"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Sunday Salon...Celebrations of Life


Weather:
Gorgeous. Actually sort of hot.

Bubbles and lasagna: Imagine for a minute that you've never seen soap bubbles or tasted homemade lasagna. Now imagine that you are not yet one year old. How would you react to these new things? We know. If you were Jamie, our 8 month-old grandson, you would giggle for glee when your aunt blows bubbles from a wand toward you. And you would scarf down the lasagna as if you'd been eating solid food your whole life, delighting not only in the taste of it, but also the way it feels on your face. Unadulterated joy! (See photos above.)

Also joyful: Don celebrated his 64th birthday this week-end. Yes, we sang him the Beatles song, "When I'm 64", which is harder to sing than you may think. My eldest daughter and her family dropped by to help her Dad celebrate his big day. When Ian, our three-year-old grandson saw his grandpa, he exclaimed, "Come on, Grandpa. Let's run around." Don't you wish you had the energy of the very young?

Puff the Magic Dragon: I have a small collection of stuffed dragons that I've had since my librarian days. Ian's car dragon friend, Roar!, stays in the car waiting for visits from his boy. He showed off Roar! to one of his mom's friends the other day as I was preparing to transport Ian to daycare. It reminded me of Puff the Magic Dragon song, which we played later in the day. The song is now one of Ian's favorites and I can't help but cry when I think about the part of the song when "Jackie Paper comes no more." Anyway, I digress. Yesterday Ian disappeared for a while and reappeared with another stuffed dragon in tow. He dubbed this dragon Puff. I started singing the song but I changed the words to fit Ian and his new Puff. Imagination twinkled in his eyes. Oh, to be young again when magic was real.

Books:

  • Completed:
    • The Midnight Library by Matthew Haig. This book was selected by readers on the Goodreads poll as a favorite of 2020. I can see why. Look for my review this coming week.
    • King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender. Winner of the 2020 National Book Award for best YA/Children's books. Set in Louisiana it covers a lot of themes.
  • Currently reading:
    • The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict. A novelization of the  life of Hede Lamarr. This is a book club selection and not a favorite. Print. 70%.
    • The Exiles by Christina Kline. My other book club's choice for June. Setting Australia in the 1800s. Audiobook. 33%
  • Book Club: Thanks to the loosening of mask rules, our book clubs will be able to meet in person since we are all fully vaccinated. Yippee!
  • My favorite novels read in the past five years: I made a list. Had a lot of fun doing it. Take a look and see if agree with my choices. 42 favorite books. 

Celebrating a loosening of restrictions: Now that the President and CDC have said we can loosen up about masks and gatherings if we are fully vaccinated I'm longer irritated by those people who wears masks with their noses sticking out. HA! This week we are hosting some friends for dinner and look forward to a visit with siblings in the next few weeks. 

-Anne

Friday, May 14, 2021

42 Fantastic Novels Read in the Last Five Years

This past weekend a friend contacted me and wondered how she could use my blog to find a list of recommended books.  Every January I make a list of favorite books from the previous year but I have never compiled those lists into a master list for ease of viewing. Great idea. Here is a list of 42 books I really like, have recently read, and can recommend without any hesitation. This list focuses on fiction only. Titles are hyperlinked to my reviews, which I hope you will take a look at to get a fuller idea about the book's merits. The date I completed the book is in the parentheses and the list is organized according to date read.

42 Fantastic Novels I've Read in the Past Five Years (2016-2020+)


1. The Girl with the Louding Voice
by Abi Daré---Adunni lives in a village in Nigeria where women are not prized. All she wants to do is go to school so she can make a difference for other girls but her father as another idea for heAdunni. Written in vernacular which takes a few pages to get used to reading. Her story is both maddening and inspiring.  (4/2021) 

2. Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell---Hamnet is Shakespeare's only son. This is a story imagining what life was like in the 1500s. It is also a story about parental grief after the death of a child. This is very well done. In fact it is also believable. I hope you take a look at my review before you dismiss it out of hand. I loved it. (3/2021) 

3. The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure by William Goldman---Yes. This is 'Princess Bride' of classic movie fame. The book is as charming as the movie with the addition of the author inserting himself into the story. It is as if there are two separate stories going on at once. It puts a smile on my face to think of it and I am so glad I finally read it. (10/2020)  

4. Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King---I don't usually read King because I get horrified by the horror genre of fiction. This book is a detective/mystery novel. It is so well done and riveting. Honestly we had to listen to the ending of this book in one big gulp. When you are finished with it, cue up the second book in the Bill Hodges series, Finders Keepers. (8/2020)

5. The Water Dancer by Ta-Nishi Coates---A unique imagining of the underground railroad. Read this and then watch the movie "Harriet". They go well together. (6/2020)

6. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry---An epic story of the old west. Don't be put off my its length. It is worth every page. It was my favorite novel read in 2020, a strange year indeed. I am so glad I finally had to time for this masterpiece. (4/2020)
 

7.
The Testaments by Margaret Atwood---A continuation of The Handmaid's Tale. The story picks up fifteen years later and is told through the voices of three female narrators from Gilead. Each tell their part of the story until the three coalesce into a dynamic and satisfying conclusion, answering almost all of the questions that have bothered readers for over a decade. A must-read if you are a fan of The Handmaid's Tale. (3/2020)
 
8. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett---A brother and sister and their special relationship with each other and with the Dutch house. If you like listening to audiobooks, this one is narrated by Tom Hanks. (12/2019)

9. Virgil Wander by Leif Enger---A quirky book by a favorite author. This book is full of heart. Of all the books on this list, Virgil Wander has probably stood out as one of the best of the best to me. (11/2019)
 
10. Inland by Téa Obreht---Set in Arizona Territory in the 1800s, it tells the story of two very different people whose lives converge one dry, dusty night. My recommendation for Inland comes with a warning. If you decide to read it, finish it. It is confusing in the beginning. The ending, however, is so spectacular and surprising it took my breath away. It was both sweet and creepy at the same time. Still unsure? Check out my review. (11/2019)

11. Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner---First published in 1987 Crossing to Safety is considered by many to be the author's finest work. It is definitely an oldie but a goodie. It is to story of two couples and their life-long friendship. I first read it in 1996 and enjoyed it just as much or more the second time around. (9/2019)

12. The Overstory by Richard Powers---Interconnected stories all having something to do with trees. Brilliant. I can't say enough good things about this book. I hope you read my review to gain more appreciation for it. (8/2019)
 

13.
Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid---After a super popular 70s rock band breaks up at the peak of their popularity everyone wonders why. This book is written as if all the band members are being interviewed and are giving the facts of what happened from their perspective. A fresh approach to literature and fun for old rock fans like myself. (8/2019) 
 
14. Circe by Madeleine Miller---Miller collected all the bits of Circe's stories from Greek mythology and pieced them together into an incredibly well-written story. AND, and that is a big AND, it made me want to read more on the topic and by this author. Truth be told, though, two gals in book club 
 thought the book was awful. I admit it gets off to a slow start. Begin by reading my review? (7/2019)
 
15. The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai---My favorite book read in 2019, this book gives a hard look at the AIDS epidemic from its start to current days. The loss of so many men in the prime of life is compared to the Lost Generation of WWI. (4/2019)
 
16. The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka---A novella in length, this novel tells the story of a chorus of picture brides who arrive in America from Japan seeking a better life here and not finding it. A singularly unique book. (4/2019) 

17. The Magic String of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom---With a unique narrator, Music, this book not only delighted me with the storyline---a musical man and trajectory of his life---but also with the interludes where actual musicians insert Frankie Presto into their musical stories. Very clever. (3/2019)

18. There There by Tommy Orange---All roads converge for eight main characters, all Natives, at the Great Oakland PowWow. Like a circle dance each character gets closer and closer to the others as the climax occurs. I was left reeling after I finished this phenomenal book. I wasn't sure what to think or feel except gratitude that this book exists. (2/2019)
 

19. Where the Crawdads Sing
by Delia Owens---This book has a little of everything I like in books: flawed characters, interesting/new-to-me settings, mysteries, and poetry. I loved everything about it. This book has been wildly popular since its publication with over a million ratings and over 100,000 reviews on Goodreads. Don't be the one person who hasn't read it! (1/2019)
 
20. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr---Set during WWII in France and Germany, the story focuses on two children, Marie-Laure and Werner and how their stories converge. The writing and the symbolism are just simply gorgeous. I met Doerr at a book event and he is such a fascinating guy. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize among its many awards. I read it first in 2015 and reread it in August of 2018 in preparation for book club. (8/2018)
 
21. Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan---Apparently I spent August of 2018 re-reading favorite books. I originally read Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore in 2013 and loved it then and loved it again five years later. This is another quirky book which has long ago slid off any best-books-list but I still recommend it. What is it about? Super tech of today meets super tech of 500 years ago. (8/2018)

22. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman---This book really spoke to me about the way we treat people whom we don't understand. It also spoke to me about the importance of being a good friend. Of all the books on this list I hope you read this one the most. (7/2018)

23. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel---This is a book I think about every day because I suspect it may become true. It haunts me. It deals with life twenty years after an apocalypse. The writing is pretty spectacular, too, with the author leaving little dragon's teeth along the way which the reader collects as she reads. I first read this in 2015 and reread it in 2018. (7/2018)
 
24. Less by Andrew Sean Greer---Arthur Less is a washed up author and a 50-year-old gay man whose x-boyfriend is getting married. To avoid the misery of attending the wedding Less accepts five literary invitations which will take him around the world. Hilarity and self-awareness ensue. I loved this book and found it to be very funny, but no one else in my book club agreed with me. The difference? I listened to the audiobook, they read the print version. Read my review before you decide. (6/2018)


25.
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee---Pachinko is a sweeping saga of a family which takes place first in occupied-Korea and then in Japan from the early 20th century to the late 1980s. The story chronicles the lives of four generations in one family. Like many memorable novels Pachinko resists being summarized. Just let yourself be swept up in the story. (5/2018)
 
26. Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward---I wasn't going to add this book to the list because it is such a tough read, that is until I reread my review. Then I knew I HAD to include it. It is a gorgeously written book about dark topics: racism, drug-addiction, unequal justice for Blacks, and the way these have haunted Black people since the beginning of our nation. This is a very heavy read which may haunt you, too. (4/2018)

27. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline---I know this is a niche book, but I really like it with it's quirky plot and characters. It is a throwback to the 1980s when everything was a little bit more innocent and then it jumps forward in time when everything is much more complicated and horrible. First read in 2012, then reread in 2018. The sequel, Ready Player Two, is pretty good. But I liked the first book best and the sequel isn't necessary. (3/2018)
 
28. True Grit by Charles Portis---An American classic, published in 1968, about a fourteen-year-old girl, Mattie Ross, and her desire to hunt down and bring her father's murderer to justice. Set in the Old West in the 1800s, this is a very American story. After reading True Grit, go watch the movies but not before. But what ever you do, READ THIS BOOK!  (3/2018)

29. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders---This is the only book on my list of favorites which I insist that you listen to the audiobook instead of attempting to read. It is by far the best audiobook I've ever listened to, bar none. Based on actual diaries, articles, and actual quotes from historical documents we learn about the compassion that filled Lincoln after the death of his son, Willie. The audiobook utilizes 166 unique voice actors for the book. It is amazing to listen to. (3/2018)

30. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams---Yep, I reread this classic, zany Sci-Fi novel in 2017 after initially reading it for the first time in my life in 2011. This is one of those books that should not be missed in a lifetime of reading. It is so funny, so out there, that I actually laugh just thinking about it. In 2020 I read the first of five sequels, The Restaurant at the Edge of the Universe, and hope to continue the series this year. My review is from the original 2011 reading. (10/2017)


31.
The News of the World by Paulette Jiles---Set in Post-Civil War Texas. A retired captain agrees to take a young girl, a girl kidnapped by Kiowa, the 400 miles to her only living relatives over rough and dangerous terrain. And the girl doesn't want to go. She wants to stay with her new Kiowa parents. Another book I recommend in the audio format because the print version does not use proper quotations (which really bugs me.) This book is short but has a lot of heart and soul. Read this and then watch the movie. (9/2017)

32. The One-In-A-Million Boy by Monica Wood---I can't even begin to tell you how much I love this book. It is chalk full of quirky characters and odd situations. It is also loving and kind at the same time. (8/2017)
 
33. Ordinary Grace by William Krueger---The word 'grace' plays a big role in this beautifully written coming-of-age tale. This is the only book on the list that I didn't review for some reason I can't remember. (Click the link and it will take you to the Goodreads page about the book.) (8/2017)
 
34. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson---Ursula keeps dying and coming back to life (over and over) at the same starting point. It is confusing yet satisfying to know that our life is all about the decisions we make. This is not a good selection for people who only like to read books presented in a linear fashion. But I found it fascinating. (8/2017)
 
35. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead--- Whitehead wrote this book on this premise: What if the Underground Railroad was a real railroad. This book stands the typical slave narrative story on its head and it is brilliant. Another Pulitzer Prize winner. There is a Netflix series coming out based on this book. Be sure to read the book before watching it! (7/2017)

36. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi---Two sisters in Africa. One becomes the wife of a white man who rounds up slaves. And the other is captured as a slave. Each chapter moves forward a generation for each sister, like a collection of powerful short stories shifting on a timeline. Powerful and heartbreaking. (3/2017)
 

37.
LaRose by Louise Erdrich---The central question of the book: Can a person do the worst possible thing and still be loved? At the hands of a master storyteller, readers explore this question through two Ojibwa families living in the North Dakota. (3/2017)
 
38. Commonwealth by Ann Patchett---I started reading Commonwealth thinking it was a book about divorce and the changing trajectory of lives in the wake of it. But what I came to appreciate was the stories told within the book. Essentially it is a book about how stories connect us, one to the other. (2/2017)
 
39. The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen---In a nutshell The Sympathizer is about a nameless captain in the South Vietnam army who is really a double agent and sympathizer of the North. The book begins during the Fall of Saigon, moves to refuge camps, to the USA, and eventually back to Vietnam. The captain, our narrator, is writing the book as a confession. Full of dark humor and new insights into war, this book is not an easy read but worth the effort. I found parts of it to be quite humorous.(10/2016)
 
40. Circling the Sun by Paula McLain---This is  a novelized memoir about Beryl Markham who lived in British East Africa ("before Kenya was Kenya") for most of her life. The story focuses on Markham's early years through her twenties. She tells her story as a remembrance while in the cockpit of her airplane, a plane she is attempting to fly across the Atlantic from East to West in 1936. Spoiler alert, she makes it, well, sort of, and goes on to write her memoir, West with the Night, in 1942. Reading this book started me on a Beryl Markham kick, reading everything she published and then I went on t0 read other stories set in Kenya. (6/2016)
 
41. The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz---It is so hard for me to quantify 'favorite' or 'best' when it comes to books. No wonder this list is over 40 books long. That said, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is way up there or maybe actually at the top of the list. The book is nothing short of, umm...wondrous! It is a goofy story, too, about a nerdy, fat Dominican-American boy who just wants a girlfriend but can't find one because of his nerdiness. The book is amazing on so many levels it will take too much space to explain it out here. Go read my review and see if it sounds like something you'd enjoy, too. (1/2016)
 
42. The Yearling by Marjoire Rawlings---Set in the 1800s in Florida this coming-of-age classic tale of a lonely boy and his pet deer will break your heart. This book definitely has staying power, not just since it was written in 1938 but inside me since I read it. It is the only 'classic' on this list. Don't dismiss it out of hand thinking it's just a kid's book. It is so much more. (1/2016)

Notes: 

  • This was a fun exercise for me and instructive, too. Part of the enjoyment came from rereading all my old reviews. I don't do that often and I should since it reminds why I liked a book at the time I finished reading it.  
  • On my Goodreads account I gave 5-star ratings to almost all of the books here, though a few 4-star books snuck onto the list while leaving off several that outranked them. It is such a subjective process. One 5-star book got left off because I couldn't remember anything about it, another because I didn't write a review for it. 
  • I retired in June of 2017. Prior to that date I didn't write as many reviews for the adult books I read instead concentrating more on YA titles. That would explain the low number of books on the list prior to that date.
  • 2018 was a good year for rereading favorites---four.
  • 2019 seems like the best year for chalking up favorites to add to this list. So many good books! 12. Wow.
  • I'm actually surprised that five books made the list from 2020. I had such a strange reading year with COVID-19 and politics dominating my thinking it was hard to concentrate on fiction.
  • 27 of the 42 books on the list were book club selections. I kept asking myself why so many of them came to my attention via this route and I decided it had to do with the discussion. If I get a chance to talk about a book after reading it, I remember more of the plot and characters and often my estimation of the book improves over the course of the meeting.
  • Lastly, there are so many other fantastic books that didn't make this list. In fact, I could add another one for a recently finished book, The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, right now. Let's make this a thing. Why don't you create a list of favorite books read the past few years and share it with me. I'd love to find some more great book ideas.

-Anne

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Review and Quotes: FRED ROGERS---THE LAST INTERVIEW AND OTHER CONVERSATIONS


Title:
Fred Rogers: The Last Interview and Other Conversations 

Book Beginnings quote: From the Introduction by David Bianculli---

Fred Rogers.
    Is there another name you could mention, especially in the field of popular entertainment in general and television in particular, so guaranteed to generate a wistful smile and a fond memory?

Friday56 quote: From "I've Got the Greatest Job in the World" interview with Karen Herman, pg 54---

Herman: What is television's responsibility to children?

Rogers: To give them everything that we possibly can to help them grow in healthy ways and help them to recognize that they can be angry and not have to hurt themselves or anyone else. That they can have the full range of feelings and express them in very healthy, positive ways.

Summary: This small gem is a collection of six interviews with Fred Rogers over the years, extending from the first before the Senate Subcommittee on Communications in 1969 to his last interview with Diane Rehm in 2002 before his death in 2003.

Review: I love Mr. Rogers so much and admire every aspect of his television "ministry." When my girls were little while they watched the show I'd be sitting in the background weeping. Evey message he shared with the children of his television audience was so precious and spot on. That is the way I felt about this book, a collection of his last interviews. I want to memorize everything that Mr. Rogers said and emulate him in everything I do. What a wonderful person. 

I confess to laughing out loud as a tough Senator grills Rogers about the need for funds for public TV back in the late 1960s. After listening to Mr. Rogers' passionate words from one of his songs, Senator Pastore sighs and says, "Looks like you just earned the twenty million dollars. [Laughter and applause.]

What an inspiring collection of interviews and conversations.

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from current book.
Th
e Friday56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56 to share. 

Visit these two websites to participate. Click on links to read quotes from books other people are reading. It is a great way to make blog friends and to get suggestions for new reading material.   
 

-Anne

Monday, May 10, 2021

Anne's Cookbook: Corned Beef Pot Pie

 

My family looks forward to St. Patrick's Day not because we are Irish, we aren't, but because we love a good boiled dinner which includes a yummy, stringy corned beef which are readily available in markets that time of year.  I usually cook it all day in the crock pot. This year prior to the March holiday I purchased not one but two bags of corned beef from my local grocer thinking I could make one later for the family since the bag clearly said "Use or freeze by May 12, 2020." I figured it would be a treat for us to eat this family favorite two months later. Why save favorite meals for just the holidays, right? Best laid plans. Unbeknownst to us the second corned beef kept pickling in the bag the whole time. Instead of enjoying the meal, all of us filled up on cabbage and potatoes barely able to gag down the meat because it was so sour. Hmm. What to do with the leftovers? Clearly no one was going to jump for joy at the prospect of a second boiled dinner as leftovers the next night. Then this thought hit me.

I've been wanting to try a Corned Beef Pot Pie ever since I heard a reference to it on the "Call the Midwife" series. When I looked on-line for a recipe all the ones I found looked disgusting. Clearly I would not waste my time making that horrible looking thing. But now that I had a goodly portion of corned beef on my hands why not create my own recipe? I could tweak a favorite chicken pot pie recipe and see how it turns out. This recipe is the result. I must say, it turned out quite well and will be better next time I make it with not-so-sour beef.


Corned Beef Pot Pie

Prep Time: 

  • 1 hour when using leftover/already cooked corned beef
  • Cooking time: 35 minutes
  • Servings: 8

Notes before you get started: 

  1. First, I highly recommend that you make homemade pie dough. Why waste all your time making a delicious filling and then add it to substandard pie dough? I've included my mother's No-Fail Pie Dough recipe below. It is easy to make and tolerates quite a bit of handling. 
  2. Second, get all your ingredients out, chopped, measured, and lined up on the counter before you start making your filling. The french term for this is "mise en place" and it means to have everything set up ready to go before you start cooking. You'll thank me for this advice when you are in the middle of making the filling at point when everything seems to happen all at once. 
  3. Chop carrots, onions, and potatoes into bite size pieces before cooking them. 
  4. Make the pie dough first. Line a deep dish pie pan with the first crust, cover the second crust readying it for use after the filling is made.

Filling Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2-2 cups peeled and diced potatoes 
  • 1- 1 1/2 cups peeled and sliced carrots 
  • 2/3 - 1 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup flour [60-65 gms] (I use organic)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups beef broth (I made mine with 1 1/2 tsp Beef Better that Bouillon added to 1 1/2 cup boiling water)
  • 2-3 cups chopped into bite size pieces or shredded cooked corned beef
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • Pie dough, enough for a top and bottom crust
  • 1 egg beaten into a tsp water for egg wash

 No-Fail Pie Dough Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour [250 gms] (I use organic); set aside 1/3 c. to use to make a paste with the water
  • 3/4 cup Crisco
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 c. cold water

Filling Instructions:

  • Mise en place (Set up):
    • Preheat over to 425 degrees
    • Make pie dough, fitting the bottom crust into a deep-dish pie pan
    • Place diced potatoes and carrots in a small sauce pan, cover with water, and bring to a boil for 5-6 minutes to par cook or soften them. Drain and set aside.
    • Chop or shred meat. Set aside.
    • Dice a half of a large onion.
    • Measure out beef broth, milk, flour, peas, and spices. Line up on counter in the order you will use them.
  • Melt 1/2 cup butter in a large saute pan. Add diced onions and saute for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add spices (salt, pepper, thyme) then sprinkle flour on top of melted butter and onions and cook for a minute to make a roue. Stir to evenly cook the flour.
  • Whisk in beef broth and then the milk. When smooth, add the potatoes and carrots and let simmer for a few minutes. Check seasoning and adjust.
  • Stir in meat and peas. Turn off heat.
  • Pour filling into prepared crust. Mounding is fine as the ingredients cook down a bit and it makes for a fuller pie.
  • Place second crust on the pie, trim excess, and crimp top and bottom layers together with fingers to seal. 
  • Brush egg wash on top of the crust. Make several slits with a knife so that the steam can escape.
  • Place pie on the middle rack of the oven. I usually place a baking sheet one rack below in the oven, just in case the pie leaks. 
  • Bake for approximately 30-35 minutes until golden brown. If the bottom crust isn't browning, you may need to gently place foil over the top pie crust and leave the pie in the oven for a few more minutes to allow the bottom to brown up a bit. Nothing worse than a soggy bottom.
  • Remove from oven and let stand for 10-15 minutes to allow for easier cutting. (Honestly, we don't wait this long usually!)
  • Enjoy with a side salad or fruit.

No-Fail Pie Dough Instructions:

  • Measure out flour and salt. I think it works best to measure flour by weight if you have a kitchen scale. 
  • Remove 1/3 cup of the flour and place in a small bowl. To this add 1/4 water and mix to make a paste. Set aside
  • To the remaining flour cut in the Crisco using a pastry blender. Once the mixture is about the consistency of small peas, add the flour paste and work together until integrated. 
  • Divide the dough in half and roll out on a floured pastry board. Fit into pie pan.
  • Repeat for the top crust. Leave rolled crust on board until the filling is ready.
  • Fit second crust in pace, trim, crimp, egg wash, and make small slit to allow for steam.
  • Bake as directed.

Enjoy. This is a very flexible recipe and should work fine with chicken, turkey or even ground beef, just adjust the spices and the broth to fit the meat. The pie can be refrigerated before baking and cooked the next day, just add additional time if the contents are cold to start with. It makes a wonderful meal idea for shut-ins that you visit or make ahead of time to freeze if you are expecting company in the near future. Every time I've made a pot pie using the basics of this recipe I've received rave reviews for it. 

How did this one do using soured corned beef? My husband said that the other ingredients, especially if taken in the same bite really mellowed out the harshness of the meat flavor. And by the second day, after mellowing in the fridge, it was even better. Lesson learned, however, even if the label says "use of freeze by" a date several months in the future, I will never hang onto an uncooked corned beef for that long again.





TTT: Books about trees and nature


Top Ten Tuesday:
Books with trees or nature on the cover. I extended the prompt to include books about these topics (not exclusively covers.)


Books I've read about trees and nature that I recommend

1. The Overstory by Richard Powers
Seven inter-connected stories all related somehow to trees. In fact, the trees are the real protagonists of the book. This is one of the best books I've ever read. (Fiction, 2018) 

2. Lab Girl: a Memoir by Hope Jahren
This memoir written by a biologist opened my eyes to some many wonders about trees and how they communicate with one another. (Nonfiction, 2016)
 
3. Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
The story centers around the great American Chestnut tree that was nearly wiped out by blight. (Fiction, 2000) 

4. The Big Burn by Timothy Egan
Not a book about trees specifically but about forests and a huge forest fire that led to the formation of 
the Forest Service and National Parks. (Nonfiction, 2009)

5. Serena by Ron Rash
Shows the greed of timber barons as they cut down huge swaths of North American forests in the 1930s leading to devastating results. I guarantee this book will make you furious. (Fiction, 2008)

6. Remarkable Trees of the World by Thomas Pakenham
I love the beautiful photographs in this book about some of the most amazing trees around the world. Now I want to mark a trip and visit all of them. (Nonfiction, 2002)


Books about trees and nature that I want to read

1. The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohllenben
"A fascinating and intimate account of how trees grow, socialize, interact with their environment, and even feel. Beautifully written and drawing on groundbreaking scientific discoveries, this book reads like a wondrous fairy tale of the forest that will take your breath away." (Nonfiction, 2015)
 
2. Kiss the Ground by Josh Tickell
"Discover just how incredible the soil beneath our feet really is, and how it has the potential to reverse climate change, feed the world, and improve your health. Beyond focusing on soil, this is a thoroughly researched exploration of the history, politics, and ecology of agriculture." (Nonfiction, 2017)
 
3. The Man Who Planted Trees by Jim Robbins
"This is the story of a man who set out on a mission to reforest the world by cloning the oldest, largest, and most resilient trees - champion trees - to create a Noah's Ark of tree genetics. It's also the story of a New York Times journalist who had his doubts. Through narrative and research, we uncover incredible human accomplishments and the essential role of trees in our survival." (Nonfiction, 2012)
 
4. The Nature Fix by Florence Williams
"Why does a walk in the woods do us so much good? This book explores the amazing benefits that connecting with nature has on our health and happiness, investigating cutting edge research from around the world." (Nonfiction, 2017)
 

-Anne

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Sunday Salon, Mother's Day


Happy Mother's Day!

Favorite Mother's Day song: (Tom Chapin's "Mother's Day") Carly actually sang part of it to me this morning, a favorite from her childhood.


Weather: Clouds and sun-breaks. It sprinkled on and off yesterday while we worked in the yard.


Zoom gathering: My family of origin met today to honor our mom (grandmother, great-grandmother) via Zoom. Everyone was present, even though we came from four different states and various locales within those states. We love you, Mom, and are honored to celebrate you this day.

Wisteria
My Mother's Day: Both of my daughters made brunch: Quiche, cinnamon rolls, fruit salad, and coffee/juice. We played games and reveled in our love for our grandsons. Jamie is teething so isn't very happy (or happy for a long period of time) and Ian enjoyed playing games with us. Yesterday, as per our tradition, Don took me shopping for bedding plants and annuals. Then he dedicated the day to helping me plant them. Carly contributed to the beauty with the purchase of a pot full of shade plants---my favorites. I am blessed.

The yard looks amazing right now: Take a look at the photo above. All the photos were taken in our yard this past week.  Top to bottom, left to right--- Lilac, rhododendron, tulip, violas, strawberry blossoms, chives and blossoms, azalea, blueberry blossoms, apple blossoms. (And, because I forgot to add it to my collage---wisteria.)

Books: 

  • Completed this week:
    • Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz. Diaz is a Native poet and many of her poems speak to issues related to her people. I was tremendously moved by many of the poems. Please check out my review by clicking on the hyperlinked title.
  • Currently reading:
    • The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. I am listening to this book which got a lot of attention last year in the book blogging world. I am really enjoying it. (Audiobook, 83% complete)
    • The Metamorphosis and Other Stories by Franz Kafka. My Classics Spin book. I guess you'd say this about the famous story of a man who turns into a bug---I don't get it. (Print, 48% complete)
    • The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict. A novel about the famous actress Hedy Lamar and her life in pre-WWII Austria. This is a book club selection. (Print, 39% complete)

Social events: Now that we are fully vaccinated we actually have started socializing in small groups. This week we visited Don's cousin and her parents for a delightful dinner of salmon and arugula salad. During the COVID lock downs, Don's cousin lost her sister to ALS. This is the first time that we have been together as a family since she passed. Lots of tears were shed but it was so good to be together to remember and honor Cathy.

Best "News" Item this week: "The Art of the Oval Office Tells a Story" from the NYT. Use one of your free views to check out this article it is so cool! Be sure to scroll through the whole thing. (NYT)

I just discovered 2Cellos and can't get enough. Listen to them play the theme from Gladiator, Now We Are Free.


Have you noticed this also?

-Anne

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Review and quotes: THE GIRL WITH THE LOUDING VOICE


Title:
The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré

Book Beginnings Quote:


Friday56 Quote (page 25):                                                                                                "In

Summary:

The unforgettable, inspiring story of a teenage girl growing up in a rural Nigerian village who longs to get an education so that she can find her “louding voice” and speak up for herself, The Girl with the Louding Voice is a simultaneously heartbreaking and triumphant tale about the power of fighting for your dreams.  Despite the seemingly insurmountable obstacles in her path, Adunni never loses sight of her goal of escaping the life of poverty she was born into so that she can build the future she chooses for herself – and help other girls like her do the same. (From the publisher)

Review: I loved, loved, loved this story of both heartbreak and triumph. Adunni wants more than anything to go to school so she can not only change the circumstances for herself but for other girls in her village who are all destined to marry young, sometimes as second or third wives, and forgo any dreams that they have for themselves. In a culture that does not think of women as equal to men, it is often a very hard life that women have to endure. The quote from page 25 shows how determined Adunni is to make something of herself, to have a "louding voice." She also knows that education is the key that will unlock her future and her dreams.

But all does not go according to plans. Her father stops paying for her education and then she learns that he has essentially sold her to pay his bills to a man who already has two wives. Yet, despite her circumstances Adunni is determined to somehow get back to school.

I listened to the audiobook recording of The Girl With the Louding Voice read by Adjoa Andoh, who is a British-Ghanaian actress. The book is written in vernacular and Ms. Andoh does a wonderful job with it and the Nigerian accent. As Adunni's English is poor, so is the written text on the page. As it improves, so does the writing. At first it is difficult to understand in both the print and the audiobook, but give a few pages (or minutes) and the ears and the brain will catch up. I love the quote from the first page where she talks about her father's "eyesballs." Just imagine how hard it would be to improve your language skills if all you had were a few years of school and no role models speaking it at home. May I suggest that you find a sample of the audiobook and listen to a few minutes of it. I bet you too will be charmed.

Adunni never, ever gave up her dream of going to school. Her determination and kind spirit attracted helpers along her path to guide and assist her. Eventually it all pays off.

This is our May book club selection and I can't wait to talk about it with my friends. Here are some questions that seem like good discussion generators at Bookchat. Beware, however, there are spoilers.

I loved this book and hope everyone reads it. I gave it to my mom for Mother's Day thanking her for being a great role model of a woman with a "louding voice." Thanks, Mom!

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from current book.
Th
e Friday56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56 to share. 

Visit these two websites to participate. Click on links to read quotes from books other people are reading. It is a great way to make blog friends and to get suggestions for new reading material.   
 

(RHS Book Club, May 2021)

-Anne

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Poetry review: POSTCOLONIAL LOVE POEM


On the heels of a great National Poetry Month (April) for me I finished Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz today and wanted to put together a review of my thoughts before they fade.

First I want to confess that I had an epiphany as I was hunkering down with a few of the poems attempting to figure out stuff about the poet through her poems without any context. Suddenly it dawned on me that I was trying to read this book of poems as if it were an autobiography of Natalie Diaz. I kept asking myself questions I couldn't answer---Does she have a brother who is mentally ill or is he dead? Does she have a broken heart from an estranged lesbian lover? Is she Latina or Native American? Then this thought snuck into my brain---The poems are meant to be read and treasured on a personal level. I didn't need to know the answers to my questions to enjoy the poems. And reading poetry isn't supposed to be like reading a novel or a biography. 

But I did do a little research on Natalie Diaz. She is a member of the Gila River Indian Tribe (Mojave) and was born in Needles, California near the Arizona, Nevada, California line. Her father is Mexican and her mother is Native. So I now have at least one answer to my many questions. Of her work, National Academy of Poets Chancellor Dorianne Laux says, 

“Natalie Diaz is a poet who calls out to us in so many ways, who reaches out to embrace her lover, her people, and her country. A speaker of Mojave, Spanish and English, she has developed a language all her own. She calls attention to language both in her poetry and in her efforts to preserve her native tongue through the Fort Mojave Language Recovery Program where she works with its last remaining speakers. Native language, she says, is the ‘foundation of the American poetic lexicon’ and believes it is an ‘important and dangerous time for language’. There is no better emissary for poetry and the cultures, values and history it embraces, as well as the beauty and power of the human voice” (Poets.org)

Language is clearly very important to Ms. Diaz, as is the environment and how humans are destroying wild places. She conveys a one-ness with aspects of nature throughout this poetry collection referring both to snakes and rivers as her sisters.  "The river is my sister--I am its daughter. / It is in my hands when I drink from it, / my own eye when I am weeping." She is sad at what has happened to her Colorado River because of so many dams on it. Clearly her frustration is at a boil when she ruminates, "You cannot drink poetry."

I was touched to the core by many of the poems, even if I am not quite  sure what they represent in Diaz's life. In the poem "It Was the Animals" she has an exchange with her brother who arrives with a plastic bag in which he believes he has a piece of the ark. "You mean Noah's ark? I asked. / What other ark is there? he answered." Later in the poem the brother chides her for not understanding, saying that all the books she reads won't help her. "He was wrong. I could take the ark... /  It was the animals---the animals I could not take-- / they came up the walkway into my house, / cracked the doorframe with their hooves and hips, / marched past me, into my kitchen, into my brother." Sometimes love means being willing to just accept a person, warts and all. And that love can save us both.

Loneliness is also a universal theme. In "If I Should Come Upon Your House Lonely in the West Texas Desert" I love the imagery of light juxtaposed to location: "I will swing my lasso of headlights / across your front porch, // let it drop like a rope of knotted light / at your feet. / While I put the car in park, / you will tie and tighten the loop // of light around your waist-- / and I will be there with the other end."

The title of Postcolonial Love Poem speaks volumes, too. Several poems speak to uncomfortable relationship that many experience living within a nation, within another nation. In one poem she explains that more Natives die at the hands of police, percentage-wise, than any other people in the USA. And in the poem "Minotaur,"  she lays it out. Can we get out of racist labyrinth in which we live?  "I have a name, yet no one who will say it not roughly. / I am your Native, / and this is my American labyrinth."

One interesting and fun aspect to Diaz's poetry is how she inserts phrases and words she has gleaned from elsewhere into them. In the notes at the back of the book she tells us where she found them and how the words or images she used inspired the poems. For example, the poem "Wolf OR-7" was built while she watched a few websites devoted to recording the movements of a male wolf who moved from Oregon into California. Another series of short poems/thoughts came to her after she read Luis Alberto Urrea's The Water Museum. I love the symmetry of this--an author, who is inspired to write a short story, passes on his inspiration to a poet who passes on her inspiration to me to be a better user of water.

I gained a lot of insight from the interview with Diaz by Sandeep Parmar, from The Guardian. If you want to know more about the poet and her works, I recommend that you read it. 

I love it when I read something that opens my eyes to the experiences of people different then me. This is one of those books.

-Anne

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

My not very deep or insightful review of DUNE


This year I am continuing a tradition started last year to select just one big book which I commit to finishing in the year. This year's book is DUNE by Frank Herbert and I have completed it. Readers and friends helped in the selection of my choice (both here and on Facebook) and more people voted for Dune than the other books. I did no research about the book other than to confirm that the author is indeed from the Tacoma-area, where I live. 

To begin with I purchased both the e-book and the audiobook versions, fearing correctly that I would be flummoxed by the pronunciation of names and places in the fictitious world created by Herbert. Audiobooks help with that problem. Once the names and places become familiar I often like to switch back to the print version so I can read the book quicker. The audio version I purchased was 21+ hours long, so speeding up the process seemed like a good plan.

Secondly, before I got started, my daughter told me that she and her book club were reading Dune, but only book one. I thought I, too, was reading book one. But on closer inspection I discovered that the book indeed was actually three-books-in-one. I had read somewhere that the amazing thing about Dune was how groundbreaking it was at the time it was written, leading to many other books and movies, including 'Game of Thrones' and 'Star Wars'. Oh great. If I am reading a three-in-one book does that mean I am reading the equivalent of Star Wars: A New Hope/The Empire Strikes Back/The Return of the Jedi in one go? No wonder the blasted book is almost 900 pages long.

I was off to a very inauspicious start.

The story summary is pretty confusing. In a nutshell, there is a teenage boy, Paul Atreides, who moves with his family to Arrakis, which is a very dry and sandy planet, where his father, the Duke, is killed by a Baron. The rest of the book is about Paul's attempts to avenge this death and how he becomes a prophet/messiah-figure/hero along the way. And there is his mother who is very talented in her own rights and helps a lot, probably saving their lives more than once. Don't worry about this summary. Let me encourage you--- If you decide to read Dune, just read it. Don't worry about any summary. Just go with the flow.

As I said before, the author Frank Herbert was from Washington State, born in Tacoma. One summer  in 1957 he visited the Oregon Sand Dunes on the Oregon Coast near the town of Florence to conduct some research for an article that he never finished called "They Stopped the Moving Sands."  This visit to the sand dunes ignited his imagination and the idea for Dune was born. It took Herbert six years to write the book (or the three-in-one) and portions were published in the Analog magazine between 1963 and 1965. According to Shmoop, Herbert wanted his novel to be epic. "Why stop there? Why not make this beast of a book epically epic?" Which is a great quote if Herbert said it or not.

And Dune was epically epic. It won both the Hugo and the Nebula Awards in 1966. And it separates itself from most of the other Sci-Fi works out there. Herbert's imagination was on fire and the breadth and depth of it is on full display in Dune. There is the planet and its unique ecology, a host of characters with unique and often hard to pronounce names. This is what you expect. But there is also "politics, religion, philosophy, history, human evolution, and even poetry," all these things signified for Herbert the world of mankind. Each has its place in the Dune universe, and each plays a significant role in the destiny of humanity (Shmoop).

Since I am not a big reader of Sci-Fi some of the grandness of Herbert's world-building on Arrakis, in comparison to other books. was lost on me. The story often seemed even too big for itself. What I missed were the transitions. 'This or that' would be happening and then suddenly the story would shift, often after a long passage of time, to some other action or place and I'd think, "Hey, how did we get here? What just happened?" I even wondered to myself if Herbert's editor said that the book was too long and he needed to shave off a bunch of pages and Herbert decided to save time and effort by just taking out all the transitions. I doubt it, but whatever happened, I missed them.

Aside from missing transitions, unpronounceable names, and three books-in-one, I actually liked Dune, at least a little, and I thought the audiobook recording was well-done. Twenty-one hours seemed to zoom by as I listened.  I found myself cheering for Paul and hoping for his success at avenging his father's death and freeing the Fremin people from the tyranny of the empire. I was completely satisfied with the ending but apparently Herbert wasn't. He went on to write five sequels to Dune. When he died his son and a co-author carried on and wrote 20 more books. One could get completely lost in Dune forever.

Will I read on? No. Was I glad I read the book? Yes. Apparently Dune is one of those books, like Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, that people lie about reading. Ha! Well, I've never lied about it but I won't need to in the future either.

-Anne

Monday, May 3, 2021

TTT: My Ten Most Recent Reads


Top Ten Tuesday: My Ten Most Recent Reads

(This list excludes a few poetry books that should be on this list because they are listed here


1. The Girl With the Louding Voice by Abi Dare
Set in Nigeria. The female protagonist has a hard life with many trials and upsets but she triumphs in the end. This is a transcendent book and I highly recommend that you listen to the audio version since it is written in vernacular.

2. I Can't Talk About the Trees Without the Blood by Tiara Clark
A poetry collection which deals with tough topics like racism and sexism. 

3. Saving My Enemy by Bob Welch
The true story of two soldiers, an American GI and a German soldier, who met on the 60th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge (WWII) and formed a deep friendship by forgiving each other for their part in the war. This is WWII story the likes of which I've never read before and I was so touched by it. Want to find out more? Please read my review here.

4. The Atlas of Happiness: The Global Secrets of How to Be Happy by Helen Russell
Country by county Helen introduces the reader to words and concepts that people in that region use to find happiness and contentment in their circumstances.
 
5. Violet Bent Backwards in the Grass by Lana Del Ray
The first poetry collection by this singer/songwriter.  

6. Fred Rogers: The Last Interview and Other Conversations by Fred Rogers
We all love Mr. Rogers and what he created in his neighborhood. If you read these interviews and conversations, done near the end of his life, you will be reminded why you like him so much. This book was gifted to me by Deb Nance at Readerbuzz. Thank you.

7. Dune by Frank Herbert
Reading this classic Sci-Fi book knocked off my one reading goal of the year---to read Dune. Not a personal favorite but I can certainly see why this book has stood the test of time. I listened to the audiobook which was very well-done.

8. Day is Done: A Nelson Mandela Tribute by Maya Angelou
One hero of mine honoring another hero in this beautiful poem.

9. A Promised Land by Barack Obama
My husband and I started this audiobook back in December and we finally finished it in April. I love Obama and followed his Presidency, so most of the information was not news to me. I just didn't like how long it took for us to finish the book (29+ hours of listening.) 

10. A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green
This is the second book in the Carls series. I loved the first book, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, and found a lot to like in this sequel. Another audiobook selection for me.

-Anne