Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Listening to Books from ~

To bring you up to date on my recent excuses for not writing a blog, I'll begin by saying that I've spent the month of August dealing with a lot of pain and  I'm finding it difficult to make my mind cooperate in any kind of concentrated work. I was forced to go to bed and take pain medicine while waiting for the antibiotics to work on the infection. I tell you this to say that I lay quietly, moving as little as possible for days. And the result was that I spent some pleasant hours listening to books from on my iPod (a red one generously given to me by three of my grandsons, thank you very much).

I'm a big fan of John Buchan's hero Richard Hannay, and having read all the novels involving  this character, I wanted to hear them read. I loved them all over again. You may remember Buchan's first novel with Hannay titled "The Thirty-Nine Steps." There was a recent re-make by BBC which I loved, though many didn't. Richard Hannay also appeared in "Greenmantle," "Mr. Standfast," "The Three Hostages," and "The Island of Sheep." All of these books are adventures that have a steady energetic movement which carries you from one scene to the next smoothly and quickly. I love them! But let me warn you that if you don't enjoy books from a earlier time period, look them over before reading--or listening--as the case may be. I've just read a blog about John Buchan where the writer likes his books, but finds him too pro-war and at times inauthentic in regard to the characters.

Today I finished listening to over 26 hours of  "Wives and Daughters" by Elizabeth Gaskell. To my mind, it must be the most beautifully written novel in our language. I was attached to all the characters,  and all of them--especially the main characters--will remain in my heart. I will probably listen to "Cousin Phyllis" by the same author next, but it was written before "Wives & Daughters" and is much shorter and--from what I've read about it--isn't nearly so lovely. So I may simply wait awhile to get over  my disappointment at having the latest book end.
 I'm also looking at some Charles Dickens and books by the Bronte sisters. For now, it's hard to think of "supplanting" my latest novel even with such fascinating books. But since I must move on, one of these may be a good choice.   

I like murder mysteries by Agatha Christie, but have only listened to "The Pale Horse" because they have mostly been portrayed so well on Masterpiece Theatre. And I listened to one of P. D. James's mysteries: "The Skull Beneath the Skin," which I liked except for the ending--a very unsatisfactory one. I believe it was one of her earlier books, and I'll probably try one of her later ones. I decided to listen to it because the heroine is a young woman who inherits a detective agency which is her means of earning her living. Come to think of it,  these books were made into movies for BBC as well, and I remember that some of them are much better than the others. Not that there were a bunch, but there were several.
Another one of my favorite writers is Carol Drinkwater, who wrote several books about her olive farm. I only got one of her books from as I hadn't finished reading it and wanted to hear what she had to say in "Return to the Olive Farm." It's mostly an indictment of our stewardship of the we don't do a good job in preserving our sources of food even. The disappearance of bees, for instance, is one of her main worries. Our long-term use of pesticides has given humanity a kind of  "drinking the kool aid" scenario--slower, but just as sure. But does anyone listen? Not enough to stop what's happening to our food supply and water. Carol herself reads her books, and she's a lively narrator, so I enjoy listening to her. Her life has been--and still is--an interesting one, and she tells her stories with enthusiasm and humor.
I've listened to several other books from, but will stop talking about my list and hope you'll make one of your own. There is a world of books to be read and listened to which can make you think in a way you've never thought before. And books that will make you a better person! I hope we're all interested in becoming more, better, brighter, etc.  I'm so glad to have an iPod! It's even better than I thought it would be, and that's saying a lot. I don't think everyone is as audibly inclined as I am, but everyone might enjoy trying out this way of getting through a book. I love it!
Have a good weekend!


Monday, August 1, 2011

Carrot & Seed Salad ~

Good Monday morning! I'm still working on my novel, so that is taking most of my mental discipline for writing. I've written a little over 80,000 words, but I'm not so much adding to it as making it better. But I want to keep in touch with all of you, so when I found this recipe for what sounds like a delicious carrot salad, I decided to share it with you. It's out of the cookbook "Breakfast, Lunch, Tea" by Rose Carrarini of Rose Bakery, which is a restaurant in Paris, France. At the beginning of the book is Rose's passionate philosophy: "Life is improved by great food and great food can be achieved by everyone." The publisher, Phaidon, adds: "Simplicity, freshness and the ability to choose the right things to cook are the keys to success and, with Rose's guidance and recipes, perfection and pleasure are easily attainable." So I say that since it's so hot almost everywhere,  and in many areas very humid, it seems the perfect dish to add to an entre this summer. It's a very simple and easy recipe that I hope you'll enjoy making for your family.
About this particular salad, Rose says: "Any carrot salad has to be my favourite, but ever since the day when my assistant, Alice, suggested we use sunflower seeds as well as herbs, we have never looked back. I can't decide whether I prefer sunflower or pumpkin seeds, so the recipe gives both. Try either, and make up your own mind."
Serves 6

1 cup sunflower or pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon sunflower or canola oil (optional)
pinch of salt
8 medium carrots, grated
1 handful chopped chives

For the dressing:
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon superfine sugar
About 3 tablespoons sunflower oil or olive oil
Preheat the over to 350 degrees F, and, if you wish, mix the seeds with the oil.

Season the seeds with the salt, spread them evenly on a baking pan and bake for approximately
15 minutes till they are lightly roasted and crisp, turning frequently. Set aside to cool.

Place the carrots in a serving bowl.                                        

To make the dressing, whisk together the lemon juice, salt, pepper and sugar in a bowl, then
whisk in the oil. Check the seasoning--you may need more salt, sugar or lemon juice.

Pour the dressing over the carrots and mix well.

Sprinkle with the chives and the cooled seeds.

Have a wonderful week everybody! And stay cool!