From the archives

The desk-cleaning and letter-answering continues.  Look what I unearthed today:

Ian and Ben 1993 or 1994

These are our boys when they were little snappers.  They’re in their 20s now. They claim that I used to dress them like Thing 1 and Thing 2 (from Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat)!

 

 

 

Summer ritual

Billie at DQ 2013

Yep, it’s that time of year again!

Every summer, I stop by Dairy Queen now and then with our dogs. They LOVE DQ — and we love our local DQ for providing tiny vanilla doggie cones.  They’re free of charge, with a purchase by a human, which isn’t a hardship since I love a good DQ Twist now and then…

As for that green streak on Billie’s muzzle, just in case you spotted it and were wondering, that was a leftover from lunch. She helped me finish off my kale smoothie.  Uh, yeah.  Sounds gross, doesn’t it?  Mrs. Wong would so approve!  One of my favorite light lunches, though, believe it or  not.

I’m coming down the home stretch on my new novel!  Hope to be able to share a few tidbits with you all soon!

 

 

 

Doggie B&B

I ask you, could this dog be any more comfortable?

Spoiled Dog
Billie, catching some zzz’s

There are days I’m convinced that I’m running a dog hotel. Wake up in the morning, walk the dogs. Feed the dogs. Walk them again. Try and write. Play with dogs. Snack time for dogs! Throw the ball for dogs. Write some more. Afternoon walk! Suppertime! Evening walk!

Where did my day go?

 

Baby steps

Writers tend to discover the power of the written word early on.
I sure did!  Here I am at about five or six, trying to weasel out of my punishment (I’d been sent to my room) for fighting with my sister…

 

In case you can’t read my creative spelling, it says:  “Dear Mommy, I would like you to understand that I was not the one that kicked Lisa.  Lisa poked me in the eye.  Love, Heather.”

I can’t remember now whether or not my written plea was effective or not, but I sure am glad that my parents saved the letter.  It’s always fun to look back at our baby steps.

 

 

Happy Father’s Day!

This is my father and me, circa about — well, let’s just say a long time ago.  Love that skinny tie, Dad!

Heather Vogel Frederick & Stefan Vogel

 

My father’s always been my champion and hero.  He’s directly responsible for me growing up to be a writer, thanks to the hours of bedtime stories he read to me and my sisters,  reams of paper with which he provided me, endless patience he displayed in cheering on my fledgling efforts (which he always took seriously), and of course the copy of Strunk & White’s Elements of Style that he tucked into my Christmas stocking when I was 12.

Thanks for everything, Dad.  I love you!

 

 

National Pie Day

It’s time to bust out those rolling pins, America!

I just love living in a country that sets aside a day each year to celebrate my favorite dessert.

What could possibly be better than pie? Not that I don’t love cake, cookies, cupcakes, candy, and sugar in all its many wondrous forms, but there’s something special about pie.  For one thing, it’s, well, baked into our history. Humans were making pies as early as 9500 B.C., when those clever Egyptians wrapped honey in an oatmeal crust.

Pie is baked into my family’s history, too.  I come from a long line of great pie bakers — and pie eaters.  I remember my mother telling me of the day she left Canada for “the Boston States,” as Nova Scotians used to call New England.  It was a big step for a small-town girl fresh out of nursing school, and as she boarded the train in Halifax that would carry her into her future, she was filled with mixed emotions: excitement, trepidation, self-doubt.  My grandmother saw her off at the station with homemade goodies to keep her well-fortified until she reached her destination:  a Thermos of beef stew, oatmeal bread, and apple pie, her favorite dessert.

I don’t know if the apple pie had anything to do with it, but my mother survived the journey and flourished in her new job in Connecticut.  On her days off, she’d board another train — this one bound for New York City, where she’d shop a little, explore a little, buy herself a ticket to a Broadway play, and then take herself out to lunch someplace fancy — I remember her mentioning Sardi’s as being one of her favorite spots.  And yes, she’d have pie for dessert.

Marie MacDougall Vogel (left) in Times Square, circa 1955

Isn’t she something?

Gotta love those white gloves.

And so, in honor of National Pie Day, and in honor of my darling mother, here’s the Frederick family’s favorite recipe for apple pie!

FRENCH APPLE PIE

Unbaked pie shell

6-7 cups tart apples (we use Granny Smith’s), peeled, cored, and sliced paper thin

1 c. sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. nutmeg

A little extra butter for dotting on the apples

Topping:

½ c. butter

½ c. brown sugar

1 c. flour

Preheat oven to 425.  Roll out pie crust and pat it into pie plate.  Crimp edge.

In a large bowl, mix sliced apples with sugar and spices.  Pile into prepared crust and dot with half a dozen or so thin slices of butter.

In a separate bowl, cream butter and brown sugar, then add flour, working it in until the mixture begins to come together and the crumbles are about the size of peas.  Sprinkle over pie.  Cover loosely with tinfoil (this prevents the crust from burning) and bake at 425 degrees for 1-1/2 hours.  (Yes, it needs to bake that long!)  It’s a good idea to either cover the rack you’re baking it on with foil, or place the pie plate onto a cookie sheet or something to catch any drips.

Remove foil.  If topping is golden brown, pie is done.  If not, let it cook without the foil for another five minutes or so.

Cool and serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.  Yum!

A lobster for Dorothy

My cousin Dorothy turned 99 a few weeks ago.  Isn’t she adorable?

Dorothy Boyer Gornick

Note the large red creature in the bottom left-hand corner of the photo.  That’s all she wanted for her birthday. Coming right up, I said!  My husband and I stopped by this weekend on our way to see our older son in Seattle, and we cooked up a good old New England style lobster feed, adding the three C’s:  homemade coleslaw, cornbread, and cupcakes.  Yum.

Dorothy is actually my grandmother’s first cousin.  She was born and raised on Nantucket, and moved to the Pacific Northwest right after World War II, when she and her first husband bought land in a remote corner of the Olympic Peninsula to homestead.  She has awesome stories to tell.  She walked across the Golden Gate Bridge the day it opened.  She was shipwrecked in China.  She was the first woman to manage the transportation department at Yellowstone National Park.  She served as postmistress for many years in her tiny town in Washington State, too, and published a book about its history.

A few years back she took me to see the cabin where she once lived.  The creek that rushes past it used to run so thick with salmon that you could practically walk across their backs to the other side, she told me.  Besides providing good fishing, the homestead was rich with berries and fruit trees, and they had a garden where they grew all their own food.  They raised chickens and goats for meat, eggs, and milk, and only had to drive into town for flour and staples. Unexpected dinner guests were never a problem, she said, showing me a photo of her pantry, whose shelves were lined from floor to ceiling with jars filled with every kind of food imaginable.  She’d put them all up herself.  Just thinking of the hours of work that represented left me speechless.  And feeling like a slacker.

Dorothy still lives in her own home, a snug nest from whose vantage point she keeps tabs on the world, including all the doings back East (she’s subscribed to the Nantucket Inquirer and Mirror all  her life).   She has a wide circle of family and friends and is keenly interested in everything and everybody.  She’s witty, cheerful, optimistic, fun-loving, and kind, and she has a heart as big as the world.

She’s my hero.

Happy birthday, Dorothy!  I can’t wait to bring you lobster again next year.

Little House on the Cul-de-sac

There’s something about summer that makes me feel all Laura Ingalls Wilderish.  I get in a “Little House” frame of mind come July every year, and there’s nothing to be done for it but whip out my apron and start stirring up good things.

July is when the berries start ripening in droves.  June is a tease — just strawberries, mostly — although here in Oregon, that means Hood strawberries, the likes of which you won’t find anywhere else.  Intensely sweet and highly perishable, they rarely make it to stores and have to be hunted down at Farmer’s Markets or, if you’re lucky (which I am), at the neighborhood berry stand that magically appears every summer in an unpaved parking lot near our local supermarket.

June means bowls of strawberries for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  It means homemade strawberry shortcake (my husband’s favorite) for Father’s Day.  Some years it means strawberry jam, too, although this year I was too busy with work to put any up.

July, though, means Berries with a capital B — boysenberries, loganberries, raspberries, marionberries, tayberries, sylvan blackberries, and whatever other berries Mother Nature can dream up.  I was determined not to let this bounty, too, slip by, and when a window of opportunity opened up this past weekend, I grabbed it and my husband (aka Pa Frederick), and made a dash for our favorite berry farm …

… where we picked gooseberries and boysenberries.

Oregon boysenberries

Boysenberries  make the BEST jam — although marionberries run a close second.

Ma Frederick's Boysenberry Jam

Oddly enough, boysenberries also make good picture books.

Coming in October 2010!

I got the idea for this book a couple of years ago, at the very same berry farm.  Writers fool around with words in their heads a lot (if you ever notice a vacant expression on our faces, that’s what we’re doing), and that day I got to noodling around with the word “boysenberry” while my hands were busy picking.  Wouldn’t it be funny if there were girlsenberries? I thought.  Which of course led to, And wouldn’t it be funny if you could pick babyberries? That was it, I was off and running, and voila! Babyberry Pie was born.

No picture books were born this weekend, just a most satisfying cupboard full of jam and chutney (gooseberries make fabulous chutney).  Oh, and we picked up some rhubarb, too, which I turned into Rhubarb Custard Streusel Pie.

I used Jennifer Jacobson’s recipe (thanks, JJ!),  but since I only had one pie crust in the freezer (I make several at a time and freeze the extras), and was too lazy to make another one, I whipped up some streusel topping instead.  You can use it atop just about any fruit pie — trust me, it’s delicious.  Here’s the recipe:

Streusel Topping

1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 c. flour

Mix together until topping is the consistency of coarse bread crumbs.  Sprinkle evenly atop pie, cover with foil, and bake as usual, according to the directions for whatever pie you’re making.  Remove foil for the last 10 minutes or so of baking, so that streusel turns golden brown.

Yum.

All in all, a most satisfying weekend.  Ma Ingalls would definitely approve.

Georgy

On a cold rainy day last winter, my sister found Georgy — weak, abandoned, and huddled under a bush.  What could she do but take her home?

She quickly won their hearts, and has become a loved member of the family.

Even if she is a little eccentric.