24 March 2011

This Miss Loves to Read - Five Favorite Romantic Reads

This Miss Loves to Read is a blog I enjoy because the author reviews an amazing number of books per week*, many that I'm interested in and many I have never heard of. She and I have apparent similarities and several differences, so it's nice to read reviews about books I might not have considered. Lately she tracked her five favorite romantic reads - I started trying to consider what would my five favorites be. Do I even have five favorites? (no) I didn't think listing all of Miss Austen's works, excepting Emma, would be the right thing to do. I also have a problem with books that don't have a happy ending. I know such books can be romantic, but what good is it, if it does not work out. I'm a sap. I know. So here is my attempt: 
My Five Four Favorite Romantic Reads
1. Persuasion - Jane Austen
I think this has something to do with age. I was older when I read Miss Austen for the first time (apparently the product of sub-standard public school education), just a bit older than Anne Elliot. It was so wonderful to have two people who never ever stopped loving each other finally to be together and be happy, mature, and realizing what they had gained. Of course, THE letter is probably some of the best writing I've ever read. And it follows so closely on the heals of Anne speaking with Captain Harville about who loves longest when hope is lost. It is so very touching and romantic. Oh, I can hear Ciaran Hinds saying it in my head. He's my Captain Wentworth.. yep, It's him. 

nne Elliot & Frederick Wentworth
Amanda Root & Ciaran Hind
"I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in F. W.
"I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father's house this evening or never."

2. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
Gothic, mysterious, creepy setting, strange and resentful people, but a glorious ending nonetheless. Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester are iconic symbols of love, devotion, mistakes, and final happiness. Jane is a remarkable character of great resilience who rises from an extremely humble beginning and through great adversity makes her way to Thornfield to be governess to Mr. Rochester's ward Adele. Rochester is mysterious, but intelligent, kind, mostly, and finds Jane's intellect and directness refreshing. When she leaves him to protect herself she finds herself in company of St. John Rivers and his sisters where she tries to make a life for herself and forget him. But she cannot. 

All the house was still; for I believe all, except St. John and myself, were now retired to rest. The one candle was dying out: the room was full of moonlight. My heart beat fast and thick: I heard its throb. Suddenly it stood still to an inexpressible feeling that thrilled it through, and passed at once to my head and extremities. The feeling was not like an electric shock, but it was quite as sharp, as strange, as startling: it acted on my senses as if their utmost activity hitherto had been but torpor, from which they were now summoned and forced to wake. They rose expectant: eye and ear waited while the flesh quivered on my bones.
"What have you heard? What do you see?" asked St. John. I saw nothing, but I heard a voice somewhere cry
"Jane! Jane! Jane!"--nothing more.
"O God! what is it?" I gasped.
I might have said, "Where is it?" for it did not seem in the room-- nor in the house--nor in the garden; it did not come out of the air- -nor from under the earth--nor from overhead. I had heard it-- where, or whence, for ever impossible to know! And it was the voice of a human being--a known, loved, well-remembered voice--that of Edward Fairfax Rochester; and it spoke in pain and woe, wildly, eerily, urgently.
"I am coming!" I cried. "Wait for me! Oh, I will come!" I flew to the door and looked into the passage: it was dark. I ran out into the garden: it was void.
"Where are you?" I exclaimed.
The hills beyond Marsh Glen sent the answer faintly back--"Where are you?" I listened. The wind sighed low in the firs: all was moorland loneliness and midnight hush.
"Down superstition!" I commented, as that spectre rose up black by the black yew at the gate. "This is not thy deception, nor thy witchcraft: it is the work of nature. She was roused, and did--no miracle--but her best."

3. North & South - Elizabeth Gaskell
This was the first Elizabeth Gaskell novel I ever read and it's so wonderful. And knowing that Richard Armitage is Mr. Thornton (sigh) in the movie version makes rereading the book a lovely thought. Again, I love class implications. It's funny, class is still important, but not in the same way that was thought of in the 18th and 19th century. Having class now means having a certain sense of decorum no matter how much you make or inherit. We (at least in the United States) care a bit more about appearances than about actual money. Moving w/in classes is easy enough for us, but very difficult back then. The idea that a man earned his money in trade and was looked down at for it is just the opposite of how we think now. Here's my favorite part. Mr. Lennox is a rival for Miss Hale, but someone she had turned down once already.

Miss Hale, I would rather not hear Mr. Lennox's opinion of my affairs. Those who are happy and successful themselves are too apt to make light of the misfortunes of others.'
'You are unjust,' said Margaret, gently. 'Mr. Lennox has only spoken of the great probability which he believes there to be of your redeeming—your more than redeeming what you have lost—don't speak till I have ended—pray don't!' And collecting herself once more, she went on rapidly turning over some law papers, and statements of accounts in a trembling hurried manner. 'Oh! here it is! and—she drew me out a proposal—I wish he was here to explain it—showing that if you would take some money of mine, eighteen thousand and fifty-seven pounds, lying just at this moment unused in the bank, and bringing me in only two and a half per cent.—you could pay me much better interest, and might go on working Marlborough Mills.' Her voice had cleared itself and become more steady. Mr. Thornton did not speak, and she went on looking for some paper on which were written down the proposals for security; for she was most anxious to have it all looked upon in the light of a mere business arrangement, in which the principal advantage would be on her side. While she sought for this paper, her very heart-pulse was arrested by the tone in which Mr. Thornton spoke. His voice was hoarse, and trembling with tender passion, as he said:—
For an instant she looked up; and then sought to veil her luminous eyes by dropping her forehead on her hands. Again, stepping nearer, he besought her with another tremulous eager call upon her name.
Still lower went the head; more closely hidden was the face, almost resting on the table before her. He came close to her. He knelt by her side, to bring his face to a level with her ear; and whispered-panted out the words:—
'Take care.—If you do not speak—I shall claim you as my own in some strange presumptuous way.—Send me away at once, if I must go;—Margaret!—'
At that third call she turned her face, still covered with her small white hands, towards him, and laid it on his shoulder, hiding it even there; and it was too delicious to feel her soft cheek against his, for him to wish to see either deep blushes or loving eyes. He clasped her close. But they both kept silence. At length she murmured in a broken voice:
'Oh, Mr. Thornton, I am not good enough!'
'Not good enough! Don't mock my own deep feeling of unworthiness.'
After a minute or two, he gently disengaged her hands from her face, and laid her arms as they had once before been placed to protect him from the rioters.
'Do you remember, love?' he murmured. 'And how I requited you with my insolence the next day?'
'I remember how wrongly I spoke to you,—that is all.'
'Look here! Lift up your head. I have something to show you!' She slowly faced him, glowing with beautiful shame.
'Do you know these roses?' he said, drawing out his pocket-book, in which were treasured up some dead flowers.
'No!' she replied, with innocent curiosity. 'Did I give them to you?'
'No! Vanity; you did not. You may have worn sister roses very probably.'
She looked at them, wondering for a minute, then she smiled a little as she said—
'They are from Helstone, are they not? I know the deep indentations round the leaves. Oh! have you been there? When were you there?'
'I wanted to see the place where Margaret grew to what she is, even at the worst time of all, when I had no hope of ever calling her mine. I went there on my return from Havre.'
'You must give them to me,' she said, trying to take them out of his hand with gentle violence.
'Very well. Only you must pay me for them!'

4. Devil's Cub - Georgette Heyer
I'm so in a crush, really. 
Not a proper romance to be sure, but one of my favorite Heyer couples of all time. Dominic Alistair, Marquis of Vidal, is a rake, used to getting what he wants, and banished from England after a duel. He meets Mary Challoner when Mary is trying to save her younger sister from Vidal's seductions. They couldn't be more opposite, so of course they each fall for the other. Mary, realizing it would be a degradation for Vidal to marry beneath his station, keeps her love to herself. Vidal realizes Mary's infinite superiority of character, morals, intellect, and stability when he thinks he's lost her to another man. The scene below is Vidal confronting Mr. Comyn who he believes is married to Mary.  
"His (Vidal's) eye fell on Mr. Comyn again, and hardened. He removed his arm from Miss Challoner, but stood up. "You may have married her," he said fiercely, "but she is mine, do you hear me? She was always mine! You - ! do you think I shall let you take her? She may be ten times your wife, but, by God, you shall never have her."

* How does one get time to read so many books? I'm lucky to get in what I do ... and I read at work, at home, in the car on my drive to and from work, while waiting for appointments (thank you kindle), and anywhere else I can get away with it. I still could not cover the number of books Irena does. It's apparent that I am jealous. 

The Boy

Boy it's hard to let the Boy go. He's out. It's past midnight. I have no idea what to do. ugh.  He's supposed to call when he's on his way home in a couple of hours. ugh. Way harder than I thought.  But I shall persevere. Even if I don't want to.  Groan. I just hate this so much.

23 March 2011

Mushroom and Watercress Pate

Mushroom & Watercress Pate
It seems I have several recipes (or things I create on auto-pilot) that I've been doing for so long I have no idea where the recipe originally came from. This definitely fits into that category. Let's see, the Boy is almost 18 and I was making this long long before he made the scene - geez I'm old. The Boy, as a young child and still today, will take the pate and make a sandwich and carry it to school with him. Can't say that I blame him really. It's good. The bitterness of the cress, the deep flavor of the mushrooms, the oniony bit, and the creaminess of the cream cheese make this a standard for me. 
Watercress grows in cool running water and is a member of the mustard family. I understand that it grows wild in certain parts of the country, but not here. Watercress, so often ignored, is a wonderful green. I love love love it on an egg salad sandwich too. It's peppery/bitter/something. I don't know, but I know I like it. 

Mushrooms, scallions, watercress
4 oz Watercress, rinsed and dried
8 oz cream cheese
8 oz crimini or white mushrooms, sliced
Scallions, 4-6, sliced or other oniony type thing you like, shallots, perhaps?
Balsamic vinegar
Lime wedges

Heat a saute pan on medium-low heat and add about a tablespoon of olive oil. Saute the scallions until soft, add sliced mushrooms and saute until they release liquid and then begin to dry a bit. Add about a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and let it cook out. Add the cress and mix to wilt. Remove from heat. Let veg mix cool a bit. To the bowl of the food processor, add the veg mix and the cream cheese. Blend until throughly mixed. Turn out into ceramic or glass box. Cover and refrigerate. 
Ready to be processed

To serve, slice a baguette and toast lightly in the oven. Top with pate and serve with wedges of lime to squeeze over the toasts. (Lime is not optional)

Sense & Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge (2011) Colonel Brandon's Diary: A Novel - Amanda Grange

Summary: James Brandon cannot remember a time when he did not love his father's ward, Eliza. But the elder Brandon has the final word and forces her to marry James's brother, Harry. Drunk, womanizing Harry.
James thinks only distance can heal his heart, and he sets off to fight in the east Indies. While he's gone, Eliza suffers the depths of despair - abandoned with a child, then ravaged by consumption - and James hardly recognizes her when he stumbles upon her in a debtor's prison.
Now James must face tragedy - and a bleak future, brightened only by Eliza's little daughter, whom he adores. And even though fate has more heartbreak in store for James, it also holds happiness beyond his
wildest dreams. (Source: Book)

Comments: I had not intended to start Colonel Brandon's Diary: A Novel yet, but within a few pages, I could not put it down. I have ignored all other things I should be reading for it. I read half before I knew I had done it. I almost stayed up all night to finish, but decided to get some sleep and read the rest the  following day - which I did.
This is the first book by Ms. Grange that I have read and I now am greatly looking forward to reading more in the Diary series. This seems entirely plausable and much like the Colonel Brandon we know from Sense & Sensibility, but with so much more. It's nice to see Brandon's life and struggles from his own point of view. And I enjoy the ending, which we all know is coming, but is nonetheless very satisfying to read.
I only wonder if this can be read as a stand alone book, without knowing Sense & Sensibility? I will never know since I have the book, along with all of Miss Austen's works practically memorized. It's an interesting question. That said, I am ordering another in the series today - but which one... that is the question.
Col. Brandon and Marianne
Thanks Ms. Grange for an OUTSTANDING read.

21 March 2011


Garden Update - Lady Banks Rose

This is again, like the wisteria, one of those plants that doesn't do much for most of the year, but in the few weeks that it does - good lord, it's just amazing. Thankfully, this rose graces the front of my house and as we're just coming out of winter, every day that I see it, it makes me smile. Damn skippy, spring is here. Lady Banks will hang out for a few weeks, but they are the weeks that somehow I need it to be here - that transition from winter to spring - real spring - not that got cha moment that we have in February. So here it is, my Lady Banks - she's mess, but she makes me happy every March. 
Ain't she a beauty?

Thankfully no thorns.

Window from the exterior

Window from the interior - pretty cool