About Me

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Recent retiree--35 year's experience teaching reading, English, adult basic education and volunteer leadership skills. Started this blog to exchange ideas and commentary with friends and others having an interest in joining the discussions. Greatest life accomplishments include: 1.organized my 3rd grade class to check out library books for me to get around librarian's weekly limit--Amazon.com, the Mullins Elementary 3rd Grade Class of 1956 is still waiting for "thank you" notes; 2. volunteered in the Peace Corps, island of St. Kitts, West Indies; 3.taught adults to read, earn their GEDs., and speak English as a second language; 4. bought a border collie puppy for $6, got evicted rather than give him up, and began a life-long love affair with all things "Dog"; 5. joined a physical fitness boot camp in my mid-50s--don't mess with someone who's been doing regulation pushups in wet grass at 5:30 a.m.; 6. walked across Northern England with best friend Sally--over 80 miles from the Irish to North Seas; and 7. travelled to many foreign countries for pleasure and work.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Cooking Memories - Caribbean Chicken Risotto

Summit Musings is in danger of becoming a food blog, it seems. Lately I've been hiding from the heat and humidity by staying indoors under the AC, clearing and de-cluttering my home and waiting for fall. This great clear out includes going through 40+ years of recipes. I look at the handwritten recipes scribbled on cards and scraps of paper and they take me back to different times and places in my life.

Example: Caribbean Chicken Risotto. In the early 1970s I lived in the West Indies on St. Kitts, one of the small islands of the Eastern Caribbean. I was a Peace Corps volunteer on this island for three years, teaching primary students at St. Joseph Infant School. Part of being a Peace Corps volunteer and, hopefully, a goodwill ambassador for the U.S., was that we would live among the people that we worked with, not in little American enclaves with the other volunteers assigned to the island. I rented a house in the capital city of Basseterre in a little community by the sea called Pond's Pasture.

One of the great challenges of living in an unfamiliar culture was to figure out how to cook local foods. There were no fast food franchises transplanted from the U.S.--not that we could have afforded them on our living allowance(think it was about $120 U.S. dollars monthly). So, if we wanted to eat, we had to go native. Luckily, a couple of very kind women from my neighborhood taught me the ropes. I walked with them down to the sea in front of my home early in the morning and learned to get the attention of fisherman who sold their night's catch to preferred customers. On Saturday morning I got up early--no matter how late I danced on Friday night--and went with my neighbor to an open air market where she taught me how to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. We even went into butcher stalls were we bought fresh meats, mostly beef and goat. Armed with all this, I only needed to go to a local shop for staples like rice and dried beans and peas. I was then ready for my lessons in Caribbean cooking.
I knew how to cook plain southern foods when I went into the Peace Corps. On St. Kitts I had to learn how to cook what was available at the market--everything from scratch. I learned to use unusual fruits like papaya, mango, soursops, guava, and plantains to stretch small bits of protein. My cooking tutor also taught me to use fresh herbs and spices with delicious results. Chicken risotto was one of the first recipes I learned to make and I still make it today. Only difference on St. Kitts, we had to wait for the "back and neck" boat to show up in the harbor. Chickens were not grown on the island and had to be imported. The Kittians preferred dark meat of chicken, hence the "back and neck" boat! Here's how to make chicken and rice, Caribbean style--just as delicious today as 40 years ago as you can see from the photo above:

Caribbean Chicken Risotto

Marinate chicken pieces (I used thighs) for 3-4 hours with 1 med. onion, finely chopped; 2-3 T minced garlic;and 1 large green bell pepper, diced. Pour enough sherry (I use Holland House cooking sherry off the grocery shelf. It's not gourmet, but it does fine.) to cover the chicken and vegetables. Cover and marinate in the fridge for 3-4 hours.

Spray the bottom of a deep cooking pot with Pam. Heat. Lift chicken pieces out of the marinade. Brown lightly. If you use chicken w/o skin, you may need to add a bit of oil to the pot to brown properly. When chicken is lightly browned, add drained vegetables from marinade. Cook until tender, but not browned as garlic will get bitter.

Add 2 medium cans petit diced tomato(about 30 oz), 4 c chicken broth and remaining marinade to chicken. Cook at a simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes, or until chicken is almost tender. Then add 2 c rice, either white long grain or brown. Cook until liquid in pot has evaporated and rice is tender--20 min. white, 30 min. brown.

Serve with sauteed cabbage and green peas. If you love this dish here, just think how delicious it would be on an island. Next time, maybe I'll tell you how to make goat "water". Not quite ready for that? Well, maybe we'll do pumpkin soup or black cake?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Fun Monday - Virtual Friendships

Surprise! Maraposa over at Maraposa Tales is making an effort to revive the Fun Monday meme. Earlier in the summer we'd almost given it a decent burial because participation had really dropped off, people didn't have time or interest to host, or they wanted to post on topics that they were personally interested in instead of being assigned a topic. But thanks to Maraposa's setting some topics for August we can play again if we're missing our Fun Monday friends. I'm glad.

This week's Fun Monday topic is "friendships", which suits me just fine because I've wanted to write a post about the many virtual friends I've found through blogging, and, of late, face booking--no tweeting yet because my life doesn't move that fast! I've been retired well and happy now for almost five years. A great part of my daily entertainment and contentment comes from Internet friendships with people all over the world. About five years ago I started this blog and have kept it going almost non-stop since. Then a few months ago I signed on to Facebook and am still learning how to communicate with friends and acquaintances at warp speed.

In the real world I keep my circle of true friends to about five people--or the number that I can count on one hand. Or, maybe tops two hands! This is about the right number for a borderline hermit who gets the bends at the thought of socializing too much. On the other hand, I'm very interested in people--what they're thinking, reading, doing, living out their daily lives. I'm also very interested in the antics of their dogs. Blogging and face booking has helped me find many kindred souls to "e-chat" with throughout the week. Virtual friendships keep me engaged with the world and I appreciate all these friends.

So, on a given day, you'll find me at the computer with Willie lying under my desk. He's been lobbying to get his own "Tailbook" page, but so far I've kept him at bay with regular features starring him on this blog and my own facebook page. It doesn't take long to check in with all my virtual friends and see what they're up to. I try to leave comments to let them know that I've been visiting and thinking of them. And, I'm always delighted when they stop by my place. All that without having to get dressed or move the car out of the driveway!

So, before you leave your computer this Monday, be sure to go over to Maraposa's place for the list of Fun Monday players.

(Cartoon credit: Mr. Parisi, is it okay if I use yours? All this copyright stuff is rather confusing!)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

July Deliciousness - Peaches and Zucchini Appetizers

Earlier this week Kittyhawk and I made our annual roadtrip to Jackson's Orchard and farmer's market in Bowling Green. The main goal was to fill the back of my little Scion xB with baskets and baskets of golden red skinned peaches as you can see here. All of these baskets have been distributed to grateful friends who look forward to us making this annual trip as much as we do. So, for the next week it's peaches for breakfast, snacks, and after dinner dessert.

While we were at Jackson's I couldn't resist the baskets of fresh zucchini,which by now are reproducing like rabbits in most people's gardens. Today I turned all that zucchini excess into some very versatile Zucchini Appetizers. This quiche-like recipe can be cut in polite mini diamonds for party appetizers. Or, served in big dinner slabs with a side of sliced red tomatoes from Jackson's. They also can be frozen for wintertime when the zucchini is not so plentiful.


1. 3 c, very thinly sliced zucchini, unpeeled
1/2 c finely chopped onion, combine in large bowl

2. Combine dry ingredients: 1 c Bisquick, 1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese, 2 T chopped parsley, 1 T chopped oregano, 1/2 t salt, 1/2 t seasoned salt, dash pepper (if you use dried parsley and oregano, halve the amount called for)

3. Combine wet ingredients: 4 eggs, slightly beaten; 1 T minced garlic; 1/2 c vegetable oil

4. Combine dry ingredients with zucchini and onion. Add wet ingredients and mix well.

5. Pour into greased 13 x 9 in. pan. Bake in pre-heated 350 degree oven about 30 min. or until lightly browned. Let cool for a few minutes before cutting.

Here's what dinner will look like for the next three days at this house:

So, bring on the heat and humidity. I'm ready!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Teaser Tuesday - American Girl Falls for an Italian--Dog

My Teaser Tuesday read for this week is a classic story with a twist. American girl flees the glamour and excitement of New York City and lands in the Italian countryside where she finds love. Only in this story her love is a five year old Italian-born English pointer named Marcus.

Teaser Tuesday is a bookish meme hosted by Miz B over at Should be Reading and is open to all readers who enjoy sharing their current book. Rules of the game are simple:

--open your current read to a random page;
--share two "teaser" sentences from somewhere on the page, being careful not to give away too much of the story;
--share the title and author and, if you like, a brief synopsis so other readers can decide if they want to add your selection to their TBR lists; and
--post your link in the comments on Miz B's webpage before checking out other Teaser Tuesday links.

What an Italian Dog Taught an American Girl about Love

by Justine van der Leun

"For a long time, without even knowing it, I had envisioned a perfect, fictional love in which two people came together , forever devoted only to one another . . . When I think about it now, this grand love for which I toured the earth could be found most easily not between a man and a woman but between a doting owner and her loyal dog." p. 70

Synopsis: in Justine van der Leun's memoir she writes about her impulsive decision to leave her job with an American magazine in New York and move to Italy to live a more adventurous life. She falls--or thinks she does--in love with a handsome gardener and moves in with him in the Umbrian town of Collelungo, population 200. She does not adjust well to Italian country life.

Then she rescues an abandoned English pointer on her boyfriend's family farm. She named the dog Marcus and kept that name when, on closer examination, she found that Marcus was a "girl'. With Marcus as her constant companion she gradually learns how to live the country life with all its roughness and charm. Marcus and Justine save each other.

I loved this memoir because it wasn't the expected account of a traveler in Italy seen through a terra cotta haze. It is honest and revealing. But mostly it is just the story of a girl and her dog.

(Photo credit: jvanderleun.com)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Other Cooper

Meet Cooper the yellow lab and Willie's best buddy for almost 10 years. They're both old men--in their 13th years. For most of these years Willie and Cooper have chatted through the fence as we walk past Cooper's home. I have this little experiment with Willie. When we get on Cooper's block I'll think, "Will Willie know where he is and will he pull me into Cooper's yard so he can check for himself to see if his buddy is outside?" Sure enough, Willie starts looking. Often Cooper will be watching out his gate and when they spy each other there is great rejoicing! They run the fence, sniff each other and always have a ceremonial leg hiking contest. I often wonder what they're talking about. Other old geezers that may walk by? Their golf game? Obama? Their prostates? Or, what's for dinner?

Like most yellow labs, Cooper is an affection seeking hound.
He presses himself flat to the fence so I can scratch his tail bone. He shivers will delight as I snake my hand between the gate and fence to scratch him up. Neither of the dogs ever bark. It's just all this canine communication going on.

Have to admit. This meet up between old friends is one of the best rituals of my day. I enjoy making Willie happy by taking him on much loved walks. And, like Willie, I always hope Cooper will be outside so we can chat for a bit. His owners know about this ritual and if they see us come by, they'll let Cooper out the door so they can have their little visit.

Now for the other Cooper. Here he is in all his handsome youthfulness. This Cooper lives in Pennsylvania with blog buddy Church Lady and her family. This Cooper is very lucky because he has two girls to play with and they have some great toys for an active dog--trampolines, giant rolling balls, and plenty of wide open spaces. New this year, Cooper's family has gotten a great pontoon boat and Cooper often gets to be first mate to Freedom Rider, captain of the boat and Church Lady's husband.

Life is not all play though for Cooper. He's expected to work like stretching out over piles of mulch to keep it from blowing away or jumping in piles of leaves to give the family plenty of exercise in the fall. And, he's always willing to check the floor and clean up any stray cheetos!

Moral of this post? Two Coopers are better than one. And, you couldn't ask for a better pal than a yellow lab whether you're a pit bull or blogger!

(Photo Credit for PA Cooper: Church Lady)

Friday, July 9, 2010

July Reading -- Time Travel in Scottish Highlands

"There is a temperate zone in the mind, between luxurious indolence and exacting work; and it is to this region, just between laziness and labor, that summer reading belongs." Henry Ward Beecher

Here's the main reason I've been AWOL from blogging for the past couple of weeks. I've been deep in the Scottish Highlands with Diana Gabaldon's very popular Outlander series. As you can see, there are seven rather hefty books in this stack, but it will be no hardship to finish them in July for they are the perfect balance for summer reading--a bit of fantasy where the main character time travels between two centuries, a great romance set in a most turbulent time of Scottish history, and a setting of great natural beauty. In fact, the setting had me going back through photo albums of a trip that I took through Scotland in 1998. I'll share some of the photos of the Highlands that were described in Gabaldon's novels--which will make this post entirely too long. Sorry! Just pace yourself, come back if you find it interesting. I just wanted to get the books, video, music, and travelogue under one roof.

by Diana Gabaldon

Claire Randall: "We camped the next night on the banks above Loch Ness. It gave me an odd feeling to see the place again; so little had changed. Or would change, I should say." p. 256

Synopsis: In this first book of the Outlander Series, it is 1945 and Claire Randall, a former English combat nurse is just back from serving at a field hospital in France in WW II. She is in Inverness, Scotland on a second honeymoon, reuniting after the war with her husband Frank Randall, an Oxford historian and instructor. One day Claire is exploring an ancient stone circle burial site just outside Inverness. She steps between two standing stones and disappears back in time to 1743. When she wakes, she is a Sassenach, or English outlander, at the mercy of raiding, warring Highland clansmen. She meets and eventually accepts the protection of a young Scots warrior, Jamie Fraser. With this meeting, Claire becomes a woman torn between loving two men in two different lives.

I love the current trend of television and film making based on popular fiction and non-fiction. If I enjoy the book, will more than likely appreciate the film as well. I don't get too tangled up about whether one will not do justice to the other. A film just adds another dimension to enjoyment of the novel, just as being familiar with the setting through travel does. Surprisingly there are no films based on the Outlander series, but the movie rights were purchased in 2009 and Outlander will be rleased in 2011. In the meantime, I found many fan videos on YouTube, including "Jamie & Claire". Fans have very definite opinions about who should play Jamie and Claire in the film. It's hard to argue with the lovely Gerard Butler as Jamie Fraser in this video:

"Bonny Portmore", performed so hauntingly by Loreena McKennitt in this video, is a Celtic ballad which laments the loss of the old oak forest in Ireland to shipbuilding, especially the ancient Oak of Portmore. It is a perfect symbol for the Outlander story--fierce Highland warrior Jamie, the longing of the Scottish clansmen to restore their rightful king with Bonny Prince Charles, the love of Jamie and Claire which will be tested by divided loyalties, war, and personal tragedies.

Travels through the Scottish Highlands in 1998, seeing the setting for Outlander:

Our group traveled north from Glasgow into the foothills of the Trossachs Mountains, passing the first of many beautiful Scottish lochs, or lakes, the bonny Loch Lomand:

Further north into the Highlands we passed across the wild Rannoch Moor and through Glencoe, Gaelic for "Glen of Weeping", so named for the 1692 massacre carried out by the Campell clan against the MacDonald clan. No mercy was shown for the MacDonalds--not children, women, the old and infirm:

We saw wild Highland cattle grazing in the foothills, the same shaggy breeds that clans rustled from other clans. In fact, Claire was captured by the MacKenzie clan and "doctored" Jamie on one of these raids when she first came to her senses after her time travel back to 1743:

The Highlands forests are carpeted with lush moss and great stands of bracken fern. Claire and Jamie spent many nights sleeping on moss and ferns--among other even more pleasant diversions!--in the forests when they were trying to escape both family and English enemies:

This is the picturesque village of Glenfinnin near Inverness and the ruins of castle Eilean Donan in the loch:

This is the town of Inverness in the Scottish Highlands where Claire and Frank reunited on a second honeymoon in 1945 after the end of WW II:
The couple spent their time in Inverness working on Frank's genealogy charts and Claire's search for herbal botanicals. They also explored some ancient sites like Clava Cairns, a Bronze Age burial site. Our travel group visited this ancient place near Inverness one evening at dusk. The burial site was ringed by stone "kerbs" or walls and throughout the ring there were circular chamber tombs or "cairns" and standing stones:

One fateful day, Claire went back to the stone circle on her own, stepped through a split between standing stones. She was plunged back in time two hundred years and caught up in a dangerous time in Scottish history, the Jacobite uprising by clansmen to restore Bonny Prince Charles to the Scottish throne. What will happen to Claire? What role will she have with the Jacobites? Will she stay with Jamie in the 1700s or return to Frank in the 1940s? All questions answered by the next six Outlander novels. I can hardly wait to find out!