Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Reading on a snowy day

Our Deck Yesterday Morning as seen by the camera on my iPad
January 5th, 2015
The days dwindle down
To a precious few,
September, November
And these few precious days
I'll spend with you
These golden days I'll spend with you.
--September Song, music by Kurt Weill, lyrics by Maxwell Anderson 
Click here to hear Sarah Vaughn's beautiful rendition of September Song.

We seem to have survived the major storm that was supposed to hit us and then sit on top of us for three days.  Things were different elsewhere, but here, thirteen miles from Paradise, we sat out the storm in comfort.  Well, I did.  Kevin got out at 5 a.m. to plow the local Conoco station's pumps and lot.  They liked his volunteer work so much last year that the owners gave him a gift certificate to our favorite restaurant.  This year, they engaged him in a semi-professional fashion, thanks to the good old barter system.  Yesterday, while he was busy at the station, the fellow from the bakery/cafĂ© next door, The Butcher's Nook, came over and asked if Kevin would plow his business out as well.  Later on in the day, I got a call from one of Kevin's fireman buddies, a fellow we had plowed out several times last year (note the royal, or is it editorial "we"), asking if Kevin could help him this year.  I gave him Kevin's cell number, and sure enough Kevin headed up into the mountains to plow out Ron's driveway.

We probably got around eight inches of snow from the storm, but then the temperature started climbing.  Each time I checked our weather station on the deck throughout the morning, the temperature was reading 32 degrees Fahrenheit.  It warmed up to 36 by late afternoon, and the snow was sliding off our metal roof in large sheets.  If we're snowed in today, it's because of all the white stuff that came down from the roof, not out of the sky.  And with the temperature above freezing, the snow was turning to heavy wet stuff--the kind of conditions that give you a heart attack when you attempt to shovel clear your sidewalks.  I'm thinking about that right now.

Turkey in the Hay, Oh, Turkey in the Snow
January 5th, 2015

For the most part, I stayed in and read all day.  Oh I washed dishes and thought about fixing dinner.  A friend had posted a great looking recipe for crock-pot Stroganoff on Facebook, and I said "That's what I'm making for supper!"  But the recipe called for Campbell's Golden Mushroom soup, which is not a staple in my pantry, so I called Kevin to ask him to bring some home.  Kevin doesn't eat mushrooms, and pays no attention to the various varieties of fungi out there, so of course he brought home Western Family Cream of Mushroom soup concentrate.  Not at all the same thing, and besides, that is a staple in the pantry.  We had also used up all the stew beef from the freezer, so there was nothing to put in the crock pot.  Kevin dutifully returned to the store (and more plowing) and brought home stew meat and Golden Mushroom soup, so guess what's going in the crock pot for supper tonight.

Librarything.com has a challenge for its members to read 75 books in a year's time.  I've never counted how many books I read, but this seemed like a fairly easy challenge for me.  I'm the guy who, even as a literature major in college, would spend my breaks reading.  My classmates would be comparing notes about their winter break activities:  travel, skiing, visiting relatives, going home, and I would share that I read this, that, and the other thing.  They were amazed because, after all, we were reading so much just for our classes.  Yes, I'd answer, which keeps me from reading the things I want.  The only time to catch up with my pleasure reading is over the break.  Now I'm retired.  It's all break time.  Why not see about reading 75 books during 2015.  It's all the easier with programs like bookbub.com which allows me to load up my Kindle for next to nothing.  Actually, I rarely pay for a Kindle book these days.  There are too many I find interesting being offered for free on bookbub.com.  But in the spirit of there being "no free lunch,"  I do feel a bit of a compulsion to write short reviews of each book I read.  After all, if the author is willing to forego any royalties to get his/her book out in front of people, the least I can do is give the work a plug--especially if I liked what I read.

Several years ago, 2007 to be exact, I saw a movie at the theater in Crescent City that really spoke to me.  Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman starred in a story about a couple of old farts refusing to "go gentle into that good night."  By now, you probably know that I'm speaking of The Bucket List, a movie I heartily recommend to everyone.  I fear that it will only speak to a certain audience.  Younger folk will probably watch it and say, "Huh???"  But for those of us who understand the lyrics of September Song, The Bucket List is a great example of how to live out the remainder of our lives.  In a similar way, Elaine Ambrose's Midlife Cabernet provides plenty of life lessons for the AARP crowd.  It was my first book for 2015, and I recommend it highly.  I know that my friend Carl will agree that there's never a bad reason to lift a glass of red.  I laughed most of the way through this light hearted look at "life, love and laughter after fifty," but was caught too in poignant memories as Ambrose spoke of that period when we become our parents' parent.

I finished my first book on Sunday, and Monday opened a new one on my Kindle, Mark Henrikson's Origins.  I don't read a lot of science fiction, these days, but still consider it one those genres I enjoy.  I even had the thought, back when I was a student of literature, of writing a critical history of the genre going back at least to Voltaire's 1752 work, MicromĂ©gas or Montesquieu's 1721 work, Lettres persanes, which I believe still fits the overall perview of the genre.  Whether we're talking Wells, or Verne, or Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke or Ray Bradbury, just to mention a few, Science Fiction at its best forces us to look at ourselves and our beliefs through new, alien as it were, eyes.  In Henrikson's book, three stories are being told simulataneously, all of which come together at the end.  It's a retelling of the story of Exodus, with modern connections, and was marvelous fun. It's also the first in a series of books by Henrikson, all of which retell history with a twist.  I can't wait to pick up the next book, set in ancient Rome.

Sourdough Whole Wheat Bread Fresh from the Oven
January 5th, 2015

I didn't spend all my day reading.  I grabbed the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking cookbook I picked up a Costco a while back, and decided to try my hand at their no-knead sourdough bread.  This involved getting out my stone-wheel grinder and grinding 1 1/2 cups of wheat berries, then mixing that up with sourdough starter, water and unbleached white bread flour, letting it sit for a while, then mixing in honey and salt, and letting it sit for a while.  Take the dough out of the bowl, fold it in thirds, fold it in thirds again, and let it sit for a while.  Repeat, twice more (no lathering though), and finally forming it into a boule and letting it sit for a while, in this case letting it rise inside the room temperature cast-iron dutch oven that I bought precisely for baking bread.   With all that time spent letting the dough sit, I got a lot of reading done, and the loaf didn't come out of the oven until almost 7 pm.  But Kevin loves bread fresh out of the oven, so we cut off a couple of slices and all I can say is that it's yummy.

I don't think it dropped below freezing last night, and this morning when I checked the temperature, it was at 36.  Still is, as of five minutes ago.  I had to take another photo of the deck, just for comparison purposes.  See if you can spot the difference after 24 hours of above freezing temperatures.  Now, as it's the Feast of the Epiphany, it's time to take down the Christmas decorations for another year.  Happy Three Kings Day, Y'all!

Our Deck
January 6, 2015

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