Tag Archives: Breads

A Sideswipe of a Storm and a Good Day to Make Blueberry Muffins

img_5437Yesterday, central Maine got lucky. The big storm that swept up the Eastern Seaboard brought us wind but not much else. We didn’t even lose our power. “The storm was a sideswipe,”Paul Fitzsimmons, a forecaster from Caribou, said. “Maine was on the western fringes of the storm.”

For that we must be grateful, even though the weather is still brisk, and the little house in the big woods is still surrounded by snow. To celebrate being sideswiped by what would have been a major and destructive storm had it hit us head on, I decided to make sour-cream blueberry muffins with a brown sugar topping. Of course, any day would be a good day to make blueberry muffins.

But a warm muffin and a cup of tea is a fine thing to have the day after being sideswiped by a storm, when the days are getting longer and the birds are singing. And with tea in hand, I stood in my bright dining room and saluted spring. Come, spring. Take the cold weather away. We are ready.


Tea Biscuits with Pam

IMG_3169Yesterday, I went to Pam Riley Osborn’s house to discuss the Charles M. Bailey Public Library and the upcoming expansion. (Pam was the children’s librarian when we first moved to Winthrop, and she is on the expansion committee.) First, a little about Pam’s house.

Pam lives in an old house where the big, light-filled kitchen overlooks the yard as well as the driveway, which has a line of trees, bare in mid-March but nevertheless beautiful in their starkness. Tom Sturtevant, a friend to both of us, once remarked that in this area, Pam’s kitchen is the best place to be, and he certainly got that right. Pam is not only lively and literate, as befits a children’s librarian, but she also has a keen artistic sensibility, which is evident both inside and out. In the house—along with the light, some wonderful old furniture, and gleaming wood floors—are little collections of objects—mostly found, I think—that line her many window sills. These collections include shells filled with rocks and an array of  metal objects, small and rusted, and arranged so artfully that they could be in a museum exhibit. Yet the effect is not that of a museum. Far from it. Pam’s house is warm and cozy and welcoming.

In her kitchen, in a corner hutch, is a picture of the outside of her house when she first bought it many years ago. Then, it was sturdy but drab. However, Pam’s artistic eye saw what could be done with this house. The kitchen was bumped out, a porch was added, and so were peaked dormers. Somehow, these additions come together to make the house look even more authentic, as though they had once been there and were just waiting to be rebuilt. Lucky old house to have Pam as an owner.

Linda McKee, another library supporter, also joined us, and we talked and talked and talked, literally for hours. Along with the library and the vital role it plays as the center of Winthrop’s community, we talked about books—Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice, War and Peace, and many others as well.

I asked Linda, “Do you think people are either in the Austen camp or the BrontĂ« camp but seldom in both?”

She nodded. “Yes, I do.”

And so do I.

Families were discussed, and all three of us were concerned about how hard it is nowadays for young people to find good jobs.

Along with the tea, Pam served Edith’s Tea Biscuits, which were oh-so-good and a lot like scones. She got the recipe in North Sydney, Nova Scotia, and she agreed to share it with me, even giving me permission to post it on this blog.

If you make these tea biscuits, picture eating them in a bright kitchen in an old house with a wood cookstove. Picture three women, drinking tea and talking about libraries and books. Picture the time of year to be Mid-March when the mud was deep, the sap was running, and the day was bright.



Blueberry Bran Muffins on Inauguration Day

IMG_2892Monday was a fine, cold day, perfect for making blueberry bran muffins to go with soup—Campbell’s Tomato, one of my weaknesses and the only canned soup I really like. After having made the muffins and heated the soup, I settled in the living room with my husband, Clif, so that we could watch the presidential inauguration while we ate our lunch.

There were all the usual things that go with an inauguration—the ceremony, the rituals, the swearing in, the first lady and daughters decked out in their finery, the patriotic songs—done beautifully this time by various singers. (Where else would you hear, on the same stage, the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir and James Taylor?) A Maine poet—Robert Blanco from Bethel—read a poem that was full of everyday things and working people.

But there were some surprises, too, chiefly President Obama’s speech, which was unabashedly liberal—or progressive, if you will. Despite the luminous delivery, it seemed to me that the president was throwing down the gauntlet to the Republicans. After four years of trying to work with Republicans and having terrible results, Obama made few references to bipartisanship in his speech. Instead, the president spoke of the need for collective action, of how freedom “was not reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few.” President Obama noted that truths might be self-evident but they were not self-executing, that we cannot succeed when only a few do very well and when many can hardly make it. He affirmed gay rights, voting rights, and immigration rights. By gum, he even mentioned climate change, sustainable energy, and the environment.

As the columnist Mark Shields put it, this speech marked a change in attitude, from the “me” generation to the “we” generation. I agree, and it is long overdue.

I realize as well as anyone else that a speech is just words and that actions and results are what really count. Still, words do matter. They signal intent, and I felt more hopeful after hearing this speech than I have in a long time. Stiff opposition will likely follow, but President Obama just might surprise us with how much he is able to accomplish. After all, he passed a health care bill, something no previous president has been able to do.

Finally, as with election night when Obama was elected, I was struck by the beautiful diversity of the event. In America, there has always been diversity, it just wasn’t allowed to be visible. Yesterday it was, on the podium and in the crowd. And it was good to behold.

Note: This bran muffin recipe, one of the best I’ve tasted, has already been posted on A Good Eater. But because the recipe section isn’t exactly organized—Clif, are you reading this?—I’ve decided to post it again.