Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Deja Vu

Déjà Vu, Laura Hansen’s newest poetry book, published by Finishing Line Press made its debut August 2017. Even though it’s a small chapbook of poems, a wide breadth of subjects is covered. Laura pens observations that take the readers through everyday experiences such as place, water, the river, nature, family, relationships, aging and the power of solitude. Laura does not write so much from ideas as to capture sounds and images. As the title suggests these poems represent the stage in life where we are looking back but still moving forward. The poems were all written over the course of two years. And what an extraordinary and gratifying experience for Laura to have accumulated a whole new group of poems, submitted a manuscript and have it accepted and edited in a year’s time from the release of Midnight River, her previously published poetry book, a 2017 Midwest Book Awards Finalist.
Laura Hansen is a poet, writer and workshop leader. She has a passion for words that have won her many accolades in the literary world. Laura’s stellar resume includes other chapbooks: Diving the Drop-off, Why I Keep Rabbits, and Writing from the Milkhouse and A Week on Madeline Island; she has also written magazine articles and been published in regional literary journals, participated in poetry exhibitions and been interviewed on TV.

“Déjà Vu” made its first appearance in the form of a poem written by Laura. She felt it would be the perfect title for her new book as it sums up the feel and direction of the poetry collection. Placing the poem first in the book sets the tone. Right away the reader learns the poet has been writing for a long time and represents the flow and feel of the subsequent lyrical prose. The reference to the night sky in “Déjà Vu” harks back to the poem “Midnight River” in her previous poetry book Midnight River.

Each poem in Déjà Vu is carefully crafted with rich imagery and use of profound metaphors. There is a certain amount of quietness that pervades many of the poems. The poet’s inner reflections reveal keen observations of the world around her and relationships with others. She is skilled at combining ideas in unexpected ways as evidenced in the poem “Cup of Sky” with lines

A cup of sky before bed-
The scent of stars-a bowl of sleep
Heavy in her hands

Rosa Ring’s photo (posted as a writing challenge on Martin Lake Poetry Workshop Facebook page) inspired Laura to write “The Foragers”, a four stanza poem. In the third stanza Laura’s observing eyes discover an unexpected scene

The blackberries, wild, their leaves
misty green, were rushing over
the dried-up spillway, dashing
from stump to block to stone.
We pushed back our sleeves
And picked and picked.

The cover of Déjà Vu features Laura’s original oil painting titled “Prairie Storm.” Laura felt this was a good choice as the art work is somewhat impressionistic making it open to interpretation. A touch of purple found in the painting was expounded on by the layout team for the final cover design.

Laura’s final poem in her chapbook, “Desire, At Sixty,” brims with a snap, crackle and determination with its use of language letting the reader know this is where the writer is at this point in her life. It also reverts the reader back to the river and the water images that are so often used as focal points in Laura’s writing.

Laura hopes her poems propel readers into that aha moment-a realization that they are not alone in their feelings and may have had similar experiences. There is a calmness that comes from knowing that even though we dwell in solitude we are not alone.

Déjà Vu can be ordered from www.FinishingLinePress.com or by contacting Laura at riverpoet.hansen@gmail.com. It can be purchased locally at Great River Arts in Little Falls, The Shoppes of Little Falls, The Crossing Arts Alliance in Brainerd or Beagle Wolf Books in Park Rapids, MN. It is also available online at www.indiebound.org and www.amazon.com.

Book Launch and Reading 
Sunday, November 5th, 2017 2:00 to 4:00 PM 
Great River Arts Center, 122 First ST SE, Little Falls, MN
Free and open to the public. Refreshments. 
Books will be available there for purchase.
Book Signing
10 AM to 12 PM
Saturday, December 9th, 2017
The Crossing Arts Alliance
711 Laurel St., Brainerd, MN

Laura Hansen-Brainerd Writers Alliance Event October 31,2017

All Hallows Eve

Halloween Mummy Brats
The perfect fun festive early evening meal for your trick or treaters on  All Hallows Eve. The recipe idea comes from BHG.
Use one package of refrigerated bread sticks and stretch each dough strip to 12 inches and wrap around a jumbo frank or polish sausage. Use capers or olives for eyes. Bake at 375 degrees or until browned about 15 minutes.
Optional idea: Brush dough with melted butter and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Serve with mustard and ketchup.

For the big kids try Roasted Butternut Squash Medley. 
This is a sweet mixture of comforting healthy foods. It's a savory and slightly sweet side-dish easy enough for a weeknight meal, but fancy enough to accompany a special dinner.
Butternut squash is naturally sweet, so when roasted becomes slightly caramelized. To compliment this sweetness add a honey crisp apple, savory bacon, onions and pecans to add a nutty crunch. Glazing this medley with a bit of apple cider and brown sugar brings out the flavors and roasting with a bit of seasoning brings all the ingredients together. A yummy dish.  Recipe serves 4.
Cooking Tip: Larger grocery stores this time of the year have precut butternut squash cubes. Use as a time saver. 
Recipe adapted from delightfullymade.com 

  • 1-1/2 - 2 lb (1 medium squash) peeled and cubed into small pieces
  • 2 medium Honey Crisp apples, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup red onion, cut into small chunks
  • 1/2 c. pecans, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 c. apple cider (or apple juice)
  • 2 TB. brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp. dried parsley flakes
  • Sprinkle of Saigon cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. chili powder
  • 2 TB. fresh, chopped parsley 
  • 4 slices, thick-cut bacon, cut into thirds
  • Preheat oven to 425 and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone pad. 
  • In a large bowl, add the cubed squash, apple chunks, onions and pecans. Toss together. In a small bowl or measuring cup, stir together the apple cider and brown sugar until the sugar dissolves. Pour over the squash mixture and stir to coat.
  • Pour the squash mixture on to the prepared baking sheet and evenly disperse. Season with the salt, pepper,chili powder and parsley flakes. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the squash is fork-tender.
  • While squash is roasting fry bacon crispy, crumble and set aside on a paper towel.  
  • Remove squash mixture from oven, stir in bacon bits. Top with the chopped parsley if desired and serve right away.
 I'm ready for the trick or treaters. How about you? 

P.S. I thought this link to a USA article was interesting as they give the best town in each state for trick-or-treat. Maybe there still is time to reach that town.

Monday, October 30, 2017

The World According to Bella

An Eventful Week
A visit from Sadie and Luna can be exhausting. Since they had a long car ride to get to us they were like whirling tornadoes when the car door opened. They ran circles around the house, up and down the hill, back around the house, up and down the porch steps multiple  times. I was tired just watching them. So I just sat near the porch  watching Mr. C and Chris taking out the dock  
while Sadie and Luna watched from above barricaded by chairs so they wouldn't escape.  
Inside the house my toys got an extensive  workout.  Again I just sat there watching all the commotion but when Luna went for my favorite orange ball I made a bold move. I pushed her away and held into the ball with both my paws. I didn't care about the part Mrs. S's saying I needed to be polite and share. Enough was enough! 
We snacked on rawhide treats while Mr. C and Mrs. S had dinner with Chris and Jenny. Later it got real quiet and I noticed Sadie and Luna were sound asleep under the dining table.
The next day
Mrs. S spied several intruders. Three of them have made their permanent residence right near us in the woods. Unless I am out there running around trying to bark them out of the yard they are feasting any remaining leaf, flower, blossom,twig and shrub. This deer didn't seem a bit worried about Mrs. S as it just waved its tail and fled into the woods.  
 So perhaps you may be wondering where was I while this feasting was going on? Certainly not on yard patrol scaring intruders away. I was on the other side of the house staring at the lake wishing I had a boat to take a ride. I sighed when Mrs. S took the sign down

Day three brought a huge weather change. It was a winter wonderland.
I'm not sure if this weather was the reason but Mr. C and Mrs. S have been packing and cleaning for days. I was getting the idea we were leaving with this pile of stuff getting larger and larger. So I parked myself close by. I didn't want to be left behind. 
I won't miss the part being dressed in orange everyday and the warning about wolves nearby. But I will miss the lake and our neighbors. I hope our mail will follow us. I am  still waiting for something from Chunk. 

Life is better at the lake but I don't like to miss the treats at the dog park for the Halloween parade. I am happy to report Mrs. S has come to her senses. She is letting me go for the simple look this year-just my glow in the dark collar.    

Love, Bella

P.S. I'm told my stay in the cities won't be that long.  

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Some Saturday Favorites

Roasted Pears and Brussels Sprouts with Cranberries
Roasted pears lend their sweetness to earthy roasted Brussels sprouts in this quick essence-of-fall side dish. Add a sprinkle of cinnamon and some pop of tart cranberries to make this dish irresistible. Pair the side with roast turkey or baked ham. Recipe serves four. 
Recipe adapted from "The Seasoned Life" by Ayesha Curry

  • 2 large pears, cored and cut into 8 wedges each
  • 1 lb. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 1 cup red or sweet onion, cut in small wedges
  • 2 TB. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tsp. honey or maple syrup
  • 3 lemon wedges 
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries. 
  • sprinkle of Saigon cinnamon
  • Option 1/4 cup pistachios or walnuts

  • Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Line  a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone pad. In a large bowl toss the pear wedges and Brussels sprouts with the olive oil, pinch each of salt and pepper. 
  • Bake until the Brussels sprouts are golden brown have started to crisp and the pears have caramelized, about 25 minutes, stirring once halfway through cooking. Add in cranberries last 5 minutes of cooking time. 
  • Squeeze lemon wedges over the pan, drizzle with the honey and sprinkle of cinnamon.  Taste and season with more lemon and salt and pepper, Toss to mix and sprinkle nuts. Serve immediately.
Corn and Potato Chowder
Cook's notes:  A bowl of comfort food -perfect for a chilly wintery like weather. When you puree half of the roasted corn and potatoes it adds to the creaminess of the soup. Leave the other half of corn and potatoes for texture in the soup. 
Recipe adapted from BHG Special Interest Publication Best Comfort Foods 2011
  • 16 oz. package frozen whole kernel corn
  • 4 large red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 TB. olive oil
  • 1 cup diced sweet onion
  • 3/4 cup diced red pepper
  • 2 TB. flour
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tsp. dried marjoram, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • optional 1/4 tsp. cumin (kicks up the flavor) 
  • 1 cup half and half or light cream
  • 1-1/2 cups shredded white cheddar or yellow cheddar cheese
  • Thaw frozen corn and pat dry with paper towel.
  • Preheat oven to 4oo and line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, lightly greased
  • In a large Ziploc bag combine cubed potatoes with 1 TB. olive oil, seal and shake well to coat potatoes.
  • Spread half of the corn on one side of the baking sheet and potatoes on the other side.
  • Roast uncovered 10 minutes- stir but keep potatoes and corn separate-roast 10 minutes more and set pan aside.
  • Transfer 3/4 cup roasted corn to food processor with 1/2 cup of the roasted potatoes, blend until corn and potatoes are pureed. May have to add 1-2 TB. chicken broth to help blend the corn and potatoes in the food processor. 
  • In a 4 qt. pan heat 1 TB. olive oil, saute onions and red peppers until soft and golden. Add in flour and cook 1-2 minutes more. 
  • Add in the pureed corn/potato mixture and whole pieces of roasted corn and potatoes, stir 1 minute to blend.
  • Stir in broth, marjoram, salt, ginger, thyme to potato/corn mixture and bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer 15-20 minutes or until potatoes are tender 
  • Add in half and half and cheese by the handfuls. Cook uncovered and stir until heated through (do not boil) season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Optional adding in crabmeat or shrimp the last 10 minutes of cooking time.
  • Optional garnish soup with bacon bits and 2 TB. green onion.   
Halloween Candy Bar Wrappers- free templates from several sources


Thursday, October 26, 2017

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Maple Frosting

A favorite school rhyme
Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
Cook's Notes: Need a pumpkin fix? Here's the perfect treat to feed your craving. 
Moist with undertones of spice and so easy to put together with all your favorite fall flavors. Recipe makes 10 cupcakes Cooking tip do not over mix batter.
Cupcake Ingredients:
  • Cupcake liners
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. Saigon cinnamon or 2 tsp. regular cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice 
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 extra large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
Cupcake Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place cupcake liners in muffin pan. 
  • Sift dry ingredients and set aside.
  •  In a large bowl whisk oil, eggs, pumpkin and sugars.
  • Add the flour mixture to egg mixture. Whisk just until combined. 
  • Use a 1/4 measuring cup and place a heaping 1/4 cup into each cupcake liner. 
  • Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. 
  • Cool on a wire rack before frosting.
Maple Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:  
  • 3 oz. softened cream cheese 
  • 2 TB. softened butter
  • 1-1/2 TB. pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups powdered sugar 
  • Milk as needed
  • Optional; 1/4 tsp maple extract 
  • Heath Bits O'Brickle
  • In a mixing bowl beat cream cheese, butter, syrup, extract and powdered sugar.
  • Add in milk as needed for spreading consistency.   
  • Frost cupcakes and decorate sprinkling toffee bits on top.


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

What's Your Favorite?

Just in time for candy buying season, bulk candy dealer candystore.com broke down the most popular Halloween candy across all 50 states, based on sales data from 2007 to 2016 with a focus on the months leading up to Halloween. The online retailer sells Halloween candy to variety of customers, ranging from individual buyers to event planners to large businesses. By chronicling Halloween candy sales by the pound across the country, the candy dealer determined the top three choices in each state.

Candy corn is the most widespread favorite, as the top Halloween candy in Idaho, New Mexico, Michigan, Alabama, South Carolina and Rhode Island. M&M’s are beloved on both coasts, winning the top candy spot in California, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

It seems to me Americans have a love hate relationship with candy corn. In 2012  it was the top selling Halloween candy but the general public seems to voice an opinion it's the worst. According to the National Confectioners Association, more than 35 million pounds (or 9 billion pieces) of candy corn will be produced this year. 
Candy corn is one of the better-for-you candies of the Halloween season. It contains roughly 28 grams of sugar and only 140 calories per heaping handful -- and it's fat free.

Candy corn history dates back to the 1880's when the Philadelphia based Wunderlee Candy Company invented and manufactured this popular treat. In 1900 the Goelitz Candy Company, which later became the Jelly Belly Candy Company started making these candies and continues today. There are a variety of recipes found online that use candy corn as an ingredient. 
A Personal Note: My favorite Almond Joy. Most kids do not like them so I always had my students bring me their surplus. What's Your Favorite?

If you happen to have a bag of candy corn stashed away here are two sweet ideas. 
Candy Corn Turkeys
published in Quick Cooking November/December 2004 p. 17

  • 40 fudge stripped cookies
  • 1/4 cup chocolate frosting
  • 2 packages of chocolate covered cherries can substitute Rollo caramel candy or chocolate donut holes
  • 20 pieces of candy corn
  • Place 20 cookies on a flat surface, solid chocolate side down.
  • With frosting attach a chocolate covered cherry/Rollo or donut hole to the top of each base cookie.
  • Position another cookie perpendicular to each base cookie, attach with frosting.
  • With frosting attach one piece of candy corn to the front of the chocolate.
  • Let stand until set (I found putting turkey cookies in refrigerator for 45 minutes helped)
Owl Cookies
These cookies can also be made with your favorite peanut butter cookie recipe.

  • 1 tube refrigerated peanut butter cookie dough at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup of flour
  • 18 yellow candy coating disks (found baking section at Micheals or JoAnne stores) 
  • 18 semisweet chocolate chips
  • 9 pieces candy corn
  • canned frosting
  • In a large bowl beat cookie dough and flour until combined.
  • Set aside 4 -1/2 tsp. of dough for ears.
  • Drop dough by 1/4 cupfuls into nine mounds 2 inches apart on a parchment lined baking sheet. .
  • Coat the bottom of a glass with cooking spray
  • Flatten dough with glass rim to about 1/8 inch thickness shaping dough into a circle. 
  • Position two candy coating disks on each cookie for eyes.
  • Place a chocolate chip on each disk.
  • Use 1/4 tsp. of reserved dough to shape each ear-position on top of head.
  • Bake @ 350 for 8- 10 minutes.
  • Immediately position candy corn on each cookie for beak.
  • Cool 2 minutes before removing from baking sheet. 
  • Recipe makes 9 cookies.
Note: These were the original directions above but I had more success with the following:
immediately after taking cookies out of oven press candy disks into cookie for eyes and using a little frosting to attach chocolate chip to disk.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Cranberry Orange Nut Bread

Cranberry orange nut bread is a great loaf for late fall, early winter as cranberries, oranges, and walnuts are all in season. Buy an orange and squeeze it fresh to get the best juice for this recipe (grate the peel first). You can easily prep the cranberries by pulsing them a few times in the food processor, or manually cut them in half first, then do a rough chop.

I loved the cinnamony taste, with bursts of tart tangy cranberries and the added crunch of walnuts.  Since I used  lot of Saigon cinnamon (1 tablespoon) the loaf pictured is darker than the standard looking cranberry bread, it's all a matter of preference. 

The bread was so delicious. I was weak and unable to stop at only one piece.  
Recipe inspired by onceuponachef.com and makes one 9 x 5-inch loaf (about 10 slices)
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 2 tsp. grated orange zest, from one orange
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 6 TB. butter, melted
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. Saigon cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped coarse (see note)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts or pecans
  • Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray bottom of 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  • In a small bowl, whisk  together orange juice, orange zest, buttermilk, butter and egg. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda. Stir liquid ingredients into dry with rubber spatula until just moistened. Gently stir in cranberries and nuts. Do not overmix.
  • Scrape batter into prepared loaf pan and spread evenly with a rubber spatula. Bake for 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center of loaf comes out clean.
  • Cool loaf in pan for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack and cool at least one hour before serving.
  • Note: Cranberries are a bit tricky to chop because they roll all over the place. You can use a food processor if you like but I think it's easier to just cut each one in thirds with a sharp knife; it's only one cup so it doesn't take long. If you're using frozen cranberries, be sure to chop them while they're still frozen.
Still craving more cranberry recipes? Try some of these links to some previously posted recipes from Ever Ready.
Baked Camembert with Orange Cranberry Orange Relish

Monday, October 23, 2017

Chicken Enchiladas with Quick Coffee Ranchero Sauce

Start your week with a 
A savory recipe that's easy and quick. Use a rotisserie chicken as a timesaver. The sauce is sweet and smoky. The coffee gives the sauce depth of flavor. It's a meal the entire family will enjoy.  Pair the chicken enchiladas with boxed Spanish/Mexican rice and a fruit compote. 
The recipe was adapted from a publication called Real Food Fall 2017 distributed by Lunds & Byerys Grocery store. 
Cook's notes: I tested the dish with both flour and corn tortillas. I felt the corn added much more flavor to the dish. I  used 5 inch rather than 8 inch tortillas Mission brand. They  were advertised super soft but I still heated the tortillas in microwave covered with a damp paper towel for 20 seconds before filling them so they'd roll easier. A toothpick can also be used to secure each enchilada. Use a 13 x 9 pan if making 8 inch tortillas or a 9 x 9 pan for 5 inch tortillas. An oval baking dish works for this recipe too. 
  • 1 TB. olive oil
  • 1 cup each sweet onions, diced and mini red, yellow and orange peppers, diced
  • 8 corn or flour tortillas, 5 inch or 4-5 8 inch
  • 3 cups cooked chicken, diced
  • 1-1/2 cups shredded Mexican cheese, divided reserve 1/2 cup
  • 1 TB. parsley flakes
  • Optional chopped cilantro
Sauce Ingredients:
  • 1 can Fire Roasted diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 can (10 oz.) red enchilada sauce, mild or hot
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup brewed coffee, chilled
  • 1 TB. brown sugar
  • 1-2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • In a small fry pan saute onions and peppers in olive oil. Set aside.
  • Whisk all sauce ingredients in a bowl.
  • Warm tortillas in microwave 20 seconds.
  • Mix chopped chicken with sauteed onion and pepper mixture 
  • Place several tablespoons of sauce in bottom of a baking dish. 
  • For each tortilla layer the following: sauce, chicken, onion mixture and pepper mixture, handful of shredded cheese. 
  • Roll and secure with a toothpick if needed. Place in baking dish. Fit tortillas snugly together. 
  • Pour sauce over enchiladas, reserving 1/3 cup. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup cheese and 1 TB. parsley flakes.    
  • Bake uncovered 25 minutes. 
  • Top with your favorite Mexican toppings.
  • Use reserved sauce when heating up leftovers the next day.    


by John Updike

The month is amber
Gold, and brown.
Blue ghosts of smoke
Float through the town.

Great V's of geese
Honk overhead,
And maples turn
A fiery red.

Frost bites the lawn. 
The stars are slits
In black cat's eye
Before she spits.

At last, small witches,
Goblins, hags,
And pirates armed
With paper bags,

Their costumes hinged
On safety pins,
Go haunt a night
of pumpkins grins. 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Weekend Round-Up

Fall Favorites
Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure
This book will appeal to the historical fiction lovers and if you want to taste the city of Paris during the World War II era.

"The Paris Architect"is a story of an architect based in Paris during the World War II when Germans have occupied the city and were ordering the Jews out of the city. Like most gentiles in Nazi-occupied Paris, architect Lucien Bernard has little empathy for the Jews. So when a wealthy industrialist offers him a large sum of money to devise secret hiding places for Jews, Lucien struggles with the choice of risking his life for a cause he doesn’t really believe in. Ultimately he can’t resist the challenge and begins designing expertly concealed hiding spaces—behind a painting, within a column, or inside a drainpipe—detecting possibilities invisible to the average eye. But when one of his clever hiding spaces fails horribly and the immense suffering of Jews becomes incredibly personal, he can no longer deny reality. 

The theme of the book is centered around about how one stands up or stands against the Germans to be a human being.

"A Secret Sisterhood The Literary Friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, George Elliot and Virginia Woolf " by Emily Midorikawa, Emma Claire 
Sweeney and a forward by Margaret Atwood.
“A Secret Sisterhood” is a fascinating and entertaining read on the little studied subject of female literary friendships that early women writers had with friends. Most that is written is about Austen and Charlotte Bronte and shows them working in isolation (aside from the Bronte siblings); in fact they both had active friendships with other women both through correspondence and face to face, where they talked about their work. Eliot and Woolf have less of a reputation for loneliness, but still aren’t considered to be extroverts. But they, too, had their special friends with whom they could talk shop. 

It is split into four sections, covering each of the writers named in the subtitle and their relationship with a particular other female writer in their life. There is quoting from letters and diaries to give detail of these friendships, in addition it's a literary analysis of the writers. 

The friendships the authors the book chose to research cover a great span of literature and there is sure to be at least one pairing that will appeal to just about every reader: Jane Austen and Anne Sharp; Charlotte Bronte and Mary Taylor; George Eliot and Harriet Beecher Stowe; and Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf.

"Hillbilly Elegy" by J.D.Vance
This memoir is a personal history mixed with cultural and political analysis. It's the story of one man's experience living in the culture of Appalachia and placing his experience in the broader context of American society. "Hillbilly Elegy"demonstrates the full measure of the brokenness that wracks Appalachia, but it is also a story that exemplifies the depths of familial love and opportunity. It is an honest look at dysfunction that affects too many working class Americans. 

Vance grew up in southeastern Ohio and eastern Kentucky, largely raised by his grandmother (Mamaw) and having a complicated relationship with his family members.  The early chapters about family are compelling, but the last few chapters, touching on the cultural hurdles a hillbilly in a high class East Coast law school must overcome, are fascinating too. 

Vance shows us how many things the upper middle class takes for granted—how to dress for an interview, how to schmooze a prospective employer, how to strive for what you really want not what you’re supposed to want—are difficult for a young man from a poor background. While he portrays it as an institution in which he feels out of place (very few people from poor backgrounds go to Yale Law School), he also was afforded the opportunity to go there. That tension—the fact that he managed to "beat the odds" while still acknowledging the deep cultural divide between elite institutions and wide swaths of middle America (the region of the United States sometimes derisively referred to as "flyover country")—pervades the book and ultimately makes it such an important book 

Vance’s insights are noteworthy not only because of his family background but also because he shows us two Americas—one divided less by race or geography (though those certainly matter), but by class and values. There is a need for more books like "Hillbilly Elegy" that help build awareness of these cultural barriers.

Side Note:
Journalists wrote that the book was of specific importance during the 2016 United States presidential elections, as Vance compassionately describes the white underclass that fueled the campaign of Donald Trump and a resurgence of outsider politics.

"A Gentleman in Moscow" by Amor Towles
In the year 1922, Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov has been sentenced to House arrest at the famed Moscow Hotel Metropol. Once of the landed elite of Nizhy Novgorod, the Count must live out the rest of his days in one small hotel room. As the Bolsheviks have persevered following their revolution, no longer are there ruling classes in Russia, only comrades. It is under these conditions that Count Rostov has become a former person who can no longer step outside of the Metropol. Using this premise, Amor Towles has woven prose to create an enchanting story that makes up the Count's changed course of existence.

Over time, Count Rostov grew to call himself the luckiest man in Russia. This realization, however, occurs after he has been in the hotel Metropol for over thirty a years and forged close friendships with her staff and inhabitants.

What makes this novel a true work of historical fiction are Towles' apt descriptions of life occurring outside of the Metropol's walls. Stalin has taken control of the country, and Russians can either join the party, get shipped to Siberia, or otherwise be conveniently disposed of. Relations with the west are tenuous at best, but Towles relays these feelings in the Count's relations with American ambassador Richard Wilshire, who becomes a key figure in the novel. As long as one has friends within the party, which the Count manages to attain, even enemies like him can remain safe on a daily basis, even if it means living within the walls of a hotel.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Bring on the Cranberries

Well I missed the Wisconsin Cranberry Marsh Tour but I was in time for a cranberry sale at the grocery store. You know it's autumn when recipes call for fresh cranberries. Whether it's an old family recipe or a new one you want the freshest cranberries available. You want them as crisp and tangy as can be-like they came straight from the bog.

Cranberrieare an American native fruit and a favorite seasonal ingredient found in traditional holiday recipes. They were also a Native American staple. The berry helped Indians and colonists survive.
The nutritional power of the fruit cranberries are extremely high in antioxidants and are thought to help prevent heart disease. Iroquois and Chippewa used cranberries for an assortment of medicinal purposes.
Cranberry Trivia
  • There are small pockets of air inside cranberries that cause them to bounce. Air also makes the berries float in water. 
  • There are approximately 440 cranberries in one pound.
  • Cranberries are 90 % water.
  • Fresh cranberries can be frozen up to one year in an airtight container.
  • Wisconsin is the leading producer of cranberries. 
  • Cranberries do not grow in water but on low running vines in sandy bogs and marshes.
  • Americans consume 5,062,500 gallons of jellied cranberry sauce every holiday season. More than 94% of Thanksgiving dinners include some type of cranberry sauce.
  • Fresh cranberries stored in the refrigerator are usually good for up to 2 weeks otherwise freeze them. Cranberries last up to one year in the freezer. Buy cranberries in bulk when stores run specials and freeze for a later use. 
Cranberry Orange Pound Cake
Cook's notes: This moist cake is sure to be a crowd pleaser with bursts of tart cranberries and sweet orange icing. It shines as a brunch side or as a dessert for your holiday gatherings. The original recipe called for it being baked in 2 large loaf pans but I used a 13 x 9 pan. Recipe adapted from chefintraining.com
Cake Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup sugar mixed with 1 tsp. Saigon Cinnamon 
  • 2-1/2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup softened butter
  • 1-3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 TB. orange zest
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla 
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • 2-1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. Saigon cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk 
  • Optional 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
Orange Glaze Ingredients:
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 TB. orange juice or fresh juice an orange
  • 1 TB. orange zest
  • 1 TB. milk
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. softened butter
Cake Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13 x 9 pan or 2 loaf pans.
  • Mix 1/4 cup sugar with 1 tsp. Saigon cinnamon. Add in cranberries and coat with cinnamon sugar mixture. Set aside. 
  • In a large bowl cream butter, sugar, vanilla and orange zest for 3 minutes. Add in eggs one at a time. Beat well after each addition.
  • In a separate bowl combine dry ingredients. Use a mixer on low speed and add dry ingredients alternatively with the buttermilk to the butter/sugar/orange zest/egg mixture. 
  • Fold in sugared/cinnamon cranberries.
  • If using a 13 x 9 pan bake at 25 minutes or when center comes clean using a wooden skewer and cranberries have popped. If using loaf pans check at 40 minutes. 
  • Add glaze after cake is cooled.
Orange Glaze:
  • Use a whisk and blend ingredients until smooth. 

Meet Minnesota Author Barbara Saefke

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