Monday, October 24, 2016

It's Monday! What are you reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week.  It's a great post to organize yourself. It's an opportunity to visit and comment, and er... add to that ever growing TBR pile!

The run down on what I'm reading....

Finished last week:

Loved Commonwealth.  The Getaway Car had it's moments too.

And this week?

On my Kindle:

In my hand:

On Audio:

 A little bit of non-fiction every night:

This is sooo good!!  Very interesting read.

And that's what I'm reading.
How about you?

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Classic Club--my first!

From Goodreads:
In the village of King's Abbot, a widow's sudden suicide sparks rumors that she murdered her first husband, was being blackmailed, and was carrying on a secret affair with the wealthy Roger Ackroyd. The following evening, Ackroyd is murdered in his locked study--but not before receiving a letter identifying the widow's blackmailer. King's Abbot is crawling with suspects, including a nervous butler, Ackroyd's wayward stepson, and his sister-in-law, Mrs. Cecil Ackroyd, who has taken up residence in the victim's home. It's now up to the famous detective Hercule Poirot, who has retired to King's Abbot to garden, to solve the case of who killed Roger Ackroyd--a task in which he is aided by the village doctor and narrator, James Sheppard, and by Sheppard's ingenious sister, Caroline.The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is the book that made Agatha Christie a household name and launched her career as a perennial bestseller. Originally published in 1926, it is a landmark in the mystery genre. It was in the vanguard of a new class of popular detective fiction that ushered in the modern era of mystery novels.

From Me:
Great book! A classic mystery--a whodunit -- everyone should read it.
I started out with an easy book, I understand that, but I have to read Dr. Zhivago for my Classic's spin very soon, so, Agatha Christie was okay to begin with. 
And now I feel bad that I said it was an 'easy' one to begin with... this book was:
1.  Really good.  Do you remember (or have you seen on Facebook) that cat who is watching a horror movie?  Well, that's how this book is--I'm sure my face looked exactly like that cat's...eyes large, eyes small, furrowed brow, pursed lips, shock and awe.  That pretty much describes your facial expressions upon reading this.

2. Christie really is the master of "who-dun-it" and this one was her most controversial book when it was first published, as well as being featured on the 1001 books you should read before you die!  Two great reasons one should read it.

3.  If I hadn't chosen  a list of classic mysteries  (yes, thinking they might be an easier read than some more traditional classics) I would have never read Agatha Christie.
And now, I can't wait to get back to her!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Fireman by Joe Hill

From Goodreads:
From the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author ofNOS4A2 and Heart-Shaped Box comes a chilling novel about a worldwide pandemic of spontaneous combustion that threatens to reduce civilization to ashes and a band of improbable heroes who battle to save it, led by one powerful and enigmatic man known as the Fireman.

The fireman is coming. Stay cool.

No one knows exactly when it began or where it originated. A terrifying new plague is spreading like wildfire across the country, striking cities one by one: Boston, Detroit, Seattle. The doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton. To everyone else it’s Dragonscale, a highly contagious, deadly spore that marks its hosts with beautiful black and gold marks across their bodies—before causing them to burst into flames. Millions are infected; blazes erupt everywhere. There is no antidote. No one is safe.

Harper Grayson, a compassionate, dedicated nurse as pragmatic as Mary Poppins, treated hundreds of infected patients before her hospital burned to the ground. Now she’s discovered the telltale gold-flecked marks on her skin. When the outbreak first began, she and her husband, Jakob, had made a pact: they would take matters into their own hands if they became infected. To Jakob’s dismay, Harper wants to live—at least until the fetus she is carrying comes to term. At the hospital, she witnessed infected mothers give birth to healthy babies and believes hers will be fine too. . . if she can live long enough to deliver the child.

Convinced that his do-gooding wife has made him sick, Jakob becomes unhinged, and eventually abandons her as their placid New England community collapses in terror. The chaos gives rise to ruthless Cremation Squads—armed, self-appointed posses roaming the streets and woods to exterminate those who they believe carry the spore. But Harper isn’t as alone as she fears: a mysterious and compelling stranger she briefly met at the hospital, a man in a dirty yellow fire fighter’s jacket, carrying a hooked iron bar, straddles the abyss between insanity and death. Known as The Fireman, he strolls the ruins of New Hampshire, a madman afflicted with Dragonscale who has learned to control the fire within himself, using it as a shield to protect the hunted . . . and as a weapon to avenge the wronged.

In the desperate season to come, as the world burns out of control, Harper must learn the Fireman’s secrets before her life—and that of her unborn child—goes up in smoke.

From Me:
I can't believe I haven't posted this yet.  I found it in my drafts.  I did a read-a-long with friends in July. 
JULY--the month I had grandchildren for all 31 days!
That's probably why I didn't get a post written up.

I love read-a-longs!  I'm not great at the whole Twitter thing, but it's fun to hear what everyone else has to say and talk about the book as you are reading it.
I listened to the audio version of this book--Kate Mulgrew narrated and she did a great job.
So...what's not to like?  I think Joe Hill did a great job of describing a dystopian (that's not the right word, I know or perhaps it is) community, and what might happen if there were a situation of chaos after an epidemic or other disaster.
It kept me turning the pages--I wanted to find out what would happen!  I thought the characters were well developed too and I loved Hill's references to pop-culture music and books/authors.
I was a teeny-tiny bit disappointed in the ending.  I just wanted more, but still--4 stars!

I also highly recommend (4 stars as well)  State of Wonder by Ann Patchett.
Also a read-along, done in June, but July just saw me with not enough time to articulate myself on a blog post--all those grandchildren, remember?

I loved this book!  I had never read anything by Patchett before  (but am reading her newest, Commonwealth, right now-recommend too) so glad to be introduced to her in a Read-a-long --Thanks Care!

Since I didn't hold up my end of the bargain---check out these great blog posts from,

Care, Katie and Stacy.  
It was  an impromptu read but so much fun for me.  
I agree with everything they said!!
(and oh man, the ending!)

From Goodreads:
Award-winning "New York Times"-bestselling author Ann Patchett (Bel Canto, The Magician's Assistant) returns with a provocative novel of morality and miracles, science and sacrifice set in the Amazon rainforest--a gripping adventure story and a profound look at the difficult choices we make in the name of discovery and love.

In a narrative replete with poison arrows, devouring snakes, scientific miracles, and spiritual transformations, 
State of Wonder presents a world of stunning surprise and danger, rich in emotional resonance and moral complexity.

As Dr. Marina Singh embarks upon an uncertain odyssey into the insect-infested Amazon, she will be forced to surrender herself to the lush but forbidding world that awaits within the jungle. Charged with finding her former mentor Dr. Annick Swenson, a researcher who has disappeared while working on a valuable new drug, she will have to confront her own memories of tragedy and sacrifice as she journeys into the unforgiving heart of darkness. Stirring and luminous, 
State of Wonder is a world unto itself, where unlikely beauty stands beside unimaginable loss beneath the rain forest's jeweled canopy,

Friday Friend Recipe #105 -- Spaghetti Sauce #6

I am Jenny Rosenstrach!!

Okay, so I'm not really Jenny Rosenstrach -- not even close.
(but I do have a foodie/cooking-kindred spirit kind of crush on her)

I just got her book "How to Celebrate Everything"  yesterday and upon glancing at it--we could really be friends.
We have so much in common (okay, only 3 things, but still)
She's a note taker---I'm a note taker!

 The spiral notebook behind the page of her lovely cookbook, showing pics of notes,  is mine--it's my Christmas notebook.  Doesn't everyone have one?
I have lists of cookies, appetizers, new recipes I want to try.

Lists of cookies we've made in the past holidays and liked, but as the years continue, that list is now down to 3 main Christmas Cookies. And Fudge---because the Handyman likes fudge. That's about it now, but I still keep my lists -- I like to look back on them in my Christmas notebook and reminisce.
I see in 2012, Nipple cookies were at the top of the list.  My boys aptly named the Hershey kiss cookies that when they were crude, immature teenagers and that's what we call them still. (possibly because we are kind of immature too)

 Anyway---this will be a fun book to sit and go thru.
I will tell you more about what Jenny and the cookbook and I have in common, after I tell you about my Friday Friend Recipe #105!

My Friday Friend Cookbook Countdown #105
"MY" spaghetti sauce.
Barb called it 'Saucy Debbie's Sauce'
and you know all the whys and wherefores of this countdown, right? Homemade cookbook, friends contributed, Handyman said I couldn't/wouldn't do it, I'll show him, yadda yadda yadda....

I've never really met a spaghetti sauce I didn't like, this is just the one I've always made.
The Handyman says he likes it better than his mom's...and his mom is 1/2 Italian!
Shhhhh.  Don't tell her.  I actually just think he is  just used to this one.  He's been eating it for the past 38 years.  He loves his mother's sauce too, and my mom's sauce.
I guess you could say that the Handyman has never met a spaghetti sauce he hasn't liked either.

This recipe below?  Please do not judge me on my witty recipe writing--I was being silly for friends, I never thought I'd be out here for the whole world to see ( whole world? that would be my 4 blog readers--thanks guys).  I would have been much more professional if I'd have known.

And now I will tell you my story (since I am committed to this for the countdown of the cookbook, but let me tell you, it's getting very hard to think of things!)
My story and also what I have on common with Jenny Rosenstrach is: RITUAL.
Her cookbook 'How to Celebrate Everything' is all about ritual in our everyday lives.  And food!  Rituals, celebrations and food!

I am a creature of habit.  I live off of a list.  I don't do spur of the moment things.
I have a list, I am methodical, I am....boring?  Yikes!!
Anyway, that's a discussion for another day.
One of my favorite rituals are my Tuesday mornings!
For the past gazillion years (18) my friend Debbie E and I have coffee together at 6am.
We solve the problems of the world!
Everything is right with the world!
Problems?  We don't got 'em, we got each other!

We were next door neighbors 27 years ago.
Our kids played in the neighborhood together.
They had a German Sheppard named Heidi, who would get out of their yard every evening about supper time and as my family were sitting around the table, we would watch as first the dog, then Charlie, then their children, Megan, Mark, Katie and Kelsey would run by trying to chase the dog down.
It was a nightly ritual.  (HA--did you see how I brought that around?)

Here is a picture of us about  23 years ago.

and one about  18 years ago.  And the Handyman smiling for the camera.  Can I find a pic of us now?  Nope.

Except this one from our cooking club cookout this summer.

So--my story in a nutshell.
We lived next door to each other, our kids went to the same elementary school.
We went to a spring concert, we sat by each other.  When the concert was over, we were walking out together-down the long school hallway.
Charlie, her husband, says:  Debbie, can't you watch these kids of yours.
I look around at my kids who aren't doing anything, but I use my stern mother voice:  You guys GET OVER HERE NOW! Stop messing around.
Of course he had been talking to his wife and not me!
My boys were like  "What?  Mom? What'd we do?"
I was like 'you're gonna get it buster'.
My boys  "Whaaaaa?"
I made them stick right by me all the way to the car.

It's funny now!

And that is my Friday Friend Recipe #105!
Saucy Debbie's Sauce!
(that's me!)

If for any reason whatsoever you want to check out all the Friday Friend Recipes in the book so far, just click here.
Right here...and it will take you to the complete countdown.

I'm going to link up with Weekend Cooking.
Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Sunday Soup--Paella Soup

Paella Soup

The Handyman's words of wisdom about this soup.
Me:  Do you like this soup?
HM: Mmm Hmmm.
Me:  You do?
HM: (stopping mid spoon to his mouth)  UH Huh!

So there you have it:  GOOD SOUP.

(oops....forgot the peas.  Imagine if you will, how pretty this table would be with a few green peas in the soup)

It had all the ingredients of Paella, but in soup form.
I have to be honest---I did not buy saffron.  I've spent a lot of money on ingredients that I only need a tsp of,  and had no qualms about doing so ...  but I just couldn't do it for the saffron.  So, I Googled it and found out there is really no substitute spice for saffron.  I did find one mixture that comes close: turmeric and paprika.  I forget the exact ratio off the top of my head, but if you want, you can Google it also.
Since I had both turmeric and paprika in my cupboard, that's what I did.
I also did not blend the veggies and rice to a creamy consistency.  I thought I wanted it more brothy-ish, and I wanted to feel the texture of rice in my mouth.

I just realized that I forgot the peas!
I bought the peas--which are still sitting in my freezer.
YOU don't forget the peas.

This soup is filled with chicken and sausage and shrimp.
A really good main dish soup!

I found this soup in  the cookbook 'Sunday Soup' a Years's Worth of Mouthwater, Easy to Make, recipes by Betsy Rosbottom.

 I am going to link up  with

Souper Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen!
Souper Sundays is a weekly blog event that started because of her love of soup and a desire to work through the many soup and soup-like recipes in cookbooks and magazines, Deb set a goal to make a soup or "soupish" dish each week and post it each Sunday and invited others to do the same.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Coookbook Countdown #94 -- Ham Steaks and Red Eye Gravy

My friend Louise hosted Cookbook Wednesday for years, but  she is not feeling so well, so it is suspended for now.

And while I am not taking up the weekly commitment, (with a Mr. Linky, etc)  I do have  many  cookbooks to 'count down' and I am going to do it on Wednesdays and think of how great Louise's blog is and hope she is up to par soon!

This is cookbook number 94!
You can see them all so far if you click here.

From Maine’s hearty Joe Booker Stew to pineapple-packed
Hawaiian Fried Rice, this collection of recipes brings bold local flavors and tried-and-true cooking techniques home—no matter where that may be. Home cooks will discover little-known specialties and revamped classics in each of the four chapters: New England and the Mid-Atlantic, Appalachia and the South, The Midwest and Great Plains, Texas and the West. Colorful local history and anecdotes from Cook’s Country’s tasty travels bring the recipes to life, and illustrated maps and a list of test kitchen–approved hot spots show you where you can try the inspiring original dishes today. Step-by-step photography illustrates key techniques, and full-color photos for every recipe showcase the beauty of the collection. From tailgate staples like Southern Football Sandwiches and Wisconsin Grilled Brats and Beer to old-school sweets like Hollywood’s Tick Tock Orange Sticky Rolls and New York’s Bee Sting Cake, Cook’s Country Eats Local puts an array of flavorful, diverse American dishes within reach—no road trip needed.

From Cook's Country EATS LOCAL
I made  Ham Steak with Red-Eye Gravy.
Region:  Appalachia and the South.

While it's true, you don't find Red-Eyed Gravy on many menus out west, I'm not sure why, as it was really good.
I used to think it was 'red' as in color, but no,  'red-eye' is for the coffee you put in the gravy.
Now I feel like a stupid westerner, because that makes so much sense:  red-eye, sleepy, etc.
I do love this cookbook---I love anything Cook's Country or America's Test Kitchen puts out --and I love regional cooking.

The Handyman was a fan of Ham Steaks (his fav anytime) and Red-Eyed Gravy! 

We ate  outside, so I have spotchy patches of sunlight peaking into the patio.

From the cookbook:
When we took this southern classic for a spin here in the test kitchen, we found that most gravy made from coffee was inedible—when coffee boils, it becomes extremely bitter. To get the flavor without the bitterness, we use instant espresso powder. Maple syrup balances the coffee, and sautéed onion adds depth to the gravy, while finishing it with butter gives a silky texture. For the ham, we went with bone-in steaks, but found them so lean that they needed a boost; bacon did the trick, adding smoky, porky flavor and rendering enough flavorful fat to brown the ham steaks in.

Ham Steak with Red-Eyed Gravy

Ham Steak:
1  1/2 lb bone-in ham steak
2 slices of bacon

Pat the ham dry with paper towels and season with pepper. Cook bacon in 12-inch skillet over med. heat until crisp, about  5 minutes.  remove bacon from skillet, leaving behind fat and reserve for another use.  Add ham to skillet with bacon fat and cook until well browned on first side. Flip ham on cook on 2nd side  until lightly browned. Transfer ham to platter and tent loosely with foil.

Red-Eyed Gravy:
2 T finely chopped onion
1 t all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 T maple syrup
3 T butter, cut into 3 pieces and chilled
2 t instant espresso powder

Add onion to now empty skillet and cook until just beginning to brown, about 1 minute.  Stir in flour and cook for 15 seconds. Whisk in broth and maple syrup, scraping up any browned bits of ham. Bring to a simmer and cook until mixture is reduced to 3/4 cup and slightly thickened,  5-7 minutes.
Off heat, whisk in butter and espresso powder.  Season with pepper to taste. 
Carve ham into 4 equal portions and pour red-eye gravy over them.
Serve with short order home fries.

And thank you again Larry Storm!  You didn't know when I said "challenge accepted" that it would take me years to do it tho, right?

This was a good breakfast!

Follow that Arrow

From Goodreads:
After losing her center, her marriage, and her future in one stroke, Gwen Van Velsor set off to find a new path. She traveled across the United States before finding her way to the Camino de Santiago, a journey that would redefine her life. Her story is a reflection on love, faith and the food that got her here from there.

From Me:
A  few months ago, I received a message from the author asking if I would like to read her book for review.  I had never done this before, but something in me had me agreeing this time---not so much to get a free book, but because she had a food blog.
Yes, she had me at Food Blog...Gourmet Gwen.
I'm a sucker for food blogs.
So, I agreed, she sent me her book and I set it on my nightstand and there it sat, thru August, thru September and I finally picked it up a few days ago---October.

Let me just state for the record, that you might be thinking, of course she's going to say it's good--she got a free book.  But here's the thing--if I didn't like it, I just wouldn't have mentioned it at all. Ever.
I was under no obligation, but here is the thing, once I started reading it, I fell in love.
It's a memoir. It's reflective.  Two things I love.
She grew up in the Pacific Northwest.  I did too (this had nothing to do with the story, I just found it interesting)
She's a coffee drinker and a walker on a spiritual quest.
AND a food blogger!

She's what I imagine myself to be.
She actually does these things  (I just think about them), and writes about her experiences.

I thought she wrote well, it flowed well and kept me turning the page.
There you have it!  My armature reviewer opinion.
I liked the story and she wrote well.
(this is why I don't review books very often--I don't write well, or explain myself well)

The thing is--I felt very connected to Gwen's story.
I felt as if I knew her journey on the Camino de Santiago,  because in a strange coincidence, I know at least 5 people  who have walked the Camino, from my small little town .
One is my Friday Night Dinner Friend, and one I saw at book club last night. (now bookclub thinks we should walk the Camino next March).

On the back of her book, the description says that her story is: a reflection on love, faith and the food that got her here from there.

I wish I had written that, because that it in a nutshell.
I enjoyed the story.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Friday Friend Recipe #104--Just a Dessert

Recipe number 104

Come with me as I continue to countdown my Friday Friend Cookbook!

What is it, you may ask?

In a nutshell...
About 16 years ago, 50 of my closest friends and family, who had been on an e-mail forum with me, sent in recipes in different categories and we compiled a cookbook.
I decided to count those down!

Because  one night I was looking thru the cookbook and I said, "I should make every recipe in here for my blog"
The Handyman--who thinks he knows me better than I know myself, said,  "you'll never EVER do that."
Well,  maybe I will!  Maybe I'll show him!

Which brings me to recipe #104  My Just a Dessert

The pictures aren't great, but the dessert is.
A shortbread, buttery crust, pudding and cream cheese filling with a whipped cream frosting.
Try it, you'll like it.

Just a Dessert

Mix and pat into a 9x13 pan.
Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes.
1 cup flour
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup chopped nuts

Mix together:
8oz cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
Blend in:
2 cups cool whip
Pour over crust.

Beat til thick and pour over:
2 sm boxes any instant pudding
2 1/2 cups milk

Frost with cool whip and sprinkle with chopped nuts.

As you can see, this is the 104th recipe I'm writing about.  Pictures and stories are getting hard to come by---especially when they are of me.  Put on the spot, I can't think of anything I haven't told about myself.  And pictures?  I don't really take many of myself,   (you can see all of my previous recipe posts here.  ) so I was digging deep.

I thought perhaps a picture of myself with a book--I like to read...passionately like to read.
I am the definition of a book worm.
And I thought I'd share a couple pictures of me with books.
Or maybe I could think of a story about my first elementary school librarian or my first book fair--- it was Highlands Middle School 1973ish.
Which got me to thinking of the friends I had back then, which led me to this Facebook post from just the other day:

One of my old jr/high-high school friends, Tami, shared this picture and  wrote this:
didn't we make something like this for our home economics class?

And then of course, everybody who I haven't seen in a gazillion years commented.
I said: We could make them and have a Home Ec reunion---wasn't Mrs. Hughes at Highlands Jr. High? (or middle school)

and everyone seemed to think that would be fun.
But in lieu of us making the smocks again  -- I don't own a sewing machine -- I  dug really deep and found a few photos from Jr. high and our freshman  year of high school, 40+ years ago.

We were the Scotties of Highlands Middle School.
All of us were in 7th and 8th grade Home-Ec together with Mrs. Hughes, who taught us to make a Baked Alaska.  I've never made one since, but I though it was the fanciest dessert I'd ever had.

When we were freshman at Kamiakin High School, Mrs. Hughes son Jack was on the Basketball team and since I am digging really deep, I got into the back of the closet and pulled out an old scrapbook.
It is full of newspaper clippings from  football and basketball games, dances and other highlights of high school life.
I found a couple of clippings that fit right into our theme today.
A newspaper clipping ... the year our basketball team was headed to the state play-offs.
Look at our decorated bus!  The Pep club did that--and of course my friends and I were in the Pep Club!  We knew school spirit!
Mrs. Hughes son Jack is right there on the left hand side.
You can tell by his name on his very inappropriate head band, that we made for all the players.  We were the 'braves'.

And then another clipping with Jack Hughes in it...on the left.
The basketball coach, in the middle was Coach Dolvin.  I had a huge crush on him.  He taught history and I love history to this day.

This is the most hysterical thing in the scrapbook  tho...   a ditto sheet with short cheers we were supposed to shout out when the coach introduced the team.
I am assuming this was for a Pep Assembly.
But we  were so creative--- it was 1974
Jack Hughes--fly to state with Hughes??
and Pat Smith?  He can do it, he's no Jones??

Ahhh Mrs. Hughes with your smocks and baked Alaska and son who played basketball.... you taught us all about ric-rac and baking powder biscuits and how to rip out a seam.
We are forever in your debt.
Or maybe not---since I don't sew a thing now, BUT I do cook a great deal, so perhaps Mrs. Hughes did influence me--smocks not included.

On to some Jr High and Freshman photos!!
circa 1972-1974

Pep Club had it's own Rooter Bus!

I found this picture of Sherry and I---must be the first recorded selfie ever!  Or I took a picture in a mirror. I can't remember.
It was my only ski trip ever.

 New haircuts!  We all went from the long straight look to a shorter do.

Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor.

 And a group party shot---where or why I do not know.

40 year old pictures!
Some of my Jr High friends I am facebook friends with today, some I am pen-pals with, some I see when I go "home",  a couple have passed away.
We were babies back then --- Life has been good and hard and beautiful and sad and fun.
As is everyone's life.

I'm not sure what to say to end this--- friendship matters?
That sounds kind of political to me.  Saying anything matters might be controversial right now!  Oops.

Go make a dessert!
And read a book!

Or channel your 7th grade Home-Ec teacher and use some ric-rac soon!