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QUINTESSENCE

Small Business Saturday - November 30, 2013

Books for the Holidays!

As many of you know, this upcoming Saturday is "Small Business Saturday," better known as your community "shop local" Saturday, when we all have the opportunity to demonstrate support for our main street businesses by making our purchases downtown. As the holidays draw near, purchases we make locally support a community business in an important way, which in turn strengthens our communities and hometown economic vitality. For authors this upcoming Saturday is a special opportunity to hand-sell our favorite books (and sign our own for you if you wish) in local bookstores and talk books. Many of us all across America will be present in the aisles of local independent bookstores chatting about books, pressing our favorite reads in your hands, making holiday recommendations and hearing what you love to read.

Auntie's is our Spokane city jewel, an independent bookstore since 1978, staffed by knowledgeable and supportive booksellers. For many Pacific Northwest authors (myself included) Auntie's, or a bookstore like it, hosted our debut author book events. Independent bookstores across America welcome and host community author events and special interest book clubs. Our Auntie's Bookstore gives Spokane the heart and enthusiasm that makes our community a great place to live, and this is our opportunity to say how much we appreciate our local bookstores.

I will be at Auntie's Bookstore, downtown Spokane (Main & Washington), from 2:30 to 4pm on Saturday November 30. So come on down and meet me, and let's do some holiday book shopping together!

[To see the full schedule of authors present this Saturday visit www.auntiesbooks.com.]

I will be chatting about and recommending some of the following recently released books:
Julian Barnes, SENSE OF AN ENDING and LEVELS OF LIFE
Elizabeth Gilbert, THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS
Donna Tartt, THE GOLDFINCH
Dave Eggars, THE CIRCLE
Alice McDermott, SOMEONE
David Gilbert, & SONS
Suzanne Rindell, THE OTHER TYPIST
Adelle Waldman, THE LOVE AFFAIRS OF NATHANIEL P.
Joanna LuLoff's THE BEACH AT GALLE ROAD (stories)
Susan Choi, MY EDUCATION

The Pulitzer nonfiction books of 2012 and 2013

The poetry of Denise Levertov, Pablo Neruda, Billy Collins, Mary Oliver, Anne Carson, and Louise Gluck - and our newest National Book Award winner for 2013 in Poetry, for her work INCARNADINE, Portland poet, Mary Szybist.

Hope to see you downtown this Saturday. Happy Thanksgiving!

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Savory Life Lessons

forwarded along from woohdreambig.tumblr.com

My first gifts to you this holiday season are morsels of goodness, both wise and tasty. The words of life wisdom above came to me anonymously and I regret not being able to tell you more about the folks involved, but I find Mr. Snell's advice worth passing on as it is wise, humorous, and certainly practical.

AND…TIS THE SEASON OF FEASTS & CELEBRATIONS!! Here is a recipe for a holiday family favorite, an English-inspired savory cranberry conserve. This cranberry conserve is a robust recipe that balances the sweet and the tart (and can actually be made into a dessert tart); a recipe we usually double, so popular it is often given as a gift, with the beautiful conserve spooned into a festive jar decorated with a bow on top.

THE SILVER PALATE GOOD TIMES COOKBOOK (1984):
CRANBERRY CONSERVE
1 thin-skinned orange (or two clementines*), seeds removed, cut into eights
1 pound fresh cranberries
1/2 cup dried currants
2 cups packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups raspberry vinegar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

1. Process the orange in a food processor until coarsely chopped
2. Combine the chopped orange with all the remaining ingredients except the walnuts in a heavy saucepan. Simmer, uncovered, until all the cranberries have popped open, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the walnuts.
3. After cooling, pack conserve not immediately for serving into air-tight containers and freeze, or refrigerate for up to two weeks.
Makes 6 half pints


* The substitution of clementines is my edit to the recipe. I usually double this recipe and cook in one large heavy saucepan; note, the simmer time is closer to 30 minutes then. The raspberry vinegar taste will be too intense if you use a raspberry balsamic, so be sure to look for a raspberry vinegar. (Silver Palate now produces a bottled raspberry vinegar you can fortunately find in most gourmet grocery stores around the holidays. A doubled recipe will use most of three bottles.) I use a wooden spoon to pop any remaining stubborn cranberries open against the side of the pan. Savory taste can be shifted toward the sweet with the addition of slightly more brown sugar and currants, but everyone seems to love the chutney-like consistency and tartness of this blend as is. Also delicious on bagels with a cream cheese spread. Hope you love it!


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Relativity


WINTER QUIET
Limb to limb, mouth to mouth
with the bleached grass
silver mist lies upon the back yards
among the outhouses.
The dwarf trees
pirouette awkwardly to it -
whirling around on one toe;
the big tree smiles and glances upward!
Tense with suppressed excitement
the fences watch where the ground
has humped an aching shoulder for
the ecstasy.

- William Carlos Williams

The matter of relatives...

Interesting that my recent, rather euphoric posts, on friendships, families and weddings, have once again been diluted by the universe with a salty dose of reality. In the nineteen eighties self-help manuals used the vernacular of pop psychology to identify family drama-divas as "crazy makers." You and I might know these family hot spots as Uncle Ed, or your sibling with the clove cigarettes, Goth piercings and menacing one-liners, the girlfriend gramps brings to family events he is asked not to, the in-law exes that cannot go five minutes before reenacting their divorce. If not family drama, then it's the cold war. The issue is euphemistically what one might call "hoarding of information," an unwillingness to invite intimate family commentary into our lives. We remain mum with one another about everything from job changes to medical procedures. Finding out someone is engaged before knowing they were dating.

The obvious conclusion would be to assume families are comprised of wary, judgmental people taking cover from the bite of familial criticism, but I believe people are instead rather neurotically private, and in most situations completely unable to distinguish helpful bonding behavior from exclusion. One can probably lay part of the blame on the perpetuation in early childhood of old generational conflicts and habits, but relevant or not, there seems to be a stubborn pattern of defensive coil-and-sting behaviors wherever relatives gather. And for some of us, no matter how often the zingers occur, we never see them coming. The immediate sequel to the experience of emotional evisceration at the hands of a family member is to ask oneself, what is the best response? Both to maintain cordial relations, but also for one's own peace of mind? Do we cut the crazy makers from our "circle of trust" as psychologists frequently advise, or confront and "speak our truth" as others urge us to do? Or in keeping with modern psychoanalysis, feel the real awful, then forgive and grow a callus. Is family forever, or are we all entitled at some point to give up and step away?

Practically speaking, when months of silence settle over a family conflict, the persons involved do not usually come to their senses as one hopes and make an effort to forgive and reconstruct. People tend to dig in and resentment simmers. Get-togethers get more weird and uncomfortable and tense. Communication is reduced to the polite minimum and then you wake up one day to discover paroled Uncle Ed was arrested on gun charges in Scientology rehab with your name as "next of kin" on the back of a bail bondsman's card. A sibling needs a transplant but didn't list you on the possible donor list. Family betrayals, especially the more subtle "dis-inclusions," are ugly and hurtful. Shaming.

Can we change this? We can want to. We can suck it up and try again. As the old saying goes, "hold hands not grudges." But in middle-age, I'm inclined to give more credence to the effects of entropy in family relationships than I used to. Eventually connections just wear down if nothing builds them up. I consider myself to be in the family bridge-building business. Like you, I'm working on the family pothole crew. But what most of us want out of family life is genuine affection: true respect, and an appreciation and gratitude for the beautiful idea of family. In the aftermath of two graduations and three weddings, I can happily toast the amazing, giving, loving family members sharing in these celebrations together. And once again, wonder what any of us can do to improve what isn't so fabulous.

What has worked in your family interactions? Do you have any personal wisdom or insight to share?
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A Stitch of Love

A MARRIAGE RING
The ring so worn as you behold,
So thin, so pale, is yet of gold:
The passion such it was to prove;
Worn with life's cares, love yet was love.

- George Crabbe

In the last of three beautiful weddings this year, on Saturday we will join family as my younger brother celebrates the wedding of his oldest, a daughter. My brother is the second among my siblings and I to have a child marry, and the ceremony defines once more the transition of generations. I remember the event of my niece's birth, and the feeling among the four of us (my brother, two sisters and I) that in the birth of our children we were laying a true milestone: that family builds the future. Educations complete - marriages and careers, a home, children. Now that niece with the big smile and infectious giggle is to be a bride, beginning her own adult journey. The foundation of a new generation.

Our parents are not alive to enjoy or appreciate this moment. This gives each wedding a particular poignancy, the sense of a premature shift in roles. It is up to us, newly middle-aged parents and future grandparents, to stand as unshakable pillars. To brace the uncertainty and evolution of the next generation's first steps into marriage, parenthood…taking on the challenges of life. Will we be good in-laws? Surprised grandparents, self-conscious, perhaps unprepared to be the wise, supportive elders our grandparents were to us? How do we step into such large shoes? Dazzle our grown children's lives with that same bracing unconditional love and faith? Echoes of courage in our hearts, embedded in the memory of our own crossing from "I Will" to "I Do" and "I Shall," we stand proudly at the side of our sons and daughters as they take the hand of the one they promise to love and cherish. We blink back tears, remembering first smiles, tiny arms wrapped tight around our necks.

A wedding celebrates the day we fully let our children go. No longer the smallest or the first stitch in the line, the thread slips forward and loops the future in. Love darns new hearts into the family tapestry. We smile in joy.

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