Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Reader in Search of a Book

Did you hear the drum roll when you opened this blog? (Not really, just a metaphorical drum roll!) Well, that was in recognition of my 200th blog entry!

That's right--200 blog entries.


Do you remember that play Six Characters in Search of an Author? Well, I have a variation on that title—I am a reader in search of a book.

Today, I just finished reading
Memoirs of a Geisha, and now I am roaming the house looking for my next book to read. That search should prove fruitful as we have at least 500 books in the house! Many of them I have already read, but there are a few I bought and squirreled away for future reading. It’s just a matter of my deciding what kind of a reading mood I am in.

Memoirs of a Geisha is an unusual book. Set in Kyoto, Japan, just before the start of World War II, and then continuing into the 1960s or thereabouts, the novel gives you a glimpse into the highly ritualized stylized world of old-style geishas. The plot line of the novel is frequently chatty, shimmering on the surface. I found myself interested but not really invested on the lives of the characters. Thankfully, the novel was a quick read—contrast that to Simon Winchester’s
A Crack at the Edge of the World, about the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Winchester is my kind of author, though I tend to be exhausted after reading one of his works.

So, now what do I want? Do I want something meaty? Something that will stir my blood? Or a good mystery read that engages my brain? Or a wonderful friendly novel that puts me in the mood for a cup of tea? What to choose, what to choose?

Watch the right hand side to see what I am currently reading, and you will know what I chose.

That’s all for now, dear blog friends. The semester is winding down, and in one week I will get some 40 research papers to read. And in a week after that, I will have the final exams to grade. THEN, and only then, I will be able to give you the sequels on some of the people you met from my classes—e.g. Ms. Mac Cheese.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Africa Reprise

When I made my trip to Ghana in November 2006, I was filled with anticipation--returning to Africa after a 45+ year absence, seeing our daughter, experiencing another culture.

Upon my return, I wrote a number of blogs on my observations. I was looking back over these blogs recently, and was struck with the dearth of comments. Now, truthfully, I don't write for the comments, but there is a sense that the number of comments is an indication of readership. Since a fair number of comments on my Back to Africa blog indicated an interest in reading my observations on my Ghana trip, I will have to be clever and reprise the information.

So, here goes.

First, as my brother has pointed out in several of his comments, West Africa is NOT south central Africa. I grew up in what was then Northern and Southern Rhodesia (now Zambia and Zimbabwe). These countries are definitely sub-tropical and have distinct southern hemisphere climates. Then too the people in Zambia and Zimbabwe have different tribal origins than the people in West Africa. West Africa probably is the source for most of the slaves who were forcibly brought to the New World. Southern Africa, while it had its tribal wars (I am thinking of someone like Shaka Zulu who re-wrote the rules of warfare in his day), it did not see the level of slave trade West Africa experienced.

When I went to Accra, Ghana, November a year ago, I had immediate first impressions. I had never seen a city with such an incredible level of street vendors, for example. They were everywhere.

The state of transportation left much to be desired in Accra. While there were many taxis, few of them seemed road-worthy. My daughter, who had gone to Ghana in September, 2006, rode some of the tro-tros (see my linked blog) but before she left in December, she decided NO MORE tro-tros. In fact, there had been some fatal accidents involving tro-tros. Of course, transporation in some countries around the world does require a spirit of adventure.

My daughter and I had a couple of priceless experiences during my visit. She had her own priceless experiences that helped demonstrate what the two of us experienced was by no means unique.

As we traveled around Accra, I was struck with the contrasts everywhere. Development side by side with ramshackle structures. Elements that reminded me of my youth in the Rhodesias--dirt roads, for example--side by side with superhighways.

Of course, I came home with an armful of purchases, many of them coming from the Accra Cultural Center.

So, now that I have had a year to contemplate the trip to Ghana--what do I think. Perhaps an obvious result is that I tend to pay close attention news from Ghana. I have encountered Africans from time to time, and try to elicit from them from which country they have come.

The first question many Ghanaians asked me was--how do you like Ghana? And that was always followed quickly by the second question--so when will you come back to Ghana?

The truth is I was much taken with Ghanaians--in general, all the people I met were warm, engaging and friendly. I was much less struck by the country itself--located very near the equator, the country does not have the breaktaking beauty of Zimbabwe.

So, rather than return to Africa, my next trip will be with my husband--this time to the place our daughter is living now--London.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

That was then. . .

(This post is in lieu of a Saturday soup)

. . .this is now.

Since I spent Thanksgiving last year in Africa with my daughter, and this year with our son in Pittsburgh, I can’t help but compare a little these two Thanksgiving experiences.

Thanksgiving is that quintessential American holiday. Admittedly, Canada celebrates Thanksgiving, but in October. So, when I went to Africa last year, I was taking advantage of the long weekend; I was not really going for Thanksgiving in Ghana.

My daughter Kristen and I did have a Thanksgiving dinner, sharing it with a friend, Alex, from the Netherlands. So there we were, two Americans, with one Dutch friend, eating kabobs for ourThanksgiving meal in an Argentinean restaurant run by a Lebanese manager, in Accra, the capital of Ghana in Africa! A most international experience.

For this year’s Thanksgiving, my husband and I drove to Pittsburgh, for a very traditional Thanksgiving with our son and his wife.

Last year, in Ghana which is just north of the equator, the outside temperature was usually in the 90s (F). Here’s the morning scene in Pittsburgh.

I went swimming in the hotel’s outdoor pool in Ghana; in Pittsburgh we drove through a display of Christmas lights on Thanksgiving night.

Both Thanksgivings are special because the main ingredient in each was the opportunity to be with family members.

Most Thanksgiving meals feature some recipe that is a traditional family dish. When she was living, my mother in law made a fabulous butterscotch pie, and I have her recipe. It has become one of our family traditions to have butterscotch pie for special occasions. So rather than post a Saturday soup, here’s the recipe:

Butterscotch Pie
Makes 2 pies

Make two pie crusts; bake and set aside. (I use the Joy of Cooking pie crust recipe and always get excellent results.)

2 cups brown sugar
½ cup flour
½ cup melted browned butter
Yolks of 4 large eggs (set aside the egg whites in a separate bowl)
4 cups milk (preferably whole)
1 tsp. vanilla

1. Brown butter in a saucepan, allowing it just to begin browning. Then mix flour into the browned butter, then the brown sugar. Make sure all the flour and sugar are mixed into the butter.

2. Stir the egg yolks into the milk, then add vanilla. Stir the liquid into the butter/sugar/flour mixture in the saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the whole mixture thickens—it should just come to a boil. STIR CONSTANTLY (this is the real trick to making this rich butterscotch.)

3. Pour the butterscotch mixture into the baked pie crusts.

4. Beat the set aside egg whites with 2 T regular sugar until the whites are stiff and peak nicely. Spread on top of pies—brown under broiler briefly.

5. Allow pies to cool several hours. Refrigerate.

Hope you enjoy Mother Mary’s wonderful butterscotch pies. We have found that the stirring spoon is a popular item. Extra butterscotch, if there is any, can be poured into small pudding dishes and eaten as a pudding.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Back to Africa

I am going back to Africa. That was the thought buzzing around my brain one year ago—I was anticipating the trip I was going to make over the Thanksgiving holiday. One year ago, on November 20, I boarded a plane to London, then on to Accra, Ghana.

My daughter was doing an internship with a non-governmental organization which had linked her up with a group “dedicated to the promotion of contemporary art within Ghana.” She had gone to Ghana in September, and so in November a year ago, I was getting ready to go spend Thanksgiving with her.

I say Back to Africa—as that is where I spent my childhood. I was born in the USA (sorry, Bruce) but grew up in then Northern and Southern Rhodesia (now Zambia and Zimbabwe). Maybe it is the experience of growing up in a culture other than one’s birth culture that does it, but I have been riveted with Africa all my life. At one time, I would have said Africa insinuates itself into the veins of anyone who has lived there for a while, and that may still be true. But I think other places have that same power—it’s just that I didn’t grow up in some other place.

Anyway, I was going back. Now, truth be told, I had one brief time of being back in Africa. The summer before Thanksgiving, 2006—my husband and I went on our annual vacation trip, visiting Spain, Portugal, and Morocco. If you look at a map of the Mediterranean, you can see how really close Spain and Africa are. While our brief visit in Morocco was most interesting, it didn’t feel like Africa to me. Of course, I should say—it didn’t feel like the Africa I remembered. My perception of Morocco, the little bit that we saw, is that it is very Mediterranean. Especially around Tangier, where we were, there is that sun-washed look of clear blue skies, dry climate, sparse vegetation, flashes of color in hardy native plants. The Moroccans—who are mostly Berbers—enhance the Mediterranean feel with their white-washed houses with bright blue doors. Being in Morocco, I felt like I could have been anywhere around the Mediterranean perimeter.

Back to Africa. To get to Ghana, I had to make a connection somewhere in Europe. Very few planes fly directly from the U.S. to Africa (although I did find one flight that went from the U.S. East Coast to the Gambia!). So, I flew from Philadelphia to Heathrow in London, then on to Accra, Ghana. I had a REALLY long layover in Heathrow (dumb planning on my part); as a result, most of the flight to Ghana was at night. That was a bit disappointing because my daughter had alerted me to anticipate the beauty of flying over the Sahara at sunset. Since my plane took off a bit late, I got to see the Mediterranean at sunset, and the Sahara at night.

When we landed in Accra, it was about 9 p.m. Since Ghana sits very near the equator, daylight hours year round are a constant 12 hours—sunrise around 6 a.m. and sunset around 6 p.m. So it was fully night by the time we landed. I stepped off the plane, full on anticipation. I was going to see our daughter, who I had not seen for about 3 months, and I was BACK in Africa.

First step off the plane, the heat hit me like a steam bath—waves of humidity, heightened by the artificial chill of the airplane. It took a bit of time to clear customs, gather my luggage, and head outside. The airport in Accra is set up in such a way that people coming to meet passengers can’t go into the airport. So my daughter was waiting outside with the throngs of people—a rare white face in a sea of black.

And then the real experience of being back in Africa hit me—I took a deep breath and smelled Africa. Perhaps the most pervasive scent is of wood burning. But mingled in is the smell of soil, of flowers, of decay, of promise and of despair. Ah, Africa. I am back.

Monday, November 19, 2007

True Confessions

Remember those old magazines called True Confessions? Actually, as I began to write this post, I wondered if the magazine still exists. And it does!

Well, the confession I am about to make would never make this magazine. I have so little in my life that is racy enough for the cover announcements.

If I did, the announcement would read--I was not the most industrious student in the world! Or even in my college.

When I teach students, and interact with them, always at the back of my mind is the strong memory I have of the type of student I was. So, herewith three confessions.

1) I did not excel at all my subjects. When I entered college, I had aspirations of studying to become a physician. Well, I quickly ran into a subject called Chemistry, and knew my aspirations were doomed. I managed a C the first semester, and escaped with a D the second semester. So much for being a physician.

I still have my old grade transcripts, and as I look back over them, even in my eventual major subject--English--I did not always get top grades. In fact, I never made the Dean's list.

I did, however, excel at taking exams, and was exempted from one required course based on an exam. Further, I did very well on Graduate Record Exams (GREs) earning one of the highest grades anyone from my college had earned to that point.

2) I did not always start my papers timely. Perhaps the most egregious example of this tendency occurred when I was in graduate school. I was writing a paper for the seminar on Chaucer and. . .well, I just didn't get started early enough. By the time I had to leave for class, I was still typing the paper. So, I took along my little portable typewriter, and with it balanced on my knees, I kept typing while my girlfriend drove me to class. I scrunched what should have been 4 or 5 pages into one closing page. As a result, I failed the paper and the professor told me to rewrite it. When I did, he gave me a B, and told me in no uncertain terms that the paper would have been an A, had I put the effort into it initially.

3) I did not always read the assignments in advance of class. In fact, the habit was brought crashingly back to my recollection in a most unusual way. After grad school, I returned to my undergraduate alma mater as my first teaching career. Soon after I began teaching, some of my students came to me and said--do you know what Dr. S told us about you? Puzzled, I said--no. Then they said--he said we have to read our assignments; otherwise we won't be able to discuss intelligently in class. In fact, he continued, there is only one student that I had who could discuss intelligently without having read the assignment--Miss C was the only one who could do that (that was me!).

I went to him, my former professor and now colleague, and said--please stop telling my students about my old habits. Now, I find this story hilarious, but at the time I was mortified.

Don't tell the students what I did as a student!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

You have to be a Genius to read this blog

Or, if you read this blog, you are a genius!

Want proof?

cash advance

Now, if you want to check your own blog, go here.

Now, here's the truth.

I saw the blog reading level rating of
Delia's blog.

So, I tried it. And I got--you need a high school education to read my blog. Hmmmm--interesting. Then I tried entering INDIVIDUAL blog entries, and depending on which one I entered, I got various ratings. Some require high school education (e.g. recipes); others require you be a genius (
Dulce et Decorum est). Apparently, ones with Latin titles rate the GENIUS level.

So, you can fool blog rating sites!

Now, maybe that is worth the genius label.

Saturday Soup 7 Fall 2007

All week, Katdoc has been mentioning. . .something about a football game? Hmmm. Wonder what that's about.

Anyway, in "honor" of Ohio State, here's an unusual meat based soup.

Cincinnati skyline


Who knows why they really serve
Chili this way in Cincinnati? But it's delicious on or off the
spaghetti. A lot of spice, without an overwhelming amount of heat in this
winner recipe. It freezes very well too.

Serves 12

1 lb. red kidney beans, rinsed and picked over to remove debris
8 cups water
2 Tbsps. vegetable oil (canola or safflower is fine as well)
1 lb. ground beef
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (12 oz.) bottle beer
2 Tbsps. chili powder
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
1-1/2 tsps. ground coriander seeds
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. cayenne
2 bay leaves
2 tsps. kosher salt
1 (28 oz.) can whole tomatoes, diced

1. Place the beans in a large stockpot. Pour over enough water to cover and place over medium high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, partially cover, and simmer for 1 to 2 hours, until the beans are tender. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid, and set aside until ready to use.

2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the beef and cook for 5 minutes, until browned. Remove the beef from the pot with a slotted spoon, reserving the oil in pan; set aside.

3. Add the onion and garlic to the oil and sweat for 4 minutes, until tender.

4. Add the chili powder, oregano, coriander, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, cayenne, bay leaves, and salt and stir to coat. Cook for 5 minutes, until the spices are fragrant.

5. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 2 minutes.

6. Return the beef to the pot and bring to a boil. Add beer and return to boil. Reduce heat, partially cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.

7. Stir in the beans with the bean cooking liquid and simmer for 10 minutes.

8. To serve, remove the bay leaves, ladle the chili over spaghetti, and top with grated cheddar.

Please note--based on the posting time of this blog, I have no way of knowing what the outcome of the Ohio State vs. Michigan game might be.

Oh, and, um--there's another state school also playing in Michigan today. . .let me think. Oh, yes--Penn State against Michigan State (at 3:30 p.m., in case you wondered).

THE Nittany Lion

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Small Death on Campus

This week seems to be my week to have encounters with nature. First, it was the unseen but very much present deer. Now today it was a squirrel.

Make that a squirrel and a hawk.

I was teaching my 11 a.m. section. The classroom we are in is on the second floor, in a building that recently had new windows inserted. So, now we have a lovely unobstructed view of the great outdoors.

I had the students in groups doing work--smaller groups are so much more productive and conducive to all students entering into the conversation. Suddenly, the group nearest the window began looking out the window and animatedly making comments. Finally, I said--OK, what is going on?

Look, they said--there's a hawk that has caught a squirrel. So, I looked out--and right there was a large hawk sitting astride a still struggling squirrel. What a fascinating display of hunter and hunted, of powerful and powerless. The hawk had its talons positioned right over the squirrel's throat and conveyed an air of absolute unconcern for the squirming rodent under its claws. The squirrel struggled, then slowly moved less and less, until it stopped altogether.

By this time, I had persuaded students to go back to the discussion at hand. For one second, I glanced out the window just in time to see the hawk soaring into the air, its cargo in tow. The squirrel's tail dangled like a forlorn surrender flag.

A small death on campus.

What came next in our class discussion rivets me. Some of the students who had gotten up to look out the window expressed great sorrow at the poor squirrel. I must confess the divide of sympathy tended to fall along gender lines--the girls were more sympathetic, while the boys thought it was "cool" to see a squirrel die. The girls were rooting for the squirrel and the boys were cheering on the hawk.

Our current class discussion focuses on the one section of the reader we use--we are working on a chapter all about entertainment, including how news has morphed into entertainment. I asked this question:
"Most Americans get their news through television rather than through print. What do you think this shift has meant to our level of understanding of the world?"

One student who moments before was bemoaning the poor squirrel's fate opined that we shouldn't see images of the war in Iraq, because that "might turn people against the war." She firmly stated that the soldiers are over there fighting for us, and if we saw what they had to do, we would oppose the war.

I challenged her a bit--it was not time to debate her (that comes next semester when the course focuses on argument). What I said was since images have such power, we rob ourselves if we don't see these images, because the Arab world certainly sees them. Many of the images of injured or dead Iraqis are shown on Al Jazeera as standard fare.

How can a young woman who was so sympathetic to a squirrel, to the point that she was saying--let's go help it--be so unsympathetic to the Iraqi people? I know part of the answer is that she has bought the great lie that the "soldiers are over there to protect us and our way of life."

A small death on campus, indeed.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Deer 1--Tree 0

As you might expect, based on the title of this blog, there's a back story.

Last Friday, I went out to rake leaves (yes, my autumn obsession). I raked several neat piles, muttering under my breath about "neighbor's leaves that blow into my yard" and then carried the leaves to the curb.

I offer this photographic evidence, and ask--which side do you think is my yard? and which, my neighbor's?

I mention this Friday chore only to pinpoint a time.

On Saturday, I looked out a back window and thought--that's odd. Why does the small Engelman spruce look so odd? So I trekked outside, and here's what I found.

Several deep gouges in the soft earth.

Many broken branches on the lower half of the tree.

And a gouge on the trunk of the tree.

Apparently, our neighborhood deer, or at least one of them, had issues with the tree. Or, more likely, used this little tree to rub velvet off its antlers. I didn't see the deer, but the evidence is quite clear.
The frustrating thing for me is that I have never seen these deer. Several neighbors have, and my husband and our dog encountered them one evening. We live in very suburban area, in a development that is almost 30 years old. We have lived in this house since 1980, and have NEVER seen deer, until this year. It is evidence of over-building and urban sprawl, that the habitat deer formerly occupied has been destroyed, and so they move into more settled areas.
So, for now, deer--1; tree--0.
UPDATE: On Tuesday, I came home to find my neigbor--I'll call her Phyllis--raking leaves into piles. I was so overjoyed that I went right over and volunteered to help her carry them to the curb. I have learned that leaves left in piles tend to blow into my yard--so I may as well transport them now, as later.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Dulce et Decorum Est

As one who was raised in a pacifist home, and grew up in a church tradition of non-violence, I have always struggled with Veterans' Day. I give full due to those in our country, and in Canada and the UK who fought in World War I and II and secured freedom for all the free world.

But I do not celebrate that soldiers have to go into war.

In our travels, we have had occasion to visit two of the Allied cemeteries in Europe. We visited the Normandy beaches in France ten years ago, and were so struck by the desolate rugged beaches that the Allies stormed on D-Day. Then, on a rainy afternoon we stood in the cemetery near the D-Day beaches and saw the rows and rows of crosses, or Stars of David. It is impossible not to be awed at the incredible sacrifice such a cemetery represents.

Two years ago, we visited Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg. Much of our visit in Luxembourg took us to places that were prominent in the Battle of the Bulge. Then we went to two cemeteries--first the Allies' cemetery, and then the German cemetery.

What a contrast. The Allies' cemetery (which is where General Patton is buried who was killed in a road accident just after the close of the war) looks similar to the D-Day cemeteries with long rows of white crosses. The German cemetery is more somber, with heavy crosses each with two or three soldiers buried. And they all died for "king and country."

Some of the most powerful poetry I have ever read comes out of war experiences. The title of the blog "Dulce et Decorum Est" is derived from
Wilfred Owen's eponymous poem. His view of war is very cynical, as he recalls a gassing of soldiers event.

Here is Rupert Brooke's poignant sonnet "The Soldier."
If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

Rupert Brooke died in 1915--ironically, he was on his way to fight in the battle of Gallipoli, one of those awful battles of World War I, when he died having contracted septic pneumonia.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

100 Men Reading

Do you remember the ad campaign of a couple of decades ago--send me a person who reads. . .? The gist of the ad was that a person who reads is likely to be well-informed, curious, engaged--in short, the kind of person you would want to hire.

Perhaps it comes as no surprise that I prize--no, treasure--reading. I think there are few activities you can do that are more rewarding than reading. And, no doubt, it will surprise no one that I urged our children to read.

From the time our son and our daughter were just wee babes, we read to them. And, as adults, they both love to read.

I have two wonderful stories about how they reacted to my reading stories to them. One morning, I was reading the wonderful novel Julie of the Wolves to our son. Without giving anything away about the plot of this book, I came to a part where the alpha wolf in the pack is shot and killed. Seeing this detail ahead, I began to sob. My son, totally absorbed in the plot, said--Keep reading, Mommy, keep reading.

A decade later, when our daughter was little, I was reading the story Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes to her. Based on a true story about a young girl who lived in Hiroshima when it was bombed, the book reaches its climax as Sadako is dying. The Japanese custom is to buy a kimono for a young girl entering puberty. Since Sadako is dying, her parents spend a significant sum of money to get her kimono before she dies. This detail also left me teary--and my daughter glanced over at me and said--you're going to cry now, aren't you?

Books do have the power to move us.

I am very proud of my husband, who took part this week in a reading day in one of our local schools. Under the sponsorship of the American Literacy Corporation, 100 men in the Harrisburg area were recruited to go into the grade schools and middle schools and read to students.

My husband selected the book called The Three Questions, based on a story by Leo Tolstoy, written and illustrated by Jon Muth. This sweet book features a boy named Nikolai who asks three questions: 1) when is the best time to do things; 2) who is the most important one; and 3) what is the right thing to do?

He encounters his friends--Sonya, a heron; Gogol, a monkey; and Puskin, a dog. He asks them the questions, and puzzles over answers. Eventually they encounter a wise old turtle named Leo who guides Nikolai to the answers. (As an aside, I note the humor in the names in this story: Sonya was one of Tolstoy's daughters, Gogol and Pushkin are prominent Russian writers, and of course Leo is Tolstoy himself!)

As he was reading, my husband noticed the children becoming very engaged with the story. They began to pepper him with questions--for example, why do the animals talk? where are the boy's parents? doesn't he have other friends? why does he have animals for friends?
A book with the power to move children!

It was a small thing for my husband to do--take a couple of hours out of his work day morning. But, the long time impact is immeasurable. Children who are exposed to books have a whole world laid open before them. 100 men reading? Yes, and perhaps 1,000 children who may have one more reason to get turned on to books.

Saturday Soup 6 Fall 2007

It's time, once again, for Saturday soup. I am trying to be more aware of rotating soup types this fall. So today's soup is an all vegetable soup. Based on some of your comments, some of you prefer vegetable soups, and have thought about how to convert some of the meat based soups to being vegetable soups. Well, no conversion needed here--all veggies all the way.

Scene from last year's Bistro

At our church, it is almost Bistro time. The Bistro is the origin of these soup recipes, so I figure it's fair game to give the Bistro a plug. I know you'd have to be in the Harrisburg area on December 2, but I know you'd be welcome if you happened to stop by. If you go here, you will see the particulars, including a set of four recipes for this year's soup picks. Obviously, I haven't tasted any, so I don't know which one will be my favorite.
Santa Fe Corn

Makes 12 servings

5 all-purpose potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 1/2 T. olive oil
3 cups finely chopped onions
1/4 cup minced garlic
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/3 cup chopped green chilies
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 cups roasted corn
1 T. dried oregano
1 T. dried basil
1/2 T. ground cumin
1/2 cup white wine
2 T. salt
1 T. course black pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1) To roast corn, spread corn on a greased pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. Stir occasionally.

2) Cover potatoes (both all-purpose and sweet) with water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until almost cooked. Strain off water and set aside.

3) In another pot, saute onions, celery and garlic in oil until soft. Add peppers and chilies.

4) Deglaze the pot with white wine. Add oregano, basil and cumin.

5) Add potatoes to the vegetables and cover with at least two inches of water. Bring to a boil, but do not overcook potatoes.

6) When potatoes are done, add corn, salt, pepper and stir in cilantro.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Total Decadence

It is 7:59 a.m. on this Friday morning, and I am sitting in bed, reveling in a day without deadlines and pressures. Oh, sure, there is work to be done--leaves piling up outside from my yard (and my neighbor's yard) but they will be there later this morning, or even this afternoon when I go out to rake them.

My husband has left for work (one of us has to!) and I have the bed all to myself. Well, almost. Here is one of the resident cats. This is Cassidy, my buddy. Allie, my other buddie, will not lie on the bed also if Cassidy is there. Allie will try to displace Cassidy, but she won't share the bed (or me) with him.

I have my computer here so I can catch up on reading blogs. The first blog I ever read was Natural Notes 3, still one of my favorite sites.

I have a stack of magazines--I am always behind on reading magazines.

I have the television tuned to the weather channel--maybe our first snow today, just a flake or two. Hurray!

I even have one of my stuffed pigs--hey, no laughing at this 60+ year old woman who still loves pigs. Had I been born a native American, no doubt my name would be "Sleeps with Pigs." Friends and family who know that I love pigs have tended to buy me many many many pigs--stuffed, figurines, etc. Truth is, I have maxed out on pigs.

Of course, I have my notebook for storing up "blog ant" ideas (a la Julie Z).

And finally, I have my cup of morning coffee--right next to the book I am currently reading, should all these other items be exhausted on this most decadent morning.

OK--now it is 8:30. Time to get out of bed, and start raking, vacuuming, laundering, paper grading, whatever.

But the decadent respite was sweet for a time.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Road to Happy Valley

This is a story about the road to Happy Valley. For many years, my husband and I have been going to Penn State games. A friend of ours (now dead) introduced us to Penn State football in the late 1970s. We began attending games before Penn State entered the big 10 (really 11). We have gone to most all the home games (excepting a brief hiatus when our daughter was born in October, 1981) and some important away games, including the thrilling Fiesta Bowl in January, 1987 (which capped the winning 1986 season.

This past Saturday, we headed out in the early morning for the noon game against Purdue (for the record, PSU won, and that's the last mention of wins or losses).

We love to drive the "back way" which takes us along the Susquehanna River, heading north on U.S. 15. Appropriately, the route is also called Old Trail Road. Just above Liverpool, PA, we head off on Route 104 winding along a lovely country road, where Amish farmers are out in their buggies on a Saturday morning.

We go through several small towns, including Middleburg.

The morning sky was laced with dramatic sweeping clouds on this autumn day.

We pass little country churches.

Winter provisions rolled up in plastic, under the morning sky.

Neat farm settings. We can tell that many of these farms are Amish by the lack of telephone or electrical wires heading into the farms. Also, there are frequently sturdy draft horses in the fields.

Our first stop is the Penn Stater Inn for breakfast. Sometimes it's for lunch, depending on the game starting time.

The Legends Pub where we eat is deserted this morning--too early for the food and football crowd.

Our season tickets are for four seats, so we bring along family or friends. The only requirement--just don't wear RED!

Penn State football means Joe Paterno--or in shorthand parlance--JoePa. He is an institution at Penn State. The best attribute about Paterno, in my opinion, is his dedication to education first, and football second.

Of course, there are the tailgaters. The crew below (no one we know) bring along their dog who is appropriately garbed in a football sweater. For several Saturdays, we have watched this dog (across from where we park) as the tailgaters toss a football back and forth over the dog's head. Eventually, the dog grabs the football and proceeds to deflate it.

Finally, we have cooler weather--football should be played in cold weather. This Saturday, our seats were frosted over.

Of course, the festivities begin with the Penn State Blue Band.

Somehow, the tradition began that the drum major would run and do a flip--his success supposedly foretells the game's outcome. Not very scientific, but fun.


And there is always the Nittany Lion. Once, when we went to a game with our son, who was a little boy at the time, he spied the Nittany Lion and said--look at the guy in the bear suit.

And here we have a well-dressed fan!

We must get into the stadium to see the warm-up drills.

And then the game begins.

Sometimes we have winning seasons--and sometimes not. True fans stick with their team--no booing. No calling for Paterno to resign, etc. etc. etc.

Then it's time to head home, leaving Happy Valley behind.

My favorite site along the road to Happy Valley is this lovely round barn.

I have noticed that the journey home is much sweeter after a victory!