Wednesday, June 30, 2010

what to do with a bucketful of strawberries


1. Hold a strawberry fete or regale. My little reference book about all things sweetly and old-fashionedly past tells me:

During the Victorian era, a favorite summer amusement on warm June evenings was the community’s annual strawberry fete or festival. Usually these eagerly anticipated outdoor socials, sponsored by churches or schools as fund raising events, featured an abundance of fresh-picked strawberries...


[...] "Strawberries in every style and form will furnish the refreshments for the occasion; strawberry ice cream, strawberries and whipped cream, strawberry whip, fruit lemonade, strawberry shortcake and strawberry sherbet."
2. Take a strawberry bath. Apparently Madame Tallien from Emperor Napoleon’s court loved to bathe in the juice of fresh strawberries, using 22 lbs. per basin. (Yikes, I hope for the sake of those around her, she didn’t insist on this kind of bath all year long!)

3. Find a double strawberry, break it in half and share it with a member of the opposite sex. Legend has it you will fall in love with each other.

4. Spread the goodness around by feeding some to the birds. Apparently the reason for the wide distribution of wild strawberries is because strawberry seeds pass through a bird’s digestion intact, and germination responds to light rather than moisture so seeds don’t need to be buried in soil to get started.

5. Take some as medicine. Ancient Romans believed that berries helped cure melancholy, fainting, inflammations, fevers, throat infections, kidney stones, bad breath, gout, diseases of the blood, liver and spleen.

6. Bake a strawberry shortcake. Apparently this originated with the American Indians, who crushed wild strawberries and mixed them with cornmeal to make strawberry bread. The colonists invented their own version of the recipe, and called it Strawberry Shortcake.

This recipe of Strawberry Shortcake is from my most treasured recipe book – the one handwritten for me by my mum. It’s predictably short on instructions (like how many strawberries, the order in which to add cake ingredients, size of pan and heat of the oven...so I’ll do a bit of guestimating).

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Begin by slicing a generous amount of strawberries (3-4 cups?), sprinkle with sugar and set aside.

QUICK STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 well-beaten egg
2/3 cup milk
1 ½ cup flour
½ cup melted shortening.

Mix all ingredients. Spoon into a round, greased cake pan and bake for 15 minutes in hot oven (probably 375 - 400 F)

Let cool slightly, split cake and fill with half of the strawberries, reserving remainder for the top (or put whole strawberries on the top). Serve with whipped cream.


(For more strawberry facts, trivia and history, go here.)

(This is a re-post from June 8, 2005)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

have a strawberry


It’s strawberry season where I live. Yesterday hubby and I went to Driedigers and picked 15 lbs. of strawberries, 10 of raspberries the easy way -- from the shelf of the little berry shack. This is a bit unusual because strawberries are normally an early June crop with raspberries later. But we've had such a cool spring, the strawberry and raspberry seasons are bumping into each other.

So all afternoon yesterday I was messing with berries, washing, freezing, cutting. Because there's nothing like these ruby fruits in winter.

Strawberries are an ancient fruit. My Reader’s Digest, The Origins of Everyday Things tells me.


"The warm, dry climate that Britain enjoyed after 2500 B.C. allowed its early inhabitants to pick naturally sweet wild strawberries and raspberries....

Strawberry cultivation began in the 13th century, but the large, modern fruit appeared only in 1819, the result of crossbreeding a small, sweet, scarlet fruit from Virginia with a pale Chilean variety tasting of pineapple."

Wild strawberries are a memory of my childhood. Every spring we’d search the virgin prairie grass beside the railroad track which bordered our Saskatchewan farm, and pick the tiny sweet fruits. Later, we’d listen to Mom tell of the time there were enough wild strawberries for Grandma to put up in preserves and jams.

I had my own strawberry patch once. It flourished at the beginning of the time we lived in Surrey, before the city trees growing just beyond our fence, alders and cottonwoods, grew tall. Their gangly growth took away most of the sunshine above and their greedy roots leached the moisture below. I implored the city to take out those trees. But in that town, chopping down a tree was something that required a special dispensation from City Hall. So my berry patch languished, producing fewer and smaller berries. Finally I put the plants out of their misery.

But if you’re inclined to grow strawberries, a book I own (Carrots Love Tomatoes by Louise Riotte) has some advice ( I don’t know if it’s good; I’ve never tried it. But it sounds like something your grandma would tell you – so I have a feeling, some if not all of these things would probably do a strawberry patch some good):

Strawberry (Fragaria). A cover crop of rye following sod will reduce the incidence of black rot on strawberries. They do well in combination with bush beans, spinach and borage. Lettuce is good used as a border and pyrethrum, planted alongside, serves well as a pest preventative. A spruce hedge is also protective.



White hellebore will control sawfly and marigolds are useful too if you suspect the presence of nematodes (slugs? - I think so). Pine needles alone or mixed with straw make a fine mulch said to make the berries taste more like the wild variety. Spruce needles also may be used as a mulch, but my personal preference is chopped alfalfa hay.

(If this post sounds familiar, you're right - it's a repost, first up June, 2005. I have a few more strawberry posts in Archives. If I get around to it, I'll recycle them as well in the coming days.)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

soft


Guinea Pig (B. C. Wildlife Park, Kamloops)

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More 'soft' photos linked at Thursday Challenge

Next Week: HOME (House, Living Room, Kitchen, Bedroom, Nest, Hive,...)




Tuesday, June 22, 2010

book review:Embracing Your Second Calling by Dale Hanson Bourke

Title: Embracing Your Second Calling: Find Passion and Purpose for the Rest of Your Life
Author: Dale Hanson Bourke
Publisher: Thomas Nelson, May 2010, Paperback, 240 pages

ISBN-10: 0849946972 
ISBN-13: 978-0849946974

From the moment I saw this book’s title and read a description of it, I knew it was one I had to read. Now that I have I can, without hesitation, recommend Embracing Your Second Calling: Find Passion and Purpose for the Rest of Your Life by Dale Hanson Bourke to any and every woman in the second half of life.

Bourke begins by identifying the issues aging women face. Among them is the loss of many of the things society values – like looks, power, and ambition. She describes how these are either fading naturally or losing their appeal. She tells her own story and, using the example of Naomi from the Bible, talks about how one can get through this time not only gracefully but in a way that enriches oneself and others. I found the chapters dealing with the past, idols, prayer, and friends especially probing.

Bourke’s writing style is warm, companionable and interesting – sprinkled, as the text is, with lots of anecdotes. Sidebars, in the form of text boxes, supplement the main chapter sections.“Reflect” boxes contain questions for personal reflection, journaling or group discussion (e.g.: "What are you doing today that is an investment in the future?” p. 105).

“Act” sections have suggestions for action (e.g.:“Find a friend who wants to try a prayer adventure with you. Try walking and praying out loud. Or meet together and read a classic book on prayer such as The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence” p. 146).

Quotes are also scattered throughout the text.

Each chapter ends with a personalized prayer that gives the reader another window on how to apply what she has just read.

The book’s end matter has a section of footnotes and a couple of pages of “Recommended Resources” – both books and websites.

The only criticism I have of the book is the way it’s bound. My paperback volume has a plastic film laminated to the paper. The film started to peel away as soon as I began handling it. Resisting the urge to peel more is as hard as not picking at a scab or ripping loose wallpaper. My poor book looks like it needs a face lift of its own.

That little matter aside, I found this an altogether uplifting, encouraging, and affirming read. I am using the “Reflect” sections as journal prompts to help me dig deeper into my own past, current motivations, and future expectations. Bourke has given me lots to think about and this book will be my companion for a while.

Besides personal use, I can see Embracing Your Second Calling being useful as a springboard for group study and discussion. I don’t think the groups would even have to be confined to middle-aged or older women. For the mindset and spiritual outlook Bourke describes in her maturing self are not restricted to women who have reached a certain age, but are available to women of any age open to spiritual renewal and continuing spiritual health and usefulness.

Article first published as Book Review: Embracing Your Second Calling: Find Passion and Purpose for the Rest of Your Life by Dale Hanson Bourke on Blogcritics.

I received a copy of this book as a gift from the publisher for the purpose of writing a review.

Read a Christianity Today interview with Dale Hanson Bourke.

Monday, June 21, 2010

reading the new way

It's only been about four months since I downloaded the (free) Kindle app onto my iPod touch. In that time reading on this handy little device has found a very secure place in my reading habits. Here are some reasons I love this new way of reading:

1. Adjustable font size
Whenever I tell people I read on this 2 1/2  x 4 1/2 inch gadget with its 2 x 3 inch display, they ask: Isn't it hard to see? My answer: Not at all.

Unlike when you read other materials on the iPod and need to adjust the tiny font size with a finger motion on the touch screen, the Kindle program comes with five pre-set font sizes. You can choose the size that's comfortable and never worry about it after that.


2. Backlit
I can read in bed - and with the lights out! However, it is hard to read  on a backlit display in bright sunlight.

3. Highlightable and Notable
I stumbled across the highlight and notation function quite by accident. During the reading of my first Kindle book, I noticed once in a while as I was "turning a page" (done by sweeping a finger across the screen to the left to go forward, to the right to go backward), a symbol. Under my swooping finger appeared what looked like a magnifying glass. When I lifted my finger from the screen the word from under the glass remained selected with dots - handles - attached. I discovered I could then touch those handles, stretching the selection to cover many words and choose to "Note" or "Highlight".


If I chose "Note" the keyboard appeared and I could type and save some text to identify the spot. If I chose "Highlight" the selected text turned yellow as if I had used a highlighter on it.

 You can later find the spots marked this way in 'bookmarks' (appears as a book icon in a toolbar when you touch the bottom of the screen). 

4. Easy to save my spot
Dog-ear the page by touching the right upper corner of the screen. (Un-dog-ear it by touching it again.) The program also 'remembers' the farthest place you have read or paged to in the book.

5. Many books with me all the time
I love never being without a book. I can tuck this virtual library into a tiny pocket of my smallest handbag. My little iPod book collection has helped me pass the time while waiting in restaurants, at the doctor's office, whenever I have a minute to read. It includes writings by Andrew Murray, George Muller, G. K. Chesterton, Charles Spurgeon, and ten classic children's novels.

No, my little reading device doesn't smell like a book, or feel like a book. But I have grown quite fond of it anyway.

(First published 06-12-10 on Inscribe Writers Online)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

test

I've just put my blog on networked blogs through Facebook. This is a test post to see if it worked.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

book review: Somewhere to Belong by Judith Miller

Title: Somewhere to Belong
Author: Judith Miller
Publisher: Bethany House; Original edition (Mar 1 2010), paperback, 368 pages
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0764206427
ISBN-13: 978-0764206429


Seventeen-year-old Berta Schumacher thinks she and her parents have come to Main Village of the Amana Colonies in Iowa for a brief visit. Even that can’t end too soon as far as she’s concerned. When she discovers that the family has actually come to stay, she puts on a spoiled-child act that shocks 20-year-old Johanna Ilg.

Johanna is all the more dismayed when she discovers that it is to be her job to train Berta for work in the colony’s communal kitchen. Somewhere to Belong by Judith Miller is the story of what happens in the lives of Berta and Johanna between March and the autumn of 1877.

Johanna and Berta are entertaining, vividly drawn characters who take turns telling their side of the story. The point-of-view character changes with almost every chapter, and since both talk in first person and sound a lot like each other, the reader needs to pay close attention to who is speaking (designated by character names that head the numbered chapters).

Related to first person POV telling, once in a while Miller expresses the girls’ thoughts using vocabulary that doesn’t seem realistic. I hardly think a 17-year-old would notice the air as cooling a “modicum,” call an afternoon snack a “repast” or refer to someone not giving her a straight answer as a “demurring” and a “declination” (pp. 96 and 121). Simpler words would feel more in tune with the setting, and the girls' ages and personalities.

Both young women are by turns likable (Berta for her spunk and imagination, Johanna for her kindness, maturity and patience) and frustrating (Berta is selfish, bratty, and immature; Johanna stubborn and forced to play the role of the goody-two-shoes enforcer). Berta gets into all kinds of trouble and the way she learns from her mistakes (or doesn’t) gives the book the feel of a coming-of-age novel. There is also romance — delivered ever so discreetly; I’m sure the Amanan’s would approve.

The 1870s Amana Colony setting distinguishes this book from Amish novels, though in many ways it has the same feel. Some German renderings of words, and detailed descriptions of the colony and its workings makes for an authentic reader experience. One thing Miller does well is show how the group dynamic of the colony puts pressure to conform onto the characters. As a result, Berta’s repeated flaunting of the rules becomes the source of lots of character and reader tension.

Secrets and their potential to harm relationships is a theme that runs through the book. The characters’ faith, displayed through outward devotion and religious practice (they are always going to some prayer meeting or service at the colony’s meeting house), plays a big part in the story too. Though in some ways the faith depicted seems more like an imposition of colony culture (with almost a cultish feel to it) than a faith decision entered into and nurtured as a result of personal choice, I suspect the way it is portrayed is more realistic to the way it was than not.

Miller’s skill at keeping her characters in hot water makes this a compelling, fast read. For an entertaining and educational sojourn in another place and time, Somewhere to Belong won’t disappoint. It is the first in the Daughters of Amana Series. Book Two, More than Words, is due to be released later this year.

I received Somewhere to Belong as a gift from Bethany House for the purpose of writing a review.



Article first published as Book Review: Somewhere to Belong by Judith Miller on Blogcritics.

Friday, June 18, 2010

catching up

It's been pretty quiet here on the blog for the past little while. We were out of town for almost a week (from June 9th to 15th). When we got back I was busy catching up with all stuff that I got behind on while being away.

We were visiting these little gaffers.


And this weekend it's more celebrating. Tomorrow is our 29th! In honour of the occasion hubby brought this gorgeous bouquet home yesterday.


 We're going to splurge and have dinner out at the Salmon House tomorrow night.

On the writing front, on Thursday I got the good news that an article of mine won The Word Guild Award in the Children/Young Adult Article category. (The list of results is here.)



And on this coming Tuesday (June 22nd), I'll be  part of our MSA Poets Potpourri Blue Moon Reading series. (Alvin Ens - the frequent prize-winning Abbotsford poet and I are the featured readers.) There will also an open mic. Anyone interested can come. It's at the:
Clearbrook Library
32320 George Ferguson Way, Abbotsford, BC
6:30-8:30 p.m.,
Admission is free

Thursday, June 17, 2010

metallic

Truck, in retirement on the pier at Telegraph Cove, Vancouver Island, BC

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Thursday Challenge


Next week: SOFT (Soft Light, Comfortable, Bendable, Fur, Hair, Dandelion Seeds,...)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

urban


Vancouver, BC

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Next Week: METALLIC (Metal, Shiny, Mirror, Clothes, Cars, Jewelry,...)

Friday, June 04, 2010

book review: The Ark by Boyd Morrison


Title: The Ark
Author: Boyd Morrison
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Canada, May 2010, paperback, 420 pages

ISBN-10: 1439198675
ISBN-13: 978-1439198674

From the opening scene of archeologist Dilara Kenner watching her friend Sam Watson slouch over dead mid-conversation in the food court at the Los Angeles airport, The Ark's author Boyd Morrison plunges us into a story filled with terror and intrigue. This debut novel spans only a few weeks but feels much longer as our heroes (Dilara and engineer Tyler Locke) jet from Newfoundland to Las Vegas, to Seattle, to Phoenix, to Miami, to Orcas Island, to Armenia. They are always in danger and working against incredible time constraints as they attempt to unravel and foil Sebastian Ulric and the Church of the Holy Waters’ deadly plan to wipe out civilization.

Plot is everything in this fast-paced thriller. Boyd distributes the tension peaks and valleys throughout to keep us turning pages till the end.

Characters, easily identified as on one side or the other, engage in numerous cat-and-mouse pursuits. Some of the more fantastic chases (a monster truck loose on the streets of Phoenix, motorcycles careening around the deck of a ship, good guys against bad in the bowels of a maze-like bunker) reminded me of action movie sequences. Boyd’s obvious comfort with setting these up, along with his clear descriptions of the action may be thanks to his work with Xbox Games Group. More than once I felt like I was in the middle of a video game – only to emerge at the next level with things getting even worse.

Something that amused me about the setting/plot combo were all the high tech gadgets that the characters had at their fingertips. Just when all seems lost, Tyler produces from his backpack a battery-operated strobe, GPS system linked with his laptop (which never seems to be out of juice), foldaway shovels, remote-controlled vehicles with laser mapping capabilities, hardhats with articulated viewfinders. In that way the book is a techie’s adventure in gadget paradise.

As successful as the story is at delivering an action-packed plot, it is unexceptional in delivering complex characters. Dilara and Tyler are the superwoman Barbie and superman Ken of the good guys, while Ulric, Petrova, and Cutter are evil personified. However, given the type of story this is, I wasn’t surprised or unduly disappointed. This cast of characters gets the job done, delivering lots of entertainment along the way which is the main thing.

The themes the story addresses are similarly slight. Boyd does have Tyler start coming to terms with his relationship with his father. And there is some discussion about faith versus science especially as it relates to Noah’s Ark, the finding of which was the lifetime quest of Dilara’s father, and a focal point in Boyd’s tale.

The two main characters become romantically involved, resulting in a few steamy love scenes (though they are probably tame when compared to similar scenes in some general market books of this type). There is also swearing – not overdone or gratuitous – but there is a lot of violence.

I wasn’t entirely comfortable with the Noah's Ark aspect of the book. To make it figure as part of the intrigue and treachery, Boyd has his characters twist the biblical Noah’s Ark story by questioning the integrity of its translation and the accuracy of its transference from one generation to the next. Though Boyd’s far-fetched premise about the ark serves his general market story well, it in no way offers new enlightenment about the actual Noah’s Ark, only fanciful speculation, complete with an archeological treasure-store and magical amulets.

As a whole, this “blistering paced” suspense thriller is quite an achievement as a debut. Lovers of action, suspense and, of course, high tech toys, will not want to miss it.

(Article first published as Book Review: The Ark by Boyd Morrison on Blogcritics.
I received The Ark as a gift from Simon & Schuster Canada for the purpose of writing a review.)

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The Ark is actually the third novel Boyd Morrison wrote.  He was having the usual trouble debut authors have finding anyone to publish his stories. He tells the fascinating tale of how his book got published to Scott Bukti in a Blogcritics interview. Here's an excerpt:


"Editors loved the premise, plot, and characters, but they didn't see how it would stand out in a crowded thriller market. So with Irene's (his agent) blessing, in 2009 I put all three books onto the Kindle store. I really had nothing to lose. This was just as the Kindle 2 was coming out, and Amazon started letting unpublished authors self-publish their books electronically on the Kindle.


I did no advertising or promotion, but readers on various web discussion forums picked up on the books and started recommending them. Within a month, The Ark was the number one techno thriller on the Kindle, and all three books were in the top five in multiple genres. Within three months, I sold 7,500 copies of my books, and by that time they were selling at the rate of 4,000 books per month."  Read entire...
Which just goes to show, there is hope for writers even in this brave new world of publishing house downsizing, online bookstores and e-readers.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

family


Mama and Papa Goose and their undecaplets
(I think that's the word for 11 chicks at once)

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Next Week: URBAN (Buildings, Traffic, Graffiti, Signs, People,...)

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

irises

This is iris season and I have some!



I only wish they would last longer.

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