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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Forest Feast

This morning my youngest son and I walked around the lake east of our home. Trees are budding, pussy willows look like large dew drops on their branches, loons and a trumpeter swan floated with the mallards on the small patches of open water, and seed pods fluttered in the breeze. The surrounding forest echoed with birds calling to each other and woodpeckers tapping on tree trunks. It was a feast for the senses.

Back at home Erin Gleeson's The Forest Feast rests on our table. It, too, is a feast for the senses. Organized into appetizers, cocktails, salads, vegetable dishes, and sweets, it contains basic - yet somehow inventive - vegetarian recipes. Each is featured on a double-page spread with step-by-step instructions and photographs (taken by the author) of the ingredients and finished product. Her choice of Traveling Typewriter and Vintage Typewriter as the fonts is perfect, as is the occasional use of her own handwriting in the directions. Each section is prefaced by a list of the recipes in it, annotated with some notes about flavors, serving, and recipe history. It is a beautiful book, and the recipes are intriguing enough that I just might have to buy this book.

Will I ever remember some of her flavor combinations or ideas if I just try to keep them in my mind? How about Curried Crispy Carrots or Guacamole Deviled Eggs? The Green Salad, the Yellow Salad, and the Red Salad all look delicious, as do the savory Polenta Portabellos. Mmm. Treat your body and mind by pursuing and using this excellent cookbook!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Passing Quickly

One morning this week, I returned to the library with a third grader who was returning a book. "Sometimes books pass too quickly," he told me thoughtfully. I agree completely (though I might not have felt the same about the book in his hand: a Captain Underpants volume). It is happening to me today. In fact, I left The War That Saved My Life (written by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley) to write this, knowing I will finish it when I return to my sunny chair.

I have spent part of the last day in the English countryside during the early years of World War II with Ada Smith, her younger brother Jamie, and their unlikely caretaker, Miss Susan Smith. Though not related to the children, she accepts the evacuees and provides for their well-being. The two live in fear, having been mistreated, neglected, and malnourished by their biological mother. Ada, in fact, had never been allowed out of their third floor apartment, constantly told by her mother it was her fault she had a deformed foot. But Ada is a determined girl. Alone in their apartment, she teaches herself to walk - however painfully - in order to escape the prison imposed on her by her bullying mother. 

And then she meets Susan Smith, the pony named Butter in Susan's field, a stable caretaker named Fred Grimes, and numerous other kind and compassionate folks whose generosity and concern slowly turn her mistrust into hope. With Susan, I discovered how terribly sheltered the children had been. Words they should know need explanations and modeling. Their assumptions about people and meanness must be wore down with reassurance, bedtime reading (The Swiss Family Robinson), baths, three meals a day, and attention. 

I have been laughing, pondering, celebrating, and shaking my head as the pages of this book pass too quickly. May you feel the same way about it.