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Monthly Archives: January 2013

Booking and Cooking

Every once in a while, a book from the library falls into my hands, I burn through it, and NEED to go out and buy my own copy. That happened twice this month—and both books are worth talking about.

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School came on my radar screen in conjunction with a town-wide reading of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. To be honest, I was afraid TKCCS was going to be a mandate to eat organic radishes written by someone extremely knowledgeable, like Al Gore’s housekeeper. This was, thankfully, not the case.

Instead, I found a very well written, engaging memoir/cooking manual that taught me dozens of cooking lessons. The author, Kathleen Flinn, is a Cordon Bleu graduate who embarks on a quest to teach nine novice cooks how to make delicious, healthy, simple and rewarding meals. Each chapter covers a specific lesson, but equally shares the foodie journey of the nine students and their passionate teacher.

I’ve been cooking for almost fifty years, and I learned something new and worthwhile in each chapter. There are new spice combinations to experiment with, ways to do away with processed foods and replace them with tastier, fresh possibilities, and how to do so fearlessly. I also appreciate seeing how Flinn, as a teacher, met the needs of her very diversified class. Some were afraid to cook, some were discouraged because of past failures, some think they were too busy to bother. All types move forward throughout this book. At first, I started to copy the recipes I wanted to try… then I realized that I was transcribing the book and better buy a copy of my own. I think I’ll make it a point to “cook my way” through this book, one recipe at a time. Maybe two per week—sounds like a plan. Go buy the book, please. You’ll love it.

The next book that I devoured is a thin, lean, but very rich compilation of Ernest Hemingway’s opinions about writing, edited by Larry W. Phillips. Again, I started with a library copy and kept wanting to highlight and write in the margins. I’d come across astute paragraphs and read them aloud to my husband only to realize that I was reading the whole text to him, one passage after another.

Hemingway shows what it’s like inside his head. He lets us in on the process and shares the joy as well as the tribulations. The first chapter starts off with the following quotation from a letter to Mrs. Paul Pfeiffer, 1933: “I am trying to make, before I get through, a picture of the whole world—or as much of it as I have seen. Boiling it down always, rather than spreading it out thin.”

And that is exactly what he does with his writing on writing. We get these unadulterated gems that make us think and help us write. There is a freshness and authenticity in his words that I find addictive. He reminds me to cut back any unnecessary baggage. I’m especially fond of this passage from George Plimpton’s The Paris Review interview: “The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof, shit detector. This is the writer’s radar and all great writers have had it.”

As an English professor, I used to write “Do you need this…Is it fluff?” in the margins of many students’ papers. I’m forced to ask myself if every word is working effectively for me. This paragraph alone survived the pruning of ten words.

I’ve always believed that writing is “re-writing” and a vehicle for thinking. Hemingway says it so well in a letter to L.H. Brague, Jr., 1959: “I love to write. But it has never gotten any easier to do and you can’t expect it to if you keep trying for something better than you can do.” This famous author reiterates that writing is simultaneously joy and hard work.

Ernest Hemingway On Writing is a book that I want to have on my shelf and be able to pick up, browse through for inspiration, and come back to again and again. I suggest you do the same.

Here’s the latest on my reading for this New Year.

I succeeded in reading five books so far in January:

Art of Hearing Heartbeats


Hemingway On Writing

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School

Candy Freak (in progress).

My goal for February is five more:

The Dark Vinegard (book group book)

Finish In Sunlight and In Shadow

The Burgess Boys new Elizabeth Strout book advanced copy 🙂

and two more titles to be pulled from the mountain motherload of books in my den—all waiting patiently.

Let me know what you’re reading and what you think of it.

WoodNeck Beach 1/2013



It was a day at WoodNeck Beach almost thirty years ago that caused us to buy our home here. The beach has a great children’s area with a creek that feeds into a lush marsh. Our girls grew up learning about horseshoe and hermit crabs first hand. The rest of the shore is rocky enough to keep throngs of tourists away, and sandy enough to go swimming and bask in the sun. It has always been a place that I’m drawn to… all seasons, all weather, all the time.

Last week we took some photos that capture WoodNeck’s essence on a January day. It never disappoints me. Click on the photos to zoom in.


Little Sippewissett Marsh

Just a splash of red...

Just a splash of red…



Tide lines and footprints


Underwater discoveries


Centered and rejuvenated…again.

Falmouth Winter Farmer’s Market


Falmouth holds an indoor Winter Farmer’s Market at the Mahoney Garden Center. It’s such a smart idea. There are several tables filled with an assortment of home grown or hand made goodies: everything from jams, chutney, baked goods, truffles, fruits, local veggies, wine, glass blowing, honey. I didn’t photograph that stuff.


A huge bonus is that it’s held in a gorgeous garden center, complete with exquisite flowers in bloom, all types of greenery and that wonderful earthy smell. It was intoxicating!


I did purchase organic, homemade dog biscuits for a friend’s pooches– bacon and liver, no preservatives. They look like Italian biscotti… and I’m soooo tempted to take a bite, but I won’t. The cranberry chutney also spoke to me and came home with us. The woman who made it had an entire table of preserves and pickled goodness…. and strawberry truffles. Ah!!!!IMG_1302

The Farmer’s Market was worth the visit, but the gorgeous cyclamen and orchids on display made my day. It’s a blast of sensuous color much needed on a gray, somewhat rainy Saturday.

Even the kale was pretty!

Even the kale was pretty!

12 Days into 2013

Two and a half books are read so far this year and they’re all quite different. The best, by far is Julie Morgenstern’s SHED Your Stuff, Change Your Life. It’s focus is not only on decluttering and simplifying, but adding some exploration about why the bad habits begin in the first place and are so difficult to kick. Unlike most books of this type, it does more than demand that you throw things out. I found it useful, and it’s in line with my goal of working toward creative simplicity. I also had the good sense to borrow it from the library and return it on time. No clutter on the bookshelves.

Deadbeat, not heartbeat

Deadbeat, not heartbeat

The book selection for my book group this month was The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker. It’s not often that I really don’t like a book– and this is one of those times. Honestly, if I didn’t need to read it for my group, I would have dropped it after page twenty. Disappointing…melodramatic… didn’t strike a chord, not even a note with me. It was not believable and didn’t make me care enough to embrace what was suppose to be magical. I didn’t care about the characters; they weren’t authentic. The maudlin theme of “love conquers all” was a bore. The plot was dependent upon actions that I just didn’t buy into. Get the point… I didn’t like it and don’t recommend it.

On the other hand, I’m totally engaged in Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Satan in Goray. Each sentence pulls me further into his world. It’s so well written; I often stop and re-read sentences because they are so striking. This book was a gift from one of my most outstanding students, Miki, and he was absolutely right… I love this book and can’t wait to read the next one he gave me.

Satan in Goray

Satan in Goray

Last on my review list is book connected to the What’s Falmouth Reading? initiative. The focus is on local grown and make your own food. The Kitchen Counter Cooking School is a memoir/cookbook written by Kathleen Flinn. Her modus operandi is to find folks in the grocery store with carts full of processed, unhealthy food and to teach them some basic culinary skills that change the way they eat. It’s not an astounding concept– Emeril Lagasse used to do something similar on his TV show. The information is not earth shaking, but I do find it interesting how she engages each of her students and how she teaches them new skills. It’s a good book to skim and glaze over. The primary book for this town wide project is Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. That’s on my list for next month.


My game plan for the month of January is to read at least a book a week. I’m enjoying the pace and the extended time with my nose in a book. I just got an advanced copy of Elizabeth Strout’s new book, The Burgess Boys, and after teaching Olive Kitteridge, I’m really curious to read her latest work. And then there’s my beloved Mark Helprin’s In Sunlight and In Shadow. I’m reading it in “teaspoon fulls” because I don’t want it to end. Love it, love it, love it.

Bella and The Burgess Boys

Bella and The Burgess Boys

One of the side effects of my increase in book time is that I’m spending less time doing stupid things on line… like checking my e-mail a zillion times or revisiting my bookmarked sites every ten minutes. Gotta go…. time to check out the Winter Farmer’s Market at Mahoney’s.

Surf Stroll January 5, 2013

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Today’s walk was delightfully springlike, and I didn’t complain a bit…

Bird, foot, and snow prints

Bird, foot, and snow prints

A little foam and stone

A little foam and stone

Some crashing and splashing

Some crashing and splashing

Treasure hunt interrupts aerobic exercise

Treasure hunt interrupts aerobic exercise

I love being a beach bum.

I love being a beach bum.


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Why do I know that Kim Kardashian is pregnant and going to workout in see through pants?  Why would I want to see through Kim’s pants?

And how about the mother who went public with the rules she laid down for her thirteen year-old son’s use of a cell phone? Do I care? How does the son feel about the public announcement of family laws?

There’s more… the mother of an autistic child writes a very public essay detailing the challenging aspects of her teenager’s condition, complete with information that is sure to scar the autistic teen forever.

And then there’s the person, you know who I mean, who sends a photocopied Christmas letter outlining every burp, sneeze, hiccup and prize connected to every member of the family that you never see. One dysfunctional correspondent included the meds her children were on and the therapists each were seeing. TMI TMI TMI

Nothing is private any more. It’s not like Big Brother or Big Google is divulging this information. The individuals, themselves, are violating their own privacy and that of their family members quite flagrantly. True, talentless Kim Kardashian needs to grease the publicity machine daily in order to stay in the headlines—maybe that’s her business and part of her marketing plan. I understand that, but think it’s awfully pathetic that there’s an audience wanting to see her in her latest display of anything formerly private. Reality TV proves that absolutely nothing is sacred or personal anymore.

We learned when Bethany’s husband was horny and when Bethany had a headache; now we know they’re getting divorced and he’s drinking coffee alone in café wearing his wedding band. Ugh!

The mom of the autistic teen undoubtedly thought she was doing a good deed by giving strangers insight into life with autism. But this kid’s life is forever altered by the mom’s tell-all. Who is going to befriend this kid in school or hire him for a part time job? Doors are closed for this poor teen, and the article could have been written without identifying the parent or child… but it wasn’t. I found the article to be interesting and informative, but not worth the cost to the child.

Likewise the mom with the cell phone rules for her 13 year old. Honestly, how do you think that son is being treated in school now that his mom has made their family phone rules a public announcement? There’s also nothing so incredibly meaningful about her rules that merited the publicity. It’s the kind of information that used to be discussed within the family and agreements made based on trust.

Where does one draw the line between public and private? Facebook’s latest prompts want folks to “share” their feelings… “How’s it going, Diane?” I have this rebellious urge to type…”Go screw, none of your business.” But that would only serve as my status and wouldn’t accomplish what I wanted. And many Facebookers  divulge far too much information on a daily basis. What’s private to some is glorious public fodder for others. My statuses tend to focus on what I’m reading, knitting, my community and, yes, some pictures of my cat. I’m sure someone reads these posts and thinks—what blather—who cares. Well, they can easily “defriend” me.

I’m more self-conscious about what I write in my blog. Am I, too, blurring the line between public and private. My quest for a more simple, healthy, well-balanced life is something I blog about. I’m cautious about the unintended consequences of the written word escaping my control and spreading across the web. I don’t share anything except my own news and my own thoughts—so I can make the disclaimer that “no family members, animals or other living beings were hurt in the creation of this writing.” But the question about what should remain private still haunts me. Growing up,  there was information that was kept under the roof and processed by family only. It worked. It was a safe environment to bear one’s soul. We problem-solved around the kitchen table, not in a public forum.

I do think individuals lose a piece of themselves when they expose all to the public eye. It’s giving up too much of one’s “self” to an audience that doesn’t deserve it or even care about it most of them time. I think there’s value in sharing news and working through issues with people you care about and trust. Broadcasting private issues in very public arenas subtracts far more than it adds, in my humble opinion. I feel like a voyeur looking at something not so attractive and want to turn away.


2013: Chunk it

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Surf Drive New Year's Eve

Surf Drive New Year’s Eve

Sorry to disappoint you, but there won’t be a long list of witty New Year’s resolutions for 2013. The big Catholic school master list with master rules just isn’t my style; it never really worked for me.

I’m a firm believer in “chunking” a huge task into bite size pieces, so that’s what I’m going to do with my resolutions. Instead of making a yearlong commitment to be perfect, I’m going to look at what I really want and possibly might really be able to accomplish just in the month of January. At the end of the month I’ll reevaluate and take it from there. I’m capable, right???

So, here’s the game plan for January:

  1. Exercise every single day; our 45 minute brisk walk has been an antidote to a host of problems. If the weather is truly (note the word  “true” is in truly) inclement, the elliptical and several interesting podcasts are waiting for me.
  2. Buy nothing except essentials food, medical stuff, utilities. Less is more, and abide by the “Need it, Use it, Love it” rule. Minimalism rocks.
  3. Do something creative every single day.
  4. Do some random act of kindness every single day.
  5. Read a book a week:  on the schedule are

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats (Jan-Phillip Sendker),

Satan in Goray (Singer),

Candy Freak (Almond),

In Sunlight and In Shadow (Helprin)

  1. Knit one fabulous warm sweater for me
  2. Knit one pair of mittens and socks for me
  3. Knit one heavy weight shawl for me. (Notice a trend here…)
  4. Don’t take anything personally—behave like Teflon, nothing sticks.
  5. De-clutter my studio (Ok, at least begin the process).
  6. Reevaluate this process in late January and make a plan for February.
  7. Is this a short list? (Yes, last year’s was 174. Really, no kidding, sick))

Wish me luck, and I wish you the best year ever!  Happy 2013.