Archive | March 2013

My Sister’s Soap

My youngest sister Betsy used to make the best soap not so very long ago. Now she’s teaching yoga. She already has a good number of regular students so I imagine her yoga classes are as good as her soap was.

I miss that soap though and some of the other body luxuries she created, but luckily I still have a small stash of her soap that might last me another six months to a year if I’m lucky. Once you are spoiled with handmade soap, there’s no going back to Ivory.

Former Etsy Narrative for my Archives

[Here in my etsy shop, I share with you reclaimed paperbacks, many of them favorite books I’ve read myself, including pulp fiction, pop lit, bestsellers, and classics I haven’t.]

I have always loved books. It was my excuse to get a degree in English and the humanities (the one major that fed my reading addiction). Besides going to the library every Saturday with my sisters and dad as a child, I ended up working in libraries for years starting in high school and through college. Before he took off for Vietnam, after he’d moved us North in case he didn’t come back, my dad took us to the local library to meet the children’s librarian, Mrs. Nickerson. He did come back and we continued our weekly library jaunts to libraries wherever we were living at the time from Steubenville, Ohio, to Oceanside, California, back to Cape Cod and more. When I had my own children, the library was an outing at least once a week, usually more. We’d spend hours there in the Fletcher Free Library in Burlington, Vermont. Libraries always felt like home to me. Even on vacations, we always went to the local library.
A library job is what brought me from Vermont back to the Cape, and while the job didn’t work out (people change) and I miss Vermont terribly, my love of books remains constant and saves me from total despair at times.

[While some of these books are well worn, they are not in tatters and still highly readable. Some are even written in so you can share another reader’s journey as you take your own. With a book, you can escape to all over the world. You can inhabit the life of someone else when you need to escape from your own. You’re never alone with a book. And along with a book, goes a good cup of tea. I am a tea connoisseur as well as a bibliophile and will include in each package some hand-stuffed and tied bags of some of my favorite teas. Enjoy!]

Hope

There’s that expression, “false hope,” but do you believe it? I don’t think there’s any such thing. Unless you know for sure that all is lost (life basically), then how can you believe there is anything but HOPE? Like Yogi said, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

Twirling Spaghetti

It used to be called spaghetti, rigatoni, macaroni, lasagna or whatever noodle it happened to be. I don’t remember calling it pasta. Tonight while I was preparing it, I had a food memory from childhood. It’s a twirling spaghetti technique I don’t see my parents do any more. But, they used to. With a fork, they would spear a clump of pas-ghetti and using a large tablespoon, twirl the spaghetti in the bowl of the spoon, using their fork as a sort of baton, before eating it. It was so grown-up to me and something I didn’t think I could ever master then. I tried it tonight and smiled at the memory.

Writing

I am writing today and have all my notes scattered on my table. It’s hard work, but I’m lucky to have a virtual mentor in Camille DeAngelis, and a real world mentor in Diane Hanna.

Camille has some great video tutorials on her site about the writing process and these have helped me tremendously. Her teaching style is conversational, calm, grounded and practical. Simple tools to help me map out my story and process. I keep returning to what is the story I am trying to tell? What is my focus? Paying attention to those two questions brings me back when I feel overwhelmed with too much information. I began writing a survival guide a few years ago. It’s also developing into a field guide and in the end I believe it will ultimately again be a survival guide. To surviving changes, good and bad and learning to find the best amongst the changes.

Breads

I told my daughter yesterday I’d send her two bread recipes from my family files. One’s a super easy yeast bread I dubbed Irene’s bread after our Burlington neighbor who gave it to me. It’s a simple sandwich bread and tasty. Makes great French toast, too.

The other is the perfect Granny banana bread, this from a nurse I used to work with. You could call it Nana bread because it actually is her gran’s recipe!

The recipes:

Irene’s Bread
Combine 2 1/2 c. hot water, 3 Tbsp. sugar, 1 Tbsp. salt, 1/4 c. Oil. Add 2 scant Tbsp. yeast, cover and proof until foamy.
Stir in 6 to 6-1/2 c. Flour total (so 4 to 5 c. white if using whole wheat, too). Knead for 3 minutes til smooth and springy.
Oil dough and let rise in bowl in warm place for 45 min., punch down, let rest for 15 min. Put in 2 greased loaf pans. Put in oven for 10 to 20 min. for last rise. Turn oven to 400* & bake from that time for 35 min. Loaves are done if they sound hollow when you tap them — you’ll know. Cool on racks if you have them. Slather with butter or good olive oil (I like Trader Joe’s Greek Kalamata Olive Oil), and sprinkle with some flaky Maldon sea salt. Enjoy!

Jenn Gratton’s Nana Bread
3 large (or 4 small) very ripe (black is good) bananas
1 c. Sugar (I use a bit less)
1 egg or if veganizing, 1 Tbsp. ground flaxseed + 3 Tbsp. water
Eggshell full or @ 2 Tbsp. oil
1 3/4 c. Flour
1 tsp. baking soda

Mash bananas, add sugar, oil and egg or substitute. Stir. Mix in flour and baking soda together. Don’t over mix, a few lumps are okay (makes a lighter loaf). Bake in greased loaf pan at 350* for 45 min. When knife inserted in loaf comes out clean (no gooey batter on it), turn bread out of pan onto cooling rack to cool. Another yum!