Sunday, May 30, 2010

Ana Makes Mozarella

If you love pizza, and if you have looked at the tantalizing pictures of pizza on her blog*, you might consider following Ana's example and making your own, fresh, mozarella cheese. It's easy! There's no need to provide a recipe here. You can do what Ana did and search online for "how to make mozarella," and then choose from among the many sites you'll find.

You only need two weird ingredients: citric acid, commonly sold with canning supplies, and liquid rennet, sometimes available at larger grocery stores or online, of course. Ana got hers from a neighbor who makes goat cheese. It doesn't take much.

You also need milk, of course. Regular whole milk from a grocery store works well. Ana, living in a rural, agricultural neighborhood, managed to get a gallon of fresh cow's milk, unpasteurized, with cream and all intact. (For legal reasons we should recommend pasteurized milk. Ana, like tradition-minded people in Italy and France, didn't bother with that.)

You'll have fresh mozarella in less than an hour. In addition to putting it on pizza, she also rolled out some strips, sprinkled them with basil, and rolled them up and cut them into disks to eat with crackers and wine. Excellent!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Pincushion Cacti

Ana loves plants and gardening. In particular, she admires the hardy plants of the Chihuahuan Desert in west Texas and southern New Mexico, which struggle to survive some of the harshest conditions on the planet. Here are pictures of one of the hardiest cacti there. These pincushion cacti often grow half-buried in rock, or so it seems. They collect water during the rare rains and store it for survival during the years without rain. The one at the top, above, appears briefly towards the conclusion of Distant Cousin: Reincarnation (DC3).

Thursday, May 20, 2010

More Photos from West Texas (DC1)

In Distant Cousin volume 1, Ana had fun wandering around the little Texas state park at Langtry (devoted to Judge Roy Bean), and especially looking at the cactus garden.
Here are some photos from that park.

(See many more photos of El Paso and southern New Mexico under Photos at right.)

Photo: Barbados Home (DC1)

Here's the plantation house that figures in Distant Cousin volume 1. So as not to spoil things, we'll say no more.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Can Ana's Chronicles Be Read Out of Order?

A reader's natural tendency is to read a series in the order in which it was published, in chronological order assuming they are the same. Yet many series are constructed so that each book is complete in itself, without requiring material in previous volumes. That is the case with the current four volumes in the Distant Cousin series.

Another case in point is the Jack Aubrey/Stephen Maturin twenty volume series by Patrick O'Brian, which was well known in the United Kingdom long before it caught on in the United States. We discovered O'Brian's wonderful books just before their mid-point, and enjoyed each one no matter where it fit in the sequence. We obtained the missing early ones and read those next, and in later years read the final ones as they appeared. Even massively out of order they were great fun. Eventually we reread them all in order, and admittedly that was even more rewarding--but the point is that each one stands on its own no matter where it falls in the sequence.

We have maintained the same is true for the Distant Cousin books, but given most readers' preference for order, we have had no feedback to support that contention...until now. One dear reader somehow read volume 4, Distant Cousin: Regeneration, before volume 3, Distant Cousin: Reincarnation. (We accept a large part of the blame for this, for not including the volume number in the title. The reason is that a series was not dreamed of early on--it was readers' demand for more that prompted later volumes.)

She wrote this: "I somehow got things mixed up and read DC Regeneration before Reincarnation. I thought there was something strange about the amount of time that had elapsed since the second book but was almost halfway through before I decided I was reading the books in the wrong order. I could not decide whether to stop and go back to Reincarnation, or to keep going. I kept going and now I am reading DC #3. My error hasn't affected my enjoyment of the story."

And later, she was kind enough to add this: "I finished DC3 a few days ago. I truly enjoyed all four books. The mix up did not affect my enjoyment at all. It has been a fun series."

(Thanks to NavyGirl for the photo! It seemed to fit this out of order post perfectly.)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A Dessert Idea

We have it on good authority that Ana has been thinking about desserts. She was inspired by an article she read about a chef who wanted to make nutricious desserts for children (and adults) without using chocolate, white sugar, or nuts (NOT like the picture above--sorry!).

The article mentioned the granola-like bars he came up with, although, unfortunately, it didn't include the recipe. All we know is that it did include toasted oats, crushed sesame seeds, and dried fruit. That was enough to start Ana experimenting.

It sounds very promising, although we lack the confidence to try it ourselves. Perhaps we shall be able to provide more information at a later date--or perhaps an adventurous cook out there will give it a try. If you find it works, please let us know!

Find more recipe ideas in the right column, under the photo of the cranberry-apple pie-->

Monday, May 10, 2010

Ana, Her Husband, and the Garden

Matt Méndez is neither a poet nor a gardener, but he loves the poem "His Wife," by Andrew Hudgins, because it reminds him so much of his esposita. Even if she was born on another planet, sometimes she smells like the very Earth they live on. Not only has he seen her bite into a tomato like the wife in the poem, he also loves the way she usually smells of something subtle and sweet. Indeed, she is responsible for his olfactory reawakening!

Related poems (many more in the right column-->)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Reader Crying in the Subway?

Distant Cousin: Regeneration (DC4) is the newest volume out. Here are some reader comments:

"I thought it was FANTASTIC! Best read I've had in a while. I thought all the elements of suspense, sci fi, domestic drama/comedy were blended just right. I was really touched by [spoiler snip]....her experiences in DC 4 really, well, dare I say it, made her HUMAN. And I admit it, I was shedding tears both in the scene where [snip] and [snip]. I can't imagine what the people sitting next to me on the subway thought. Hopefully that I was just enjoying a good read. So, when's the next one coming out?"

"Over all I give [Distant Cousin: Regeneration] 5 1/2 stars out of five. It was my favorite so far! I like stories that focus on the characters, and not around a central plot. It makes the characters seem more real and it's easy to become emotionally invested in their well being. How can you not like a story when you are actually worried about the characters?"

"You have a great way of balancing the action of the story with the personal experiences of the characters which sets the action in motion. Great ending too."

"Awesome!!! I am 3/4 through this book and am literally dragging my heels about finishing it. I ration myself. The story and characters are just so captivating."

"I love the ending--very cool! So thank you so much for the entertaining, beautifully-crafted read, which also made for lots of south-western nostalgia on my part. Breakfast tacos! Salsa! Cats!"

Sunday, May 2, 2010

People who REALLY enjoy Distant Cousin: a Moving Story

It's always rewarding to hear from people who enjoy the Distant Cousin series. Some have REALLY enjoyed it. For example, there is the amazing case of the man who found an insight into the meaning of his life in Distant Cousin: Repatriation. There was a young woman who found rereading the books when she was ailing helped her to feel better. And now there is the tale of the husband and wife whose imaginative reading of the series has markedly improved their quality of life together. It's a truly moving story!

They live in mountainous country. They have a long, daily commute to work--and there's nothing good on the radio. They began with Distant Cousin, volume 1. Here's a sampling of his comments over the last several weeks.

1. So...[she] read the first 5 chapters to me in exchange for me driving her home this afternoon! She delivered with the entire appropriate vernacular, including the rubbing the eyes and all the hand waving.

Truly one of the most enjoyable rush-hour commutes ever!

2. Doing your book the way are, we only get about 30 minutes a day of reading out loud, so on a good session we might get through fifteen pages. We've completed nine that's an average of 13 pages per session. We have agreed to finish the book this way, therefore, we should finish up 21 sessions (four weeks) from now. We always try to end each session at the conclusion of a chapter. That's easy due to the chapter is truly fun. We love the humor. The lingo is believable.

3. I am a big fan of Darcy’s. She exemplifies the best in us.
She is kinda-sorta a Bajan on the hero’s journey and she is truly out of this world. Somehow you were able to articulate that aspect of the human experience in such a way that even us knuckle draggers can identify with her.
Could be why so many people, who are looking for the meaning of life, find your book so comforting.

4. We are on Chapter 16 and I have not looked ahead. We are all enjoying the ride home. You are a very clever guy and DC is enjoyably unpredictable, so there!"

5. We are having a fun time with the "ride home reading thing." Thanks for making all this possible! We both really like DC! I am serious about DC helping me navigate rush hour traffic. It is like music and I don't know why. Maybe it's in the composition. We like a Picasso and don't know why. So there you have it, Al Past = Picasso.

The couple's reports are sporadic, but there will be updates on their progress as available!

More comments: "You SUCK!" (A Hoot!)

Reader Cries in Subway