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Judy Alter


Judy Alter has been writing fiction and nonfiction for young readers for twenty years. She has a Ph.D. in English with a special interest in the history and literature of the American West. Alter is the director of a small academic press, and writes in her spare time. She is the mother of four, and now lives with her dog, her cat, her garden, and her books.

Judy's Books

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Discovering Australia's Land, People, and Wildlife

Discovering Australia's Land, People, and Wildlife

A MyReportLinks.com Book

Judy Alter
In this new edition of the Continents of the World series, author Judy Alter uncovers the land and climate, plant and animal life, scientific discoveries, and history and exploration of Australia. This book offers fun and interesting facts about the planet’s smallest continent...Read More

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ISBN: 978-0-7660-5207-9
Binding: Library Ed.
List Price: $26.60
Discount Price: $19.95

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Judy's Latest Blog Entries

Dogs, diets, and an alarming start to the day

Before: Shaggy Sophie. After: slim and trim

Well, I got my day off to an exciting start today. I let the dog out before disabling the alarm; then I made it worse by leaving the door ajar so she could come back in. The alarm’s “voice from nowhere” was issuing me stern warnings while I stumbled around to find the remote control. Then the siren went off. Sophie howled and came barreling inside to pick up her chew toy from last night—I suspect her thought was if there was an intruder, he was darn well not going to get her treat. Finally, things got beyond the abilities of the remote, and I had to deal with the actual control panel. But I did get it all stopped, so I could make myself a soothing cup of tea.

I’ve been lax about posting on the blog for a couple of evenings, but I have had such a good excuse. Jordan has been out here talking to me most of the evening. We’ve talked about family and friends, people who make us joyful and friends who disappoint, birthdays and celebrations, dogs and kids—and of course food and menus. We laughed and got teary-eyed. And yes, we drank a bit of wine.

One big topic of discussion was Colin’s upcoming fiftieth birthday—a great jolt for me. But we just got word yesterday that the children’s half-sister from California will come for the celebration, and we’ve known for some time that Uncle Mark, Aunt Amy, and cousin Emily from the Bronx will join us. A wonderful, rousing family affair. I anticipate a lot of high jinx and laughter.

On one of these evenings, Jordan looked at me and said, “I’m really upset with you.” My heart sank. How had I overstepped the bounds of the mother-daughter relationship? But I burst out laughing when she said, “It’s the biscuits. The whole cottage smells like fresh-baked biscuits, and I can’t eat one.” I had baked a tube of Pillsbury biscuits to stash in the freezer for my breakfasts. Jordan is on a self-imposed “Whole 30” diet, so no carbs. I guess all is well in our relationship, biscuits aside.

I dislike this dieting that pops into our lives occasionally – Christian is on it too, and it severely limits the things I can cook for Sunday dinner, rules out a lot of things I’d like to cook. For this week, I gave them a list of possibles, hoping they would choose trout or a lamb stew; Jordan chose one of two chicken dishes. Christian hasn’t voted yet, but he did give everyone a good laugh when Jordan caught him in the kitchen complaining, “I’m so hungry! I’m so weak!”

I’m just old-fashioned enough to believe in a regular diet of three balanced and modest meals, and I harbor a lingering suspicion that alternating dieting and splurging is not good for the body. Of course, I was this fall in the enviable position of needing to gain weight, and while I no longer have that excuse, my doctor still says, “Your sodium is low. Eat all the salt you want.” Jordan and Christian came they are in recovery from the excesses of the holidays and the rodeo season.

A former neighbor was here for happy hour last night and kept saying how good I look, slim and with a sparkle in my eye and a sharp new haircut. I wanted to urge her to continue, but then she’d say, “You really look so much better. You didn’t look so good the last time I saw you.” I’m sure my voice was weak when I asked, “How long ago was that?” I don’t like to be reminded of my down periods.

For several weeks now, friends coming into the cottage have exclaimed about the weight Sophie has gained—I discarded the idea of putting her on the Whole 30 but did cut down on the size of her supper. Today, she’s back to being slim and trim, all due to a haircut. Bobo who grooms her said it was her winter coat, and he took it back a little more than usual this time. She seems to know and prances around here as if proud of herself.

A moment I wish I’d had my phone to take a picture: when I went to brush my teeth last night, Sophie lay between me and the commode, keeping guard. You must be protective when your human is brushing her teeth! I love life with a dog.

The tax man cometh and does not bring happiness

carnitas for dinner
I’m one of those compulsives that people love to scorn. I start organizing my income tax return on New Year’s Day or shortly thereafter, not because I am anxious to give Uncle Sam the money (particularly not this year with the new tax law) but because I hate the chore and want to get it behind me, so that I can take a deep breath and say, “Wow! That’s done for another year!” This year, more than ever, I’ve dreaded it because of all the reports that people who previously got huge returns were now owing great amounts—thank you, the Republican swamp.

Much as I hate it, I rely on a tax planner from my accountant to organize my returns. That usually comes in the mail about mid-January, by which time I have things sorted into categories. This year, it didn’t arrive, so by the first of February I dashed off a note asking about it. Seems that the revised tax law made new planners necessary, and the software wasn’t up to speed yet. Without really chastising me, the accountant was saying, “Chill, and be patient.” As I read in various news sources about other people filing and getting bad news, I was increasingly nervous. Saturday, I sent another of my gentle queries—not minutes after I hit Send, Jordan came out with my mail, which included the tax planner. So guess what’s the big thing on my calendar for Monday.

But not today. Today is Sunday, and once again I went to church online. The fragile dog in the house was not doing well this morning, and concern kept Jordan and Christian home. The sermon was “Deep Joy in a Shallow World.” Among the takeaway lines, “We have learned to make a living, but not life.” Russ Peterman stressed that happiness does not come when you are seeking it but only when you forget yourself in service to others and God

It made me think of the new word I had just learned this morning: hygge. It’s a Danish word used when acknowledging a feeling or moment, whether alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary, as cozy, charming or special. It cannot be purchased or learned—it just happens. Sort of the polar opposite of Marie Kondo. But I’ve known those moments, often in a small gathering of people I care about, sometimes around an outdoor fire. To be treasured.

During the church service, much of the camera work involved shots that put the viewer behind the organist, looking over her shoulder as she played. Remarkable experience—four keyboards, all those stops, and the footwork that we couldn’t see. For someone who can’t rub her belly and pat her head at the same time, it was impressive—and the music, as always, glorious though it never sounds quite as full online. This morning, the church presented third graders with Bibles. It was sort of a nostalgia moment—was Jacob really that young just four years ago? Dr. Peterman stood by to shake hands with each child—someone should prime those kids about shaking hands with their right hand. About half offered him their left.

Weekends mean good food at the Burton/Alter compound. Last night, Christian fixed a pot roast with gravy and roasted potatoes, Jordan made a salad, and I contributed a killer
Roast pork done on the stovtop

vinaigrette—new recipe. Look for it on Thursday at the Gourmet on a Hot Plate blog. Tonight, we had carnitas—sort of tacos without the tortillas, though Jacob and Christian had theirs in corn tortillas. I’m not a fan of tortillas and always eat the filling without the shell, and Jordan is avoiding carbs, so we just had the meat and accompaniments. The recipe for the meat is in Gourmet on a Hot Plate. Gosh, I really am becoming an obnoxious self-promoter. Sorry about that.

And now we head into another week. Have a good one, everybody.

Valentine’s recap

My late-night pal
Few things are more comforting than the company of a dog. Here’s Sophie, in one of her favorite places—she sleeps at the end of my desk when I am working late in the evening. She’s not a great cuddler—her leaps on my bed are short-lived. It’s as though she buries her face in mine and then becomes bored and jumps down. But she wants to be close. When I sleep, she’s often, but not always, at the foot of the bed—she has her favorite chairs in the living room. But when I stir the least little bit, she’s at the side of the bed, wanting to be petted and reassured about the day to come.

Sophie is always anxious to go into the main house. It was, for goodness’ sake, her residence for the first five years of her life. But after she checks things out and enjoys the company for a bit, she lies by the back door, ready to go back to the cottage. Last night, Jordan put her in her lap, an awkward move at best with a thirty-pound dog, and Sophie put her head on Jord’s shoulder briefly, but then she struggled to be down.

We had a split Valentines dinner last night. Christian was going to cook a special dinner but
Jacob and the croque monsieur

make it do double duty as a project for Jacob’s French class. I suggested croque monsieur—Jacob’s French teacher does not want to know how he pronounced it! Croque Monsieur is essentially a glorified ham and cheese sandwich, but oh so rich! It calls for thinly sliced boiled ham, good bread like sourdough or ciabatta, and a rich cheese sauce made with gruyere or Emmental. You toast the bread, make the ham-and-cheese sandwich with a bit of mustard, pour the cheese sauce over, and then bake or fry until it has a golden crust.  Not for the cook who is faint of heart, nor for the dieter.
Boys cooking

Jacob and Christian made one sandwich (I won’t say who did how much of the cooking, but you can guess). It was a work of art-. As Christian said, it looked like the picture.He cut it in fourths, so we could each have a bite. Jacob ate my bite. I guess I’ll have to go to La Madeleine for a croque monsieur.

But Christian wanted something else for dinner, so I gave him a recipe for chicken francese—French chicken, right? Only it turns out francese is Italian for French, and the recipe was not only Italian but American Italian. So he and Jacob cooked both. The chicken was delicious—in a delicate lemon sauce

Today was, I think a pivotal day in American history, when a president tried to usurp power and break the long tradition of checks and balances in a democracy, all over a crisis that does not exist. Once again, I feel as if we are living in suspended animation, waiting for the other shoe to drop. In this case, the other shoe will drop slowly, with long, drawn-out court cases. Pray to God that our democracy and our country may survive and triumph over the will of one man and the venial abdication of responsibility on the part of many. I have my own list of deplorables.

And as if to echo the national mood, the weather turns cold again tonight, after a day in the balmy seventies. Roller coaster weather is hard on all of us. Stay warn and safe,

Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate!

Nobody wants to know the technical reason that chocolate makes you feel almost as good as being in love—phenyl-what?—and nobody really needs to know that St. Valentine was beheaded by order of Roman emperor Claudius for marrying Christian couples. Claudius thought being married would make soldiers less fearsome in battle. So Valentine was fearless in love.

But everyone needs chocolate on Valentine’s Day. Here’s a recipe that you can either call pudding or mousse, whichever strikes your fancy. It’s quick and easy, and if you don’t have the ingredients on hand, it’s not too late to run get them. Just to show how old this recipe is, it calls for a double boiler. Anyone have one of those still?

16 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, either two 8 oz. dark candy bars or chocolate bits

½ cups chopped walnuts

2 Tbsp. crème de menthe

4 cups whipping cream

Melt the chocolate in that double boiler you don’t have or the microwave. Just don’t let it burn. Stir in walnuts and crème de menthe. Cool to room temperature

Whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the cooled chocolate mixture into the whipped cream until thoroughly blended. No white streaks.

Serve chilled in individual dishes. Wine glasses, even martini glasses, are nice Decorate with chocolate sprinkles.

Note: I don’t really like nuts in soft things, so I leave them out of this. Everyone to their own taste.

If you’re old enough to remember double boilers and valentines like the one above—remember they used to come in variety packages? —you’re old enough to remember Valentine Boxes and the days when every kid worked hard to make his or her own to be proudly carried to school on the day. Lots of tissue paper, some crepe paper rolls, cut-out cardboard hearts, maybe even a bit of lace if your mom sewed. It was definitely a competition to bring the fanciest box. And then teachers made sure you had a valentine for every child in your class, so no feelings were hurt.

Ah, the good old days. I don’t think kids do that anymore. They’re missing wonderful memories.

Is it the walker?

Several years ago, friend Betty and I went to a new restaurant for our regular Wednesday night supper. The waitress was, to say the least, condescending, with a too-cheery, “Well, are you ladies out of the town tonight?” I remember having perhaps the best appetizer I’ve ever had—one huge scallop on a bed of pureed cauliflower, topped with a dab of foie gras. We each had two glasses of wine, and we got our revenge—the waitress forgot to charge us for the wine. I called the next day to pay for our drinks and was curtly told, “It was her mistake. She can pay for it.” I thought it was karma for her attitude toward us, but that’s the first time I ever noticed age discrimination.

It hit me in the face again today. A nice guy came to measure for a section of fence that  needs to be replaced. I was the one who had called him (I’m comparative shopping), made the arrangement for him to come out this morning. The whole thing was my deal.

When he got here, Jordan was in the cottage, and, because she is more fleet of foot than I am, she opened the door. He greeted us both and proceeded to talk directly to Jordan with an occasional word my way. It was clear he thought she was in charge, even when she gave him my email and told him it was mine.

After he left, I said it was obvious he thought I was incapable of absorbing what he said, either because I look my age (that crepey neck), I had to ask her to hand me my hearing aids, or I’m on a walker. At one point I wanted to raise my hand and say, ”I’m the one paying this bill.” I did interject a light-hearted comment in an attempt to become part of the conversation—it didn’t work. Jordan maintains I am being too sensitive, but I don’t think so.

A friend who is blind says that people talk extra loud to him until he wants to say, “Hey, I’m blind, not deaf.” I think too many tend to think one disability somehow affects the whole package, especially including the mind. I am not in dementia. I am old, and I use a walker, but my mind is clear and works fine, thank you very much, and I enjoy a full and vibrant life. I do not want to be isolated or categorized because my legs don’t’ work quite right. In the two years since I’ve been using the walker, a few friends that I used to see frequently have dropped away. I don’t know that it’s the walker, but I have a suspicion. And I am so grateful for the many who have stayed by me, putting up with loading my walker, praising my independence.

Strangers are extra kind to me in passing. They nod and greet me, they hold doors, they wait patiently because I am a little slow. The difference comes when I make personal contact with just a few people. Next time you meet someone with a handicap, don’t stereotype them in your mind with that handicap. Look at the whole person. You might be pleasantly surprised.
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