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The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin

August 30th, 2012 | Posted by Lackey in My Reading Life - (0 Comments)

Having just taken a job at a winery overlooking an orchard, I clicked on a recent advertisement for a new novel called The Orchardist and was surprised to find the high praise of my former student/author Salvatore Scibona
“Nearly everybody in the book compels your admiration, either for their courage or for the heavy
work they do, all the time and without complaint, even when wicked men are hunting them.
Transfixing. I love this book straight through.” (Salvatore Scibona, author of THE END, National
Book Award Finalist )
The cover art actually presages the panoramic scope of the book.  Based on family history from the author’s ancestors in the fruit-rich Wenatchee Valley of Washington state, the novel reads like an old-fashioned story, heavy with description.  The comparisons reviewers have made to Steinbeck seem fitting.  William Talmadge quietly oversees his apple and apricot orchard, always scanning the landscape out of longing for the return of his sister.  One day two pregnant young women appear.  Their lives intertwine with his, setting off a plot of treachery, anguish and, ultimately, reconciliation. I loved the fluidity of this – rather long – novel so much, I didn’t want it to end.  I welcome Amanda Coplin as a fresh young voice in fiction.

The perfect addition to the oilcloth picnic basket liners I have been making is an insulated carrier for a bottle – or two – of wine.  I found a pretty easy McCalls pattern and bought some silvery insulation lining fabric.

The bag and handle are all one piece so construction is very simple – just a few seams.  I cut three out of black and red and white and red cherry oilcloth fabric to match basket liners I already have made.

To prove to myself that they are as functional as they are cute, I put two chilled bottles of white wine in on at noon the other day, and at 4:00 pm – officially “wine time” in my father’s household – they were still cool and ready to serve.

Quarry Hill Winery – My New Job

August 25th, 2012 | Posted by Lackey in My Wining Life - (0 Comments)

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I did want a small part-time job to amuse me in my retirement and help me adjust to the empty nest following my daughter’s departure for college. I preferred a job for which my résumé was not needed – a job unrelated to teaching, with no take-home work and no meetings! I flippantly walked into my favorite winery in Northeast Ohio and announced I was ready to work back in June and today, I worked my first shift.

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The place is gorgeous. It sits high on the hill overlooking acres and acres of vineyards and fruit trees. The view from the balcony includes Lake Erie off in the distance.

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The wine is great, there is live music and food on the weekends and the people who work there are awesome!

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My Daughter’s Painting

August 24th, 2012 | Posted by Lackey in My Latest Project - (0 Comments)

My daughter was approached by her math teacher – who she had for 3 years – about making a piece of art to hang in her new house.  The finished product is beautiful.  I should have asked her for one!

 

All summer my daughter has been watching me make my oilcloth creations and hoping I would save time to make something pink and girly for her new dorm room.  I was happy to find pink damask oilcloth to make her a set of medium sized bins.  She wanted plain black liners and the black is so nice and shiny it looks like patent leather.  Also she wanted rigid upper edges.  After some experimentation,  I achieved success by inserting tiny dowel rods in the upper edge pockets.  An oval chalk cloth label on the side will help her be extra organized. I think they turned out great!

For an extra surprise,  I decided to make a bedside caddy since the beds are supposed to be lofted in her room.   I followed these great instructions a Sew4Home.  I used fabric lined oilcloth for the pockets which I attached to heavy black duck cloth.

It even has a strip of grippy footy pajama fabric to keep it secure between the mattress and the frame.

A place for the cell phone, glasses, and maybe her stationary for writing to her mother?

 

Blackened Pork with Peaches

August 20th, 2012 | Posted by Lackey in Dining In - (0 Comments)

This morning’s New York Times Sunday magazine supplied our recipe for dinner in an article title “How to Burn Dinner“.

We started with a nice piece of pork butt that the butcher up at the corner butterflied for us.  The recipe called for a paste of olive oil, fresh rosemary (which is growing nicely on the deck) and garlic.  I added in some Black Dog Belly Rub from local spice maker Mom’s Gourmet .


The recipe called for cooking the pork in a cast iron skillet on the grill.  Since we only use a charcoal grill here, that meant David got the coals going while I worked on our side dish – ratatouille!  This past week would have been Julia Child’s 100th birthday!  I wanted to cook something from Mastering the Art of French Cooking in honor, but I went with a recipe I found on the Saveur website.  I had a basket of peppers, eggplant and zucchini we got at the Quarry Hill Market last weekend, so I got things cooking stove top in the Dutch oven, which was put into the oven to bake while the pork cooked.

The final step was to add the fresh Quarry Hill peaches for the last 5 minutes.

A little fresh basil and goat cheese atop the ratatouille and dinner is served!

Any other year, this would have been the last official dinner of summer – but not this year.

Circle Skirt Sewing Party

August 17th, 2012 | Posted by Lackey in My Latest Project - (0 Comments)

It tickles me to know that I have friends who actually want to learn how to make their own clothes.  I learned to sew from my mother, who made all of my clothes, it seems, up to a point.  I now have two fairly decent sewing machines and a serger, and four friends willing to come over on a summer afternoon with their new fabric to sew. 

We were using the Circle Skirt Pattern from Christine Haynes book Chic & Simple Sewing.  This is a great book that include patterns for skirts, tops, dresses and jacket – all clearly labeled by difficulty level.  Cutting was easy!

The pattern features just one side seam and a casing at the top for the elastic waist. The challenge was the hemming, since the swirl of the skirt really benefits from a tiny rolled hem.  I’m proud to say – every one walked out with a skirt.

 

 

Check out the antique 1930’s vintage sewing machine one friend brought to the party

 


This is it!  If I were really returning to the classroom next week, this would have been the panic point of the summer when I asked myself why I hadn’t been able to find a great book to rave about to my new classes.  Well no new classes and book found!  Shine Shine Shine is a fresh, other-worldy, tear-jerking romance that illuminates the frailty of humanity.  Sunny Mann is bald from birth, mother of a special needs child named Bubber, pregnant with her second child and married to Maxim, a nerdly NASA astronaut launched into space on a robot colonization mission.  Through flashback, vignette, and symbolic near-poetic narration, Netzer tells how the couple met and fell in love as fragile children and now face the fears of the future as parents.  There were lovely passages I wanted to copy long-hand –
“All life is binary. On and Off. There is no middle setting.  Alive or dead. In love or not in love. Kissing or not kissing. Speaking or not speaking. One choice leads to another with no forks in the road.”   For a first novel, it blew my mind, made me cry and wish for that classroom of kids that I could shake this book in front of.  Readers will be talking about this one for a while.

Naked Tomato Sauce and Eggplant Stacks

August 11th, 2012 | Posted by Lackey in Dining In - (0 Comments)

I love the end of summer when local farm stands are full of fresh produce.  But I have had a tough time finding roma tomatoes recently, so when I found some it was time for the best tomato sauce recipe I have ever tried.  About last year this time I discovered the awesome food blog The Smitten Kitchen.  The photos and simple preparation for her Naked Tomato Sauce inspired me.  It is easy and so delicious made with fresh local tomatoes.  So dining in tonight we had lovely spaghetti with eggplant stacks with an additional sprinkling of chopped tomatoes and basil on top of fresh mozzarella.

See here for the tomato sauce recipe at Smitten Kitchen.

Zinc Brasserie

August 11th, 2012 | Posted by Lackey in Dining Out - (0 Comments)

We recently enjoyed a special dinner with friends at a restaurant we had heard a lot about in Sandusky, Ohio.  Zinc Brasserie is located just off of the lake in downtown Sandusky.  It is a cozy dining room with a bar along one wall.  High tin ceilings and a large chalkboard of specials give it lots of charm.  We had a reservation and were glad we did – (thanks Open Table).

We started off with a Crispy Oyster Spinach salad from the specials list which  was served on a long rectangular plate with four lightly-battered fried oysters atop a bed of greens.  I ordered Cioppino because I had never even said that word before!  It was a spicy tomato broth over squid ink pasta topped with shrimp, scallops, salmon, calamari and a few mussels.

David ordered the Berkshire pork entree because it was highly recommended by our friendly and very helpful waitress.  Wow – what a serving of pork.  It was served on a thin layer of what the waitress described as “cheesy potatoes” with mushrooms and blue cheese.  He shared a bite and it was tender and juicy and he enjoyed every bite.