ..."

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson (HarperCollins, 2005)

Seventeen-year old Ginny receives a letter from her much-loved Aunt Peg several months after Peg's death. The letter directs Ginny to book a one-way ticket to London and then go to New York to acquire a mysterious parcel left for her at the 4th Noodle ... the contents of that parcel will take her to London, Scotland, Rome, Paris, and beyond.

I have to say that I loved the premise of this novel and had looked forward to reading it for quite a while. I did have a lot of fun reading about the places Ginny visited and the interesting people she met.  However, Ginny's travels didn't seem to provide her much fun (frequently, I wanted to shout "You're in Europe! Try to enjoy yourself!") and she was never as interesting as the people she met. I finished the novel feeling I didn't know Ginny any better than when I had started it -- even though I had been with her on every step of her journey. In the end, she felt more like a plot device than a real person.

Ginny issues aside, I thought 13 Little Blue Envelopes was a fast, fun summer read and look forward to The Last Little Blue Envelope.

14 August 2010

Happy Anniversary! I Bought You Some Peppers

We celebrated our eleventh wedding anniversary by visiting not one, but two farmers markets!

Burlington Farmers Market
268 Spielman Highway
Fridays through October, 3-6

This year, Gresczyk Farms is the only vendor at Burlington, but they put out a good spread and we picked up some lovely yellow squash, pickling cucumbers, peaches, and huge stuffing peppers. When we go back next Friday, I'll be sure to pick up some eggs and hydroponically grown butter lettuce, too.

Southington-Plantsville Farmers Market
1003 South Main Street
Fridays through October, 3-6

The Plantsville market had about five vendors -- including one who was custom cutting chunks of Cabot cheddar from a huge block. We considered buying some, but decided we had enough cheese at home. Madness, I know. We did buy tomatillos, zucchini, apples, and baked goods (including a yummy pumpkin pie square).

Combine my farmers market loot with the huge bowl of cherry and small fruit tomatoes I harvested from my garden and it looks as if my kitchen is exploding with produce. What to do?

Well, I have a plan. A menu plan ...

13 August 2010

Happy Størmer-Heegner-Mills Anniversary

 I love you
   because the earth turns round the sun
   because the North wind blows north
   because the Pope is Catholic
     and most Rabbis Jewish
   because winters flow into springs
     and the air clears after a storm
   because only my love for you
     despite the charms of gravity
     keeps me from falling off this Earth
     into another dimension
I love you
   because it is the natural order of things

            ~ excerpt from "Resignation" by Nikki Giovanni

06 August 2010

Tea in the Morning, Tea in the Evening

Tea with Jane Austen by Kim Wilson (Jones Books, 2004)

I spent a good hour reading interesting bits from Tea with Jane Austen aloud to The Husband -- and there were many interesting bits! For example, did you know there was a tidy black market in tea in Austen's day? And that this "tea" was frequently made from used tea leaves stretched with bits of twigs and sawdust? Or it was brewed from ash tree leaves mixed with sheep's dung and green vitriol (a toxin)?

It certainly paid to be a discerning shopper!

Besides the booming trade in illegal tea, Wilson also covers such diverse topics as tea as a curative/poison (the breakfast ale drinkers were pretty opposed to tea going mainstream) and tea as social entertainment. As someone interested in historical trivia, I was fascinated by Tea with Jane Austen and wished it could have been a bigger book!

Of course, Wilson could not write a book about tea without including recipes for lovely tea time goodies. In many cases, she has provided the original recipes text with a modern translation. Some recipes, as in the case of "For Captains of Ships to Make Catchup to Keep Twenty Years," do not have a modern translation, because ... well, who would want to make Catchup of Infinite Keeping?

Recipes I would like to try:
  • Barley Water for Henry Austen & King George
  • China Orange Jelly for Mrs. Norris's Maid
  • Solid Syllabubs
  • A Syllabub (Indirectly) from the Cow
(The original recipe for "To Make a Syllabub from the Cow" sounds fascinating, but requires an actual cow!)

02 August 2010

Basil Is For Drinking: Basil In My Tea

Last week, while cooking my basilicious scrambled eggs, The Husband made what he no doubt thought was a hilarious remark about me running mad and putting basil in tea. And I thought, why not? Why not add basil to iced tea? Basil lemonade was very delicious, after all.

I used Martha Stewart's recipe for "Strawberry-Basil Iced Tea" and it was so very good! Cool and refreshing, with a subtle basil taste and lovely summery aroma.  And the color! Such a lovely strawberry-red -- it reminded me of strawberry cordial.

(Because I am all about doing as little washing up as possible, I tweaked Stewart's directions somewhat to omit the use of a bowl and made everything in the pitcher).

Strawberry Basil Iced Tea
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living, July 2009

8 black tea bags (I used Lipton)
1 lb very ripe strawberries, hulled and halved (quartered if large)
5 cups water
¾ cup sugar
1 cup fresh basil

Place strawberries in a glass pitcher. Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a saucepan. Add tea bags, and let steep for 5 minutes. Bring remaining 1 cup water water and sugar to a boil in another saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, add basil, and steep for 10 minutes. Strain over strawberries, discarding basil. Let stand until cool. Add tea to pitcher. Refrigerate until chilled.

I would like to try this again -- perhaps replacing the strawberries with blackberries.