Bookish Matters

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.

—Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Saturday, March 31, 2012

In the Kitchen—Menu

What I'm going to eat this week! So here's the thing, I don't really eat meals. At least not what most people consider meals—I either eat a lot of snacks or a lot of small meals. And I don't eat in any particular order—I might eat curry at 10 AM and yogurt at 8 PM. Breakfast is the only normal meal I eat. So I'm not going to break what I eat down into breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for you, like I did last week.

Blueberry juice, grapefruit, or pear
Tea
Oatmeal
Apple and sage field roast (It's like vegan sausage, made from potatoes and gluten, and is delicious. The meat-eaters I've fed it to have approved.)

Big green salad
Whole wheat pitas and hummus (We have a local hummuserie that makes great caramelized-onion hummus.)

Mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes with chives and broccoli

Lemongrass curry with broccoli and tofu (Recipe from the March Vegetarian Times. Let me know if you want to know if it's good.)

Berry and soy yogurt smoothies
Bananas
Nuts

Extra-dark chocolate
Coconut and date bars

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

In the Garden—Planting Plans Part 1

I love figuring out what I'm going to plant in my garden! I've heard that making plans often gives us more pleasure than carrying out those plans, that making plans releases endorphins, and I know some endorphins are being released when I think about what I'm going to grow this summer. I'll let you in on some of it.

I'm going to start by planting in the plot by the shed. This is to give my bulbs in the south-facing border along the house time to go dormant, so I can dig them up and reseed the place. The first thing I'll plant are snap peas. The last frost in Moscow will probably be late May. Snap peas can be planted a month before the last frost, so I'll probably plant them between April 21 and 27. I chose those dates specifically because that's when the moon will be waxing; above-ground crops do well when the moon is growing. Snap peas should fix nitrogen into the soil.

As soon as the soil is workable (not too muddy or clumpy, certainly not frozen) I'll plant spinach and strawberries. Spinach and strawberries grow well together. I'll plant chives, too, but not in the same plot as the peas. Peas don't get along with members of the onion family. As we get close to the last frost I'll plant sweet peas and dill. Dill flowers attract beneficial insects.

To find out the last frost in your area, go here. To find out more about companion plants, go here.

I'll tell you about my post-frost plans next week. Do you have any gardening plans?

Monday, March 26, 2012

On the Bookshelf—Pink

Though pink was not her favorite color, it was a color, and as Sir Benjamin had said, all color is of the sun, and good. And pink is the color of dawn and sunset, the link between day and night. Sun and moon alike ought both to love pink because when one is rising and the other setting they so often greet each other across an expanse of rosy sky.

—from The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge

On the Bookshelf—Spring Reads

I like to read books that coordinate with the season. This time of year, that means books that take place in spring, have a new life and blooming flowers, or remind me of summer. And for a while, I only read romances during spring, when the world is alive with twitterpations. Here are some suggestions if you're in the same frame of mind as me:



The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge, illustrated by C. Walter Hodges. I read this children's fantasy book a couple weeks ago when I was down with the mumps and it is absolutely delightful. It reminds me of The Secret Garden a bit, and also takes place in the spring. Apparently it was J.K. Rowling’s favorite book as a child. The land of Moonacre is more idealic than realistic, but it’s so very pleasant to immerse oneself in its world of primroses and daffodils, fresh milk and apple pasties, colorful singing children, beech trees and ancient castles, articulate dwarves and clever cats, feathered hats and silk mittens, sugar biscuits topped with candied flowers. I would like to live in Moonacre.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Full of new life, this classic is an ideal spring read.

Chocolat by Joanne Harris. This is a good book to read during Lent (unless perhaps you gave up chocolate for Lent. Then you might want to stay away.) If you've only seen the movie, well, you know—read the book. While the movie was quite enjoyable, it definitely upped the romance and downplayed feminist qualities in order to appeal to a mainstream audience.


               

The Bride Quartet by Nora Roberts. If you like a bit of romance, this is a good time of year to start Roberts' Bride Quartet. The first book, Vision in White, takes place in winter, and so is appropriate for these snowy March Idaho days. I read it last year at Holden Village in February in between bouts of snowshoeing. The second book, Bed of Roses, will help you welcome in spring with an abundance of flowers. Savor the Moment, the third book, takes place in summer, and the last book, Happy Ever After, takes place in autumn, if I remember correctly. As blogger Kate Nagy said about Vision in White, "with its sprightly heroine and its strong depiction of female friendship and its delightfully nerdy hero, it’s a frilly, frothy vision of winter weddings and happy, pleasant people being pleasantly happy with one another."

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I don't know why, but spring makes me want to read P&P. Emma is also a springish book if you want some Austen, especially during strawberry season, but Emma isn't one of my favorites.

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell. I crave Gaskell in the spring. When the cherries are ripe in the summer is also a good time for Cranford.



Katie Fforde. British author Katie Fforde is one of my favorite romance authors, and if you are wary of the romance genre she's probably a good introduction. Her books are great for ushering in spring and summer. The novels include conflicts like saving the farmer's market from being paved over to make condominiums, remaking a house with the protagonist's savvy carpentry skills, and winning a gardening contest. A few titles good for the warm months include Wild Designs, Paradise Fields, Practically Perfect, and Flora's Lot. One of my favorites is Second Thyme Around, in which the protag stars in a cooking show.

Emily Dickinson. Some of Dickinson's nature poems never go amiss.

Mary Oliver. Ditto.


Do you have any suggestions? What do you like to read in the spring?

Friday, March 23, 2012

In the Kitchen—Menu

As I've said before, I'm recovering from the mumps and have slowly removed myself from the all-soup-and-tea diet, so I don't have any new fantastic recipe to share. I've just gotten my act together, grocery shopping and cooking, so for today I'll simply share my current menu, what I'll be eating for a few days. Since when I cook it's mostly just for myself, I make full-size batches and then eat leftovers for a while.


Breakfast

Blueberry juice or half a grapefruit.

A pot of tea. I switch between caffeinated and herbal teas daily, and on weekends I have coffee.

Oatmeal. If I remember to start soaking it the night before, I do raw oatmeal. I soak a 1/4 cup steel-cut oats and a dash of chia seeds in a half cup of unsweetened almond milk, maybe some spices. The next morning I add chopped crystallized ginger, coconut, and pistachios.

Eggs with chives, on a bed of spinach and topped with grape tomatoes. Eggs are a rare addition to my kitchen, but since Monday was Ostara—the Spring Equinox and the holiday celebrating eggs and bulbs and new life (the holiday we get Easter eggs from)—it seemed appropriate to buy a dozen local eggs.


Lunch



I've been doing it up Big Green Salad/Sunday lunch at Holden Village-style. Lettuce, spinach, radicchio, grated carrots, cucumbers, mushrooms, sunflower seeds, red onion, grape tomatoes, olives, bell pepper, topped with Holden's recipe for honey mustard vinaigrette.

Triscuits with chevre.

I might cook up some lentils to round out my lunch.


Dinner

Paella primavera. I got this recipe from the March Vegetarian Times. But I can't bring myself to make an entire dish with white rice, so I did some finagling to make brown rice with a longer cook time work. And of course, I can't afford saffron. (Birthday present, anyone?)


Snacks

Unsweetened soy yogurt with canned pineapple and ground flax seed
Bananas
Almonds
Citrus Muffins


Dessert

Extra-dark chocolate
Date and coconut bars. I'm always looking for low-sugar desserts, and these are all fruit.


What are you eating this week?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

In the Garden—Introduction to My Garden

This is a nice welcome after the Spring Equinox: Moscow has turned into a winter wonderland. We're used to snow this time of year in these parts, but I hadn't quite expected this. It snows fairly frequently, but most days it melts within a few hours. It certainly doesn't accumulate into inches. Until today.

My bulbs, my young tulip and daffodil shoots don't seem to mind the snow. All is well.

I live in a rented house with a backyard. I spent most of last summer in Spain, so I didn't do a lot of gardening. Now that I officially know I'll be spending the summer here in Moscow, I am excitedly planning the garden I'll be able to tend.

I've got two areas (or three, depending on how you count) I plan on cultivating. One is a south-facing border on my house. The soil is very poor, and last year everything I planted just dried up, despite being well-watered. In the fall, I mixed potting soil, coffee grounds, and bulb fertilizer into the soil, in the hopes of improving things. I planted a variety of tulips and a couple species of daffodil. The site also spent at least half the winter covered with leaves and branches. The tulips and daffodils are sprouting, glorious reddish green shoots I cheer on every time I pass. In the late spring or early summer, when the bulbs go dormant, I'll dig them out and store them. Then I can use that space for vegetables and herbs.


This border wraps around to the west-facing wall. A lemon balm, some weedy flowers, and something with lantern-like seed pods grow there, and have since I moved in. I've left that area relatively undisturbed, except that our jack-o-lanterns have been decomposing there over the winter, and I topped the area with leaves. I'm hoping we'll grow pumpkins. I've had that happen before, where squashes left to compost have sprouted the next season. I'll probably only minimally plant this area.


The final area is a small rectangle behind the shed, bordered by blocks, west- and south-facing. It's mostly overgrown with weeds. I haven't touched it. It looks like it may once have been an herb garden.


There, that introduces you to my gardening space. Since winter is still fiercely hanging onto Idaho, there's not a lot to report, so I'll wait until next week to tell you what I'm thinking of planting and why.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Literary Lunes—Tea Party

Laying down the apple at which he was daintily nibbling, and with the fire of inspiration suddenly lighting up his whole face, he fixed his bright eyes upon the northwest corner of the ceiling and murmured under his breath, "Plum cake. Saffron cake. Cherry cake. Iced fairy cakes. Éclairs. Gingerbread. Meringues. Syllabub. Almond fingers. Rock cakes. Chocolate drops. Parkin. Cream horns. Devonshire splits. Cornish pasty. Jam sandwiches. Lemon curd sandwiches. Lettuce sandwiches. Cinnamon toast. Honey toast—"

—from The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge

Sunday, March 18, 2012

New Jujubes and Aspirins

My blog is finally getting a proper overhaul! Inspiration struck this morning, and I am implementing it immediately. I am expanding the reaches of Jujubes and Aspirins. It is no longer just literary, no no! We will now have:

Literary Lunes. On which I will continue to write book reviews and such things.

Gardening Wednesdays. On which I will share what I am doing in my garden, experimenting with seeds and soil, and hopefully providing fellow amateur gardeners with some tips.

Food Fridays. On which I'll share a recipe or a food I've made. I make mostly (but not exclusively) vegan foods.

I may also post about other topics (Sundry Sundays?). And, at this early stage, I'm open to creative name ideas for the different days. I've thought of Tasty Tuesdays, Well-Read Wednesdays, and Flowering Fridays.

You'll have to bear with me if this gets started slowly, as I'm just beginning to get over a case of the mumps, and have some catching-up to do.