Lynn Gardner: 2019


7.17.2019

#WordlessWednesday: Coreopsis

Happy yellow Tickseed (Coreopsis) blooming in the afternoon shade.

7.03.2019

#WordlessWednesday: Vessel

Vessel, a massive ouroboros of stairs in Hudson Yards, NYC.

7.02.2019

Around Connecticut: Raspberry Picking at Lyman Orchards



Early last Saturday morning, before the sun burned off the clouds and the temperatures hit stayintheairconditioning numbers, I went raspberry picking. At Lyman Orchards, again, because I couldn't find another farm with raspberries ready to pick. The spring was, for the most part, rainy and cool which slowed the growth of some crops. In some ways this is a boon -- while Lyman's strawberries have come and gone, my CSA which is 40-ish miles north, has just begun picking. But if you want to go raspberry picking right now, there isn't much choice in farms.


While Lyman Orchards is a very large farm -- 1,100 acres -- staff does a great job with directional signage and I've had no problem finding the fields I needed. The strawberry fields were quite close to the entrance to South Road, but the raspberries were a bit further afield on Powder Hill Road and that was fine as it was a beautiful morning, I was in no rush, and the additional distance gave me more thinks to look at -- many fruit trees, netted bushes that might have been blueberry, a pond, etc.

Parking is available in a dirt lot located to the left of the raspberry fields and visitors can pick up picking containers or trays at the little shed located between the parking lot and the field. For the 2019 season, raspberries at Lyman Orchards are $5.65 per pound. The small green picking containers are free and the large trays are $1.75, but (as with the strawberries, the tray is free if you pick 10 pounds or more). Customers are welcome to bring their own containers and I brought a duct tape reinforced box lid which the staff member at the shack weighed and noted before I began picking.

The rows were well groomed and orderly with lots of straw thrown down on the ground between them, which turned out to be a godsend as I spent most of my picking time on the ground, looking up through the raspberries leaves at all the beautiful deep-red clusters of berries waiting to be picked. Many people around me were going along, picking whatever they could see at the top, but I just found it a lot faster and easier to pick from the middle and bottom.

I picked five pounds in just over an hour, by which time the sun had come out and begun baking my brain. I paid up, drove home, and made jam.

More about jam later.

7.01.2019

The Quiet Gentleman by Georgette Heyer


Depend upon it, you are just the sort of girl a man would be glad to have for his sister! You don't even know how to swoon, and I daresay if you tried you would make wretched work of it, for all you have is common sense, and of what use is that, pray?

Gervase Frant, the seventh Earl of St. Erth, has returned home from the Napoleonic wars to lukewarm welcome. His stepfamily resents him for getting in the way of a fortune and title which they deserved far more than he. Why, they wonder, couldn't Gervase have been a good sport and died on campaign? The nerve of the man! Only Cousin Theo and Miss Morville, a guest of his stepmother, seem pleased to see him.

And then a series of strange incidents and unfortunate accidents beset the Earl. Is it all just coincidence or is someone trying to get him out of the way ...

Oh, how I enjoyed The Quiet Gentleman! It's not a traditional Heyer romance -- indeed, the primary romance is so subtle as to be barely there -- but it makes for a rollicking good mystery. The characters and dialog were so well written that, while I detested Dowager Lady St Erth, still I took a great deal of pleasure from her barbs. And, even though this is a mystery, there is a lot of humor and wit afoot.

One of my favorite scenes is in Chapter 10, when Miss Morville is walking through the wood at twilight and hears the thud of horse's hooves. The scene could easily go very Gothick, but Heyer pushes it in the opposite direction:

The woods were full of shadows, and already a little chilly, after the setting of the sun, but Miss Morville, neither so fashionable as to disdain wearing a warm pelisse, nor so delicate as to be unable to walk at a brisk pace, suffered no discomfort. She did not even imagine, when some small animal stirred in the undergrowth, that she was being followed; and was so insensible as to remain impervious to the alarm which might have been caused by the sudden scutter of a rabbit across the path ... The thud of a horse's hooves came to her ears, which led her to suppose, not that a desperate, and probably masked, brigand approached, but that the Earl, having parted from the Grampounds, was on his way back to the Castle.

Mind you, the poor girl was raised in a very intellectual household and cannot be expected to demonstrate proper feminine sensibility!

The Quiet Gentleman by Georgette Heyer (Harlequin Books, 2006)

6.30.2019

Around Connecticut: POA Summer Social Cat Café

Spent a few hours today cuddling strange cats at the Protectors of Animals' Summer Social Cat Café in East Hartford. The Protectors of Animals is a no-kill, non-profit animal shelter and rescue that has provided safe refuge to homeless and abandoned cats and dogs in Connecticut since 1975. The POA  hosts cat cafés several times a year as a fundraiser and they all have different themes. This one was brunch-y with mimosas, quiche, and some kind of ridiculously delish chocolate and peanut butter bark, among other things.

And there were cats. So many cats. Shy cats. Friendly cats. Big cats. Little cats. Young cats. Old cats. Cats who hunted the red dot. Cats who preferred feathers on a stick. Cats who just wanted to sleep. Cats who wanted to climb on all the things. Anyway, I petted many kitties and took a few of the ones I spent the most time with.

Marigold

Justine

Monkey

Alex

Olivia

The Husband spent a lot of time fawning over two adorable stripy kittens, but everyone loves kittens and they will easily find permanent homes. It's the shyer, older cats I worry about. Riley, for instance, is an intensely shy and gentle FIV positive senior cat. She was either a stray or a dump and has had some dental issues. Will someone look at her and see the sweetheart she is?

If you are inclined to become a cat's person, Protectors of Animal has many available for adoption and is open to the public Saturdays from 10:30 AM to 4 PM.

6.27.2019

Strawberry, Jam, & Cream Cake


After I'd made two batches of jam and two loaves of strawberry nut bread, I still had four pounds of perfectly ripe strawberries left. I turned some into strawberry vinegar and then decided the rest should be eaten with cake. I mean, cake is always a good solution to the "problem" of too much fruit.


I admit I used a white cake mix as my basis for this cake, preparing it as directed on the box except I used sparkling wine in place of the water/milk. Why sparkling wine? I wanted to be fancy? Also, I thought the carbonation might help the cake bake up light and fluffy. I couldn't taste or smell the wine after the cake had baked and, while it was light and fluffy, cakes from mixes generally are.


Strawberry, Jam, & Cream Cake

Yield: 6 generous servings

Ingredients

  • white cake layers, prepared from mix
  • really good strawberry jam
  • extremely fresh, ripe strawberries
  • freshly whipped cream

Instructions

  1. After cake has cooled, stack layers and cut into six wedges for a total of 12 pieces of cake.
  2. Whenever you are ready to eat the cake, spread a cake piece with strawberry jam, then top jam with chopped strawberries, and spread with freshly whipped cream.
  3. Top with another piece of cake, add more whipped cream, and garnish with additional chopped strawberries.
  4. Repeat as necessary until everyone has had enough cake.

I would pick more strawberries just to make this cake again.

6.26.2019

6.22.2019

Strawberry Picking, Memories Old & New

My Dad and I used to go strawberry picking every June, returning home with large baskets full of strawberries Mom would turn into jam, shortcake, and bread. I had a love-hate relationship with strawberry picking. I loved strawberries and all the things my mother would make from them, but I hated being out in the fields at the crack of dawn when they were still a bit misty and the mosquitoes were waiting. However, there was usually a sweet spot when the mist and mosquitoes left, but it had not gotten so warm my sweat attracted the horseflies. Then I loved picking and raced to see it I could fill my basket faster than Dad could fill his.


Once I went away to college I wasn't home for strawberry picking and it was all up to Dad. My parents found other things to do on June weekends and, eventually, strawberry picking stopped altogether. My mother put up fewer and fewer preserves and pickles and, while she still had all her canning accoutrements when she died, aside from a batch of pickled green tomatoes, she hadn't put up anything in a decade or more.

And yet when I think about my mom lately, my heart is full of memories of preserving and pickling. The humid kitchen heavy with the scent of hot jam which no amount of window-opening or fan use would shift. The kitchen counter covered with towels and quilted glass canning jars glowing like gems. The taste of still-warm strawberry jam on a slice of buttered white bread. And much later, in the autumn, the top shelf of the fridge door lined with a row of half-pint jam jars and quarts of pickles.


As I can't seem to stop thinking about jam making, I visited Lyman Orchards last week and, after an hour or so, picked almost thirteen pounds of strawberries. I could have picked faster, but the field was full of excited young families and adorable elderly ladies and it was pleasant to pick slowly among them.

Thirteen pounds of berries is quite a lot of berries and, as I'd picked the reddest, ripest fruit I could see, I was quite anxious to get them home once I filled cardboard flat. I was quite concerned about jam making, because it had always struck me as such a huge production that could so easily run amok. The jam might not set. The lids might not seal. I could bollocks the whole thing up.


But I didn't. I made two batches of strawberry jam -- one a traditional high sugar recipe and the other a reduced-sugar vanilla bean infused one -- from the instruction materials that came with the Ball freshTECH Automatic Home Canning System I'd purchased on clearance from BJ's Wholesale Club back in January at a delightful discount. Everything came together flawlessly with minimal fuss. The jam set. The lids sealed. I am now filled with confidence and want to jam all the things.

I used Mom's half pint jars and when I look at my jams, glowing ruby in the light from the kitchen window, I feel pride of accomplishment as well as a sense of continuity and permanence. While these are not my mother's jams, I imagine her twenties teaching herself to can and preserve, worrying about whether her jam would set or the lids would seal, and I think we share this.

6.19.2019

6.16.2019

My Best Banana Bread


I had a bunch of brown bananas in the freezer and felt like baking banana bread, but wanted to mix it up a bit so I turned to King Arthur Flour's Banana Bread Interactive Recipe Generator. I'd used the generator before, with good results, and expected the same again.

I was wrong. Instead of good bread, the generated recipe yield the best banana bread I have ever baked.

After I ate three slices with sweet creamery butter and tea for supper, I sliced the rest and took it to work the next day. My coworkers fell upon it like wolves upon a wee, tender lambie and it was gone by the end of my shift. Even those who told me they disliked many of the ingredients I'd used or just hated banana bread in general, found this bread to be very moreish.


It's a sturdy loaf with tender crumb and a perfect balance of flavors. The banana and spices complement each other well, the cranberries add a bit of tartness to counteract all the sweet, the nuts add body, and the crystallized ginger bits are a little spicy flavor bombs. I have zero regrets about eating three slices for supper and I'm thinking it might make excellent french toast ...


My Best Banana Bread

Yield: 1 loaf

Ingredients

  • 2 cups mashed banana
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ⅓ cup chopped toasted pecans
  • ⅓ cup sweetened dried cranberries
  • ⅓ cup chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp coarse-grained, sparkling white sugar
  • ⅓ cup chopped toasted pecans

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the center position. Lightly grease a 9" x 5" loaf pan.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the mashed banana with all of the remaining ingredients except any mix-ins (chips, nuts, seeds, etc.) Beat the batter thoroughly, until everything is well combined. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and beat briefly to incorporate any sticky residue. Stir in the mix-ins.
  3. Scoop the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle over the remaining teaspoon cinnamon, two tablespoons sparkling sugar, and third cup pecans over the batter.
  4. Bake the bread for about 60 to 75 minutes, until the bread feels set on the top, and a thin sharp knife inserted into the center comes out clean. If the bread appears to be browning too quickly, tent it with aluminum foil for the final 15 to 20 minutes of baking.
  5. Remove the bread from the oven. Cool it in the pan for 15 minutes, then loosen the edges, and turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool completely.
  6. Store leftover bread, tightly wrapped, at room temperature for several days. Freeze for longer storage.

6.12.2019

#WordlessWednesday: Gray Treefrog

Found this gray treefrog (Hyla versicolor) hanging out on the patio.

6.07.2019

Arabella by Georgette Heyer


He said there was a great deal of nonsense in such books, and that the moral tone was sadly lacking.

Arabella, the eldest daughter of an impoverished country vicar, is on her way to London to make her debut (and secure a good marriage which will guarantee comfortable futures for her younger siblings) under the auspices of her godmother when her carriage breaks down in the rain. Forced to take shelter at a nearby estate, she is treated very coldly by its owner -- that most sought-after of bachelors, Robert Beaumaris. Outraged by his presumption that she is just another conniving miss out to trap him into marriage, Arabella sets herself up as an heiress without peer. Arabella has quite a lot of fun telling whoppers about herself … until she arrives in London and it becomes clear that her lies have arrived ahead of her!

You will not be surprised to discover that I really enjoyed Arabella. The principle characters were well written (and frequently hilarious), the story chugged along at a good pace with lots of witty dialogue and entertaining interludes, and Heyer’s use of historical setting and detail is always so much delicious icing on the cake.

I must admit, though, that as much as I loved the dialogue between Arabella and Beaumaris, it was Beaumaris’s conversations with Ulysses (the mongrel dog Arabella persuades him to shelter) that stole the show:

Mr. Beaumaris released Ulysses, who shook himself, sighed his satisfaction, and looked up for approbation. ‘Yes, you will, I perceive, ruin me yet, ‘ said Mr. Beaumaris severely. ‘If I am any judge of character, you picked your language up in the back-slums, and have probably been the associate of dustmen, coal-heavers, bruisers. And other such low persons! You are quite unfit for polite circles.’

Ulysses lolled his tongue out, and grinned cheerfully.

‘At the same time,’ said Mr. Beaumaris, relenting, ‘I daresay you would have made mincemeat out of that creature, and I must own that I am not entirely out of sympathy with you. But poor Poodle will certainly cut me for a week at least.’

Arabella by Georgette Heyer (Sourcebooks, 2009)

6.06.2019

Cooking From Nancy Cho's The Easy Asian Cookbook for Slow Cookers


I borrowed Nancy Cho's The Easy Asian Cookbook for Slow Cookers from my library recently and was so completely smitten with it that I purchased a copy of my own. It's just a wonderful cookbook -- very beginner-friendly with accessible recipes and (reasonably) easy to find ingredients. Allergy information (gluten/soy/dairy/nut) is included with each recipe as well as a graphic denoting the country of origin (everywhere from China to Sri Lanka). My only complaint is there aren't enough photos! Each chapter begins with a beautiful photograph, but that's it. If you want to know what a dish should look like, you'll have to google ... or check out the author's Instagram.

Vietnamese Beef Stew

So far, I have made the "Vietnamese Beef Stew," "Spicy Lemongrass Chicken," "Braised Short Ribs," and "Spicy Radish Salad" with delicious results every time. The Husband, who can be rather choosy, enjoyed everything but the (rather fiery) radish salad and that was fine, as I'd made it mostly for myself! As there are only two of us, each recipe made leftovers, but those kept well and we definitely looked forward to eating them.

Braised Short Ribs

I strongly recommend The Easy Asian Cookbook for Slow Cookers if you want to make more Asian-flavored dishes, but have felt intimidated in the past or simply want to get away from the same old slow cooker recipes.

Spicy Lemongrass Chicken

6.05.2019

#WordlessWednesday: Silent Agitator

"Silent Agitator," clock sculpture by Ruth Ewan located on the High Line near 24th Street.

5.29.2019

#WordlessWednesday: Purple Iris

A beautiful purple bearded iris blooming amongst the
weeds at Jem's Garden & Dairy Barn, Manchester

5.27.2019

Mom's Stuffed Peppers

Everyone, I'm sure, has dishes they most associate with "home" and these stuffed peppers are one of mine. I remember coming home from school and the whole house would smell so distractingly delicious that it would be very hard to concentrate on whatever new novel I was currently devouring ....

When I hear talk now about getting kids to help out in the kitchen to make them more conscious eaters and give them the skills they'll need to make good food choices as adults, I'm always a little amused (and surprised), because that's how I grew up and it just seemed like the "normal" thing to me (although I recognize that due to contemporary constraints on time and family member availability, I am probably wrong).

I'm sure my mother never thought twice about putting me to work in her kitchen as there was no reason a clever child such as myself couldn't peel vegetables, mash potatoes, empty the compost bin, and set and clear the table. None of these were particularly difficult or strenuous activities -- although I strenuously objected to emptying the compost bin -- and I managed to do them with a certain amount of competency considering my brain was almost always only half-concentrating on the task at hand while the other half was busy thinking about the novel I wanted to be off reading.

I did not actually learn how to cook from my mother -- oh, how I resisted what I thought of as "girlification" -- but I was aware that the foods I ate at home were frequently "better for me" and more "real" than food I saw on the tables of friends and relatives. This awareness has, no doubt, served me well as an adult, but caused some resentment in my childhood when I realized most people did not view pizza or fruit roll-ups as once-a-blue-moon treats!

Admittedly, my parents didn't have a lot of disposable income so my mother's restriction on junk food might have been more fiscal than nutritional. And that is probably also why we ate a lot of things like meatloaf, roast turkey, stuffed cabbage, and stuffed peppers -- cheap, filling, good for leftovers, and pretty nutritionally sound.

Regardless, I am grateful I had a mother who cooked (and who shared her recipes with me).


Mom's Stuffed Peppers

Yield: 6

Ingredients

  • 6 large green bell peppers, topped & seeded
  • 1 lb 85% lean ground beef
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped onion
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • ⅛ tsp garlic powder
  • 1 cup cooked white rice
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F°.
  2. Parboil peppers in salted water for 5 minutes or until bright green and slightly tender. Drain. Cook beef and onions in a sauté pan until browned. Add salt and pepper, garlic powder, rice, and 1 cup of sauce. Mix well.
  3. Lightly stuff meat mixture into peppers. Stand peppers up in a greased pan about as deep as the peppers are tall. Top peppers with remaining sauce. Cover and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake 15 minutes more.
  4. Serve with mashed potatoes and a tossed salad.

I will admit that, as much as I have fond memories Mom's stuffed peppers, I tend to tweak the recipe when I make it -- increasing the chopped onion and seasonings. Mom herself probably used more garlic powder and onion than her written recipe lists as she definitely a "more garlic is better" cook.

5.24.2019

Sprig Muslin by Georgette Heyer


Sir Gareth Ludlow is a good-looking young man with sufficient fortune and dashing ways to attract the attentions of any gently bred lady. Alas, he ignores them all as he Grieves the Unfortunate Demise of his True Love who Passed from this Mortal Coil seven years ago. Or, so he had been doing until his brother snuffs it on the Continent and it is up to Ludlow to carry on the line ... which means, of course, finding a wife!

His eye falls on Lady Hester Theale -- a quiet, self-effacing, practical, and rather plain old maid, Lady Hester spends her days at her father's country seat surrounded by the most vulgar and exhausting of relations. Her family makes it clear they would be pleased to be rid of her -- especially if it might make their fortunes. And shouldn't Lady Hester be eager to escape her family by making such a brilliant match?

Alas, on his way to propose to Lady Hester, Ludlow finds himself burdened with a very young, very beautiful runaway who leads him on merry chase across rural England ...

I admit I did not enjoy this novel quite as much as other Heyer romances I have read. Oh, I admit the subtle romance between Hester and Gareth was quite well done and I was, of course, pleased to see her accept his proposal in the end. However, Amanda's adventures and romantic silliness made me want to toss the novel out a window. I could only hope Heyer was using Amanda to spoof those romantic heroines who have more hair than sense!

Sprig Muslin by Georgette Heyer (Sourcebooks, 2011)

5.22.2019

#WordlessWednesday: Calibrachoa

I just love the color looks dabbed on, as if by a tiny sponge.

5.15.2019

#WordlessWednesday: Yellow Iris

If bumblebees were irises, they might look like this?

5.13.2019

Regency Buck by Georgette Heyer


There is always a thought of marriage between a single female and a personable gentleman, if not in his mind, quite certainly in hers.

Recently orphaned Judith Taverner and her brother Peregrine travel to London to introduce themselves to their guardian, the Fifth Earl of Worth, and discover, to their dismay, that the Earl is the same horrible dandy who accosted Judith on the road! The Earl really doesn't want anything to do with his wards, but allows them to remain in London so long as they promise to not make cakes of themselves. To improve the odds, he arranges for them to be properly housed and chaperoned -- a deed when drives Judith a little mad. Happily, their long lost relative, Cousin Bernard, is a sympathetic party to their tale of woe and injustice and becomes quite a good family friend.

Then poor Perry suffers a serious of suspicious accidents ... Judith is left to wonder if these accidents are murder attempts. But who would want to kill her brother? Worth? Would he really kill her brother and force her to marry him to get his hands on the Taverner fortune?

Of course not! (Although he does arrange a kidnapping).

When I started reading Regency Buck, I had a hard time liking Worth and almost resented that he was our hero -- he was so cool and supercilious (and there was the dishonor he had done Judith). However, as the story progressed and more of his inner character was revealed, I came to quite like him and wished him great luck with headstrong Judith.

Quite the opposite happened with Cousin Bernard -- I liked him immediately (although I was suspicious of his amiability) and wanted him to do good by Judith. Alas, it was not to be and Heyer slowly revealed Bernard as a subtle, conniving, black hearted ne’er-do-well. In the end, I thoroughly enjoyed hating him. (In my head, I kept visualizing him as Pride & Prejudice's Wickham as played by Adrian Lukis -- always smiling, but so slippery).

Overall, this romantic mystery was quite enjoyable. Heyer's use of humor, sarcasm, and wit made Regency Buck a ripping good read and her development of secondary characters and side plots was, as usual, excellent.

Random factoids learnt from Regency Buck:
  1. Orgeat is a fancy name for barley water
  2. "Clorinda" is the name of a warrior-maiden from Jerusalem Delivered (La Gerusalemme liberata), epic poem by the Italian poet Torquato Tasso

Regency Buck by Georgette Heyer (Sourcebooks, 2008)

5.10.2019

Faro's Daughter by Georgette Heyer


“You have had Ravenscar murdered, and hidden his body in my cellar!" uttered her ladyship, sinking into a chair. "We shall all be ruined! I knew it!"
"My dear ma'am it is no such thing!" Deborah said amused. "He is not dead I assure you!”

In Faro's Daughter, Mr. Ravenscar is outraged to discover his young pup of a nephew has (the fool) declared his intention to marry a girl out of a gaming house! He sets out to thwart this union by any means necessary, but soon finds that the girl won't be easily overthrown ...

Although that Miss Deborah Grantham and her aunt live in reduced circumstances and have been forced to open their house for gaming, Deborah has no intention of marrying silly young Lord Mablethorpe, instead fully intending to chuck younger, prettier girls at him until one sticks -- but she won't suffer Ravenscar's superiority or assumptions! No, she'll teach Ravenscar a lesson he won't soon forget.

Overall, I found Faro's Daughter an absolute delight. As a heroine, Deb is refreshingly commonsensical and forthright. Yes, I admit her decision to have Mr. Ravenscar kidnapped was very silly, but she was so deliciously outraged when she arranged it and the outcome was so amusing I did not mind her momentary lack of sense. Of the Heyer romances I've read, she's definitely one of the older heroines and so it is possible I simply found her more relatable?

As with all Heyers, there's very little in the way of physical romance in Faro's Daughter yet Deborah and Max's sensual future is never in doubt. Besides doing such a marvelous job creating (and maintaining) the delicious combination of desire and rivalry which motivates Deborah and Max, Heyer also does an excellent job with her secondary characters and their respective plot lines. Yes, even silly young Lord Mablethorpe.

Faro's Daughter is definitely one of my favorite Heyer romances and I would love to see it made into a Netflix or Amazon miniseries.

Faro's Daughter by Georgette Heyer (Sourcebooks, 2008)

5.08.2019

#WordlessWednesday: Lupines

Lupinus 'Manhattan Lights' in bloom is just ... WOW

4.26.2019

Lady of Quality by Georgette Heyer


Miss Annis Wychwood, firmly on the shelf at twenty-nine, lives an independent life in Bath and is quite content to keep on that way. Alas, Fate has other plans when it throws two young runaways in her path -- Miss Lucilla Carleton and Mister Ninian Elmore who have run away together (more-or-less) because they don't wish to be married to each other. Befriending Lucilla, Miss Wychwood takes the girl under her wing and thus earns herself the attention of the girl's guardian, Mr. Oliver Carleton -- "a damned unpleasant fellow" whose "reputation is not that of a well-conducted man."

I found Lady of Quality a little slower-paced than some of Heyer's other novels, but that didn't kill my pleasure. Annis and Oliver's verbal sparring was quite entertaining and their love plays out in a very realistic way -- especially Miss Wychwood's struggle over accepting Carleton's suit and how she reconciled what she saw as a choice between freedom and love. The passage about kindred spirits and the indefinability of love was especially moving, I thought. Less I sound mawkish, just let me note that I laughed my way through most of Lady of Quality.

Lady of Quality by Georgette Heyer (Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2008).

4.24.2019

#Wordless Wednesday: Bluets

Small and delicate-looking bluets (Houstonia caerulea) in bloom among moss & stone.

4.17.2019

#WordlessWednesday: Vinca minor

Creeping myrtle (Vinca minor) in bloom.

4.12.2019

Bath Tangle by Georgette Heyer


Lady Serena Spenborough's papa has died and left her inheritance in a trust controlled by, of all people, her high-handed ex-fiancé (obviously, dear papa had harbored certain hopes!). Now of "reduced" means, Lady Serena and her (very) young step-mama take up residence in Bath where Serena becomes reacquainted with a man who had loved her long ago. Meanwhile, the ex-fiancé is up to shenanigans of his own with a terrified young thing just out of the schoolroom!

I must admit that, shockingly, I did not think this Heyer romance was all the crack. Ivo's behavior towards Emily, when he wanted her to jilt him, was rather reprehensible. Especially as he only became engaged to her because Serena had engaged herself to the Major! Not good ton, dahlings.

Bath Tangle by Georgette Heyer (Sourcebooks, 2011)

4.10.2019

#WordlessWednesday: Crocus Chrysanthus 'Dorothy'

Happy yellow Crocus chrysanthus 'Dorothy' getting ready to bloom any day now.

4.03.2019

3.27.2019

#WordlessWednesday: Orange Princess

Lush "Orange Princess" tulips blooming in the greenhouse at Elizabeth Park.

3.23.2019

The Nonesuch by Georgette Heyer


Sir Waldo Hawkridge, a paragon of masculinity, comes down from town with his cousin, Lord Julian Lindeth, to turn a recently inherited ramshackle estate into an orphanage. Yes, he's rich, handsome, educated, and philanthropic -- no wonder the ladies are all a-twitter!

Being quite the catch, the two men are invited to various parties hosted by the local fashionable set. And so they make the acquaintance of the local Beauty, Tiffany Wield, and her wrangler Miss Ancilla Trent, a somber-minded young woman of impeccable breeding who is the perfect foil for Tiffany's spoilt and reckless ways.

Waldo and Ancilla fall in love from afar. Of course, there are obstacles in their inevitable path to matrimony (Tiffany Wield, for one), but everything works out as it ought to in the end.

All of Heyer's romances are enjoyable reads, but Nonesuch takes the cake. 'Pon rep, its witty repartee and use of cant make it one of the most enjoyable bags of moonshine I've read in a long time (well, since April Lady).

The Nonesuch by Georgette Heyer (Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2009).

3.22.2019

Cookbook Club: Chocolate


March's cookbook club theme was all things chocolate. White, dark, milk, savory or sweet -- as long as there was chocolate in it and the recipe cake from a library resource, anything was fair game. As expected, club members brought choco-fabulousness to the meeting and we all had a very good time. Yes, turnout was low (7 people registered, 3 people attended. IDKY), but everyone who turned up was very keen to talk about their recipes and share their baked goods, so whatevs.

Chocolate:
"Kickin' Chile Brownies" from Cool: Cooking Up Chili: Beyond the Basics for Kids Who Cook by Lisa Wagner (sweet, cakey, and very spicy)
"Black Magic Chocolate Espresso Cookies" from Deep, Dark Chocolate by Sara Perry (four kinds of chocolate! Black magic, indeed)
"Truffle-Filled Cookie Tarts" from Taste of Home Cookies, Bars & More (crispy cookie + fudgy filling = craveable)

Of the three recipes used, only one came from a print book. The others came from ebooks available through OverDrive and EBSCO's enhanced ebook collections. My patrons are learning. I am so proud.

3.20.2019

#WordlessWednesday: Spring Flowers

It's spring in the "Big House" greenhouse at Elizabeth Park.

3.15.2019

April Lady by Georgette Heyer


Nell, a young bride still unused to her new wealth, finds she has overspent her quarterly allowance and has acquired a (to her) frightful debt. Desperate that her husband, Cadross, not know, she turns to her gamester brother. While her brother is skint, he does have a Cunning Plan.

Which fails. So he concocts another plan. Which does not go as ... planned. Meanwhile, Nell's behavior towards her husband becomes increasingly distant and formal. Cadross begins to think all his friends were right when they said Nell was marrying him for his money and title. And Nell (thanks to bad advice from her Mama) fears Cadross married her out of convenience and will never believe she loves him -- especially now that she is in debt up to her eyeballs.

And then there is Cadross's sister, Letitia! Pretty, headstrong Letitia who is up to no good with an upstanding young man of prospect but no position ... she will turn their love into something out of a horrid novel, see if she won't.

Oh, the silliness! Such a lovely bit of of escapism. A perfect dessert of a novel.

April Lady by Georgette Heyer (Sourcebooks, 2012)

3.10.2019

Making Martha Stewarts "Asian-Style Chicken and Rice"


After therapy last week, I popped into the Asian market across street for a big bowl of tonkotsu ramen and a poke around the produce section. The produce section is small, but always packed with amazingly cheap and delicious things and it's very hard not to go buyallthethings. Having only a vague idea of what I needed/wanted for the weekend, I picked up a pound of shiitake mushrooms ($3!), a ridiculously large bouquet of scallions, and a fat bundle lemongrass.

While I wasn't sure what I'd end doing with the lemongrass stalks, I had a faint memory of a bookmarking a Martha Stewart chicken-thighs-and-shiitakes recipe that seemed like it might make excellent comfort food on a snowy weekend. The recipe "Asian-Style Chicken and Rice" does not get very high reviews, but I chose to go ahead and make it, anyway, as many of the complaints were about the dish's lack of flavor, not about cooking method or gaps in the recipe. Flavor is subjective, after all, and there was never any chance I was ever going to limit myself to four scallions or three garlic cloves, anyway.

Changes I made:
I ended up doubling the amount of shiitake, garlic, and scallions.
I also seasoned the chicken with five-spice powder (in addition to the salt and pepper) and crisped it using a combination of sesame and olive oil.
I didn't have quite enough arborio rice, so subbed in enough carnaroli rice to cover the difference. (Like arborio, carnaroli is a medium-grained rice that is used in risottos. However, carnaroli holds its shape better during long, slow cooking).
After the chicken and rice had cooking for twenty-five minutes, I took the lid off and let it cook for another five as there was still a bit of liquid in the pot.

The Husband and I both enjoyed this chicken rice dish very much and look forward to eating the leftovers for lunch. Admittedly the reviewers were right to complain that the flavor was not strongly "Asian" and, next time, I might use something like Pacific Foods Organic Chicken Pho Soup Starter or Simply Asia Japanese Inspired Ramen Soy Ginger Chicken Broth to boost the flavor a bit more. That said, it is deliciously creamy and chicken-y.