A Southern Thanksgiving on a Western Ranch

Posted by admin on Thursday Nov 25, 2010 Under Uncategorized

 

Happy Thanksgiving from Jane’s Ranch!

 

Here’s my menu this year . . .

Maker’s Mark Bourbon Old Fashioneds Thanksgiving Kitchen
Janie’s southern cheddar cheese wafers
Spiced sweet and salty pecans

Baby Lettuce salad from the garden with a mustardy vinagrette

Herb-rubbed Turkey
Sage,thyme and marjoram bread stuffing with pecans
Gravy

Orange Ginger Cranberry Sauce
Green bean casserole
Butternut squash gratin
Creamed pearl onions
Mashed potatoes
Homemade dinner rolls

Wines: Champagne, Gewerztraminer or Pinot Noir

My Grandmother’s traditional Southern Pecan Pie
Pumpkin Pie
Whipped Cream

Coffee, tea and Cognac in front of the fire

Friends, I’m going to give you all a little gift— my grandmother’s recipe for Pecan Pie. So simple! So good!

Daisy Moore’s Southern Pecan Pie
2 eggs
1/3 cup of white sugar
2/3 cup light Karo syrup
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
3 TBS melted butter
2/3 cup pecan shells
Unbaked pie shell. You can use any pie crust recipe. My grandmother used Crisco in hers—you know the white stuff. Hey, she lived well into her eighties. And my great-grandmother used lard. Ditto living to a ripe old age. I’ve even used the frozen ones when I had to throw the whole meal together all by myself. Y’all, however, can use your discretion. I do recommend having the crust really, really cold, though.

Beat the eggs slightly. Stir in the sugar, salt, vanilla, melted butter and pecans. Pour the filling into the unbaked pie shell and bake in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes. The pie may come out a little soft, but it will harden as it cools.

You noticed. Yes, that’s a turkey in my kitchen. I have a few exceptions to the vegetarian rule and Family Holiday Dinners is one. Any veering from tradition on this one would break my husband’s heart.

The picture’s a little blurry, but that’s what Champagne and candlelight does, I guess.

Hope your holiday is as full of warmth and high spirits!

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Elizabeth George and Books Passage University

Posted by admin on Thursday Nov 18, 2010 Under Uncategorized

My desk. Rain clouds. Early evening. A memory.

office

I don’t know why I was scared to tell anyone, but I was. I thought that maybe, just maybe, if I didn’t talk about it, it would go away.

Well, it didn’t. I was going to have to admit the truth.

So one winter afternoon in the middle of a torrential El Nino rainstorm, the kind California can have in January, Dave and I were driving up to Mendocino to visit friends. Water poured off the roof of the car, and the windshield wipers thwapped furiously. The low sky, a bruised grey color seen from the steamy windows, gave me the feeling I was in some brooding French film.

We’d just passed Cloverdale and were winding up the mountain when I knew I had to tell my husband where I’d been spending my time—early mornings, late nights.

“I have a confession to make,” I blurted out. “All those evenings you thought I was at school, I wasn’t grading papers.”

(You can see where I’m going with this.)

Only in retrospect do I remember how silent Dave became and how the car slowed, how I could only hear the heater vents blowing, the tires sloshing around the curves.

“I’ve been writing a novel.”

More silence. And then Dave burst out laughing. Not the confession he’d feared. For me though, a burden had been lifted.

After that— no more secret scribbling. I could pad around in my L.L. Bean plaid bathrobe with a vacant, distracted look on my face, and no one would think I was having a series of small strokes. I was writing.

For a couple of years before we moved to the ranch, I wrote in a little studio behind our house in Berkeley. The real estate agent called it a whimsical little cottage, and it was whimsical in its whimsical little way with its paper thin walls, freezing drafts, and its only warmth— a humming, little space heater. Its whimsy came complete with a soundtrack—every leaf-blower, car-alarm and skill saw from the neighborhood’s constant renovations, the opera singer two houses down practicing his scales, the guitar teacher’s students playing “I’ve Seen Fire and I’ve Seen Rain” over and over. It was charming (whimsical) in a Berkeley sort of way.

My new sound track?

office

Peace and Quiet.

A friend once said that ever since she’d known me I wanted only two things: to live in the country and write novels.

Gazing over the mountains now, I remember when I had no idea how any of this could happen— didn’t have a place in the country nor any clue how to go about this novel writing business. Poems–sure—but juggling a big thing, lots of note cards, plots, sub-plots, characters, point-of-view, narrative drive . . . Dude. I was lost.

I wrote wonderful first chapters, beautiful scenes, and then somewhere along the line, the whole thing would unravel.

Enter the writer Elizabeth George.

Thank you Books Passage University for having that four-day workshop. Bless you Elaine Petrocelli, and the Mystery Writer’s Conference, and the famous editor who, at that conference, told me I was a wonderful writer. Just not a mystery writer.

“You write women’s fiction,” she said.

I could not have finished my women’s fiction novels, could not have showed one to a famous editor without these good folks at Books Passage and their workshops. Go there. Take their classes. Buy books online from them. Do whatever it takes to support this wonderful independent bookstore in Corte Madera.

While I’m at it, here’s a book tip for you.

Autumn is full upon us here. The leaves of the Japanese maple in the patio are flame-colored and the dogwoods have turned deep red. We’ve been lighting fires each evening for coziness as much as for warmth.

This time of year always makes me think of curling up in my pjs on the sofa and reading all night. If you’re in that kind of mood, I’d recommend Elizabeth George’s Deception on his Mind. It’s a great big mystery set in a seedy, has-been sea-side town in England. Enjoy!

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Kings Canyon Autumn

Posted by admin on Thursday Nov 11, 2010 Under Uncategorized

My sister-in-law just told me my nephew is reading my blog, so I want to send this out to him.

He’s a skier and an all-around outdoorsman who lives with his family in Colorado. Actually, they used to live in Puerto Vallarta in a charming house a few steps from the Bay of Banderas. You know the kind of place . . . tropical breezes and sunset views over the ocean. But hey—-he missed the SNOW! WINTER! THE MOUNTAINS!

I’m glad to see he’s carrying on his Uncle Dave’s tradition of being TOTALLY INSANE.

I just want to remind him of his uncle’s Thirty Second Theory.

Here it is: Snow fed mountain lakes at 10,000 feet elevation are not cold if you only stay in thirty seconds. Your body doesn’t have the time to adjust to the cold, so you won’t feel a thing.

Word of advice. Run this theory by your cousin Anna before you try this. She was Dave’s first lab experiment. Now everything in life that seems dubious gets lumped into the category of one of Dad’s thirty-second-theories.

Actually, my husband does have a lot of brilliant theories and ideas. One of them was to take this walk by the Kings River up to Mist Falls on a moody autumn day.

The river has narrowed so much from the early summer when it was a rushing torrent of snow melt. Soon it will be ice, I thought, and that reminded me of this poem by one of our great western poets William Stafford.

ASK ME

Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.

William Stafford (1914-1993)

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Ohmega Salvage and a Vintage Clawfoot Tub

Posted by admin on Thursday Nov 4, 2010 Under Uncategorized

 

Ladies, I knew I had to have a girly-girl bathroom up here.

 

vintage tub It’s great to get in touch with your inner tomboy, but at the end of the day, lavender bubble bath, candlelight and crystal wine glasses are really appreciated.

This beautiful tub was great to sink into after a day like today!

Sweet isn’t it?

My morning had gone something like this:

Dave got up at the crack of dawn and headed to the Bay Area to do his astrophysicist thing, leaving the little woman (moi) home alone on the range.

No problema. I had a long list of things to keep me busy.

We’d just had a lovely visit with our friend Carolyn Stephenson (of Mission Café fame and the Santa Fe Community Farm), and I headed to the guesthouse to change the sheets and vacuum. I figured while I was at it, I’d water the cottonwoods we ‘d planted up there along the split rail fence.

After I’d turned off the hose, I pushed open the squeaky door to the screen porch and there it was— a two foot

SNAKE

stretched out on the sun-warmed floor, probably snoozing away. Must have gotten in under the door.

All I can say is I’m glad Carolyn had gone. (What do you other country folks do about this kind of thing when your city friends come to visit? And yes, Santa Fe is a city. It’s the City Different!)

Anyway, I checked the snake out and pretty much figured it was a gopher snake. It had an oval head, and I couldn’t see any rattles. There was no one I could holler to for help, so I just cowgirled-up, grabbed the broom leaning against the wall and started pushing the snake toward the door.

Not happy. Not happy at all.

It coiled and hissed and swayed until it was in front of the door, where it stayed with no intention of going anywhere.

I’ve dispatched a few rattlers that were on the property just after we moved in, but really, I’ve never spent so much time closed in a room with a snake before— me staring at him, him at me. I mean, I guess he was staring. His little red, forked tongue was moving back and forth in the air, aiming my direction.

I was stuck. No way I could get around him, and he was within striking distance. I. Stood. Very. Still. What if I’d been wrong about the shape of his head? Maybe he was a little buttontail rattler after all. Remember that poem by Emily Dickinson? A Narrow Fellow?

me in tubAfter a while, he unwound— sort of collapsed gracefully— turned and inched ever so slowly out the door and along the side of the building. A gopher snake after all. One of the good ones. Not that rattlesnakes aren’t good, too. They are. Still….

We’re getting a threshold for that door! Tomorrow! Zero to the bone indeed!

I finished tidying up, rolled an old towel in front of the gap in the door and headed down the hill to our cabin.

I put on Duke Ellington, lit candles, popped open a bottle of Pinot, and ran a really hot bath, bubbles and all.

I love soaking in the tub at twilight after gardening (or in this case, wrangling snakes), looking out the bay windows, imagining all the creatures out there, and me safe and civilized in here.

Dave shot this picture of me and my tub before the cabin was finished. We’d just installed it.

Who knew happiness could be so simple?

(BTW the tub is from Ohmega Salvage and antique sconces are from Ohmega Too in Berkeley CA.)

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