Saturday, August 28, 2010

Louise Penny

One of my best discoveries this summer was the author Louise Penny, recommended by Christine, the president of our Friends of the Library. Penny's mysteries are set in rural Quebec, just over the Vermont line, so Inspector Gamache and his staff cope with lots of snow and ice as well as enjoy lovely vistas as they solve crimes in Three Pines.

A host of quirky villagers reappear, and after five novels, I know them and their village well. There's a green with the three pines, a pond with ducks, and some park benches. The bistro is flanked by a bookstore owned by a "traditionally built" black psychologist who has run away from city life. Also attached to the bistro are a bakery and general store. Poet Ruth keeps a duck, Rose, as a housepet. Clara and Peter are artists who also live on the green. It all sounds idyllic, but bad things still happen. When Gamache and his staff have to stay in the village to solve a crime, they stay at Gabri's B&B and use the firehouse as their command center. A big old house, where several deaths have occurred, looms over the village.

The characters are a mix of English and French speakers, but Penny handles this quite well, making it clear when they switch, but not annoyingly so. I love the way people of various backgrounds speak quizzically about the habits of the others. The French women are portrayed as stylish and well made up, while English ones are sometimes unconcerned about their appearance.

My favorite so far has been A Rule Against Murder, set at a neighboring inn where Gamache and his wife always spend their anniversary week. Penny's next book is coming out in October, and I can't wait to see what Ruth, Peter, Clara, et al are up to.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Reviewing my UFO list

I am not a great fan of to-do lists, but I do keep a UFO (UnFinished Object, a/k/a Works in Progress) list. It helps me keep track of the various things I have started. These are stashed in the closet on hangers, in pizza boxes (one is under the bed), and elsewhere. Along with UFOs, I make a list of projects I have completed, and it really is an eye-opener. Yesterday I actually finished two projects. One I started and finished, and the other has been languishing for several months.

Surfing around, I found a very cute pattern for a pin cushion shaped like a little tote bag at Click "shop," and then "free patterns." I couldn't resist cutting it out, and one thing led to another. Before I knew it, I was finished. While I was cleaning up after that, I noticed a Christmas stocking I had started in May. Our guild makes them to fill for needy kids, and I had the front of one all done. I cut out a back, but did it wrong, so I needed to cut out another back and the lining. I did this and sewed it all together in about half an hour. Another UFO done!

My finished projects list includes 3 lap-sized quilts, two wallhangings, one more quilt top ready for quilting, a Dear Jane block for my secret pal, and yesterday's two projects. Amazing!

Friday, August 20, 2010

A coupla quilt photos

Here are a few things I've finished in the last weeks. First is a stack n whack using police fabric. I decided to give it to my cousin Nicoline's husband, Piet, who will be retiring from his job as a Dutch police officer at the end of the year.

Next, there's "Willy's Log Cabin," a quilt started by my aunt Willy Baljet. She made the very precise log cabin center. Each block was made on a muslin foundation and include some polished cottons. There were two strips of what I think of as flower pots, too, which Tante Wil pieced entirely by hand. I have been pondering how to put this together for a number of years, since my cousin Nicoline, Wil's daughter, delivered it and a whole suitcase full of fabric and UFOs. Now that it is finished, I'm going to give it to Nicoline.

Cooking today

There was a touch of fall in the air this morning, and it seemed a perfect day for a little marathon cooking. I stopped at my garden plot this morning for a zucchini, a summer squash, a patty pan squash, and some Swiss chard, along with a couple of pretty little sunflowers. The latter look lovely in a Delft vase given to us by Kathleen, a long-ago guest, wife of Larry the magician, formerly known (before 9/11) as Dr. Anthrax.

When I got home, I grated the summer squashes, set some aside in a freezer container, and used the rest for zucchini bread. I'm still using my mother's recipe:

Beat 3 eggs, and add 1 c. sugar, 1/2 c. milk and 1/2 c. oil.
Stir in 1 T. vanilla.
Add: 1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. baking powder
1 T. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. allspice
Mix well. Then add 3 c. flour and 3 c. grated zucchini, adding about a cup of each alternately.
Add 1/2 c. of ground nuts, wheat germ, and/or raisins.
Pour into 2 greased and floured loaf pans and bake at 350 degrees for about an hour.

I have 4 of these babies in the freezer and they make me smile every time I look at them. They will be great for pot lucks or on a snowy day when we want a treat.

As the zucchini bread was baking, I mixed up 60 minute rolls using the recipe given to me by John, the checker at Hannaford's. His family had a bakery when he was growing up and he says these are never fail. We'll have them with Mulligatawny soup tonight, which has a fresh zucchini in it, of course!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Seven interesting things

On another blog, the person told seven interesting things about herself, so I thought I would follow suit:

1. I love licorice. My old and very proper Tante Pim said this is a sign that I am really Dutch. For my birthday, Paul gave me a box of All Sorts, which I am hoarding but enjoying tremendously.

2. I am afraid of heights - can't climb up more than 2 steps on a ladder, can't climb on roofs, have trouble looking down from towers and high landmarks (although I suck it up and do it usually). At Mesa Verde, I apologized to Paul but said, at the last minute, that I just didn't think I could go on a tour of one of the cliff dwellings because I saw people climbing a huge and very unsteady-looking ladder out of the dwelling at the end of the tour.

3. I love cats even though we now have a dog. I still miss Digger and Shep, my two longest-lived kitties. But I don't think I'll ever get another one since I hate cleaning cat boxes.

4. I was always a closet purple lover until the book "Color Me Beautiful" came out and I found I am a "summer" (as opposed to a winter, autumn, or spring in coloring). I cleaned out my closet, got rid of all the olive and oranges and happily started wearing purple and hot pink. Mom had always said that purple was for old ladies, but I notice she sometimes wears it now, too.

5. If I had to choose one food that I couldn't live without, it would have to be pizza.

6. I would like to travel to Prince Edward Island (home of Anne of Green Gables), Alaska (home of the protagonists in Sue Henry's mysteries), England (home of my favorite authors Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer), and Hawaii (to see the quilts).

7. My family is very important to me. I have two brothers, Axel and Rob, and a sister, Jenny. I wish we all lived closer together, but I do enjoy visiting them or having them visit us here. In 2000, I learned I had two more siblings, Jacqueline and Edwin, in the Netherlands. I was surprised and pleased to have an even wider circle.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Happy August!

Here it is, August 1, and this morning I had to wear my fleece hoodie to the grocery store. I hate the thought that summer is roaring to its inevitable end. A tree top, visible from our dining room, is beginning to change colors. Paul says it must be diseased but I think it's just an early "bloomer."

Yesterday was a great day. I turned 62 - already signed up for Social Security and, when we go to pay our taxes, we'll both be eligible for Green Mountain passes. We'll pay $2 for lifetime entry into state parks and historical sites. I had calls from Mom and Dad and Axel, a visit from Chris, great presents to unwrap, and a very nice day. Paul and I went to see "Always... Patsy Cline" at St. Michael's Playhouse and had dinner at Lucia's afterwards.

Today I am updating my quilt journal. I have a year's worth of pictures to enter. Looking at my UFO list, I had a productive July, too. I finished quilting and binding "Rainbow Sylvia" on Friday, finished quilting Piet's cop quilt, made two tops for Camp Agape, made a few Dear Jane blocks ahead for my Secret Pal, and finished and delivered three small quilts to the Mad River charity quilt auction. I thought I was stash busting, but couldn't resist Dee's birthday special. Bought 10 yards of fabric!