The Stack.

thestack

My Stack.

A few weeks ago, I got a catalogue from The Vermont Country Store.  I’ve ordered a few things from their catalogues (I adore their super-comfy and attractive Mumu-style tops, and keep ordering more — I have 4 of them now) so they keep sending them to me.   Catalogues make great bathroom reading, and TVCS’s is one of the most fun to look at because it has just about everything you could ever want to have in it.    The candy page is always the page that automatically flips open because I’m constantly looking at it and drooling (although I have only ordered candy from them twice).  There’s candy there you just can’t find in regular stores — marzipan snow balls, maple-sugar leaves, chocolate covered sponge candy, and commercial candy that I remember from my childhood but is no longer available in any store.

On the inside front cover of their catalogue, there’s always a  quaint, old-timey, slightly corny write up about life in Vermont.  It’s always an idyllic little slice of Vermont life,  written by one of the owners.  Sometimes I read them and sometimes I don’t, but I happened to read the one that was in the latest catalogue.    The write up was called “A Nice, Quiet Winter Afternoon–and ‘The Stack’ Is Waiting.”  It was about something I can relate to — that tall stack of books that sits next to your favorite chair, usually on the floor (of course, in Vermont country, The Chair is always a cushy easy chair, perched next to a large picture window overlooking gently rolling fields of snow and farmland, and a large mug of hot cocoa is waiting there next to the stack — or on top of it!)

thestack2

I have a Stack.  It’s not on the floor, and it’s not next to a comfy easy chair, and there is no bay window behind it overlooking gently rolling fields of snow and farmland.  My stack is located on a dirty old orange steamer trunk next to my bed.  The window just to its right overlooks the parking lot of the apartment complex next door, and being that this is North Carolina, there is usually no snow on the ground.

But it’s still a stack of books just begging to be read, or referred to, or making me feel guilty because I haven’t read them yet — and maybe never will.   I look forward to the day I actually have the time to read (or give away) all these books (and de-clutter my bedroom in the process).    Since I’m home today, I may spend time reading (in fact, I definitely will), but before I do that, in this post I’m going to take inventory of these books and describe them, since even I can’t even recall what all of them are.

One Second After by William R. Fortschen.   A political/technology thriller written by one of my customers, who gave this book to me (I forgot to get it autographed though).    It was a New York Times bestseller a few years ago.  I know this man to be a political conservative (Lordy, I hope he isn’t a Trump supporter!),  but I started reading it a few days ago, and it’s damn hard to put down.   Since Fortschen also lives in my city, I am familiar with most of the places he describes in the book, which makes it seem even more real.  The man is a phenomenal writer, so I think I’ll be finishing this book first (although “Fire and Fury” is giving it competition).

Twin Flame by William Fortschen with Nora D’Ecclesis.  Fortschen’s first romance novel. He gave this to me along with the above book.   It’s a very short book and I read it in two days.  I haven’t removed it from the Stack yet.   It was both a fascinating and uncomfortable read for me, since this “novel” is obviously a factual account about him and his new wife (who he is now separated from), who I also know slightly.   The only things that have been changed from real life are their first names, but everything else is autobiographical.   Reading it, I got the slightly uncomfortable feeling of eavesdropping into the very personal life of someone I don’t know that well (but know well enough to know this is not a novel!).   The guy is a hopeless romantic, emotional, and very spiritual person and also an amazing writer.  And yes, I wish I could find someone like him in spite of the fact he is pushing 70 years old (though not him, obviously!)   And no, there is no sex in the book (thank goodness!)  It’s a very clean read.    Unlike Fortschen, however, I don’t believe we have “soul mates.”  I’m far too cynical for that.   The fact he does believe that each person has a “twin flame” at the age of almost 70 years old gives me hope for humanity.

Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America’s Most Powerful and Private Dynasty by Daniel Schulman.   This is a library book that is due back in a week.  I read about half of it, but I decided to stop reading because after awhile the book started to bore me (and make me feel sick).   I’ve already read so much about the Koch Brothers, their vast empire, and their diabolical plans to make America into their own image that I’m burned out on this sort of stuff and don’t want to read about them anymore.    I was curious about their early lives, and that’s the real reason I checked out this book.   I wanted to find out if they were ever human beings, and yes, apparently they were.  They were cute as children.   Charles Koch actually seemed like a sweet kid but it was clear he was his family’s golden child, even though he wasn’t the first born.    The eldest, Frederick, was the family scapegoat because he never fit in with the rest of the family, may be gay, and was partially disinherited.  He’s a patron of the arts, New York gadfly, and eccentric, and that embarrasses the rest of the Koch family.   Apparently, Freddy’s  not all that conservative (and may even be liberal).    David (one of the twins which included Bill) always looked up to Charles and became his partner in crime.  David was the cutup of the family, always in trouble as a kid but was Mr. Popularity at school.   Bill had a terrible temper, was unpopular with other kids, always threw tantrums as a kid, and wasn’t favored by the family.  He was never really part of the family business, except in a peripheral way.   I found out everything I needed to know.  Now make them go away, please.   I’ve had enough of the Kochs.

Exoplanets by Michael Summers and James Trefil.  This is also a library book due back in a week.   I haven’t read it, but I skimmed through it, and I looked at the beautiful color photos and paintings of earth like planets that may exist in the Milky Way Galaxy.   I may renew it, or not.   I probably won’t have time to read it even if I renew it though, so I probably won’t.

Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult.   I picked up this hardback novel by one of my favorite writers at Dollar General for three bucks.   I want to read it, and eventually will, but it will probably be awhile since between blogging, work, and my Internet activities, I don’t find a lot of time for novel reading anymore, and that’s a shame.

The Silent Corner by Dean Koontz.  I actually bought this paperback for the full list price at Food Lion.   Like the above book, I want to read it (because Dean Koontz has always been a favorite writer of mine), but wonder when I’ll get around to doing so.

Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency by Joshua Green.   This was a bestseller a few months ago, and I did read a few chapters of it, but there are so many other books about this presidency that have come out since then that are more timely (since current events are moving at near-light speed) that I probably won’t ever finish this book.   It seems kind of dated now, but I keep it in my stack just in case I change my mind or have nothing else to read (not likely).

The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President, editor Bandy Lee, M.D.    A must read for all conscientious Americans.   Although I finished this some time ago, it’s one of those books I will keep referring to again and again.  So it stays in the Stack.

Left Behind: A Novel of the Earth’s Last Days by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.   This was a one dollar Goodwill find, otherwise I would not have it in my Stack or even in my house.  I will probably never read it, but on that day at Goodwill, I was momentarily curious about the far right Christian evangelical mindset about the End Times, and since I’d heard so much about these books, curiosity got the best of me.  I’ll probably take it back to Goodwill at some point.    I don’t like Tim LaHaye or his politics so I don’t want to read any of his books.

Cold Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels by J. Warner Wallace.   This attractive looking trade paperback was sent to me anonymously, possibly by a reader of this blog who happens to have my address (thank you, whoever you are!) but so far the three people who I know have my address have denied sending it to me.  The book came in the mail at a time I was having doubts about my faith, so perhaps this is a message from God — very mysterious!    It looks interesting and fun to read, and evidently God wants me to read it, so in my stack it sits.  But I really have no idea when I’ll get around to it.   I will try!

My Fucking Coloring Book (with a box of Crayola crayons and package of colored markers which have probably dried up).  This adult coloring book was a gag gift from my daughter last Christmas (2016), but I’ve only found the time to color in one and a half of the intricate panels.   I wrote about receiving this book here.

Three books that are not in my Stack but should be:

The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy by William Strauss and Neil Howe.   My copy of this 1997 future history is dogeared and battered from constant reference.  I won’t describe the book in this post because it would take too long.  Never mind that Steve Bannon is a huge fan of the theory.  It’s not the insane conspiracy theory everyone thinks it is.  I wrote about it here and here.

The Bible.  I really need to get a modern English (preferably a Catholic version, which includes the extra chapters), since the two translations I have (Old Scofield Study version and KJV) I find so difficult to read.

Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff.   I did not want to wait for this book, or fight people in line at Barnes and Noble to get the last copy.  I don’t like reading books on a computer, but I just had to have it right away, so I went ahead and ordered a Kindle version off Amazon.  I’m reading it now, and believe me, it is a page turner.  It reads like a soap opera, but it isn’t trashy, because with this dumpster fire reality show of a presidency, that’s actually the way this White House operates.

Advertisements

Incredible news for my “Merrimints” fans!

Several months ago, I posted an article about “Merrimints,” a delicious mint candy that was made until the 1970s and then disappeared. But due to the overwhelming demand for these delicious mints, several companies have recreated them. The article I posted also contained a recipe to make them yourself (not my own!)

So I have two pieces of good news for my followers who found this blog because of my Merrimints article.

The first thing is that out of close to 500 articles that exist on this blog (which has only existed for 6 months, and I’m going to write an anniversary post after this one), the Merrimints article is my third most popular post of all time! Here are the stats that show its placement among my 7 most popular articles (a few of the articles shown in the list are not articles but static pages from my header that get lots of views)

merrimints_stats
Screenshot showing 3rd place placement of Merrimints article (the “1st placer” is just my homepage). Click to make larger.

The Merrimints article is also almost always among the list of Most Popular Posts that appears in the sidebar.

I had no idea these candies were so popular, and am astounded by the continued popularity of my little article I wrote on a whim. I feel humbled by that, and appreciate all of you who reposted or shared this article on food sites, Pinterest and elsewhere. Thank you guys so much. ❤

Now, the second piece of good news.
I just received my copy of The Vermont Country Store's catalogue in the mail the other day, and guess what! They are now offering the ORANGE mint "Merrimints" (called Pastel Mints). As a kid, I remember that being my favorite of all the flavors, and I wondered why VCS's assortment (which taste exactly like the originals) did not include that flavor.

merrimints_2
This is from page 4 of the new Vermont Country Store catalog showing the ad with the orange mints.

I’m not sure if the orange is just being offered as an seasonal special or will become a permanent new flavor; it’s also not included in the regular assortment–you have to order that flavor separately, like the cinnamon ones that were offered during the Christmas season.
But it’s still awesome that the orange mints are now available!

merrimints_1
Closeup of the above ad.

Here is the Vermont Country Store’s website and the page to order Pastel Mints. I do not see the orange flavor listed here. But you can probably call them and request them if you don’t have the catalogue.

Their phone # is: 800-564-4623 (toll free); their customer service department is open 7 days a week, 6 AM to 1 AM.

Anyone remember Merrimints? Well, they’re back (sort of)

merrimints

As a child, my mother used to purchase boxes of Delson’s Merrimints for bridge and dinner parties. I wasn’t allowed to eat them, since they were for company, but I knew how to get to the high shelf in the butler’s pantry where the sweet forbidden treats were kept and ate them anyway, much to my mother’s annoyance.

The original Merrimints came in boxes with a cellophane window, and included orange, lemon, wintergreen (pink), peppermint (white) and spearmint (green) mints. They were shaped like discs with ridges on the underside and had a unique and wonderful consistency. If you’ve ever eaten maple sugar candies, they had almost the exact same texture: a thin crystallized surface but they would melt in your mouth like butter, becoming immediately almost liquid. They tasted like heaven. They were about the size of silver dollars, perhaps a bit bigger.

merrimintsad
A magazine ad from the 1960s or 1970s.

Merrimints have not been made since the early 1970s. Here is the story of what happened to them: http://www.roadfood.com/Forums/The-truth-about-Merriments-finally-m272386.aspx

People haven’t forgotten Merrimints though, and people all over the Internet who remember them lament their demise.

Several small candymakers, responding to the continued demand for these crystal-to-creamy confections, have attempted to recreate their own “Merrimints,” and they do taste almost exactly like the originals.

Oliver’s Candies has made their own version, very true to the original, but are missing the orange mint flavor (apparently this was the least popular flavor, but it was actually my favorite).
You can order them from their website: http://www.oliverscandies.com/index.cfm/product/110_10/pastel-mints–merrimints.cfm

closeupmints
A close up of Oliver’s “Merrimints”

The Vermont Country Store (almost everyone probably gets their catalogue during the holidays) also offers their own version, “Pastel Mints.” These are also missing the orange mint flavor, but I have tasted them and they are exactly like the originals, although they may be a tiny bit smaller.
The Vermont Country Store also offers red Pastel Mints in cinnamon. I haven’t tried these, but they sound intriguing so I may order some.

You can order both the Cinnamon and regular Pastel Mints from VCS’s website: http://www.vermontcountrystore.com/store/jump/productDetail/Food_&_Candy/Sweet/Candy/Pastel_Mints/65414
There is even a photo in which you can scroll your mouse over it to zoom in for a closeup. Unfortunately I’m not able to copy the photo here.

I did find one recipe for Merrimints-like wafers. I haven’t tried it, so I have no idea how true to the originals they taste, but I’ll go ahead and reprint it here, in case any nostalgia candy buffs want to try to make them.

“Merrimints” recipe (from Allrecipes.com):
2c. sugar, 1c. water, 2tbs. cornsyrup or 1/8 tsp cr. of tartar flavorings dissolve sugar in water &syrup, cover and cook slowly for 2-3 minutes’remove cover and boil without stirring til it hits 238 (soft ball stage) remove from heat and pour on large platters until lukewarm knead until creamy, leave in a tightly covered container overnight to make the merrimints, melt some of it in top of double boiler add flavor and color, drop by tsp. onto waxed paper, cool, peel off and turn over and let dry, store between pieces of parchment”

EXCITING UPDATE! https://luckyottershaven.com/2015/03/10/incredible-news-for-my-merrimints-fans/