Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Reading, Reading, Reading, Reviewing!

     I have to say: I love my job. I am an administrative assistant at an assisted living facility, and I love what I do. I work with great people (including the best boss EVAR!!!) and work for some truly wonderful seniors. I do however, have one issue with my job. I can't read there. I mean, I have to work. Not read. Well, we can't have it all, I suppose. On to the Reading List....

     We left off with me beginning Brenda Wineapple's White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson. The saddest thing, I think, is that the work Emily Dickinson left behind was 'edited' (many say butchered) by Mabel Loomis Todd before Higginson was able to arrange it in book form to present to the unsuspecting world. That being said, of the more than one hundred poems Dickinson personally sent Higginson, they survived intact, and thanks to Higginson's correspondence with Emily Dickinson, readers are able to read the very same words that so shocked, dazzled, and enlightened Thomas Wentworth Higginson, and forged a twenty-five year friendship that transcended literature,  place, politics, and time. 

     Next, Bernd Heinrich's Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds
 I was disappointed in this one. Some years ago I had read Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness by Lyanda Lynn Haupt, and loved it. (Really, if you like corvids as much as I do go check that one out.) I had expected this to be more of the same, just ravens, not crows (and yes, they are very different). Mind of the Raven is essentially the author's printed studies and the processes of those studies on ravens both in the wild and ones he has raised. While it was very well-written, I am not an ornithologist, and so was not very interested. (I did finish it, but with enough effort to deserve a medal.)

     Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture by

      Soulspace: Transform Your Home, Transform Your Life - Creating a Home That Is Free of Clutter, Full of Beauty, and Inspired by You by Xorin Balbes brings to mind a slimmed-down version of Sarah Ban Breathnach's Simple Abundance. It also bears a very slight relation to Radical Homemakers and Gardening at the Dragon's Gate in that Balbes encourages readers to make their home the center of their spiritual being. It is in our homes that we can find the center of who we are and who we wish to be. By working on our homes and creating a space that fits us, we will create a haven for ourselves, find inspiration, and grow. This was a great read, but as I rent an apartment and cannot paint my walls scarlet and vermilion and cut new windows, I think I'll save it to read again until I own a house.

     I am currently on page 18 of Peter Matthiessen's The Cloud Forest, and already love it. He's only in the Sargasso Sea currently, but the book is written as a travel journal, and the touches of humor he throws in amid observations and scientific notation are perfect.

     Whew, there's a review for you! That's what I get for not posting after each book I suppose. Happy reading, and I'll fill you in as Peter and I travel.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Henry's Kitchen: One Sheet Pan Parmesan Crusted Salmon with Roasted Broccoli (His Great-Gramma Ellie would be so proud!)

     One night a week my oldest son cooks dinner. My husband and I started this tradition a few years ago, realizing that if our children didn't learn to cook while they were teenagers living at home, they would wind up moving out and living off icky things like ramen noodles. In the beginning, my son and daughter would each pick a night, and through the summer would choose a recipe and give me a list of ingredients, and I would let them loose in the kitchen on their designated night. Once school began again in the fall, they were off the hook. Now that Henry is an adult college student, he doesn't get any breaks. Especially now that I know I can look forward to food like this every Tuesday.
Image result for One Sheet Pan Parmesan Crusted Salmon with Roasted Broccoli
One Sheet Pan Parmesan Crusted Salmon with Roasted Broccoli
Yield: 4 servings

  • 1 1/4 lbs broccoli crowns, stems cut and reserved for another use, florets chopped into bite size pieces
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Salmon
  • 4 (6 oz) skinless salmon fillets
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 tsp lemon juice (zest lemon first)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup slightly packed finely grated parmesan
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil 

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spray foil with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Place broccoli in a mound in center of baking sheet. Pour olive oil over broccoli along with garlic and toss to evenly coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste and spread near edges of baking sheet, leaving enough space in center to fit salmon fillets (note that if you like your broccoli more browned and roasted then let it roast for 5 minutes first then remove and spread to edges, this just gives it a head start. If you like it crisp tender and slightly roasted then no pre-roasting needed).
  • Season bottom of salmon with salt and pepper and place salmon in center of baking sheet, leaving about 3/4-inch between fillets so they can evenly cook. In a mixing bowl whisk together mayonnaise, lemon juice and garlic and brush about 1/2 Tbsp over each fillet. Season top with salt and pepper. In a mixing bowl whisk together parmesan, bread crumbs, parsley, lemon zest and thyme, then drizzle 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil into bowl and stir with a fork until evenly moistened. Spread parmesan mixture evenly over tops of salmon fillets. Bake in preheated oven until salmon fillets have cooked through, about 12 - 15 minutes (for a more golden crust you can broil during the last 1 - 2 minutes of baking if needed).
  • Recipe source: Cooking Classy

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