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December 16, 2005


Oh, so romantic and wintry and Yuri and Lara. Thank you for the beautiful imagery on this cold night when we have wet leaves mixed with snow - not quite the same vista.

Beautiful. I used to enjoy winter more, especially when I skied. Maybe I can revive that enjoyment after I shake off the accumulated malaise. Glad you're enjoying it. Have you been to winter carnival in Quebec City?

Yes, Beth, lovely. Thank you for this. As someone who lives in a generally minimal snow area - certainly around Xmas, your photos and description almost makes me wish we had some. Though if we did I know I might regret saying this ...

A culinary question: the chicken stew with biscuits on top. What are the biscuits made of? Here in the UK, biscuits often (though not always, we have biscuits for cheese)are what I think North Americans call cookies. I am wondering about the ones you served with your stew...... :-)

Thanks, Loretta - yes, it's really pretty here. But cold!

Leslee - I used to ski too and it made winter a lot more fun; I really miss being up in the mountains during deep winter. Now I snowshoe and try to get out and walk as much as I can, otherwise I feel hopelessly cooped up.

Oh, good question, Mary! They are made from butter cut into flour, with baking powder and salt, gathered into a dough and rolled out or shaped quickly into rounds. For a chicken stew like this you put the uncooked biscuits right on the stew and bake the whole thing in the oven; otherwise you'd bake them separately on a cookie sheet. In my family, we sometimes add a little sugar and use these for "shortcake" - baked in the oven until golden, then split in half and served with strawberries and whipped cream. They're also good with jam. But without the sugar they are "baking powder biscuits" and used to accompany meat and vegetables. It's a big Southern thing but I think they're made all over the U.S. So what would you call that in England?

Goodness Beth, I'm not sure. I'm hovering between dumplings, or plain scones or drop scones even .... I'm not actually sure that we have an exact equivalent over here. Very interesting though, I must investigate further.

Wonderful post; made me remember Connecticut winters fondly -- all that snugging down, the bitter cold and brightness.

But I was always a visitor in such landscapes. A real winter is gray meditative days and endless rain :-)

Brings back memories of Winnipeg and northern BC winters...I miss then a little at this time of year! We are having beautiful frosts though with sunny days and moonlit nights. Thanks Beth, for this. Do enjoy your days ahead leading to Christmas!

I like the first photo. It looks a lot like Boston.

I've never lived where there wasn't winter; I hope I never do.
Amen to that! Here in central PA, we're having our earliest snowshoeing conditions ever. So maybe I can shelve for a few years my plans to move north to make up for the effects of global climate change.

Loved your closing image. Great post! And I'm glad your Typepad problems appear to be over.

I wondered for a second if I'd missed a snowstorm here in Boston, from that first picture. Could not agree more of the need for winter. I've spent a few years without winter, and I never felt quite right. Would never live in California for this reason. Even getting tired of the cold and mud in February and March just makes me appreciate Spring more. The cold and snow clears my mind, braces my soul.

As long as I have cocoa and decent clothing, of course.

My mother would have called your dinner 'chicken and dumplings,' for what it's worth- and she's Canadian.

Good Yule.

Excuse me, Beth, while I take advantage of the technology here to say something to my fellow Cassandra Pages readers:

Hi everybody. The annual Koufax Awards are running, and accepting nominations from the blog-reading public, and I've nominated the Cassandra Pages in the categories "Best Writing" and "Most Deserving of Wider Attention."

It takes multiple nominations to make it to the semi-final phase, and so if you're moved to, why not join me in nominating Beth? Or, for that matter, any other blog you find worthy. Nominations are open, and you nominate someone by leaving a comment. Here's the link: http://wampum.wabanaki.net/vault/2005/12/002172.html .

That is all.

Prizes are for livestock and small children. While I would certainly like to see Beth get more readers, I am not prepared to say that she deserves them more than other under-appreciated blogs in my daily read. I resist and resent anything that forces me to pick and choose like this. Human beings are not dogs: we do not need to submit to hierarchies and ranking systems in order to become full-fledged members of the pack. Or so I would like to believe.

(But Dave, doesn't the statement that "Prizes are for livestock and small children" contain an implicit endorsement of hierarchy?!)

Chris, thank you very much, that is a real honor, especially coming from you.

Dave, I tend to agree with you about awards, but please don't be cranky. I'd happily nominate yours for just about every award in the book, and no doubt it would still be under-appreciated. What I *do* really appreciate, much more than winning things is knowing that writers I admire greatly - and you and Chris are on the top of that list - think well of my writing too. That's reward enough for any effort I put in from day to day, and an ongoing challenge to keep trying to do my best.

Fight the power, Dave.

I'm sorry. You're right, Beth, I have no business bringing my grouchiness over here. (Tune into the Via Neg later today for an all-new exercise in grouchiness!) Perhaps also I should have made it clear that the cassandra pages is always among the three or four blogs i name when people ask me for recommendations of well-written and interesting blogs. (Creek Running North is another.) Unfortunately, this doesn't happen often enough to make much of a difference in your readership, I'm afraid.

But here's the thing: we all want readers, but how many of us have the time to read even a fraction of the blogs that deserve our attention? It seems to me that I have about as many readers as I deserve, right now, given how few hours I spend reading others. Satisfaction with the quality of my writing and photography would be fatal for me, but I am almost reconciled to having just a few, good readers and the time to respond to all their comments. My only ambition is to be able to get some of it in print someday (ideally with a tree-free publisher), because I do so much enjoy the tactile experience of reading books.

No apology or clarification necessary, Dave, although I appreciate what you've written here. And I agree with you: I manage to keep up with only a handful of blogs, and comment much less often and much less fully than I wish I could. Still, I'd rather have a smallish number of careful devoted readers - and be that kind of reader for others - than rack up numbers, mainly for the sake of my ego. It is irksome, though, that so much drek makes it into print when there is such great writing - some of it with mind-changing, life-affirming potential - to be found every day on the net with nary a prayer of being widely distributed. I think the next generaltion of blog energy shoudl perhaps go in that direction: moving out, if we can find ways, toward wider distribution of what we all know is so marvelous here.

By tree-free, what do you mean exactly - if you are looking for a way of creating books-in-the-hand? I can't see moving away from "real" books either, and even as e-books become more common, I certainly don't see a stampede int hat direction.

"It is irksome, though, that so much drek makes it into print when there is such great writing - some of it with mind-changing, life-affirming potential - to be found every day on the net with nary a prayer of being widely distributed."
Yes, you're right - that does rankle a bit. But how could it be otherwise, given the nature of the society we inhabit? I'm all for reaching out to the "unconverted," so to speak, but I think we have to be realistic about the extent to which our value systems do differ from those of most Americans (or even most Canadians). We could probably all do a bit more to promote each other and to find new readers: especially people who currently don't read any blogs, because they've heard that they're all either teen diaries or partisan political mud-fests. The blog carnival seems like one promising new approach. We might also think about things like buying ads in literary and art magazines, for example in support of group efforts such as qarrtsiluni.

"Tree-free" means simply using only paper from 100% post-consumer recycled stock or from non-tree sources such as rags or kenaf. New Society Publishers is the first and only example I'm aware of, at least in the U.S.: see http://www.newsociety.com/NSPaboutnsp.php

Wow - that is really interesting. In my professional life, we try to specify recycled paper and, sometimes, soy inks, but I didn't know about the existence of old-growth-free papers and, for example, the Canadian printers who stock and use them. I'm all for this; hats off to New Society Publishers for being the first in the U.S. to do this.

On the other subject - yes, those are good suggestions. I wish that more "good-writing blogs", for lack of a better term, could get a share of the attention that tends to go toward political blogs, with their emphasis on scooping the news or following stories. What we're doing is on the opposite end of the spectrum; it's slow, considered, crafted, and designed for shelf-life, not obsolescence or replacement with the next day's story. The world may be going in the opposite direction, but I do think that there is a place for this - perhaps even increasingly so.

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.