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Homemade Pretzels

I haven't made homemade pretzels since we were in Alabama and I had forgotten how easy they are if not a little time consuming. I made these last week for Oscar night. They keep a long time in an airtight container. 1   (.25 ounce) package   active dry yeast 1 tablespoons   brown sugar 1  teaspoons   salt 1 ½   cups   warm water (110 degrees) 3   cups   all-purpose flour 1   cup   bread flour 2   cups   warm water (110 degrees) 2   tablespoons   baking soda 1-2   tablespoons   butter, melted 2   tablespoons  kosher salt Line two or three baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Place the yeast, brown sugar and salt in the 1.5 cups of warm water. Stir to dissolve. Stir in the flour. Knead for about 7-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl and cover. Let it rise for an hour (I place mine in the oven with the light on). Combine the two cups of warm water with the baking soda in a square shallow pan. After the dough has risen, cut it into 12 equal pieces.  Roll each section into a

At The Corner of Guilt and Delight - a book review

I normally only review gardening-related books here on my blog but I wanted to bring your attention to "At The Corner of Guilt and Delight" by Jeffrey Carrier. I've never met Jeffrey in person but way back in the 1990s, I wrote to him about a book he had written on Jennifer Jones and we were pen-pals for a while and now keep up on social media. He also wrote a book on Tallulah Bankhead so it seems we have a lot in common. 
We have more in common than just old movie stars though. We both grew up gay in the South at the same time.  It is funny that he used to live in Portland but now lives in Ohio - and now here I am right next-door to Portland. 

"At The Corner of Guilt and Delight" is a collection of essays about his childhood, family, friends, jobs, love affairs and coming out.

He grew up in a small Tennessee town called Mountain City. His father was a Baptist preacher and his occasional sermons on homosexuality naturally caused him great inner turmoil. His mother died when he was fourteen and his father quickly remarried. The new stepmother was icy and controlling and brought on an abrupt change in the household. Jeffrey was close to both his father and mother and his relationships with each, as well as his stepmother, play a significant role in the book.

Carrier's writing is evocative and his descriptions of growing up in a small Southern town are very nostalgic. I especially loved a chapter that described a snow storm that brought his town to a standstill when he was eleven. It brought back similar memories for me although I lived farther south in Alabama and we those type of events were not as common.

Jeffrey nurtured many friendships as a child, mostly with older people, who became lifelong friends and mentors. He worked for several years for his local newspaper following high school and he relates stories about many of the fascinating, sometimes quirky, people he met when writing stories. I especially loved reading about his next-door neighbor, Bulah Dean Vaught, known as "Bub" since she babysat him as a child. Hilarious and no-nonsense, she also had an extrasensory perception which results in some entertaining episodes. Jeffrey includes a photo of her tombstone with her name mis-spelled just as she predicted they would.

My favorite part of the book is his account of working with Patsy Ruth Miller, a major star of the silent cinema. Miller hired Jeffrey to assist him with writing her memoirs, a task that ended up taking over four years. His stories that detail Miller's personality and habits as well as the glamorous stars of yesteryear that he met through her will surely be of interest to classic film fans.

This is a hefty book but the writing makes the pages fly by and the color photos were a treat. It was fun seeing many of the personalities he writes about.


Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy


  1. It sounds like an engaging book, Phillip, although I would find 600 pages daunting, even though I tend to pick up one book after another with nary a break ;)


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