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This is another long-ago Long Distance Kitchen recipe (from last August, cough cough), but so scrumptious that it shouldn’t be forgotten – Figgy Buckwheat Scones from Good to the Grain.  In fact I’ve made them twice, and I’ve been considering playing around with the dough recipe to see what else I can do with it.  It turns out that I love the flavor of buckwheat – there’s another Good to the Grain recipe from October to share soon.

This is a two part recipe – first, you make a batch of Fig Butter – figs cooked with red wine and port and spiced with cloves, anise and cinnamon, then pureed with butter.  The fig butter recipe makes more than you need for a single batch of scones, and the extra is delicious on toast.  It disappears around here.

The second part of the recipe is a fairly classic scone recipe made with about half buckwheat flour and half all-purpose.  The buckwheat flavor is fantastically nutty and a nice complement to the rich fig butter, which might overwhelm a lesser scone.

You roll the dough out, spread fig butter on it, then roll it up into a log and cut it into fat slices, which get turned on their sides and baked into spirals of goodness.

The middle is a little gooey with the fig and the outside is crisp and crunchy.

The Visconti HouseThe Visconti House by Elsbeth Edgar

This is the sort of story that’s particularly appealing to kids who like old houses and uncovering secret histories – or, the kids who wish they got to live in an old house with decades-old secrets. The story also deals with the perennial problem of feeling like an outsider at school – someone who doesn’t quite have friends and who has a secret life of the imagination. It’s about friendships and kindred spirits and coming into yourself as a person – all of those things you’re going through in middle school. Edgar creates a nice sense of mystery and atmosphere, and the house comes alive as a character in a way that I would’ve loved as a kid.

Source: my library system

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State of WonderState of Wonder by Ann Patchett

I just finished this and can’t recommend it highly enough to readers who enjoy setting and character-driven stories. The plot description can sound tantalizing, but it’s not really very action packed, dealing more with ethical ambiguities, a complex web of personalities and choices, and a setting that reaches out and grabs you. With Patchett you know she’ll never quite spare you the difficult moment, but neither will she give you an unbearably bleak ending. The result will be something inbetween, the kind of story that’s difficult to leave behind and that begs rereading.

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Inside Out and Back AgainInside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

The story is nicely evocative of all of the things Ha misses when her family leaves Vietnam. The free verse form heightens the emotions and lets the historical facts fade into the backdrop – while certain times, places and historical figures are mentioned, the emotions could translate to any refugee situation. The ending felt a little abrupt, but otherwise the book was strong.

There’s a brief note from the author talking more about why she wrote the book than adding any historical facts – curious kids might want to seek out more information on Vietnam and the war, especially if, like me, they have had almost no exposure to it in school.

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It is upon us – the season of Summer Reading.  Not to be confused with the actual season of summer, which doesn’t hit Portland until after July 4th.  Summer Reading – the three months of the library year where the days slip away in a whirl of explaining the reading logs, handing out sign-up bags, asking families if they’ve signed up yet, handing out prizes, restocking the prizes, and wondering where the time went.

Yesterday was the first day of the summer reading program, and I we had around 90 sign-ups by the time I left work.  The first kid to sign-up must have been waiting for the library doors to open, because I swear she was standing at my desk at 10 am sharp.  The after-school rush saw a line of kids.  If it’s like this while school’s in session, it’s going to be a madhouse in a week when the year ends early thanks to furlough days.

For some reason, I keep thinking summer = more free time.  Not at work, obviously, but at least the evenings are longer and that means more time for after-dinner walks (the irises are out all over the neighborhood) and an increased desire to take road trips.

I haven’t made any plans for my own summer reading – no goals or lists to make and abandon – but my library shelf is awfully full these days and I’m going through audiobooks like nobody’s business.  I listened to seven in May, up from four in April and one in March.  As always, I keep track of what I’m reading on the annual lists – links just under the header.  Although my “read these” list is sadly in need of updating – apparently I’m not as bossy as I used to be.

As always, there’s catch-up to do on my book reviews and what I’ve been cooking for Long Distance Kitchen.  More to come.

June 2011

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