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Saturday, June 11, 2016

Summer Reading List: Review Time!

While I haven't been having a 'summer of leisure,' (what is that, exactly, anyway?) I have had ample opportunity to read. (Not having cable is an enormous help, I might add.) I also have every Saturday and Tuesday off, so amid family time and the usual round of chores and writing commitments and writing class I've been working my way through my list. A week or so ago I posted the Kick-Off, with Orchid Fever; today I have three others for you.

  This book was less about Gudrid the Far-Traveler herself, and more of the study of Viking-era Iceland, Greenland and North America, which I find fascinating, and so was not disappointed. More of Gudrid's life would have been a bonus, but we are talking the Viking era of exploration here. Much of her history is tied up in legend and saga, but what is known is that she crossed the Atlantic Ocean 7 times. 7. I haven't even crossed it once. She also made a pilgrimage to Rome in approximately 1025.
   The descriptions of Viking life-primarily a woman's life-was definitely the most engrossing aspect of this book (for me at least.) Discussions of weaving given by modern scholars, and the value of the cloth made by women, as well as the household products they made (cheese, ales, henwifery, etc.) have long been overshadowed by the image of the burly war-crazed horned-helmeted Viking warrior. Not that there isn't truth to that image, and I am a product of that heritage, but if the women weren't back in the home providing food and clothing for those men, Rome's history may have been very different.

   Oh, this book. I am not a huge Mary Shelley fan. Frankenstein is a great book, Maurice is pretty good as well, but that is all I have read of her work. I will read her History of a Six Weeks' Tour at some point, as a companion to her mother's Letters From Sweden; otherwise, I'm all set. Ironically, Mary Wollstonecraft's Letters From Sweden features several descriptions about her baby, Fanny (Imlay) Wollstonecraft. Her younger daughter's History of a Six Weeks' Tour was written after Mary decamped with the married Percy Shelley and her sister Claire Clairmont, abandoning the hapless Fanny to the rages of her resentful stepmother, her indifferent 'father' William Godwin, who had doted on Fanny as a small girl then professed disinterest and annoyance with her as she grew older (she was a 'burden' that he would not allow to leave home to go live with her mother's sisters in Ireland.)

   "She brooded alone over a missing letter from Aunt Everina, wondering whether Godwin had received and replied to it. If so, what had he said? What could they be plotting? At the back of her mind was always the sense of her diminished future, the life of school-teaching in Ireland which, as matters continued to deteriorate in Skinner St., Mrs. Godwin must often have told her to prepare for." ~pg 183  She probably would have been better off. As it were, she never had a chance to have her own life.
    A very interesting point is made concerning a gift the Shelley's bought Fanny while in Europe: "...he and Mary went into Geneva and bought a gold Swiss watch for Fanny back in London. It was an appropriate gift: in times of sudden poverty Shelley would part easily with his own gold watch; Fanny, in thrall to others [including Mary and Shelly, who were fond of her only when they wanted something from her, and who despised her for her lack of courage in not running from home when she was of no further use to them- NKP], was more in need of keeping time." ~pg 200
   Ultimately, Fanny Wollstonecraft was the sacrifice of a party of people who refused to recognize the value of the gentle, unassuming soul in their midst.

I love reading books about Arctic and Antarctic exploration of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. I don't know why. I live in New England and hate being cold. Therefore, it is most obvious that I will never ever visit either of those locations. I think the draw is the sheer bravery and bravado of the explorers, mostly men, though some few women experienced the dangers as well, such as Ada Blackjack in 1923. This book is a history of an expedition that was all wrong from the start. Organized by an egomaniac that had never been to Wrangel Island but had no hesitation in sending four young men in their twenties up to explore and claim it for Great Britain (it's a Russian territory, and was back then as well), underfunded and under-supplied, the explorers never stood a chance. Add to the mix a frightened woman who didn't quite understand what she was doing there and was unclear of cultural differences and it's a well-mixed recipe for disaster.  Ada Blackjack Johnson spent the remainder of her life trying to forget the nightmare she lived for two years on Wrangel Island.

I am currently working on White Heat: the Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson. It is slow-going, mostly because I'm taking notes every page. Thus far it is easy to see why they had such a strong friendship despite their differences. Her poetry was enigmatic and mysterious, while Higginson was of direct and straight-forward thought, yet they transmuted their vision onto each other, able to read and understand the truth of each other's thoughts within their writing.

Wednesday will see new updates to Lulu's Library, as school will be over for my Little Guy and he is going to sign up for our library's Summer Reading Program. He has informed me that he is going to read "all the Magic Tree House books." There are 55 of them. He has read 12 this year in school. We'll see how far we get! 

What are you reading? I'd love to know. Drop me a line. Happy reading everyone!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Ellie's Kitchen: Pan Roasted Chicken with Peach Blueberry Sauce

It's SUMMER!!!! Summer means lovely luscious fresh fruit!! I would be perfectly happy eating fruit for every meal, but my darling husband and sons would not appreciate that quite so much. So while at work today I was so terribly busy that I had plenty of time to scour the internet for something to jazz up tonight's chicken. Here you go:

Pan Roasted Chicken with Peach Blueberry Sauce Photo        I used chicken breast, and swapped basil for the tarragon, but otherwise didn't play around with it.

Pan Roasted Chicken with Peach Blueberry Sauce Recipe


For the Chicken:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons dried tarragon, or parisian bonnes herbes
  • salt and pepper, to taste
For the Peach Blueberry Sauce:
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 peaches, peeled, pit removed and diced
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • pinch sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt


For the Chicken:
  1. Heat oven to 350°F.
  2. In an oven proof skillet, heat olive oil over high heat until shimmering.
  3. Season chicken skin evenly with herbs and salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Place chicken thighs skin side down in skillet.
  5. Cook 10 minutes until skin is crisp and golden.
  6. Place pan in the preheated oven and bake 15 minutes until cooked through.
For the Sauce:
  1. Melt butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat.
  2. Add peaches and cook 3 minutes until they begin to soften.
  3. Add blueberries, cook another 2 minutes.
  4. Stir in sugar, tarragon and salt.
  5. Serve hot over chicken.
I served this with boiled baby potatoes, tossed with olive oil and herbs. My dinner took a little more time, obviously; about 7 minutes to brown the chicken on each side, then 30 minutes in the oven at 375 degrees. Mmmmmmmm

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Summer Reading List Kick-Off :)

   And it is Memorial Day weekend, which of course means we say "Thank you!" to all the soldiers and veterans that have served our country. My grandfather was a veteran of two wars, as are various uncles and cousins. It is also a day to enjoy all kinds of beach and barbecue fun with your family (unless you have to work all weekend, like I do. Literally. All. Weekend. Long. *sigh*)

   HOWEVER, as I only work until 4:00 every day, this leaves me with plenty of time to begin my assault on my Summer Reading List! Hooray! I began book #1 yesterday, and finished it this afternoon.

Orchid Fever by Eric Hansen

This had far less to do about orchids than I expected, and was really more about the insidious background of the orchid trade. I get that people have obsessions. Mine tend to lean toward first editions by Louisa May Alcott, but I doubt that I'd ever enact an armed raid on a bookstore to acquire one. Not so orchid researchers and breeders. Orchid Fever tells a tale of mayhem and misguided trades, lies, deceit, and all-around nastiness. It was a hell of an adventure, and I can see why Eric Hansen fears he has developed 'orchid fever.'

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Summer Reading List 2016

     It's time!! I have a list of 17 titles collected, all new-to-me, which is a bit of a deviation from the norm, as I usually revisit a couple old favorites over the summer. However, with so much out there begging to be read, I figured the favorites can wait for a while. I don't have any personal reviews of these yet (obviously) but I'll share a synopsis of each, taken from Are you ready to read with me this summer? If you choose to, feel free to leave comments and opinions. :)

Summer Reading List 2016 

Orchid Fever: A Horticultural Tale of Love, Lust, and Lunacy

 by Eric Hansen

 The acclaimed author of Motoring with Mohammed brings us a compelling adventure into the remarkable world of the orchid and the impossibly bizarre array of international characters who dedicte their lives to it.

The orchid is used for everything from medicine for elephants to an aphrodisiac ice cream. A Malaysian species can grow to weigh half a ton while a South American species fires miniature pollen darts at nectar-sucking bees. But the orchid is also the center of an illicit international business: one grower in Santa Barbara tends his plants while toting an Uzi, and a former collector has been in hiding for seven years after serving a jail sentence for smuggling thirty dollars worth of orchids into Britain. Deftly written and captivatingly researched, Orchid Fever is an endlessly enchanting and entertaining tour of an exotic world.

The Far Traveler: Voyages of a Viking Woman 

by Nancy Marie Brown

Five hundred years before Columbus, a Viking woman named Gudrid sailed off the edge of the known world. She landed in the New World and lived there for three years, giving birth to a baby before sailing home. Or so the Icelandic sagas say. Even after archaeologists found a Viking longhouse in Newfoundland, no one believed that the details of Gudrid’s story were true. Then, in 2001, a team of scientists discovered what may have been this pioneering woman’s last house, buried under a hay field in Iceland, just where the sagas suggested it could be. Joining scientists experimenting with cutting-edge technology and the latest archaeological techniques, and tracing Gudrid’s steps on land and in the sagas, Nancy Marie Brown reconstructs a life that spanned—and expanded—the bounds of the then-known world. She also sheds new light on the society that gave rise to a woman even more extraordinary than legend has painted her and illuminates the reasons for its collapse.

Death and the Maidens: Fanny Wollstoncraft and the Shelley Circle 

by Janet Todd

From the Romantic period's star circle, the story of its saddest casualty--Fanny Wollstonecraft, daughter of an original feminist, sister of a literary star, and hopeful object of a poet's affection, dead of suicide at the age of nineteen.
Little contemporary information was written about Fanny Wollstonecraft, whose mother Mary Wollstonecraft's scandalous life scarred Fanny's possibilities before she was even born. Deserted by her father, yet reared by Mary's husband William Godwin, Fanny barely had a chance to adjust when her mother died from giving birth to the legitimate and lovely Mary. Fanny was always considered the ungainly one, the plain one, the less intelligent one. Finally her imagination was sparked by the arrival of Percy Bysshe Shelley to the Godwin household. Her infatuation was quickly shattered when Shelley, like so many before him, chose the company of her sister instead, and though Fanny bore this rejection bravely, she was never quite the same after Mary and Shelley eloped along with her step-sister Claire--who would later track down and seduce Lord Byron.
Awash in a sea of sexual radicals, Fanny acted as personal assistant and go-between to this den of hedonists, shuttling information from one faction to the other, covering her sister's lies and creating fabrications of her own. She ultimately ended her life alone in a Welsh seaside hotel, an empty bottle of laudanum and an unsigned note by her side.
Janet Todd's meticulously researched and brilliantly told rendering of this life give fresh and fascinating insight to the Shelley-Byron world even as it draws Fanny out of the shadows of her mother's and sister's stunning careers.


White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson

 The first book to portray one of the most remarkable friendships in American letters, that of Emily Dickinson—recluse, poet—and Thomas Wentworth Higginson, minister, literary figure, active abolitionist.

Their friendship began in 1862. The Civil War was raging. Dickinson was thirty-one; Higginson, thirty-eight. A former pastor at the Free Church of Worcester, Massachusetts, he wrote often for the cultural magazine of the day, The Atlantic Monthly—on gymnastics, women’s rights, and slavery. His article “Letter to a Young Contributor” gave advice to readers who wanted to write for the magazine and offered tips on how to submit one’s work (“use black ink, good pens, white paper”).

Among the letters Higginson received in response was one scrawled in looping, difficult handwriting. Four poems were enclosed in a smaller envelope. He deciphered the scribble: “Are you too deeply occupied to say if my Verse is alive?”

Higginson read the poems. The writing was unique, uncategorizable. It was clear to him that this was “a wholly new and original poetic genius,” and the memory of that moment stayed with him when he wrote about it thirty years later.

Emily Dickinson’s question inaugurated one of the least likely correspondences in American letters—between a man who ran guns to Kansas, backed John Brown, and would soon command the first Union regiment of black soldiers, and the eremitic, elusive poet who cannily told him she did not cross her “Father’s ground to any House or town.”

For the next quarter century, until her death in 1886, Dickinson sent Higginson dazzling poems, almost one hundred of them—many of them her best. Their metrical forms were unusual, their punctuation unpredictable, their images elliptical, innovative, unsentimental. Poetry torn up by the roots, Higginson later said, that “gives the sudden transitions.”

Dickinson was a genius of the faux-naïf variety, reclusive to be sure but more savvy than one might imagine, more self-conscious and sly, and certainly aware of her outsize talent. “Dare you see a Soul at the ‘White Heat’?” she wondered. She dared, and he did.

In this shimmering, revelatory work, Brenda Wineapple re-creates the extraordinary, delicate friendship that led to the publication of Dickinson’s poetry. And though she and Higginson met face-to-face only twice (he had never met anyone “who drained my nerve power so much,” he said), their friendship reveals much about Dickinson, throwing light onto both the darkened door of the poet’s imagination and a corner of the noisy century that she and Colonel Higginson shared.

White Heat is about poetry, politics, and love; it is, as well, a story of seclusion and engagement, isolation and activism—and the way they were related—in the roiling America of the nineteenth century.

Ada Blackjack: A True Story of Survival in the Arctic


Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture


Mother Nature has shown her hand. Faced with climate change, dwindling resources, and species extinctions, most Americans understand the fundamental steps necessary to solve our global crises-drive less, consume less, increase self-reliance, buy locally, eat locally, rebuild our local communities. In essence, the great work we face requires rekindling the home fires.

Radical Homemakers is about men and women across the U.S. who focus on home and hearth as a political and ecological act, and who have centered their lives around family and community for personal fulfillment and cultural change. It explores what domesticity looks like in an era that has benefited from feminism, where domination and oppression are cast aside and where the choice to stay home is no longer equated with mind-numbing drudgery, economic insecurity, or relentless servitude.

Radical Homemakers nationwide speak about empowerment, transformation, happiness, and casting aside the pressures of a consumer culture to live in a world where money loses its power to relationships, independent thought, and creativity. If you ever considered quitting a job to plant tomatoes, read to a child, pursue creative work, can green beans and heal the planet, this is your book.

Gardening at the Dragon's Gate: At Work in the Wild and Cultivated World


 Gardening at the Dragon’s Gate is fundamental work that permeates your entire life. It demands your energy and heart, and it gives you back great treasures as well, like a fortified sense of humor, an appreciation for paradox, and a huge harvest of Dinosaur kale and tiny red potatoes.

For more than thirty years, Wendy Johnson has been meditating and gardening at the Green Gulch Farm Zen Center in northern California, where the fields curve like an enormous green dragon between the hills and the ocean. Renowned for its pioneering role in California’s food revolution, Green Gulch provides choice produce to farmers’ markets and to San Francisco’s Greens restaurant. Now Johnson has distilled her lifetime of experience into this extraordinary celebration of inner and outer growth, showing how the garden cultivates the gardener even as she digs beds, heaps up compost, plants flowers and fruit trees, and harvests bushels of organic vegetables.

Johnson is a hands-on, on-her-knees gardener, and she shares with the reader a wealth of practical knowledge and fascinating garden lore. But she is also a lover of the untamed and weedy, and she evokes through her exquisite prose an abiding appreciation for the earth—both cultivated and forever wild—in a book sure to earn a place in the great tradition of American nature writing.


Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds

In Mind of the Raven, Bernd Heinrich, award - winning naturalist, finds himself dreaming of ravens and decides he must get to the truth about this animal reputed to be so intelligent.

Much like a sleuth, Heinrich involves us in his quest, letting one clue lead to the next. But as animals can only be spied on by getting quite close Heinrich adopts ravens, thereby becoming a "raven father," as well as observing them in their natural habitat, studying their daily routines, and in the process painting a vivid picture of the world as lived by the ravens. At the heart of this book are Heinrich's love and respect for these complex and engaging creatures, and through his keen observation and analysis, we become their intimates too.

Throughout history there has existed an extraordinary relationship between humans and ravens. Ravens, like early humans, are scavengers on the kills of great carnivores. As scavengers, ravens were associated with hunters they found in the north: wolves and, later, men. The trinity of wolf, man, and raven in the hunt is an extremely ancient one. In considering the appeal of the raven, Bernd Heinrich suspects that a meeting of the minds might reside in that hunting trinity.

Heinrich's passion for ravens has led him around the world in his research. Mind of the Raven takes you on an exotic journey--from New England to Germany, Montana to Baffin Island in the high Arctic--offering dazzling accounts of how science works in the field, filtered through the eyes of a passionate observer of nature.

Heinrich has a true gift; through his stories, his beautiful writing, illustrations, and photography, the ravens come alive. Each new discovery and insight into their behavior is thrilling to read. just as the title promises, the reader is given a rare glimpse into the mind of these wonderful creatures.Following the dictum of Leonardo da Vinci--"It is not enough to believe what you see. YOU Must also understand what you see"--Bernd Heinrich enables us to see the natural world through the eyes of a scientist. At once lyrical and scientific, Mind of the Raven is bound to be a modern classic.



The Whale Warriors: The Battle at the Bottom of the World to Save the Planet's Largest Mammals


The Cloud Forest: A Chronicle of the South American Wilderness

A classic work of nature and humanity, by renowned writer Peter Matthiessen (1927-2014), author of the National Book Award-winning The Snow Leopard and the new novel In Paradise

Peter Matthiessen crisscrossed 20,000 miles of the South American wilderness, from the Amazon rain forests to Machu Picchu, high in the Andes, down to Tierra del Fuego and back. He followed the trails of old explorers, encountered river bandits, wild tribesmen, and the evidence of ancient ruins, and discovered fossils in the depths of the Peruvian jungle. Filled with observations and descriptions of the people and the fading wildlife of this vast world to the south, The Cloud Forest is his incisive, wry report of his expedition into some of the last and most exotic wild terrains in the world.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.


Solo: On Her Own Adventure

Soulspace: Transform Your Home, Transform Your Life - Creating a Home That Is Free of Clutter, Full of Beauty, and Inspired by You 
Lauded designer and architectural conservator Xorin Balbes created the eight-stage SoulSpace transformation process to help his clients create a living space that feels like a haven and reflects, inspires, and celebrates what is essential about their inhabitants. Through the stages - assess, release, cleanse, dream, discover, create, elevate, and celebrate - readers explore not only the design of their living spaces but also their own interiors: the ways they think, feel, and sense.

Mycophilia: Revelations from the Weird World of Mushrooms

An incredibly versatile cooking ingredient containing an abundance of vitamins, minerals, and possibly
cancer-fighting properties, mushrooms are among the most expensive and sought-after foods on the
planet. Yet when it comes to fungi, culinary uses are only the tip of the iceberg. Throughout history fungus has been prized for its diverse properties—medicinal, ecological, even recreational—and has
spawned its own quirky subculture dedicated to exploring the weird biology and celebrating the unique role it plays on earth. In Mycophilia, accomplished food writer and cookbook author Eugenia Bone examines the role of fungi as exotic delicacy, curative, poison, and hallucinogen, and ultimately discovers that a greater understanding of fungi is key to facing many challenges of the 21st century.

Engrossing, surprising, and packed with up-to-date science and cultural exploration, Mycophilia is part narrative and part primer for foodies, science buffs, environmental advocates, and anyone interested in learning a lot about one of the least understood and most curious organisms in nature.




The Poetry of Robert Frost (Collected Poems, Complete & Unabridged)

 The only comprehensive gathering of Frost's published poetry, this affordable volume offers the entire contents of his eleven books of verse, from A Boy's Will (1913) to In the Clearing (1962). Frost scholar Lathem, who was also a close friend of the four-time Pulitzer Prize-winner, scrupulously annotated the 350-plus poems in this collection, which has been the standard edition of Frost's work since it first appeared in 1969.
Forbidden Journeys: Fairy Tales and Fantasies by Victorian Women Writers 



The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories


An unparalleled selection of fiction from H. P. Lovecraft, master of the American horror tale

Long after his death, H. P. Lovecraft continues to enthrall readers with his gripping tales of madness and cosmic terror, and his effect on modern horror fiction continues to be felt--Stephen King, Anne Rice, and Clive Barker have acknowledged his influence. His unique contribution to American literature was a melding of Poe's traditional supernaturalism with the emerging genre of science fiction. Originally appearing in pulp magazines like Weird Tales in the 1920s and 1930s, Lovecraft's work is now being regarded as the most important supernatural fiction of the twentieth century.

Lovecraft's biographer and preeminent interpreter, S. T. Joshi, has prepared this volume of eighteen stories--from the early classics like "The Outsider" and "Rats in the Wall" to his mature masterworks, "The Call of Cthulhu" and "The Shadow over Innsmouth." The first paperback to include the definitive corrected texts, The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories reveals the development of Lovecraft's mesmerizing narrative style, and establishes him as a canonical--and visionary--American writer.

"I think it is beyond doubt that H. P. Lovecraft has yet to be surpassed as the twentieth century's greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale." --Stephen King

Dagon (1919)
The Statement of Randolph Carter (1920)
Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family (1921)
Celephaïs (1922)
Nyarlathotep (1920) poem
The Picture in the House (1924)
The Outsider (1921)
Herbert West--Reanimator (1922)
The Hound (1924)
The Rats in the Walls (1924)
The Festival (1923)
He (1926)
Cool Air (1928)
The Call of Cthulhu (1928)
The Colour Out of Space (1927)
The Whisperer in Darkness (1931)
The Shadow over Innsmouth (1936)
The Haunter of the Dark (1936)     




The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrún


Myddfai Reiki: A Bedtime Meditation For Kids

I found this on MindBodyGreen, and my Little Bit loved it. Here you are:

A Bedtime Meditation For Kids So Good You'll Do It Too

A Bedtime Meditation For Kids So Good You'll Do It Too Hero Image
Photo: iStock

If you're like many parents, you've probably found yourself in a situation where your little one is anxious about their day or worried about something from their imagination—and you have no idea how to find the “right” answer for them. You wish you had something to take away all their worries.
I've been there many times with my now 6-year-old daughter. I'm astounded by the weight of her worries some days. As a certified yoga teacher for kids, I believe the best thing we can do for our children is to equip them with mindful tools to manage all that life will undoubtedly send their way.
So I created a meditation and visualization practice based on common breathing methods to use with my little one at night. Together, we help ease her mind by sending those troubles to the moon in a balloon. Here's how to practice it with your own child:

Bedtime Balloons: A Calming Meditation

Snuggle into your bed and lie on your back.
Place your hands on your belly and close your eyes. Pretend your belly is a balloon.
As you breathe in, feel your belly balloon filling your hands. As you breathe out, feel the air leaving your belly balloon.
Repeat a few times, filling and emptying your balloon.
On your next inhalation, fill your balloon with any worries or wishes you may have from the day. As you exhale, send that balloon up into the night sky.
Repeat this process with every breath.
Fill the balloons with every wish or worry, then send them up into the sky on each exhalation. In your mind's eye, watch the sky fill with your balloons.
Notice the details of your balloons. How big are they? What color are they? How do they move as they float up into the stars?
Notice how the balloons float farther and farther away, until they disappear.
As always, have fun with this visualization and let your kids build on it or create their own. Keep in mind that they can fill their balloons with not only their worries but their wishes, too. My daughter started doing this on her own, and it warmed my heart when I heard her fill balloons with wishes for her friends.
May there be more wishes than worries as you practice this with your little ones.
Related reads:
This is perfect to team up with Good Night Yoga by  Mariam Gates.

Good Night Yoga: A Pose-by-Pose Bedtime Story

Friday, May 13, 2016

Ellie's Kitchen: Red Wine Pasta with Roasted Asparagus and Asiago

I love fabulous dinners that are on the table in 15 minutes. Sadly, I don't know too many. I have a repertoire of several good dinners that take 15 minutes or so, but the nearly-gourmet ones, not so much. (For that you need to talk to my sister. She's a chef. I make her make me food. Often.) However dinners like last nights both look and taste fabulous, and come together so quickly you barely have time to set the table. Here's my take on Rachael Ray's 'Red Wine Linguine':

Red Wine Pasta with Roasted Asparagus and Asiago 

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/4 cup EVOO
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2/3 cup shredded Asiago
  • 1 lb asparagus, ends cut, and cut in 1/2
  • You will also need to save 1/3 cup of the cooking liquid before you drain the pasta
       Heat oven to 400; toss cut asparagus with a drizzle of olive oil, sea salt and pepper. Roast asparagus for about 10 minutes (This is about how long the pasta will take.) 
     Cook pasta in 2 cups red wine, salt and 4 cups water for 9 minutes; drain, reserving 1/3 cup of cooking liquid. Combine EVOO and lemon juice; toss with pasta and half of Asiago. Top with the roasted asparagus and the rest of the Asiago.
My whole household cleared their plates last night, even the six year old and the two year old. Yum yum yum :) 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Myddfai Reiki: It's tea time!

     I must make a confession. I love tea. I don't just 'love' tea like people 'love' their salt and pepper shaker collection or they 'love' alphabetizing their sock brands in the drawer, I LOVE tea. Not much of a coffee fan, but my average day sees me drinking close to ten cups of tea. This is a horrific amount, yes. Or it would be if all I drank was black tea. I do not, however. Herbal teas are among some of my favorites, and this year I'm planting chamomile and lavender in my garden, along with the mint and strawberries that are already there. I'm going to make my own tea!!!! (Later today Little Bit and I are making lemon goat cheese. I'm getting all homestead-y here. I'll let you know how that goes.)

     I find that when I'm feeling really stressful, or headachy, or just out of sorts, a mug of hot tea, or, depending on the day, a glass of iced tea will bring me back to center, giving me a few stolen moments to find myself and my focus, and propel me forward through the rest of the day. (Admittedly, sometimes this requires a refill or two, but who's counting?) People have known for centuries that various herbal teas can treat a collection of ailments, and while I'm all for treating oneself as much as possible, do remember that recurring symptoms may require professional treatment. In the meantime, if you're as enamored of tea as I am, please enjoy the following, posted from

The Best Teas for Your Health Problem

 By: Michelle Schoffro Cook

  • May 10, 2016
Recently I participated in a guided meditation in which I was advised to visualize myself doing something that makes me happy. At the end of the meditation the woman leading it asked what I had envisioned. I visualized my husband Curtis and I taking our daily tea break. Between writing books and blogs, conducting magazine interviews, and the day to day challenges of life, our tea break provides me with the peace and calm I look forward to every day.
What could be better than a respite from the busy-ness of daily life to enjoy tea with someone special: perhaps if that tea offered therapeutic value in addition to its soothing qualities? To that end I’d like to share some of my favorite teas that are both delightful and offer medicinal benefits so you can pick the best teas for your health problems.

Allergies—Drink a cup of nettles to reduce allergies and allergy symptoms such as nasal and sinus congestion, sneezing and itchy eyes. Research published in the medical journal Phytotherapy Research found that nettles were effective against symptoms of seasonal allergies.

Anxiety or Depression—Select lavender flowers to reap the rewards of this fragrant plant’s natural mood-boosting and calming effects. In a recent study comparing the effects of a medication for depression to drinking tea made from lavender flowers, scientists found that lavender was slightly more effective than the antidepressant drug. Study participants drank two cups of lavender tea daily to reap these effects.

Coughs or Viruses—If you’re suffering from a persistent cough or fighting off a virus, then it’s thyme for tea. The herb is highly antiviral and arguably the best herbal remedy for coughs, applications that are even approved by the German government as medical treatments for these conditions.

Migraines and headaches—Choose feverfew, a proven migraine and headache remedy. You probably won’t notice immediate migraine relief but consumed on a daily basis for at least a month and you’ll likely experience a reduction in the frequency of your migraines.

Muscle or joint pain—Choose ginger tea made with fresh ginger root. Ginger contains a unique compound known as gingerols that are proven pain relievers. According to research published in the Journal of Pain, ginger was found to alleviate muscle pain. Other studies demonstrate its effectiveness against joint pain as well. To reap the most benefits, you’ll want to make this tea differently than the others. Boil a 2 inch piece of ginger, coarsely chopped in about cups of water for about 45 minutes, then strain and drink as desired throughout the day.

How to Make Herbal Teas
Use one teaspoon of the dried herb per cup of boiled water (or two teaspoons of the fresh herb). Let steep for at least 10 minutes then drink two to three cups daily for best results. Because ginger is a root, the medicinal properties are best extracted by making a decoction, which involves boiling the herb for at least 45 minutes.