Grillo Center Labyrinth

Grillo Center Labyrinth
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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Saturday Morning Walkers - March 30, 2008

Hi everyone!

Wow - woke up this morning to snow after a warm and sunny Saturday - nothing like Colorado weather! Christie, Jan, Andrea, Laila and I had a lovely walk yesterday out in Louisville and then Mary met us for coffee at the Dragonfly Cafe.

Book Report:
Mary just read the latest Louis Lamour book, Grub Line Rider -

Book Description
The fury of the Wild West explodes in this thrilling dramatization of the Louis L'Amour classic Grub Line Rider. Most folks would call Kim Sartain an easygoing, peace-loving man. But the few who crossed the young drifter knew there was nothing he liked better than a good fight. When cattleman Jim Targ challenges Sartain's right to ride across an unclaimed stretch of meadow, Sartain decides he'll do better than ride through: He'll put down stakes there and homestead the land. Soon there's more at risk than land and pride when Targ hires a gunman to teach Sartain a permanent--and deadly--lesson

Jan has a DVD documentary to recommend - In The Shadow of the Moon - this is a documentary about the Apollo program - sounds fascinating.

Website of the Week: - free books to download in podcast form

Podcast of the Week: - these are podcasts from one of my new favorite tv shows - Top Chef - in the interest of full disclosure, I haven't listened to them yet but perhaps we can discover them togtether.

Vocabulary Word of the Week: from the CU Conference on World Affairs catalog (don' forget, the Conference runs from April 7 - 11 - - Barb is going to be moderating a session on Tuesday, April 8 from 2 - 3:20 PM - Politcal Change: Buzzword vs. Reality) - the word is Prosopography

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
In historical studies, prosopography is an investigation of the common background characteristics of a historical group, whose individual biographies may be largely untraceable, by means of a collective study of their lives. Prosopography is an increasingly important approach within historical research. Prosopographical research has the aim of learning about patterns of relationships and activities through the study of collective biography, and proceeds by collecting and analysing statistically relevant quantities of biographical data about a well-defined group of individuals. A uniform set of criteria needs to be applied to the group in order to achieve meaningful results. The term is a popular one, and the concept is easily inflated.

Cass invented a new word which we'd like to share with you - shalidity - refers to the state of thinking in a shallow manner

Cooking and Dining Report:

A restaurant review from Rita - she and a friend really enjoyed their meal at the Empire Restaurant in Louisville - definitely want to check this one out. It occupies the space formerly known as Collaci's -
Rita had the pork chops and her friend had the short ribs - the menu looks great!

Two big cooking nights here this week:

Monday night was book group and in keeping with the theme of Geraldine Brooks new novel, People of the Book, I put together an abbreviated, "mock" seder (thanks for idea, Janet!). Here's the menu with most of the recipes from Fine Cooking Magazine:

Haroset - the traditional mixture of honey, nuts and apples - - I used walnuts instead of almonds

Hummus -

Olive tapenade - from Whole Foods - these first three items were served, of course, with matzo and carrots, celery and cucumbers

Mediterranean-style Brisket - - a bit labor intensive but well worth the advance prep - great to make a day or so ahead - then just re-heat when ready to serve.

Potato, Thyme, Olive Oil Gratin - - helpful to have a mandoline to get the very thin potato slices

Roasted Brussel Sprouts (this is from Ina Garten) -,1977,FOOD_9936_21617,00.html - I used garlic pepper instead of plain pepper - very yummy!

Flourless Chocolate and Vanilla Marble Cake - - oh my! This was divine - especially with a dollop of whipped cream and chocolate shavings on top - also perfect to make ahead and even store in the freezer.

Saturday night we had a lovely meal with our friend, Dave - here's the menu:

Hummus (kept well from earlier in the week) and a fresh supply of tapenade with crostinis

A hunk of Parmigianno Reggiano served with honey, walnuts and grapes

Boston (Bibb) Lettuce Salad with Toasted Pine Nuts, red Belgian Endive and Deep-fried Capers - this was inspired by the Simple Salad on the menu at Brasserie TenTen - what fun making those capers - I had to get salt-packed capers which Whole Foods doesn't carry but they had them at Peppercorn. The ones I usually get are packed in a salt and vinegar brine. Here's the recipe for the capers - - they really do make a delightful garnish for a salad. I just made a quick Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette for this salad.

Chicken Saltimbocca - a recipe that I shared a few weeks ago - definitely worth repeating - from Cooks Illustrated -

Basic Risotto - also from Cooks Illustrated - - this turned out well but it does require a lot of attention and patience - don't think I'll do this very often.

Roasted Haricots Vert - got a bit overdone - those "skinny" little grean beans don't take very long!

Glacier (our local ice cream shop) Vanilla Bean Ice Cream with Balsamic Strawberries - an easy and very elegant dessert - I served them with thin waffle butter cookies on the side -,1977,FOOD_9936_15207,00.html

An Entertaining Tip - when you're planning a pretty complicated meal, keep the appetizers simple - you don't need to make everything from scratch!

A brunch recipe from Jan - absolutely delicious - Golden Corncakes with Bacon and Goat Cheese

Whew - that's enough for now! I'm not cooking dinner tonight!

Have a great week!



Saturday Morning Walkers - March 23, 2008

Hi everyone!

Happy Spring! There were only 3 of us walking yesterday - Jan, Laila and me - Mary met us for coffee later. Lots of people away for the weekend. We walked out on the South Boulder Creek Trail from the East Boulder Rec Center - brought back memories of training days!

Jackie sent an email out a couple of weeks ago letting some of us know about an upcoming event, Earth Hour 2008 that would be great and easy for all of us to participate in. Here's her message:

"Created to take a stand against the greatest threat our planet has ever faced, Earth Hour uses the simple action of turning off the lights for one hour to deliver a powerful message about the need for action on global warming.
This simple act has captured the hearts and minds of people all over the world. As a result, at 8pm March 29, 2008 millions of people in some of the world’s major capital cities, including Copenhagen, Toronto, Chicago, Melbourne, Brisbane and Tel Aviv will unite and switch off for Earth Hour.
It started with a question: How can we inspire people to take action on climate change?
The answer: Ask the people of Sydney to turn off their lights for one hour.
On 31 March 2007, 2.2 million people and 2100 Sydney businesses turned off their lights for one hour – Earth Hour. This massive collective effort reduced Sydney’s energy consumption by 10.2% for one hour, which is the equivalent effect of taking 48,000 cars off the road for a year.
With Sydney icons like the Harbour Bridge and Opera House turning their lights off, and unique events such as weddings by candlelight, the world took notice. Inspired by the collective effort of millions of Sydneysiders, many major global cities are joining Earth Hour in 2008, turning a symbolic event into a global movement.
To support this event visit and sign up as an individual or a business and turn off your lights on the 29th of March. (text taken from the website)"

Book Report:

Mary read The Cat Who Talked Turkey by Lillian Jackson Braun. This is one of a series of books that Mary has enjoyed reading.

From Publishers Weekly
Like other recent books in Braun's best-selling series that began with The Cat Who Could Read Backwards (1966), this loosely plotted novel, the 26th to feature Siamese cats Koko and Yum Yum and Moose County journalist Jim Qwilleran, isn't quite up to the standard of earlier entries, but it still provides plenty of escapist fun. The shooting death of a well-dressed gentleman in the woods on Qwill's property is nearly neglected in the fuss and excitement engendered by the neighboring town of Brrr's bicentennial. On the trail of a story for the celebration, Qwill interviews Edythe Carroll, a wealthy widow who has retired to Ittibittiwassee Estates from the magnificent mansion she plans to leave to her granddaughter, Lish (short for Alicia). Little does Edythe know that Lish and her boyfriend, Lush, have already trashed the place. After dozing off in his gazebo after a busy day, Qwill is startled awake by strange noises, including some coming from Koko. Enter an entire family of wild turkeys. If this all sounds like a bit of a ramble, it's quite in keeping with the story, which wanders pleasantly around Moose County, surveying its eccentric citizens as they go about their idiosyncratic business. In spite of two murders and a pair of villains, the tale is as cozy as an hour spent cuddling your favorite cat.

I recently started The Small Island by Andrea Levy. Rae recommended this several months ago and I have just gotten down to that in my stack. I'll let you know when I've finished it.

Laila, Janet, Chris, Gaye and I are all working our way through Eckhard Tolle's book, A New Earth. I am finding that the Oprah webcasts are very helpful and keep me engaged in the book. I haven't been able to watch these webcasts live but am able to download the podcasts. Anyone else reading this?

Website of the Week - suggested by Jan who got to hear Mia Farrow speak in Denver this past week. She was very impressed with her and thought we might be interested in her website - - which offers humanitarian and advocacy information.

Podcast of the Week - Just The Facts from - this is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. They are a nonpartisan,nonprofit "consumer advocate" for voters. They monitor the accuracy of what is said by all the current political players.

Vocabulary Word of the Week - suggested by Jan - vigorish
Vigorish, or simply "the vig", also known as "juice" or "the take", is the amount charged by a bookmaker for his services. In the United States it also means the interest on a shark's loan. The term is Yiddish slang originating from the Russian word for "winnings", vyigrysh. Bookmakers use this concept to make money on their wagers regardless of the outcome. Because of the vigorish concept, bookmakers should not have an interest in either side winning in a given sporting event. They are interested, instead, in getting equal action on each side of the event. In this way, the bookmaker minimizes their risk and always collects a small commission from the vigorish. The bookmaker will normally adjust the odds (or "line") to attract equal action on each side of an event.

The concept is also sometimes referred to as the overround, although this is technically different, being the percentage the event book is above 100% whereas the vigorish is the bookmaker's percentage profit on the total stakes made on the event. For example, 20% overround is vigorish of 16 2/3%. The connecting formulae are V = OR/(1 + OR) and OR = V/(1 - V).

It is simplest to assume that vigorish is factored in proportionally to the true odds, although this need not be the case. Under proportional vigorish, a moneyline odds bet listed at -100 vs -100 without vigorish (fair odds) could become -110 vs -110 with vigorish factored in. Under disproportional vigorish, it could become -120 vs +100.

Common misconceptions about vigorish are that it is paid by only the "loser", only the "winner", or both in all circumstances. A claim on when and to what extent a gambler pays vigorish fees, however, cannot be abstracted from an individual gambler's behavior. A gambler's behavior with respect to different odds on an event must first be defined and only then can a determination be made on how the vigorish affects him when he wins and loses.

Food and Dining Report:

Two winners this week - I may have included one of these before but it is worth repeating!

Memphis Dry Rub Ribs from Dave Lieberman on the Food Network - so easy and delicious - I do serve this with a jarred barbecue sauce.,1977,FOOD_9936_36115,00.html

Buttermilk Baked Chicken from none other than Martha Stewart - I recommend that if you do used chicken breasts that you chop each whole breast in quarters so that you're not dealing with huge hunks. The butcher in the grocery store can do that easily for you.

I'm hosting book group tomorrow evening and hope to share some of those recipes with you next week.

Have a great week and don't forget to observe Earth Hour 2008 on Saturday night, March 29!



Saturday Morning Walkers - March 16, 2008

Hi everyone!

Well, yesterday Barb and I both attended the Boulder County Democrats Assembly and Convention. I was a delegate to the assembly, voting in preference polls and electing delegates for local and statewide candidates. I was also an Obama alternate to the convention in the afternoon but unfortunately was not seated. The purpose of the convention was to vote in preference polls and elect delegates for national candidates for U.S. Senate and President. Barb was an alternate to both the assembly and the convention but she was pretty busy working at the event as a volunteer. It was pretty interesting being involved in the political process at this level, even though at times, it was a bit chaotic and disorganized. Not surprisingly, the turnout was more than any other previous year and so many of us were first-time delegates and alternates.

We did miss being with our walking "buddies" - hope you all had a wonderful morning at Waneka Lake in Lafayette!

Book Report:

I finished Street of a Thousand Blossoms by Gail Tsukiyama. In spite of a slow start, I did end up enjoying the book very much. This story spanned the years just before and during the twenty years after World War II in Japan. Tsukiyama provides a revealing glimpse into the culture and traditions of Japan during that time in their history.

From Publishers Weekly
In her ambitious sixth novel (Dreaming Water; The Samurai's Garden), Tsukiyama tackles life in Japan before, during and after WWII. The story follows brothers Hiroshi and Kenji Matsumoto through the devastation of war and the hardships of postwar reconstruction. Orphaned when their parents were killed in a boating accident, the boys are raised by their grandparents in Tokyo. In 1939, Hiroshi is 11 and dreams of becoming a sumo champion, and soon Kenji will discover his own passion, to become a master maker of Noh masks. Their grandparents, Yoshio and Fumiko Wada, are vividly rendered; the war years and early postwar years, centered in their home on the street of the novel's title, are powerfully portrayed. Hiroshi and Kenji reach pinnacles of success in their chosen fields as well as in love, and while Tsukiyama's close attention to historical and geographical detail enriches the narrative, she isn't as successful when describing Hiroshi's wrestling career; the matches all begin to blur together. The lingering effects of war, on the other hand, are clear, and these, combined with a nation's search for pride and hope after surrender comprise the novel's oversized heart. (Sept.)

I am in the midst of listening to an audiobook by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Coming to our Senses. This is his most recent work in the area of stress reduction and mindfullness meditation. His earlier books, Full Catastrophe Living and Wherever You Go, There You Are, inspired me to begin a meditation practice many years ago. Whenever I get off-track with my practice (which does happen!), I find that his guided meditation tapes are so helpful for me in getting back to my practice. I've recently started using those tapes again and I highly recommend them.
From AudioFile
A medical school teacher and expert on mindfulness and stress reduction, Kabat-Zinn reads a touching and coherent abridgment of his superb book. He is eloquent as he bridges the gap between Eastern approaches to mindfulness and the vocabulary of Western psychology. He says the immediacy of our sensations is more important than our thoughts about them, and more important than the past and future. The contexts offered for this advice reveal the author's cultural breadth and generous sensitivity to the bad habits of the Western mind. Without sentimentality or zealotry, the author's gentle voice offers a practical path that will reach around the intellectual obstacles we often put in the way of such guidance.

Website of the Week - - fun gift site, featuring monogramming

Podcast of the Week - To The Best of Our Knowledge - - from Wisconsin Public Radio

Vocabulary Word of the Week - mindfulness - from
Mindfulness or being mindful is being aware of your present moment. You are not judging, reflecting or thinking. You are simply observing the moment in which you find yourself. Moments are like a breath. Each breath is replaced by the next breath. You're there with no other purpose than being awake and aware of that moment. As John Kabat Zinn says reflecting on a Japanese mindfulness puzzle: "Wherever you go, there you are."

Cooking and Dining Report:

I tried a few winning recipes this week.

From Giada de Laurentiis, Rib-Eye Steak with Black Olive Vinaigrette (I used a strip steak) - this was terrific!,,FOOD_9936_116727,00.html

From, Braised Chicken with Tomatoes and Olives (Poulet Provencal) - yummy!

From Cooks Illustrated, a wonderful Lasagna with Herbed Meatballs, Tomato Sauce and Mozzarella. I cheated and used good jarred marinara sauce (we love Rao's). I also served extra sauce on the side. This was the first time I made a lasagna without ricotta cheese - didn't miss it!
The assembled lasagna can be wrapped with plastic and refrigerated overnight or wrapped in plastic and covered with aluminum foil and frozen for up to 1 month. If refrigerated, allow an extra 5 to 10 minutes cooking time.

Herbed Meatballs

1 pound ground beef
2 large eggs , lightly beaten
1/3 cup minced fresh basil leaves , or minced parsley leaves
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese or Pecorino Romano (2 ounces)
1/2 cup plain dried bread crumbs
1 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
olive oil

Simple Tomato Sauce

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium cloves garlic , minced
1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil leaves or minced parsley leaves
Table salt and ground black pepper

Noodles and Cheese

1 tablespoon table salt
1 pound lasagna noodles (18 noodles)
1 pound mozzarella cheese , shredded
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (4 ounces), or grated Pecorino Romano

1. For the meatballs: Mix beef, eggs, basil, cheese, bread crumbs, salt, and pepper in medium bowl until well blended. Heat about 1/4 inch of olive oil in large skillet. Take a handful of meat mixture and working directly over skillet, pinch off pieces no larger than a small grape, and flatten them slightly. Cooking in batches to avoid overcrowding, carefully drop them into hot oil, (see illustration below). Fry turning once, until evenly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to tranfer meataballs to a paper towel on a platter.
2. For the sauce: Heat oil and garlic in medium saucepan over medium heat. When garlic starts to sizzle, add tomatoes, basil, salt, and pepper to taste. Simmer until sauce thickens slightly, 15 to 20 minutes.
3. Add meatballs to tomato sauce anad heat through for several minutes; adjust seasonings. Keep sauce warm while preparing remaining ingredients. (Sauce can be covered and refrigerated for 2 days; reheat before assembly.)
4. Meanwhile, bring 6 quarts of water to boil in dutch oven. Add salt and at least 18 sheets of lasagna noodles and cook to al dente. Drain and then soak finished noodles in a bowl of ice water for 30 seconds. Drain again and lay the noodles out on kitchen towels for 1 hour.
5. Grease a 13-by-9-inch pan with cooking spray. Smear several tablespoons of tomato sauce (without meatballs) across pan bottom. Line pan with a layer of pasta, making sure that noodles touch but do not overlap. Spread 3/4 cup tomato sauce evenly over pasta. Sprinkle evenly with 2/3 cup mozzarella and 2 1/2 tablespoons Parmesan. Repeat layering of pasta, tomato sauce and meatballs and cheeses four more times. For the sixth and final layer, cover pasta with remaining 1 cup mozzarella and sprinkle with remaining 3 1/2 tablespoons Parmesan. (Assembled lasagna can now be wrapped with plastic and refrigerated overnight or wrapped in plastic and aluminum foil and frozen for up to 1 month.)
6. Adjust oven rack to center position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Bake until cheese on top turns golden brown in spots and sauce is bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes (25 to 35 minutes with chilled lasagna). Remove pan from oven and let lasagna rest 5 minutes. Cut and serve. (To cook frozen lasagna, move the lasagna to the refrigerator at least twelve hours before baking. Allow it to defrost slowly, and then transfer it directly, unwrapped, to a preheated oven.)

Hope you'll try and enjoy these recipes!
Have a wonderful week ahead.....

Saturday Morning Walkers - March 9, 2008

Hi everyone!

Jan, Barb, Mary and Laila joined me for an "urban" walk around the Mapleton HIll neighborhood yesterday, ending up at the Paradise Cafe on Pearl Street. It was a beautiful, mild morning and we enjoyed checking out all of the beautiful houses - lots of remodels going on.

Book Report:
Jan is listening to Carl Hiaason's Skin Tight and really enjoying it - I haven't read any Hiasson books but according to Jan, he is very funny.
From Publishers Weekly
Hiaasen's latest thriller is his funniest and sharpest novel to date. Set in a south Florida swarming with ripoff artists, crooked cops, nude sunbathers and corrupt politicians, it features a Mafia-connected plastic surgeon with butterfingers, a bitchy Hollywood starlet, a remarkably inept hit man and a pompous TV journalist "nationally famous for getting beaten up on camera." Retired state investigator Mick Stranahan, the hero, kills an intruder in his seaside house on stilts by impaling him with a trophy spearfish. Then one of his five ex-wives is found drowned. Due to an unresolved missing-person case, someone wants Stranahan eliminated, and his efforts to flush out the mixed bag of bad guys let Hiaasen ( Tourist Season ; Double Wham my ) display his manic sense of humor at every turn. The cynical sleuth has just the right mix of sour and smarts to get a fix on a mad world. This wickedly amusing story is the work of a keen satirist who off-handedly exposes the moral rot at every level of society.

Jan is also listening to a memoir that's on my list of must-reads, Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson - it has been recommended to me over and over again.
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Some failures lead to phenomenal successes, and this American nurse's unsuccessful attempt to climb K2, the world's second tallest mountain, is one of them. Dangerously ill when he finished his climb in 1993, Mortenson was sheltered for seven weeks by the small Pakistani village of Korphe; in return, he promised to build the impoverished town's first school, a project that grew into the Central Asia Institute, which has since constructed more than 50 schools across rural Pakistan and Afghanistan. Coauthor Relin recounts Mortenson's efforts in fascinating detail, presenting compelling portraits of the village elders, con artists, philanthropists, mujahideen, Taliban officials, ambitious school girls and upright Muslims Mortenson met along the way. As the book moves into the post-9/11 world, Mortenson and Relin argue that the United States must fight Islamic extremism in the region through collaborative efforts to alleviate poverty and improve access to education, especially for girls. Captivating and suspenseful, with engrossing accounts of both hostilities and unlikely friendships, this book will win many readers' hearts

I'd like to report that although I'd been slogging through Gail Tsukiama's Street of a Thousand Blossoms, I'm now thoroughly enjoying the story and am engaged with the characters. I had hoped to finish it this weekend but that was not meant to be. I'm also working my way through Eckhard Tolle's A New Earth.

Website of the Week - - great resource for information about the foods we eat

Podcast of the Week - - a podcast for word lovers

Vocabulary Word of the Week - actually we're comparing 2 this week from - grammarian and lexicographer

Grammarians start from a point of view that there is a right way and a wrong way to express yourself—that’s prescriptive.
Lexicographers on the other hand are only reporting on words as they see them being used; no value judgments—that’s descriptive.

Cooking and Dining Report:
A restaurant review from Janet - she and Dan tried the new Asian restaurant on Pearl Street, Bimbamboo. They thought it was great - hip, inexpensive and the food was good - yummy appetizers - desserts looked fabulous - bread pudding, rice pudding, pineapple and cake kabobs with vanilla fondue, chocolate banana split - also had a great assortment of teas.

I have a several recipes to share - we ate well around here this week!:

Spicy Baked Macaroni from Giada DeLaurentiis - turns out that Libby and I both made this dish this week - this is a great dish to bring to a pot-luck. Libby made it for guests. She used whole wheat macaroni and they loved it.

Sole Fillets with Toasted Pine Nuts, Lemon and Basil from Fine Cooking - a simple and elegant meal.

Fettuccine with Sausage, Sage and Crispy Garlic from - delicious with turkey sausage!

Chicken Saltimbocca from Cooks Illustrated - we just had this tonight and it was a huge hit!

That's it for now - I have a couple of great meals planned for this week - I'll give you the report next week.
Have a great week!


Saturday Morning Walkers - March 2, 2008

Hi everyone!

It sure has been an interesting weather weekend here in Colorado - Saturday was positively balmy at 74 degrees and we woke up this morning to snow!! I haven't ventured out yet but it looks rather heavy and wet. We had a delightful walk yesterday on the South CU campus pedestrian trail. Barb, Mary, Christie, Laila and I walked along a berm for about 2 miles and as is always the case, the views of the foothills from the east side of town were spectacular. Coffee back at Caffe Sole for our monthly planning for March walks - I'm leading on the 8th, Mary on the 15th, Laila on the 22nd and Christie on the 29th.

Book Report:
I wanted to tell you about the wonderful book event that took place at Jacob's (my almost 6 year old grandson) school on Friday - it was Dr. Seuss Day and the whole school participated in activities featuring Dr. Seuss books and characters, including a costume parade. Jacob and his friend Sam went as Thing 1 and Thing 2. Check out the picture of Thing 2 attached above!

Jexy and her book group read a novel based on the life of the mistress of Frank Lloyd Wright - Loving Frank by Nancy Horan. Jex really liked it and found the ending pretty shocking.
From Publishers Weekly
Horan's ambitious first novel is a fictionalization of the life of Mamah Borthwick Cheney, best known as the woman who wrecked Frank Lloyd Wright's first marriage. Despite the title, this is not a romance, but a portrayal of an independent, educated woman at odds with the restrictions of the early 20th century. Frank and Mamah, both married and with children, met when Mamah's husband, Edwin, commissioned Frank to design a house. Their affair became the stuff of headlines when they left their families to live and travel together, going first to Germany, where Mamah found rewarding work doing scholarly translations of Swedish feminist Ellen Key's books. Frank and Mamah eventually settled in Wisconsin, where they were hounded by a scandal-hungry press, with tragic repercussions. Horan puts considerable effort into recreating Frank's vibrant, overwhelming personality, but her primary interest is in Mamah, who pursued her intellectual interests and love for Frank at great personal cost. As is often the case when a life story is novelized, historical fact inconveniently intrudes: Mamah's life is cut short in the most unexpected and violent of ways, leaving the narrative to crawl toward a startlingly quiet conclusion. Nevertheless, this spirited novel brings Mamah the attention she deserves as an intellectual and feminist.

I'm into two books right now - one is the latest novel by Gail Tsukiyama, Street of a Thousand Blossoms - I absolutely adored her first 4 novels, Samurai's Garden, Women of the Silk and The Language of Threads and Night of Many Dreams but not so impressed with Dreaming Water. More to follow once I finish the book.
From Publishers Weekly
In her ambitious sixth novel (Dreaming Water; The Samurai's Garden), Tsukiyama tackles life in Japan before, during and after WWII. The story follows brothers Hiroshi and Kenji Matsumoto through the devastation of war and the hardships of postwar reconstruction. Orphaned when their parents were killed in a boating accident, the boys are raised by their grandparents in Tokyo. In 1939, Hiroshi is 11 and dreams of becoming a sumo champion, and soon Kenji will discover his own passion, to become a master maker of Noh masks. Their grandparents, Yoshio and Fumiko Wada, are vividly rendered; the war years and early postwar years, centered in their home on the street of the novel's title, are powerfully portrayed. Hiroshi and Kenji reach pinnacles of success in their chosen fields as well as in love, and while Tsukiyama's close attention to historical and geographical detail enriches the narrative, she isn't as successful when describing Hiroshi's wrestling career; the matches all begin to blur together. The lingering effects of war, on the other hand, are clear, and these, combined with a nation's search for pride and hope after surrender comprise the novel's oversized heart.

The other book that I just started is the latest Oprah recommendation - A New Earth - Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhard Tolle - and yes, I along with hundreds of thousands of other people have signed up to participate in the 10 week "webinar" hosted by Oprah and Tolle on her website. It begins tomorrow night (March 3) - I read and listened to Tolle's earlier book, The Power of Now. He is a pretty powerful teacher and spiritual leader who draws from both Eastern and Western traditions. Check out for more details and to register for the class.
Book Description
The highly anticipated follow-up to the 2,000,000 copy bestselling inspirational book, The Power of Now
With his bestselling spiritual guide The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle inspired millions of readers to discover the freedom and joy of a life lived "in the now." In A New Earth, Tolle expands on these powerful ideas to show how transcending our ego-based state of consciousness is not only essential to personal happiness, but also the key to ending conflict and suffering throughout the world. Tolle describes how our attachment to the ego creates the dysfunction that leads to anger, jealousy, and unhappiness, and shows readers how to awaken to a new state of consciousness and follow the path to a truly fulfilling existence.
The Power of Now was a question-and-answer handbook. A New Earth has been written as a traditional narrative, offering anecdotes and philosophies in a way that is accessible to all. Illuminating, enlightening, and uplifting, A New Earth is a profoundly spiritual manifesto for a better way of life—and for building a better world.

Website of the Week - - a fun site that features on-line contests and giveaways. I heard about this on one of my favorite podcasts, Jumping Monkeys -

Podcast of the Week - - a collection of lectures on culture, art and politics from different venues around New York City.

Vocabulary Word of the Week - panade - this is a food term I just heard on The Splendid Table podcast - - the definition comes from Epicurious Food Dictionary -
panada; panade
[pah-NAH-duh (Sp , ), puh-NAHD (Fr. , )]
1. A thick paste made by mixing bread crumbs, flour, rice, etc. with water, milk, stock, butter or sometimes egg yolks. It's used to bind meatballs, fish cakes, FORCEMEATS and QUENELLES. 2. A sweet or savory soup made with bread crumbs and various other ingredients. It may be strained before serving.

Movie of the Week - NOT!!! - Jack and I saw the newly released Vantage Point with Dennis Quaid, Forest Whitaker and William Hurt. Yes, the cast was outstanding but the story seemed implausible and the car chase that dominated the last part of the movie was RIDICULOUS!!!

Cooking and Dining Report:
A fun casual dinner last night - Blue Cheese Burgers with Blue Cheese Cole Slaw - both recipes from Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa

Blue Cheese Burgers -,,FOOD_9936_37208,00.html - we like to use ciabatta rolls - nice and crusty with light airy bread inside. You can easily leave off the blue cheese if that doesn't appeal.

Blue Cheese Cole Slaw -,,FOOD_9936_31646,00.html - an easy shortcut is to buy the package of cole slaw dry ingredients and just make the dressing.

That's all for now - have a wonderful week!