Stuff and Nonsense: May 2019


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 difficult 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 (gross!) 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.

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 my cousins 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, and good for leftovers.

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 young, 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 sensible and forthright. Yes, I admit her decision to have Mr. Ravenscar kidnapped was ill-advised, 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 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