Thursday, January 31, 2013

January Reading List

No sciatica confining me to my reading corner this month, thus a shorter reading list. Bright's Passage - a first novel by song writer Josh Ritter. Returning WWI veteran is directed by an angel in the care-taking of his infant son after his wife dies in child birth. At times very dark; at times uplifting. Rated 4.0.
Finding Casey by Jo-Ann Mapson. Teen age girl in California has difficult time dealing with the abduction of her younger sister. She is adopted and moves to Santa Fe where a piece of Native American pottery leads to information about her missing sister. Rated 3.5. Liked this author. Will read more of her books from our library.
The Painted Drum by Louise Erdrich. Stories relating to the loss of daughters all connected through the spirit healing of a Native American drum. Rated 3.5.
The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich. I checked out the last two of my unread books by Erdrich. I could only rate this one a 2.0. Either it was too ambiguous or too ambitious for me. The story of a woman disguised as a man in order to be a priest on a remote reservation in Minnesota covers the long life of the former Sister Agnes. I found the parts about Agnes most interesting, the other characters not so much. For some reason this book reminded me of One Hundred Years of Solitude - hard to keep straight and interested.
Beneath The Shadows by Sara Foster; Rated 2.5. A modern gothic set on the North Yorkshire Moors. One blurb says: "Another Minette Walters" - trust me, this author is no Minette Walters.
Some Kind Of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce. Another 'young girl goes missing' story. This one a teenager who turns up on Christmas Day after having been gone for twenty years. She looks the same as she did; tries to explain that "the faeries took her" which no one believes save one elderly woman who has a similar tale to tell. I liked this modern fairy tale. Gave it a 4.0.

A Sunless Sea - such a pleasant surprise to realize Anne Perry's latest William Monk mystery had been in the library for four months and I had missed checking it out. This is the 17th in the series. I give it a solid 4.0. I love these characters and the series.

My mother loved reading cook books - a trait, along with her cooking skills, I did not inherit. However, when it is a cook book given by one's good friend and written by her brother, it changes the desire to read.
Tried And True is a collection of Mary Stenberg's and David Knutson's favorite recipes. David is the brother of my friend, Kristina Young. He is a trained chef. I expected his cook book to be 'above my head', i.e. not recipes I would want or be able to follow. The opposite is true - these recipes are ones I will try - even Flying Jacob, which Kristina swears is delicious, - ingredients of which combines chicken, bananas, bacon, peanuts, curry powder, cream and chili sauce. I'll let you know if I like it.
As I said, I don't read a lot of cook books, but I'll give this one a 4.0. I like the remarks the authors make about the recipes - where/who they're from, where/when they made/make them; especially David's remarks as I know or at least recognize some of the people/places he is referring to.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Cathrineholm Enamelware and Irish Oats

Have you ever heard of Cathrineholm Enamelware? When Denny and I were married in 1968, the 3-qt. pot on the left was a wedding gift from my brother Ron and his wife, Ruth. Ruthie was my new sister-in-law - they were married the month before we were. I already new enough about her to know she had chosen our wedding present with care and without regard to cost.
I liked the pot so much that when Denny's folks asked what I would like for Christmas that year I told them I would like a smaller one in the same black and white lotus design. They gave me the 1-qt. pot on the right. I've had this cookware almost 45 years and I still use it regularly.
When I started searching for more info about this enamelware, I mistakenly referred to it as Nordic ware, so it took awhile before I finally found it. Catherineholm enamel cookware comes in a range of colors and designs by Grete Prytz Kittleson. They are considered Scandinavian mid-century design classics and can be found for sale on eBay.  Catherineholm was produced near the town of Halden in Norway - probably where I got the idea it was Nordic ware. The company closed in 1970.
When I first thought about where (with whom) these two cherished pans should end up when I no longer need them, I thought I would give (bequeath) them to my niece Christine. It was her Mom who chose the first one for me. It seemed fitting, with her Scandinavian heritage, that the pots should go to her. But I've re-thought this and now believe they should stay with some of the Fleming's - most likely Kathryn since they are Cathrineholm cookware.

It turns out the 1-qt. pan was just right for me to try a new breakfast food - Irish oats, aka, steel cut oats. I had considered trying these for a long time, so when HyVee had them on sale I got a package. Steel cut oats take a whole lot longer to cook than regular rolled oatmeal. I only made a single serving (1/4 cup oats in 1-1/2 cups water) and cooked them for close to 40 minutes.

Compared to my usual instant oatmeal, that's a l-o-n-g time. But, oh my, they are worth it. The taste is nuttier, the texture is chewier, the calories are about the same, though the serving of the steel cut oats was larger. And while I could easily have eaten them without any sugar, I did stir a little brown sugar into them. I'm going to try a recipe for making them the night before which calls for frying the oats in butter for about three minutes before adding the water. After bringing them to a boil, you stir them, cover the pan, shut off the fire and leave them on the stove until morning. Then you only have to reheat the oatmeal and enjoy.

I remember when Mom wanted to try steel cut oats. She couldn't find them in her local grocery store and asked me to get her some. (I still lived in Des Moines.) I don't remember what she thought of them. I do know she cooked a pot of regular oatmeal for breakfast almost every morning. She only ate about a sauce dish of it and then spoon-fed the rest of it to her cats. She did like spoiling her pets.
I don't know if oatmeal is nutritionally good for cats, and whether or not steel cut oats are more nutritional than the instant kind, I do like the taste and texture better. So, I'm likely to continue cooking my Irish oats in my Norwegian pot and enjoying a healthy breakfast - just not feeding any leftovers to any cats.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Bookmarks - Physical, Not Virtual

I'm not collecting bookmarks, though I do have a good start on a collection if I ever want to purposely add to it. With the exception of the Weathervanes Over America one on the top left, these book markers have all been gifts. I purchased the sheep weathervane bookmark in the museum shop at historical New Harmony, Indiana. A brief legend about weathervanes is inside the card along with this notation: "This finely crafted bookmark depicts one of the many beautiful weathervanes made in America during the late 19th century. It, too, is finished in gold and will be a treasured memento of one of America's earliest art forms." I chose a sheep because it is my symbol in the Chinese Zodiac and as a remembrance of the flock of sheep I once had.
Five of these "markers for finding a place in a book" are gifts from friends, Gene & Kristina. They include the two handmade ribbons, beads, coiled wire and tassel ones to the far left and right and the solid brass with green tassels one in the middle atop my Grandma Lynam's glove box. It is from Harrod's Knightsbridge, London; made in Great Britain (A good book is the best of friends.). The two silver ones are also from them - Kokopelli, the hump-backed flute playing legend of Southwestern lore and the Godinger silver floral page corner bookmark.
The R and green fleur-de-lis in the middle is a gift from grandson, Zach. The R next to it came from Australia via classmate and friend Barb. It has chips of Australian Black Opal in it. Barb once worked in the opal mines and now heads the Lightning Ridge Historical Society. (You can watch a clip of her here.)
If I remember correctly it was granddaughter Alyssa who made the Irish (green, orange and white) yarn and heart bookmark for me, though I may be confusing that with the Irish potholders she made and it could be from one of the other grand kids. Of all these bookmarks there is only one I use - the Ochre Star one on the back right. Kari got that one for me at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Yes, it is just a 2" by 6" laminated photo, but it is the style of bookmark I favor. I am the person who uses one of those tear out magazine ads, ticket stubs, or any piece of paper as a bookmark. But when I look at all the different and beautiful bookmarks available, I know I could easily become a collector of them - add to the start I already have - but I'll resist.

Ode To A Bookmark

Oh little bookmark slim and slight
between the pages closed up tight.

When at last I douse my light
you guard my place all through the night.  

No matter where that place may be
I know you'll keep it just for me.

Then in the morn your squarish head
amidst the book above my head.

Oh little bookmark slim and slight
working, working through the night.

              Duncan Ball

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Of Pot Holders and Potsherds

When I was around nine or ten, my sis and I received a pot holder loom like this one for Christmas. Pot holder looms had been around since the depression, but by the 1950's they were seen as more of a 'toy' than something a housewife used.
 At first we squabbled over the loom. I might have a potholder started and Betty would take it over and spoil my design by weaving random colors. Or she might have started one and gotten bored - leaving me seething because I had dreamed up a new design I wanted to try.
Eventually Betty lost interest in making pot holders, but I did not. I loved trying new configurations and colors. The hardest part for me was squeezing in those last two or three loops and then taking the pot holder off the loom. I can remember Grandma Lynam helping me with that many times before I finally got the hang of it.
I made so many potholders I had an excess. I tried selling them to neighbors and relatives. Two for a quarter was my price. I don't remember selling very many, even though I started out thinking I was going to be rich.

Over the years, as hosiery styles changed, so did the loops for the potholders. The loops were made from the leftover waste cut from socks during the manufacturing process. I remember once buying a bag of nylon loops. They were easier to work with, but they sure didn't make good pot holders - they didn't keep the heat from coming through and burning your hand. They would also melt if a really hot pan was set on them.
These three pot holders are the last ones I have. I know my granddaughter, Alyssa, made the two orange, green and white ones. Those are the colors of the Irish flag. She knew I would appreciate having some Irish pot holders. I might have given her the loom - or one of the other grand kids. I know I no longer have it.

We were watching America Unearthed on H2 last week. They were searching for evidence of Norse giants on a farm in Minnesota. They didn't find any giant's bones, just a bunch of potsherds which are fragments of broken pottery.
Just as I've always wanted to find an arrowhead, I have dreamed of finding some significant pieces of potsherds. I think of some of the finds made by archaeologists and how exciting that must be - especially if you found a complete, unbroken, pot.

I do have a couple old pieces of pottery. The larger of these two was left in the basement of a house I once rented. I'm pretty sure it is Mexican pottery made for the tourist trade. I don't know how old it is, but I would guess it was from the 50's, 60's or earlier. I moved into that house in 1969. The former tenants did not feel it was valuable enough to keep.
The little pot was made in July, 1932. How do I know? Because on the bottom is incised, "Bicknell, Art 108, 7-28-32."  I think I bought it for a quarter at a garage sale. It's not Native American, but the shape, size, colors and age appealed to me.

Making potholders - an activity from my past. Finding potsherds - still in my future?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

"Eyes In The Back Of Her Head"

Until I became a mother myself, I never quite understood how my mom always knew when we kids were "up to something" - meaning doing or planning an activity she had forbidden - usually something that she considered dangerous or against her ideas of human decency. When asked how she knew, she would say, "Oh, I have eyes in the back of my head."
By the time I was in my teens, which I was when this picture of Mom, Dad and little brother, Leslie was taken prior to their attendance of the Centennial Parade in '57, I had refined my 'forbiddens' to include "what Mom doesn't know, can't be punished". I started developing being sneaky.

 In 1957 a new girl moved into the neighborhood and started school at Jasper #2 when I was in 8th grade there. I wrote in my diary on February 26th, "Elaine Sackett started to our school. 6th grade. Nice." Elaine and I became friends and continued our friendship even after I began high school. This picture of her is from one of my high school annuals. (Incidentally, Elaine and I now share the same last name as she married a distant cousin of mine.)

It was December. Mom had given me money to buy Christmas presents. In those days it was probably a five dollar bill. I had to put that with whatever I'd been able to save out of my allowance and stretch it to buy something for everyone in my family. It took some judicious spending.
There was a necklace at Dunham Rexall Drugstore that I wanted SO darn bad, but Mom had said I had to use the money to buy gifts for others; I could not spend anything on myself.

I ran into Elaine. She was also Christmas shopping so we joined forces and started going to all the stores, looking for ideas of what to buy. We got to Dunham's and I showed her the necklace I coveted and she showed me a Revlon lipstick she wanted. I hit upon the idea that we should exchange gifts. After all, Mom said I had to use my money to buy for others. That way I could buy Elaine a Christmas present and she would buy me the necklace I wanted as a gift from her. Perfect solution.

Until Mom saw the necklace and said, "I thought I told you not to spend any of that money on yourself!" "I didn't", I explained. "Elaine gave it to me, so I bought a lipstick to give to her." Mom smelled a rat. Somehow she knew I had come up with what I thought was the perfect plot to get what I wanted. Maybe it was the G-U-I-L-T written all over my face.
She told me to return the necklace and get my money back. Which no way did I want to do.

That lead me even further into my deception. The necklace was stamped 'pure copper' - easy to scratch "R. L. + K. B. on the back of it so it couldn't be returned. I showed it to Mom. "I can't return it", I said.
I have no idea now how she replied to that. I only remember she let me know how deeply disappointed she was with me. And that was one of the worst feelings in the world. I was ashamed of my selfishness, my deceit AND my conceit - thinking I could outsmart Mom.
It should go without saying that the necklace was spoiled for me. I did wear it some, but the joy of ownership had been blighted. I could not wear it without again feeling how I had let my Mom down.
It was one of those hard lessons to learn. Looking back I think it was one of the contributing factors to my dislike of Christmas.

Friday, January 11, 2013

"I Love A Parade"

My brother has been posting some pictures from my hometown's 1957 Centennial Parade which reminded me of other pictures my parents had taken. I know from my diary that year that my younger sister, who was still in grade school, helped build a float. But I didn't record whether or not she rode on it, nor what the theme of the float was.

Jasper #2 (our school) and Jasper #4 went together to build the float. I don't think it was either of these - I can't identify anyone in these two pictures. Maybe someone will recognize one of these students or a teacher?

Actually, I do not love parades. When I was in high school, the homecoming parades were always a big deal, of course, and working on building the class float was fun. But I lost my enthusiasm for watching parades long ago. I wonder if it has anything to do with wanting to be in the "Pet and Doll" parade when I was very young? I SO wanted to decorate my doll buggy and wheel it down main street with my dolls inside, but that never happened. I had to be content (not) with watching others parade their pets and dolls.

I've only been in two parades in my life - riding on the Class of 1961 50-year float in the September, 2011 homecoming parade (which was quite enjoyable) and .........

........ portraying my favorite Muppet character in the homecoming parade in '83. I had no idea it would be so much more fun to BE in a parade than to watch a parade. I had a blast waving, throwing candy, and having people wonder who was inside that costume. I guess there have been times when I loved a parade.

To quote the famous Miss Piggy: "There is the satisfaction of providing your public with a vision of true beautology, true stylisity - how can I put it? - true glamorisotude."

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Ideal Album - Forget Me Not

Now that I'm over the sciatica, I'm back to sorting through boxes and just as I predicted it does provide material for a blog. Pictured here are two autograph albums which belonged to one of my great-grandmothers, Katherine Mauderly (Ridnour). Eleven year old Kate, as she was known in later years, has signed her name in cursive Katie L. Mauderly. Great grandma was always referred to as Katherine but in one of the family bibles my Grandpa & Grandma Ridnour had, she was listed as Lydia Katherine Mauderly. So I don't know if her name was Lydia Katherine or Katherine Lydia.

The smaller book on the right is titled The Ideal Album. The first entry reads: "Miss Katie Moderly, (Underneath young Katie has written 'Miss Katie Mauderly' correcting the spelling of her name.) Please except (sic) this album as a reward for having the greatest number of head marks in spelling class.
I hope this may be an incentive to you, showing that those who are industrious and diligent will always receive their reward. Your Teacher, E. E. Coffin Oct. 27, 1883 Villisca, Iowa"

The album is divided with picture plates of the months. Above is April. Most of the entries are still very legible although a few have faded. They are mostly from classmates with the location of writing listed as 'Pleasant Hill', 'Pleasant Valley', and 'East Nodaway'. The Mauderly home was northeast of Nodaway about  three and a half miles. A few entries are labeled 'Brooks' which was about four and a half miles east of the Mauderly farm.
I've seen 'Pleasant Hill' as the heading for neighborhood news in the older issues of the Adams County Free Press and always wondered where it was located. Now I have an some idea - unless there was more than one 'Pleasant Hill'.

On the back of the April page is this inscription. I think it is written in German. The only words I can identify are Liebe (Love) and Freindschaft (Friendship) and the autographer, Arnold Wagner.

On the back of November is written: "I write not here for beauty, I write not here for fame. I write here to be remembered and Louisa is my name. Your sister, Louisa Mauderly"
Another of her sisters penned: "Remember well and bear in mind, a trusty friend is hard to find. And if you find one good and true, don't change the old one for the new." Also on the same page: "There is a little flower of sky blue tint and white that opens in the morning and goes to sleep at night. Would you know it if I told you 'tis a sweet Forget Me Not. Josephine Mauderly.

In the larger of the two albums is a longer version: "Dear Katie: There is a pretty little flower, of sky blue tint and white, that glitters in the sunshine and goes to sleep at night. Tis a token of remembrance and a pretty name it's got. Would you know it if I told you, Tis the sweet Forget Me Not. From your friend and schoolmate, Minnie Bowers. Remember me. At Home. Feb. 12, 1888 Pleasant Hill."
A Dr. Barkalow wrote in some lovely calligraphy from Pleasant Hill on 3-10/87: Katie, "May thy joys be as deep as the ocean. Thy sorrows as light as its foam." Yours Truly, D. G. Barkalow, M.D. East Nodaway, Iowa.
The first entry in this album dated March 9, 1888, Nodaway, Iowa, reads: "Sister Katie, Good girls love their brothers, but you so good have grown, that you love other girls' brothers as well as your own. (Rats for dinner.) Your Brother, Levi M."

We still had autograph albums when I was in school, though not as fancy as these two. It seemed like we tried to write things that were funny, like: "When you are old and cannot see; put on your glasses and think of me." And I know we were still writing Forget Me Not above our signatures.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Did I Hear The Owl Call My Name?

Back in the 70's there was a best selling book by Margaret Craven titled I Heard The Owl Call My Name. I had a copy. I thought the book was fantastic. It was the story of a young priest sent to minister to a native village in British Columbia, not knowing that he has a terminal illness.
The title of the book comes from a Kwakiutl belief that death is imminent when one hears the owl call one's name.

Early this morning I could hear a great-horned owl hooting from the big tree next door. I tried unsuccessfully to spot it by looking out the window. I went outside to try seeing it which is when I heard another owl in the tree across the street. Shortly after I took a picture of that owl (in the middle of the photo if you can spot it), the owl from the tree in back of us came swooping toward the one in this picture. This owl flew away and owl number one took over the tree.

In the meantime, a third owl was hooting from the distance toward the southeast. I never saw the third owl, but I did see the beautiful moon in its last quarter, shining away in the dark sky as the sun was turning the horizon pink.

I have long wondered why it is only during the cold months that I hear the owls hooting. It is true here and it was that way on the farm. The owls hardly ever came up around the buildings in the warm weather, but as soon as it got cold in the fall of the year I would begin hearing them almost every night. Are they searching for food? Does it have something to do with their nesting cycle?

Whatever the reason, I just love hearing them - and early this morning, seeing them.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

December (2012) Reading List

I read twelve books during the month of December, 2012. Pictured above are the seven read the latter part of the month. They helped me keep my sanity while I waited out my first (and hopefully only) bout of sciatica.
As mentioned November 30, I am no longer going to try to review the books I read - merely list them and give them a rating between one and five. So, here goes: (B-T-W, that bottom book is the notebook in which I'm keeping track of my reading.)
The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds by Alexander McCall Smith. I adore the Isabel Dalhousie series, but did not feel this book was up to the previous standards. I gave it a 3.5.
Hiss and Hers by M.C. Beaton. Rated 4 - You just have to love Agatha Raisin.
Porch Lights by Dorothea Benton Frank. This is another Sullivan's Island book. I always think of my friend, Ellen (Sullivan) when I read these books - also how much I would love to visit this island off the coast of Charleston, SC. I only gave this book a 2, though, again because I didn't think it was up to the standards of Frank's previous novels.
The Lost Book of Fragrances by M.J. Rose. A fascinating book about the ancient art of blending perfumes and the memories a fragrance can evoke. It made me want to find my old bottle of Coty Musk Oil. I rated this a 4. Wonder if the author's name was chosen as a nom de plume as in attar of rose?
The Good Dream by Donna Van Liere. 1950's Tennessee 'old maid' takes in an abused young boy to raise. I only gave this a 2.5 even though I see it is a 4.08 on Goodreads. I wonder if I missed something or was just not in the mood for this kind of book?
By Starlight by Dorothy Garlock. Another depression era romance by this former Iowan. This one set in a Montana speakeasy during prohibition. Rated 3. I enjoy all this 70-year-old's historical novels.
This Is How It Ends by Kathleen MacMahon. Give me a book set in Ireland and I'll read it. This Irish author spins a tale about a man going to Ireland to find his roots and finds love instead. Not a sappy, light romance novel, but one with a lot of substance. I find myself liking books that end with descriptions about what it is like to die - how they can be sad but uplifting at the same time. I gave it a 4.
Tigers In Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann (Herman Melville's great-great-great granddaughter) I thought I would like this because it was set during and after WWII, but it was kind of weird. Rated 2.5
Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan. A great 70's English spy novel whose protagonist is a secretary-cum-agent. 4.5 rating.
The Round House by Louise Erdrich. The only 5 out of this dozen. Erdrich is one of the finest writers there is - especially her Native American novels. This one tells the efforts of a 13-year-old rez boy to avenge a brutal attack made upon his mother.
The India Fan by Victoria Holt. I read many Holt period romances back in the day. She writes well and tells a good story. This one about the 1857 Indian Mutiny against the British Empire. Rated 2.5. You'll like it if you like Victorian England novels.
The English Breakfast Murders by Laura Childs. I read all of the Indigo Tea Shop Mysteries. I've come to know and like the main characters and even though the mysteries are all very formulaic, I love all the information about different teas and scones. Rated 2.5.

That's the December round-up. How do you feel about this listing of books as opposed to the way I was reviewing them a few at a time?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Not the Holidays I had Planned

Two weeks ago today I had a noticeable pain in my right hip bone - no big deal, I'd had pains like that many times. The next morning, the Sunday before Christmas, I awoke around five in excruciating pain in my right hip. It felt like my hip was on fire. After taking some naproxen and rubbing some topical pain relief on my back/hip, the pain subsided somewhat. I got online to try and figure out what could cause such a sudden onset of pain.
As nearly as I could self-diagnose, I had a case of sciatica. At first I didn't think that was what it was because my Dad used to complain of sciatica and he said the pain shot from his back all the way down through his leg. Mine didn't. It pretty much stayed in the hip area. I could get some relief during the day but each morning the pain was severe again. I could stay on my feet fifteen or twenty minutes and then it was back to the recliner.
Christmas Day was just another day for us, albeit one of pain for me. But our holiday get-togethers were scheduled for the weekend after Christmas, so I had hopes I'd be feeling better. From what I read online, the sciatica could last anywhere from one to two weeks.
One day I would feel better and the next morning I would feel worse again. Finally I made the decision to call the kids and tell them I wasn't going to be able to attend nor host our planned festivities. Bummer. Seeing the kids, grand kids and great grands are what matters to me. Luckily we had been with them all in November.
The sciatica finally went away the day after New Year's. I was able to go back to the Y Thursday and Friday and get back into my normal workout which includes five miles on the bike and a mile walk on the treadmill, plus some weights. Much as I dislike working out, it felt good to be back to my routine.
The worst part of any illness or any type of discombobulation for me is always the depression. I am not a patient patient. I don't do well with having to ask somebody for help - or even accept help freely given. For some reason I need to do everything for myself. When I can't, when I am faced with "What if I'm always going to feel like this?", I get depressed.
And each time I do pull out of it and start feeling better, I swear I'm going to do all those things I feel like I need to have done (cleaning, sorting, clearing out, designating bequests, etc.) before any final illness/disability does occur. The years haven't lessened my need to be in control, they've only made it stronger. I know this is an attitude I must adjust, but I'm not making any New Year's resolutions about it.