Saturday, September 29, 2012

Whatcha Readin'?

Reading: As a member of 2 book clubs, I am often asked, and often ask others, "Whatcha readin'?"  It seems readers like to talk about what they are reading and to find out what others are reading, mainly to get more ideas to stack on the nightstand.  I like talking about books (thus 2 book clubs) and recommended books to other people.  I don't recommend the same books to everyone but try to figure out what they would like.  Here are some of my recent reads:

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan - You may recall one of my book clubs read The Botany of Desire by the same author earlier this year.  I missed the discussion of that book due to illness in the house but it seems it was not a popular book.  I found In Defense to be better written, easier to follow.  Perhaps he had the benefit of a better editor or a more cohesive idea for a book this time.  The subtitle of this one is "Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants."  He defines what constitutes food (no big surprise, most of the "food" in the grocery store is not really food, so much as manufactured goods) and goes on to tell you why.  It was a pretty interesting book, though I think there is a lot out there these days about "clean eating" and similar concepts.  It made me think about what I eat and about all the nutrition buzz we hear constantly everywhere.  It made me think about how we receive contradictory messages about what is "good for you" and wonder how did humankind survive all this time before nutritionists started telling us what to eat?  And why, when the experts started telling us what we should eat, did we all start to get fat?  Overall, good food for thought.  Sorry, couldn't resist the pun.

I read Dewey: the small-town library cat who touched the world by Vicki Myron in the middle of the summer.  I liked this book a whole lot.  Such an endearing story of a pretty amazing cat and how he really did touch the world from the library in a town few outside the Midwest have heard of (Spencer, Iowa).  As with any true-life pet story, tears are guaranteed.We meet Dewey Readmore Books when he is found in the book drop on a bitterly cold morning with his paws severely frostbitten, and follow his story through the political struggles to keep him at the library, through his naughty antics and picky habits as well as his warm social nature, watching as he repairs relationships and brings people from around the world to the library. 

The Friday night dinner/book club decided after reading Dewey to continue on an animal theme and we read We Bought a Zoo by Benjamin Mee next.  I have not seen the movie but from those who have seen the movie and read the book, the book is, as usual, better.  If you are unfamiliar with the story (or have only seen the movie), it is the non-fiction story of a British family who bought a broken down zoo and how they repaired and rebuilt it.  Not only are there struggles with the animals, but also with the banks and regulatory officials as the family fights to secure the money they need to make the repairs they need to get pass the inspection they need to open the zoo so that they can make money to keep the zoo going.  (I know, you are impressed with my seriously long run-on sentence.)  And in the midst of this, the author's wife, mother to his 2 young children, has a recurrence of a serious brain tumor.  I found myself becoming distraught, not knowing if they were going to make it and have a successful zoo, all while learning about how zoos and animal conservation work, and knowing in the back of my mind that of course it will all work out.  Won't it?

I re-read a childhood favorite by my favorite author, Judy Blume.  I must have read Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great more than a dozen times, but haven't read it in probably over 25 years.  Yet as soon as I opened to the first page, I knew these sentences by heart, as if I had read them just a week before.  Loved it just as much now as then.

So those are just a few of the books I have read in the last two months.  More on the others at another time.

Eating: It is apple season.  We picked several pounds at the orchard last week with our friends and their five-year-old daughter.  E and I got a large bag of Haralsons for baking and a smaller bag of Connell Red for eating.  When we got home, the little one and I got busy baking apple cupcakes.  She loves to run the Apple Peeler/Corer/Slicer and is big on stirring, also.  She made one of the cupcakes extra big, stating that was for E, and helped stir when I was making the frosting.  We used Grandma Nellie's Apple Cake recipe with the caramel frosting.  Super tasty, especially when the cupcakes are still warm or reheated.  This was the first time I had made this recipe (first blogged about on A is for Apple Cake) and it took a little trial and error to figure out how long to bake cupcakes versus a 13x9 cake but I think it was around 30 minutes.  Set the timer for 20 minutes and add 3-4 minutes as needed until the cupcakes spring back when you touch them in the middle.  The caramel frosting is SO GOOD. 

Tonight I will make some apple crisp and plan to make some applesauce too.  I will use some of the applesauce to make the applesauce streusel muffins.  Expect a future blog post with apple recipes.

Weeding:  The asters are a sea of deep purple and the sedum is various shades of red.  The green/burgundy leaves of the penstemon are a lovely bright red now and some of the mums are blooming again.  There is a bit of color in the garden yet!  There is a bit of clean up to be done as well, and we have started to harvest potatoes on an "as-needed" basis.  I need to figure out what to do with all the carrots and it is probably time to pull out the tomato plants.  It is a beautiful warm day, so I will leave you now and go out to the garden. 

Enjoy the autumn!

Until we eat again,

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