Grillo Center Labyrinth

Grillo Center Labyrinth
Meander and Meet....designed by George Peters and Melanie Walker of Airworks For more information contact Susan at

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Saturday Morning Walkers - August 10, 2008

Hi everyone!

We had a very lovely walk on Saturday up to Eben Fine Park and back to Pearl Street. Oh, yes, we started with a Labyrinth walk and smudging with Jan, Barb, Mary, Cass, Andrea, Irma and me. We ended up at the Paradise Cafe for breakfast and good talk.
For those of you who don't know, Irma is undergoing chemo right now for breast cancer. She is only 35 years old!!! Several of us have formed what we like to call "Team Irma" and are united to be her support group. Please keep her in your thoughts!

Book Report:

I just finished a wonderful book - My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud'homme. It is the fascinating story of Julia and her husband, Paul's journey into the world of French cuisine. It is as delightful to read as it was to watch her for all those years on television. I must say that I've always been a bit intimidated by classic French cooking and have never even looked at her first cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I do plan to get a copy from the library and dabble a little bit.

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. With Julia Child's death in 2004 at age 91, her grandnephew Prud'homme (The Cell Game) completed this playful memoir of the famous chef's first, formative sojourn in France with her new husband, Paul Child, in 1949. The couple met during WWII in Ceylon, working for the OSS, and soon after moved to Paris, where Paul worked for the U.S. Information Service. Child describes herself as a "rather loud and unserious Californian," 36, six-foot-two and without a word of French, while Paul was 10 years older, an urbane, well-traveled Bostonian. Startled to find the French amenable and the food delicious, Child enrolled at the Cordon Bleu and toiled with increasing zeal under the rigorous tutelage of éminence grise Chef Bugnard. "Jackdaw Julie," as Paul called her, collected every manner of culinary tool and perfected the recipes in her little kitchen on rue de l'Université ("Roo de Loo"). She went on to start an informal school with sister gourmandes Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, who were already at work on a French cookbook for American readers, although it took Child's know-how to transform the tome—after nine years, many title changes and three publishers—into the bestselling Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961). This is a valuable record of gorgeous meals in bygone Parisian restaurants, and the secret arts of a culinary genius.

Another DVD recommendation from Jan - Before the Devil Knows You're Dead - apparently pretty dark but Jan really liked it. Great cast including Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke and Marisa Tomei..
Sidney Lumet’s Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is an exceptionally dark story about a crime gone wrong and the complicated reasons behind it. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke are outstanding as brothers whose mutual love-hate relationship subtly colors their agreement to rob their own parents’ jewelry store, and more explicitly affects the anxious aftermath of their villainy when their mother (Rosemary Harris) ends up shot. Hoffman’s steely, emotionally locked-up Andy, despite pulling down six figures as a corporate executive, is supporting an expensive drug habit while trying to leave the country with his depressed wife, Gina (Marisa Tomei). Hank (Hawke), a whipped dog of low intelligence, owes back alimony and child support to his ex-spouse. Both men need money and agree to rip off their parents' business, a decision that goes awry and puts both men in various kinds of jeopardy while their mother remains comatose and their father (Albert Finney) lurches along trying to make sense of anything. Writer Kelly Masterson's screenplay employs a perhaps now-overly-familiar time-shifting tactic, jumping around the chronology of the story's events and replaying scenes from different vantage points. The effect is a little tedious but successfully deconstructs the film's drama in a way that shows how such terrible events are directly linked to family dysfunction, old wounds between parent and child, between siblings, that fester into full-blown tragedy. Eighty-three-year-old director Lumet (Serpico) employs bleached colors and scenes of blunt sexuality and violence, adding to the moral rudderlessness and banality of this airless world. If Devil feels a little reductive and insistently grim, it is also a generally persuasive work by an old master.

Website/Blog of the Week: - a blog for women who blog!

Podcast of the Week: from The Diane Rehm Show on NPR - - "As We Forgive" - "How a graduate film student stumbled upon her thesis topic on a church trip to Rwanda, told the ongoing story of reconciliation between killers and the families of genocide victims, and won a student Academy Award. Plus, a look at a new Rwandan report accusing top French officials of complicity in the 1994 genocide" - don't miss this - I would like to see this documentary shown in Boulder or Denver - does anyone have any thoughts about how to make that happen?

Vocabulary Word of the Week - Rankle

v. ran·kled, ran·kling, ran·kles
1. To cause persistent irritation or resentment.
2. To become sore or inflamed; fester.
To embitter; irritate.


[Middle English ranclen, from Old French rancler, alteration of draoncler, from draoncle, festering sore, from Latin dracunculus, diminutive of drac, dracn-, serpent; see dragon.]
Word History: A persistent resentment, a festering sore, and a little snake are all coiled together in the history of the word rankle. "A little snake" is the sense of the Latin word dracunculus to which rankle can be traced, dracunculus being a diminutive of drac, "snake." The Latin word passed into Old French, as draoncle, having probably already developed the sense "festering sore," because some of these sores resembled little snakes in their shape or bite. The verb draoncler, "to fester," was then formed in Old French. The noun and verb developed alternate forms without the d-, and both were borrowed into Middle English, the noun rancle being recorded in a work written around 1190, the verb ranclen, in a work probably composed about 1300. Both words had literal senses having to do with festering sores. The noun is not recorded after the 16th century, but the verb went on to develop the figurative senses having to do with resentment and bitterness with which we are all too familiar.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2003. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

[-kling, -kled] to continue to cause resentment or bitterness [Old French draoncle

Cooking and Dining Report:

Chris had a very successful dinner party featuring London Broil with Cherry Balsamic Sauce from Eating Well Magazine -

From Giada de Laurentiis, Chianti Marinated Beef Stew - Mikki and I loved this, Paul and Jack - not so much! This is definitely more of a winter meal!

From Fine Cooking, Shrimp Salad Rolls with Tarragon and Chives - a nice light summer dinner - would love to try with lobster!

Kosher salt
2 lb. large shrimp (31 to 40 per lb.), preferably easy-peel
3/4 cup finely chopped celery with leaves
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh chives
1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh tarragon
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice; more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
6 hot dog rolls, preferably New England-style split-top rolls

How to make
Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring, until bright pink and cooked through, about 2 minutes.the water needn't return to a boil. Drain in a colander and run under cold water to stop the cooking. Shell the shrimp, devein if necessary, and cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch pieces.
In a large bowl, stir the celery, mayonnaise, chives, tarragon, lemon juice, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Stir in the shrimp and season to taste with more lemon, salt, and pepper.

Position a rack 6 inches from the broiler element and heat the broiler to high. Toast both outside surfaces of the rolls under the broiler, about 1 minute per side. Spoon the shrimp salad into the rolls, using about 2/3 cup per roll, and serve.

Make it a lobster roll: Substitute 1-1/2 lb. (4 cups) cooked lobster meat for the cooked shrimp.

From Fine Cooking, Linguine with Roasted Red Peppers, Tomatoes and Toasted Breadcrumbs - very tasty and also good for a warm summer night.

From Giada de Laurentiis, Fregola with Clams and Mussels - out, out, outstanding!! This is a dish from Sardinia. Fregola are tiny balls of pasta, just a bit bigger than couscous. I wasn't confident that I would find it easily but I was pleasantly surprised to find it at the Oliv shop on Broadway, between Spruce and Pearl. It is right next door to the new spice shop I told you about last week.,1977,FOOD_9936_206806,00.html

Quote of the Week - from Julia Child in My Life in France:
"One of the secrets and pleasures, of cooking is to learn to correct something it it goes awry; and one of the lessons is to grin and bear if it can't be fixed."
Hmmm - think I can apply that to my life in general!

I'm very excited that Jexy and Jacob are arriving on Tuesday - we've got some fun stuff planned and good food to eat.
Hope you all have a great week ahead!


Saturday Morning Walkers - August 3, 2008

Hi everyone,

Well, the Saturday Morning Walkers did something wild and crazy this weekend. Instead of walking on Saturday morning, we walked on Sunday morning - whoooeee! Really shook things up! We headed out early this morning in an attempt to beat the heat and headed up a great trail in Shanahan Ridge up to the Mesa Trail and then back down. It was a bit challenging but we made it down and rewarded ourselves with breakfast at the Southside Walnut Cafe - yum! We had quite a turnout this morning - Barb, Cass, Chris, Christie, Mary, me and our special guest, Irma. Jan and Andrea joined us for breakfast. It was so good to be with everyone - it's been a while for me.

Book Report:

Jack just finished Pete Hamill's memoir, A Drinking Life. As I've mentioned before, Hamill is one of our favorite writers (Snow in August, Forever, Downtown and others). Jack loved the book and I will get to it one of these days.

From Publishers Weekly
Hamill's autobiography entails his long odyssey to sobriety. This is not a jeremiad condemning drink, however, but a thoughtful, funny, street-smart reflection on its consequences. To understand Hamill ( Loving Women ), one must know his immigrant parents: Anne, gentle and fair; Billy, one-legged and alcoholic. The first offspring of this union--Republicans in Belfast, Democrats in Brooklyn--Hamill has a special gift for relating the events of his childhood. He recreates a time extinct, a Brooklyn of trolley cars, Dodgers, pails of beer and pals like No Toes Nocera. He recalls such adventures as the Dodgers' 1941 pennant and viewing the liner Normandie lying on its side in the Hudson River. We partake in the glory of V-J day and learn what life in Hamill's neighborhood was centered on: "Part of being a man was to drink." Puberty hits him and booze helps him to overcome his sexual shyness. But Hamill's childhood ended early. After dropping out of high school he lived on his own, working at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and drinking with his workmates. Wanting more, he studied art, soon meeting a nude model named Laura who was a lot different from the neighborhood girls, those "noble defenders of the holy hymen." And escape was always on Hamill's mind. First it was the Navy, then Mexico, but it was always the same--drinking nights which today he can't remember. There were fist-fights and jail time in Mexico and he learned that "drinking could be a huge fuck you to Authority." Back home with a job at the New York Post , he mastered his trade at the Page One bar every morning, drinking with other reporters. Much time was spent in saloons away from his wife and two daughters and he remembers the taunts of his childhood, "Your old man's an Irish drunk!" Then one New Year's Eve 20 years ago he noticed all the drunkenness and had his last vodka. When asked why, he said, "I have no talent for it." It may be the only talent Hamill lacks.

Cass read and loved Winter in Lisbon by Antonio Munoz Molina - she and her Spanish speaking book group read it in Spanish but it is available in English.

Had a bit of trouble finding a review but here is an excerpt of an article about the literature of democratic Spain

"El Invierno en Lisboa (1987, Winter in Lisbon) is Munoz Molina's second novel. The book's action takes place in two cities, San Sebastian and Lisbon. The narrator, a self-effacing voyeur following the events in the life of a young jazz musician, attempts to reconstruct in a halting monologue the strange existence of this antihero tortured by two unrelenting passions: his music and his love for a mysterious woman. The novel foregrounds issues of time and memory to undemine a model of simplistic coherence created by the narrative sequence. For this novel, Munoz Molina was awarded the 1987 Critics' Prize."

Jan has a couple of audiobook recommendations and a couple of DVD's to recommend:

The Audio Books are:

The Twelfth Card is a murder mystery by Jeffrey Deaver. This is part of series featuring police detective Lincoln Rhyme.

From Publishers Weekly
The popularity of Deaver's novels about quadriplegic police detective Lincoln Rhyme and his legwoman Amelia Sachs depends mightily on their personal stories (i.e., their romantic relationship, their struggles with depression and physical impairments) and the ingeniously twisted crimes they solve. Both elements have been served better in the past. While the plot is properly perplexing (why is a 16-year-old Harlem high schooler being stalked by a ruthless killer?), fans will be baffled by Deaver's decision to move series supporting player NYPD lieutenant Lon Sellitto closer to center stage, thus significantly limited Rhyme's presence in the story. Boutsikaris, an accomplished theater and film actor, and one of the better audio performers, provides a crisp narrative that moves the story quickly enough to build and maintain a fair amount of suspense, even through several lengthy plot recaps. He exhibits both versatility and imagination in finding the right voice for most of the characters, from the impatient, almost fussy Rhyme to the gruff and emotionally conflicted Sellitto.

We Need to Talk About Kevin is a novel by Lionel Shriver.

From Publishers Weekly
A number of fictional attempts have been made to portray what might lead a teenager to kill a number of schoolmates or teachers, Columbine style, but Shriver's is the most triumphantly accomplished by far. A gifted journalist as well as the author of seven novels, she brings to her story a keen understanding of the intricacies of marital and parental relationships as well as a narrative pace that is both compelling and thoughtful. Eva Khatchadourian is a smart, skeptical New Yorker whose impulsive marriage to Franklin, a much more conventional person, bears fruit, to her surprise and confessed disquiet, in baby Kevin. From the start Eva is ambivalent about him, never sure if she really wanted a child, and he is balefully hostile toward her; only good-old-boy Franklin, hoping for the best, manages to overlook his son's faults as he grows older, a largely silent, cynical, often malevolent child. The later birth of a sister who is his opposite in every way, deeply affectionate and fragile, does nothing to help, and Eva always suspects his role in an accident that befalls little Celia. The narrative, which leads with quickening and horrifying inevitability to the moment when Kevin massacres seven of his schoolmates and a teacher at his upstate New York high school, is told as a series of letters from Eva to an apparently estranged Franklin, after Kevin has been put in a prison for juvenile offenders. This seems a gimmicky way to tell the story, but is in fact surprisingly effective in its picture of an affectionate couple who are poles apart, and enables Shriver to pull off a huge and crushing shock far into her tale. It's a harrowing, psychologically astute, sometimes even darkly humorous novel, with a clear-eyed, hard-won ending and a tough-minded sense of the difficult, often painful human enterprise.

The DVD's are:

Rendition - very timely!
Roger Ebert called it "perfect," and certainly the timing couldn't have been much better: Rendition was released just as the U.S. was debating anew the issue of "extraordinary rendition," a policy (begun under the Clinton administration, accelerated after September 11, 2001) of handing over suspected terrorists to countries that use torture as an interrogation tool. Alas, the movie only rarely fills in the outlines of a prototypical "issue movie," the kind of thing peopled by cardboard characters tracing the patterns of an important, indeed urgent, subject. The plot kicks into gear when an Egyptian-born man (Omar Metwally) is sent to an unnamed North African country where torture is practiced, with the CIA in approval. The film takes a Crash dive through how this affects various people: his pregnant American wife (Reese Witherspoon), the reluctant CIA agent (Jake Gyllenhaal) on the scene, a severe interrogator (Yigal Naor), all the way up to a U.S. terrorism honcho (Meryl Streep) willing to turn a blind eye to the unpleasantness if it stops a terrorist attack. Things spark briefly when Witherspoon enlists an old beau (Peter Sarsgaard) to plead her case with his boss, a U.S. Senator (Alan Arkin), but for the most part director Gavin Hood (Totsi) can't find a way to color in these line drawings, despite the formidable actors doing spirited work. The issue is fully and lucidly explained, but the movie doesn't come alive

Movie studios, by and large, avoid controversial subjects like race the way you might avoid a hive of angry bees. So it's remarkable that Crash even got made; that it's a rich, intelligent, and moving exploration of the interlocking lives of a dozen Los Angeles residents--black, white, latino, Asian, and Persian--is downright amazing. A politically nervous district attorney (Brendan Fraser) and his high-strung wife (Sandra Bullock, biting into a welcome change of pace from Miss Congeniality) get car-jacked by an oddly sociological pair of young black men (Larenz Tate and Chris "Ludacris" Bridges); a rich black T.V. director (Terrence Howard) and his wife (Thandie Newton) get pulled over by a white racist cop (Matt Dillon) and his reluctant partner (Ryan Phillipe); a detective (Don Cheadle) and his Latina partner and lover (Jennifer Esposito) investigate a white cop who shot a black cop--these are only three of the interlocking stories that reach up and down class lines. Writer/director Paul Haggis (who wrote the screenplay for Million Dollar Baby) spins every character in unpredictable directions, refusing to let anyone sink into a stereotype. The cast--ranging from the famous names above to lesser-known but just as capable actors like Michael Pena (Buffalo Soldiers) and Loretta Devine (Woman Thou Art Loosed)--meets the strong script head-on, delivering galvanizing performances in short vignettes, brief glimpses that build with gut-wrenching force. This sort of multi-character mosaic is hard to pull off; Crash rivals such classics as Nashville and Short Cuts. A knockout

Website/Blog of the Week: George Peter's and Melanie Walker's blog, featuring a page about their work on the Grillo Center Meander and Meet Labyrinth - check out their other entries about the projects they're involved with.

Podcast of the Week: Meet the Press -

Vocabulary Word of the Week - Gallimarfry

A hotchpotch, jumble or confused medley.

This word has been around since the sixteenth century, is still in use, but isn’t particularly common today. It’s one of those terms sometimes trotted out to give a literary feel to one’s writing, or spoken in a facetious tone for a quick laugh. Its origin is uncertain, though it could have come from the French galimafree, which might have referred to a kind of sauce or stew. Support for this comes from its earliest sense in English of a ragout or hash, to which the current meaning is obviously a figurative reference. “So now,” a writer lamented in 1579, “they have made our English tongue a gallimaufry, or hodgepodge of all other speeches”.

Cooking and Dining Report: I've got several really good recipes to share!

From, Bacon Wrapped Cod - really a lovely preparation -

From, Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Cheese Salad - burrata cheese is hard to find so use a really good quality fresh mozzarella - this is a real splurge of a salad but well worth it.

From Clydes Restaurant (one of our favorite places back in Maryland), their famous crab cakes - - they definitely rival my old stand-by Camden Yard Crab Cakes.

I served these with Michael Chiarello's (The Food Network) Shaved Fennel Salad - excellent alternative to traditional coleslaw and a perfect accompaniment to the crab cakes - for 4 servings, just take two good size fennel bulbs, slice them very thin - it really helps to have a mandoline for this - combine with 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, 1 tablespoon good quality extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat leaf parsley, kosher or gray salt and pepper to taste.

A new shop to tell you about - The Savory Spice Shop just opened recently on Broadway between Spruce and Pearl on the west side of the street. I was very impressed with the amazing array of spices and seasonings. Do check it out!

Quote of the Week: from Eckhard Tolle's Inner Stillness -

"When you lose touch with inner stillness, you lose touch with yourself. When you lose touch with yourself, you lose yourself in the world"

If you've missed any posts, don't forget you can always go to my blogsite at I'm a bit behind in updating recent posts but will work on that this week.

Have a wonderful week!


Saturday Morning Walkers - July 20, 2008

Hi everyone!

I missed yesterday's walk but Cass, Barb, Mary and Christie walked out near Christie's house in Louisville - they met up with Jan at Dragonfly Cafe for coffee. Sorry I missed being with you but Jack and I went to a family gathering out in Woodland Park, CO, just east of Colorado Springs.

Book Report:

I am on the last pages of a book that I am just loving. It is a written and photographic journey into Jewish Cuba called An Island Called Home: Returning to Jewish Cuba by Ruth Behar and Humberto Mayol. Behar was actually born in Cuba herself and with her family left for the United States shortly after Castro came into power in 1959. It is a fascinating look at how the Jewish culture has survived in Cuba under very difficult circumstances. Behar is actually an anthropologist who has focused her study on Jews in Cuba but this is a very personal story for her. It is quite a beautiful book with black and photography that expresses the emotions of the people she interviews throughout the book

From Publishers Weekly
A professor at the University of Michigan, Behar seeks a better understanding of her roots and of the Jewish experience in her native Cuba. Traversing the island, Behar becomes a confidante to myriad Jewish strangers. Through one-on-one interviews and black-and-white images taken by her photographer, Humberto Mayol, she uncovers the diasporic thread that connects Cuban Jews. Familial stories of wandering beginning in the 1920s tell of displaced Polish and German Jews—escapees from anti-Semitism and Auschwitz—opening mom-and-pop shops in La Habana Vieja, becoming peddlers, replacing Yiddish with Spanish and settling into Latino life only to be uprooted within decades. An estimated 16,500 Jews lived in Cuba in the late 1950s, when a mass exodus to Miami and New York took place—a reaction to Castro's budding communist revolution. This diligent recounting and pictorial collage of interviews with adolescents, the aging, the impoverished and the political by Behar preserves in memory the people and places that make up Cuba's Jewish story.

Website of the Week:

Podcast of the Week: - C-span Podcasts

Vocabulary Word of the Week: acculturation

ac·cul·tur·a·tion [uh-kuhl-chuh-rey-shuhn]
1. the process of adopting the cultural traits or social patterns of another group.
2. the result of this process.

Cooking and Dining Report:

As promised, I tried out a few recipes this week and repeated a favorite dessert recipe that Jack requested:

From Gourmet Magazine, Pasta Puttanesca - - this a spicy and hearty dish that is a favorite of ours.

Also from Gourmet Magazine, Porterhouse Steak with Pan-Seared Cherry Tomatoes - - really beautiful presentation and absolutely delicious!

From Bon Appetit, Roasted Cod on Large Garlic Croutons - - kind of a seafood bruschetta but definitely a main course.

Also from Bon Appetit, Lemon-Almond Buttermilk Loaf with Balsamic Strawberries - great for a group and a wonderful blend of flavors - I would say that the lemon glaze on the top is optional.

Quote of the Week: from Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, "Be Yourself. Life is precious as it is. All the elements for your happiness are already here. There is no need to run, strive, search, or struggle. Just Be."
That's it for now - have a great week - Jack and I are off for a weekend getaway to Steamboat this Friday!


Saturday Morning Walkers - July 13, 2008

Hi everyone!

We had a lovely Saturday morning walk - Barb, Cass and I walked around Wonderland Lake - we even ran into Janet, Dan and Peaches (their dog!). Christie and Chris joined us for breakfast at Lucky's Cafe.

Book Report:

Cass is reading a memoir that I read several years ago - Esmeralda Santiago's When I Was Puerto Rican

Washington Post Book World
"Santiago is a welcome new voice, full of passion and authority."

Review for ISBN 0306814528
"Stylistically fluid and finely detailed...cinematically recalls her past and her island culture." Los Angeles Times)

Product Description

Esmeralda Santiago's story begins in rural Puerto Rico, where her childhood was full of both tenderness and domestic strife, tropical sounds and sights as well as poverty. Growing up, she learned the proper way to eat a guava, the sound of tree frogs in the mango groves at night, the taste of the delectable sausage called morcilla, and the formula for ushering a dead baby's soul to heaven. As she enters school we see the clash, both hilarious and fierce, of Puerto Rican and Yankee culture. When her mother, Mami, a force of nature, takes off to New York with her seven, soon to be eleven children, Esmeralda, the oldest, must learn new rules, a new language, and eventually take on a new identity. In this first volume of her much-praised, bestselling trilogy, Santiago brilliantly recreates the idyllic landscape and tumultuous family life of her earliest years and her tremendous journey from the barrio to Brooklyn, from translating for her mother at the welfare office to high honors at Harvard.

About the Author

Esmeralda Santiago is the author of two highly acclaimed memoirs, The Turkish Lover and Almost a Woman, which was made into a film for PBS's Masterpiece Theatre. She has also written a novel, America's Dream, and has co-edited two anthologies of Latino literature. She lives in Westchester County, New York.

Cass also recently read a book that she highly recommends - The Shadow of Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

From Publishers Weekly
Ruiz Zafón's novel, a bestseller in his native Spain, takes the satanic touches from Angel Heart and stirs them into a bookish intrigue à la Foucault's Pendulum. The time is the 1950s; the place, Barcelona. Daniel Sempere, the son of a widowed bookstore owner, is 10 when he discovers a novel, The Shadow of the Wind, by Julián Carax. The novel is rare, the author obscure, and rumors tell of a horribly disfigured man who has been burning every copy he can find of Carax's novels. The man calls himself Laín Coubert-the name of the devil in one of Carax's novels. As he grows up, Daniel's fascination with the mysterious Carax links him to a blind femme fatale with a "porcelain gaze," Clara Barceló; another fan, a leftist jack-of-all-trades, Fermín Romero de Torres; his best friend's sister, the delectable Beatriz Aguilar; and, as he begins investigating the life and death of Carax, a cast of characters with secrets to hide. Officially, Carax's dead body was dumped in an alley in 1936. But discrepancies in this story surface. Meanwhile, Daniel and Fermín are being harried by a sadistic policeman, Carax's childhood friend. As Daniel's quest continues, frightening parallels between his own life and Carax's begin to emerge. Ruiz Zafón strives for a literary tone, and no scene goes by without its complement of florid, cute and inexact similes and metaphors (snow is "God's dandruff"; servants obey orders with "the efficiency and submissiveness of a body of well-trained insects"). Yet the colorful cast of characters, the gothic turns and the straining for effect only give the book the feel of para-literature or the Hollywood version of a great 19th-century novel.

For those of you don't know, Cass is a high school Spanish teacher at Fairview High here in Boulder - she has started a Spanish language book group that meets at the Boulder Public Library and these are just two of the books they have read.

I finished our book group selection for this month - Higher Authority by local author and former psychologist, Steven White. I'm not usually a mystery reader but this makes for a good summer book. It is pretty revealing about what Mormon life is like in Utah.

From Library Journal
Attorney Lauren Crowder recommends a Salt Lake City lawyer for her younger sister, who has accused her former boss, an impeccably Mormon woman with high political and church connections, of sexual harassment. Crowder assists a private investigator in gathering information on the potentially explosive case, but murder intervenes: someone kills the P.I. and the former boss. Crowder then calls upon boyfriend Alan Gregory (Private Practices, Viking, 1993) to outmaneuver the ubiquitous, corrupt tentacles of the Mormon church. Much background research supports fine prose, subtle characterization, and intricate plotting. A good selection.

Chris is reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. This personal account of Kingsolver's family's effort at eating home-grown and local food was also recommended to me a while ago by Karen.

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. [Signature]Reviewed by Nina PlanckMichael Pollan is the crack investigator and graceful narrator of the ecology of local food and the toxic logic of industrial agriculture. Now he has a peer. Novelist Kingsolver recounts a year spent eating home-grown food and, if not that, local. Accomplished gardeners, the Kingsolver clan grow a large garden in southern Appalachia and spend summers "putting food by," as the classic kitchen title goes. They make pickles, chutney and mozzarella; they jar tomatoes, braid garlic and stuff turkey sausage. Nine-year-old Lily runs a heritage poultry business, selling eggs and meat. What they don't raise (lamb, beef, apples) comes from local farms. Come winter, they feast on root crops and canned goods, menus slouching toward asparagus. Along the way, the Kingsolver family, having given up industrial meat years before, abandons its vegetarian ways and discovers the pleasures of conscientious carnivory.This field—local food and sustainable agriculture—is crowded with books in increasingly predictable flavors: the earnest manual, diary of an epicure, the environmental battle cry, the accidental gardener. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is all of these, and much smarter. Kingsolver takes the genre to a new literary level; a well-paced narrative and the apparent ease of the beautiful prose makes the pages fly. Her tale is both classy and disarming, substantive and entertaining, earnest and funny. Kingsolver is a moralist ("the conspicuous consumption of limited resources has yet to be accepted widely as a spiritual error, or even bad manners"), but more often wry than pious. Another hazard of the genre is snobbery. You won't find it here. Seldom do paeans to heirloom tomatoes (which I grew up selling at farmers' markets) include equal respect for outstanding modern hybrids like Early Girl.Kingsolver has the ear of a journalist and the accuracy of a naturalist. She makes short, neat work of complex topics: what's risky about the vegan diet, why animals belong on ecologically sound farms, why bitterness in lettuce is good. Kingsolver's clue to help greenhorns remember what's in season is the best I've seen. You trace the harvest by botanical development, from buds to fruits to roots. Kingsolver is not the first to note our national "eating disorder" and the injuries industrial agriculture wreaks, yet this practical vision of how we might eat instead is as fresh as just-picked sweet corn. The narrative is peppered with useful sidebars on industrial agriculture and ecology (by husband Steven Hopp) and recipes (by daughter Camille), as if to show that local food—in the growing, buying, cooking, eating and the telling—demands teamwork. (May)Nina Planck is the author of Real Food: What to Eat and Why (Bloomsbury USA, 2006).

Oh, I just thought about another book that Libby had with her when she was here last week - Eat This, Not That! by David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding. It is a pretty revealing nutrtional look at what we're actually consuming when we go out to fast food and popular chain restaurants.

Product Description

Eat what you want, when you want--and watch the pounds disappear!
Americans spend more than $400 billion a year eating out, and behind each burger, turkey sandwich, and ice cream sundae is a simple decision that could help you control your weight—and your life. The problem is, restaurant chains and food producers aren't interested in helping you make healthy choices. In fact, they invest $30 billion a year on advertising, much of it aimed at confusing eaters and disguising the fat and calorie counts of their products.

All of that has changed with EAT THIS, NOT THAT!. This book puts the entire food industry under the spotlight, and arms you with the savvy tricks and insider information it takes to eat well no matter where you are. With EAT THIS, NOT THAT! you're the expert in every eating situation, from the frozen food aisle to your favorite fast food joint to your local sports bar. You control your food universe—and lose the pounds you want--because, unlike every other customer, you'll know the smart choices to make—instantly!

EAT THIS, NOT THAT! is jam-packed with secrets the restaurant industry doesn't want you to know. For example:
• Burger King doesn't want you to know that a BK Big Fish® Sandwich and fries have a whopping 1000 calories—nearly half your daily caloric intake! (Fish is usually healthy, but not this kind. Find out why with this book.)
• Pizza Hut doesn't want you to know that a standard pizza in Italy contains 500 to 800 calories, but the same meal at Pizza Hut can top 2,100 calories! (You'd need to ride a stationary bike for more than three hours to burn off this mistake. Instead, eat all the pizza you want by making smart choices. EAT THIS, NOT THAT! shows you how.)
• Macaroni Grill doesn't want you to know that a single serving of their Grilled Teriyaki Salmon has more than three times your daily allowance of sodium! (Cut your risk of high blood pressure by making smart choices at the same restaurant. You'll find them inside.)

If only you knew the industry secrets, you could eat at any of your favorite restaurants—or chow down on everything from the company vending machine to your kids’ Halloween buckets—and know that every decision you made was smart, healthy, and the best possible choice for you. For example, did you know:
• At McDonald’s, an Egg McMuffin® is actually a healthy choice, with just 300 calories. (The Hotcakes pack more than double that amount!)
• At Krispy Kreme, all you need to do is order the Very Berry Chiller instead of the Mocha Dream Chiller, and you'll save 500 calories! (Do that once a week and you'll drop more than 7 pounds this year—without trying!)
• At Chipotle, you can cut 570 calories out of your Chicken Burrito just by ordering it as a bowl (without the tortilla) and asking them to hold the rice. (Same great taste, but with 94 fewer carb grams!)
• Choosing a cinnamon roll at Au Bon Pain over Cinnabon will save you 463 calories and 20 grams of fat!
• In the freezer section of your local supermarket, a turkey pot pie from Swanson’s has 610 fewer calories than a turkey pot pie from Pepperidge Farms.
• In the produce aisle, you'll get twice the vitamin C—and nine times as much vitamin A—simply by picking red bell peppers over green ones. (Who said eating healthy was difficult?)

And that’s why EAT THIS, NOT THAT! is going to change everything. It’s time to level the playing field. We're all tired of sneaky calories adding to our waistlines, and having to starve ourselves or spend hours on the treadmill trying to burn off the damage. Now—for the first time—you're in charge. With this simple illustrated guide to thousands of foods--along with the nutrition secrets that lead to fast and permanent weight loss--you'll make the smartest choice every time!

Website of the Week: - tips on how to lead discussions for book groups

Podcast of the Week: - Oprah's interview with one of my favorite teachers, Jon Kabat Zinn on mindfulness and meditation.

Vocabulary Word of the Week - Epicureep·i·cure (p-kyr)
1. A person with refined taste, especially in food and wine.
2. A person devoted to sensuous pleasure and luxurious living. See Usage Note at gourmet.


[Middle English, an Epicurean, from Medieval Latin epicrus, from Latin Epicrus, Epicurus, from Greek Epikouros

Cooking and Dining Report:

Nothing much to report this week! Jack was away for several days, so there was some eating out and much grazing!

I had a lovely dinner out with Sondra on Tuesday night at The Cork - they had a fantastic Ravioli with Swiss Chard.
I had another lovely dinner out with Janet at Dolans - we both had the Panko Breaded Fish (can't remember what it was) - it was just ok (not too memorable) but the company was great!

Quote of the Week - this is something that Eckhard Tolle says in A New Earth - not sure it was originally said by someone else but it is worth sharing:
"Worrying pretends to be necessary but serves no useful purpose"

Have a great week ahead - I've got some interesting recipes to try this week so I'll share them with you next time.


Saturday Morning Walkers - July 6, 2008

Hi everyone!

Hope you've all had a lovely and relaxing holiday weekend. We had a great visit with Libby, David and our lovely new granddaughter-to-be! A highlight for me was a ride with David on the motorcycle that he rented for the weekend - I loved it! Of course, we had lots of good cooking - I'll tell you about that later.

Book Report:

Libby finished a good "beach" read while she was here - a bit of "chick lit" called Something Borrowed by Emily Griffin

From Publishers Weekly
An unexpected love affair threatens a long-lived friendship in this soap opera–like debut from Atlanta ex-lawyer Giffin. Since elementary school, Rachel and Darcy have been best friends, with Darcy always outshining Rachel. While single Rachel is the self-confessed good girl, an attorney trapped at a suffocating New York law firm, Darcy is the complete opposite, a stereotypical outgoing publicist, planning a wedding with the handsome Dex. After Rachel's 30th birthday party, she knocks back one drink too many and winds up in bed with Dex. Instead of feeling guilty about sleeping with her best friend's fiancé, Rachel realizes that Dex is the only man she's really loved, and that she's always resented manipulative Darcy. Rachel and Dex spend a few weekends in the city together "working" while Darcy's off with friends at a Hamptons beach share, but finally Rachel realizes she'll have to give Dex an ultimatum. The flip job Giffin pulls off—here it's the cheaters who're sympathetic (more or less)—gives Dex and Rachel's otherwise ordinary affair extra edge. Rachel would be a more appealing heroine if she were less whiny about her job and her romantic prospects, and rambling dialogue slows the story's pace, but this is an enjoyable beach read—one that'll make readers cast a suspicious eye on best friends and boyfriends who seem to get along just a little too well.

I finished a wonderful book of historical fiction - A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam - this is the story of a family caught up in the Bangladesh War for Independence early in the 70's. It is a piece of history that I'm embarrassed to say I didn't know much about. I enjoyed seeing and hearing Anam speak at this past Tattered Cover "Writers Respond to Readers" event.

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. The experiences of a woman drawn into the 1971 Bangladesh war for independence illuminate the conflict's wider resonances in Anam's impressive debut, the first installment in a proposed trilogy. Rehana Haque is a widow and university student in Dhaka with two children, 17-year-old daughter Maya and 19-year-old son Soheil. As she follows the daily patterns of domesticity—cooking, visiting the cemetery, marking religious holidays—she is only dimly aware of the growing political unrest until Pakistani tanks arrive and the fighting begins. Suddenly, Rehana's family is in peril and her children become involved in the rebellion. The elegantly understated restraint with which Anam recounts ensuing events gives credibility to Rehana's evolution from a devoted mother to a woman who allows her son's guerrilla comrades to bury guns in her backyard and who shelters a Bengali army major after he is wounded. The reader takes the emotional journey from atmospheric scenes of the marketplace to the mayhem of invasion, the ruin of the city, evidence of the rape and torture of Hindus and Bengali nationalists, and the stench and squalor of a refugee camp. Rehana's metamorphosis encapsulates her country's tragedy and makes for an immersive, wrenching narrative. (Jan.)

Website of the Week:

Podcast of the Week: news and politics from

Vocabulary Word of the Week: Chick lit

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"Chick lit" is a term used to denote genre fiction written for and marketed to young women, especially single, working women in their twenties and thirties. The genre's creation was spurred on, if not exactly created, by Sue Townsend's Adrian Mole diaries which inspired Adele Lang's Confessions of a Sociopathic Social Climber: The Katya Livingston Chronicles in the mid-1990s.[citation needed] Another strong early influence can be seen in the books by M. C. Beaton about Agatha Raisin and Hamish Macbeth. The style can also be seen to be somewhat influenced by female teen angst movies like Sixteen Candles and Clueless. Later with the appearance of Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones's Diary and similar works; the genre continued to sell well in the 2000s, with chick lit titles topping bestseller lists and the creation of imprints devoted entirely to chick lit.

The genre

Chick lit features hip, stylish female protagonists (usually in their twenties and thirties and in urban settings) and follows their love lives and struggles for professional success (often in the publishing, advertising, public relations or fashion industry). The books usually feature an airy, irreverent tone and frank sexual themes. The genre spawned Candace Bushnell's Sex and the City and its accompanying television series. Popular Chick lit novelists include Ireland's Marian Keyes, Cecelia Ahern, and Sophie Kinsella, author of the Shopaholic series. Variations have developed to appeal to specific audiences, such as "Chica Lit," aimed at English-dominant, middle-class American Latinas, the top-seller being novelist and film writer/producer Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez; Christian Chick Lit, Matron Lit (aka Hen Lit) for middle-aged women, Young Adult Chick Lit (also Teen Lit).

Origins of the term
"Chick" is an American slang term for young woman and "Lit" is short for "literature".

The term was introduced by Cris Mazza and Jeffrey DeShell as an ironic title for their edited anthology Chick Lit: Postfeminist Fiction, published in 1995. The genre was defined as a type of post-feminist or second-wave feminism that went beyond female-as-victim to include fiction that covered the breadth of female experiences, including love, courtship and gender. The collection emphasized experimental work, including violent, perverse and sexual themes. James Wolcott's 1996 article in The New Yorker "Hear Me Purr" co-opted the term "chick lit" to proscribe what he called the trend of "girlishness" evident in the writing of female newspaper columnists at that time. Works such as Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones's Diary and Candace Bushnell's Sex and the City are examples of such work that helped establish contemporary connotations of the term. The success of Bridget Jones and Sex and the City in book form established chick lit as an important trend in publishing. The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank[1] is regarded as one of the first chick lit works to originate as a novel (actually a collection of stories), though the term "chick lit" was in common use at the time of its publication (1999).

Publishers continue to push the sub-genre because of its viability as a sales tactic. Various other terms have been coined as variant in attempts to attach themselves to the perecieved marketability of the work.

Some critics have noted a male equivalent in authors like Ben Elton, Mike Gayle, Paul Howard and Nick Hornby, referred to as "lad lit" and "dick lit".

Cooking and Dining Report:

A Summer Weekend Menu

Libby and David arrived on Thursday night - I had prepared Sausage and Peppers from The Two Meatballs Cookbook - this was great to have simmering on the stove and ready for them when they got to the house. I had some nice crusty Ciabatta rolls and a light salad. This recipe can be found in an earlier post from this blog -

Friday was a dining out day - lunch in Littleton with Nana Mae and dinner at Radda here in Boulder - surprisingly not crowded and noisy.

Saturday breakfast - Libby had requested a breakfast casserole - one of her favorites - I found a great recipe for an updated version of breakfast casserole - it is Breakfast Strata with Sausage, Mushrooms and Monterey Jack from Cooks Illustrated. I did make a couple of modifications - I used bulk Italian sausage instead of breakfast sausage (more flavorful) and crimini mushrooms instead of white button mushrooms.

Saturday lunch - featured two terrific options:

Cooked shrimp (purchased cooked) tossed with pesto (store-bought) - a great combination and couldn't be easier - this was a suggestion from Mark Bittman from the New York Times

Apricot and Chicken Bruschetta from Giada de Laurentiis -,1977,FOOD_9936_159123,00.html - this is a great lunch using large slices of Ciabatta or even a light dinner.

Saturday dinner - this is a repeat of a recipe that we enjoyed several weeks ago. We served this with roasted green beans and a salad of chopped fresh tomatoes tossed with store-bought Kalamata olive tapenade. A perfect summer meal!
Flank Steak with Crispy Polenta and Roasted Shallot Vinaigrette from -
For dessert we treated ourselves to ice cream at the Glacier Ice Cream shop on Baseline Road - yum!

Before I close - Quote of the Day - a favorite of Rae's - "If nothing changes, nothing changes" - author unknown.If you have a favorite quote, do share it with us.

Have a wonderful week!


Saturday Morning Walkers - June 29, 2008

Hi everyone!

It has been a delightful weekend. I missed our Saturday morning walk that Jan led out in Niwot, but Rae was here for a short but sweet visit. She attempted to get here on Thursday, flying standby from Baltimore, but didn't actually get on a flight until Friday morning. So, while I was at work, Barb and Jan (thank you both so much!) picked her up at the airport and brought her home to Boulder. The main purpose of her visit was to go with me to an all-day Jack Kornfield workshop on Saturday. Jack Kornfield is a Buddhist meditation teacher and psychologist who we have both followed for many years. The day was amazing and so special to share with each other.

I'd like to start a new "department" on the blog - Quotations/Poetry/Inspirational Words of the Week - I'll probably add this to the end of future posts but to start things off, I will share a quote here from Jack Kornfield:
"When we get too caught up in the busyness of the world we lose connection with one another- and ourselves." - Jack Kornfield

A special request - Jexy's friend Sara is going to be bringing her little girl, Robin, home from the hospital in a couple of weeks. 3 year-old Robin is being treated for childhood leukemia at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital. Her progress has been good and they are looking forward to getting her back home. Sara is looking for help with planning meals for Robin that are actually high in protein and calorie-packed. They have been vegetarians for a very long time so this will be a major adjustment. She would like to have recipes, preferably using chicken, turkey or fish, that are easy to prepare and kid-friendly - please no red meat! She'd also like ideas for high-protein vegetarian dishes. If you have any ideas or suggestions, go ahead and send them to me and I will forward them to Sara. If you'd like to check out their blog, go to It is really inspirational to follow - so go back in the archive to the very first post at the beginning of June.

Book Report:

I'd like to share Jack Kornfield with all of you through a couple of this books. One that I read several years ago is A Path With Heart - it was one of the first books on Buddhism that I read and what made it so special is that he is able to make Buddhist philosophy accessible to our very everyday lives . Although he has had quite a fascinating spiritual path, beginning as a monk in Southeast Asia, at his heart, he is down to earth man finding his way in the way in the world. He's the real deal, as we like to say.
In undertaking a spiritual life, we must make certain that our path is connected with our heart, according to author and Buddhist monk Jack Kornfield. Since 1974 (long before it gained popularity in the 1990s), Kornfield has been teaching westerners how to integrate Eastern teaching into their daily lives. Through generous storytelling and unmitigated warmth, Kornfield offers this excellent guidebook on living with attentiveness, meditation, and full-tilt compassion.
Part of what makes this book so accessible is Kornfield's use of everyday metaphors to describe the elusive lessons of spiritual transformation. For example, he opens with "the one seat" lesson taught to him by his esteemed teacher. Literally it means sitting in the center of a room and not being swayed or moved by all the people and dramas happening around you. On a spiritual level it means sticking "with one practice and teacher among all of the possibilities," writes Kornfield; "inwardly it means having the determination to stick with that practice through whatever difficulties and doubts arise until you have come to true clarity and understanding." The same could be said for this "one book." Among all the spiritual self-help books, this is a classic worth sticking with and returning to--a highly approachable teacher that can only lead to greater clarity and understanding

I purchased his newest book yesterday, The Wise Heart: A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology. I can't wait to dig in.

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Author, psychologist and pioneering Buddhist teacher Kornfield writes his best book yet (and his previous ones were pretty good). His newest uses the same sweet narrative voice, provides convincing and illustrative anecdotes and stories, and reaches into world traditions and literature as well as contemporary scientific research. This book offers a systematic and well-organized view of Buddhist psychology, complete with occasional diagrams. Concepts and practices are placed in a framework that explains and connects them. It's all done with an eye toward application; most chapters end with exercises. Kornfield has been practicing Buddhism for close to 40 years, a lasting discipline that has produced this masterful book and a seasoned view of life that acknowledges a lot of oopses. As a mediator and psychologist, he has also witnessed some serious angst, including his own, and draws on it for illustrative power. Not everything here is new, least of all the title, but then the Buddha isn't either. The best is left for last: joy you can seek for yourself and others. Just keep your meditative seat, and this book by your bed. Kornfield comes across as the therapist you wish you'd had.

Rae left me a book that she read and enjoyed while sitting in the Baltimore airport all day on Thursday. It looks good to me.
In The Woods by Irish Tana French

From Publishers Weekly
Irish author French expertly walks the line between police procedural and psychological thriller in her debut. When Katy Devlin, a 12-year-old girl from Knocknaree, a Dublin suburb, is found murdered at a local archeological dig, Det. Rob Ryan and his partner, Cassie Maddox, must probe deep into the victim's troubled family history. There are chilling similarities between the Devlin murder and the disappearance 20 years before of two children from the same neighborhood who were Ryan's best friends. Only Maddox knows Ryan was involved in the 1984 case. The plot climaxes with a taut interrogation by Maddox of a potential suspect, and the reader is floored by the eventual identity and motives of the killer. A distracting political subplot involves a pending motorway in Knocknaree, but Ryan and Maddox are empathetic and flawed heroes, whose partnership and friendship elevate the narrative beyond a gory tale of murdered children and repressed childhood trauma.

Website of the Week: - the how-to-manual you can edit.

Podcast of the Week: A New Earth After-Show featuring Elizabeth Lesser of the Omega Institute. If you haven't heard Elizabeth she is a wonderful complement to the work being done by Eckhard Tolle. Lesser is one of the co-founders of The Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York. She has written The New American Spirituality (recently re-released as The Seeker's Guide) and more recently, Broken Open, her memoir, which gives insight into how she has navigated through this life.

Vocabulary Word of the Week - Wiki

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A wiki is a collection of web pages designed to enable anyone who accesses it to contribute or modify content, using a simplified markup language.[1][2] Wikis are often used to create collaborative websites and to power community websites. The collaborative encyclopedia, Wikipedia, is one of the best-known wikis.[2] Wikis are used in business to provide intranets and Knowledge Management systems. Ward Cunningham, developer of the first wiki software, WikiWikiWeb, originally described it as "the simplest online database that could possibly work".[3]
"Wiki Wiki" (/wiːkiː wiːkiː/) is a reduplication of "wiki", a Hawaiian word for "fast". It has been suggested that "wiki" means "What I Know Is". However, this is a backronym

Cooking and Dining Report:

Just one new recipe and one worth repeating:

Linguine with Zucchini, Pancetta & Parmigiano from Fine Cooking - very interesting combination of flavors - we really liked it!

Cioppino from Giada de Laurentiis - this Italian seafood stew is a great meal for winter or summer - I made it last Christmas and we had it this past Friday night siting out on our deck,1977,FOOD_9936_32499,00.html

That's it for now - have a great week ahead - enjoy the upcoming 4th of July weekend! We're excited about Libby and David's arrival on Thursday evening!



Saturday Morning Walkers - July 27, 2008

Hi Everyone!

Jack and I spent a lovely weekend in Steamboat Springs and I, unfortunately, missed our Saturday morning walk again. Hope you all had a lovely downtown walk and breakfast at the Farmer’s Market. The main feature of our weekend was the Strings Music Festival – we went to “A Night in Vienna” concert on Saturday night. During the day on Saturday, we took the gondola up to the top of the mountain, walked around a bit and enjoyed burgers and hot dogs off the grill. After a quick and casual dinner at the Steamboat Smokehouse (not great) and before heading over to the concert, we poked around town a bit - checked out the new location of the Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. They are co-sponsor's of the Literary Sojourn along with the Bud Werner Public Library.

Book Report:
I neglected to mention another book that I had finished last week – The Story of a Marriage by Andrew Sean Greer. This is beautifully written book by another of our Literary Sojourn authors. There was a quality to this book that was quite reminiscent to me of Elizabeth Strout’s, Olive Kitteridge. I’m looking forward to hearing from each of these authors at the Sojourn in September.

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. As he demonstrated in the imaginative The Confessions of Max Tivoli, Greer can spin a touching narrative based on an intriguing premise. Even a diligent reader will be surprised by the revelations twisting through this novel and will probably turn back to the beginning pages to find the oblique hints hidden in Greer's crystalline prose. In San Francisco in 1953, narrator Pearlie relates the circumstances of her marriage to Holland Cook, her childhood sweetheart. Pearlie's sacrifices for Holland begin when they are teenagers and continue when the two reunite a few years later, marry and have an adored son. The reappearance in Holland's life of his former boss and lover, Buzz Drumer, propels them into a triangular relationship of agonizing decisions. Greer expertly uses his setting as historical and cultural counterpoint to a story that hinges on racial and sexual issues and a climate of fear and repression. Though some readers may find it overly sentimental, this is a sensitive exploration of the secrets hidden even in intimate relationships, a poignant account of people helpless in the throes of passion and an affirmation of the strength of the human spirit.

Rae has a book to recommend – The Ministry of Special Cases by Nathan Englander – Rae found it to be a “difficult” read , meaning an emotional read but really liked the book.

From Publishers Weekly
[Signature]Reviewed by Allegra Goodman. Young writers are often told to write about what they know. In his 1999 collection, For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, Nathan Englander spun the material of his orthodox Jewish background into marvelous fiction. But the real trick to writing about what you know is to make sure you know more as you mature. Englander's first novel, The Ministry of Special Cases, conjures a world far removed from "The Gilgul of Second Avenue." The novel is set in 1976 in Buenos Aires during Argentina's "dirty war." Kaddish Poznan, hijo de puta, son of a whore, earns a meager living defacing gravestones of Jewish whores and pimps whose more respectable children want to erase their immigrant parents' names and forget their shameful activities. Kaddish labors in the Jewish cemetery at night. His hardworking wife, Lillian, toils in an insurance agency by day, and their idealistic son, Pato, attends college, goes to concerts and smokes pot with his friends. When Pato is taken from home, Kaddish learns what it really means to erase identity, because no one in authority will admit Pato has been arrested. No one will even acknowledge that Pato existed. As Lillian and Kaddish attempt to penetrate the Ministry of Special Cases, Englander's novel takes on an epic quality in which Jewish parents descend into the underworld and journey through circles of hell. Gogol, I.B. Singer and Orwell all come to mind, but Englander's book is unique in its layering of Jewish tradition and totalitarian obliteration. At times Englander's motifs seem forced. Kaddish, whose very name evokes the memory of the dead, chisels out the name of a plastic surgeon's disreputable father, and in lieu of cash receives nose jobs for himself and his wife. Lillian's nose job is at first unsuccessful, and her nose slides off her face. One form of defacement pays for another. Kaddish fights with his son in the cemetery and accidentally slices off the tip of Pato's finger. Attempting to erase a letter, Kaddish blights a digit. But the fight seems staged, Pato's presence unwarranted except for Englander's schema. Other scenes are haunting: Lillian confronting bureaucrats; Kaddish appealing to a rabbi to learn if it is possible for a Jew to have a funeral without a body; Kaddish picking an embarrassing embroidered name off the velvet curtain in front of the ark in the synagogue. When he picks off the gold thread, the name stands out even more prominently because the velvet underneath the embroidery is unfaded, darker than the rest of the fabric. Englander writes with increasing power and authority in the second half of his book; he probes deeper and deeper, looking at what absence means, reading the shadow letters on history's curtain.

I am in the middle of a book that Rae had recommended to me a while ago and I am totally engrossed - I will tell you more about Broken For You by Stephanie Kallos next week.

As an update, our A New Earth study group is moving on to Chapter 6 this coming week. What a terrific experience it has been to work through this book chapter by chapter with this wonderful group of women.

Jack is just about finished with the Pete Hamill memoir, A Drinking Life. Hamill is one of our favorite writers and he is such a New York "legend".

From Publishers Weekly
Hamill's autobiography entails his long odyssey to sobriety. This is not a jeremiad condemning drink, however, but a thoughtful, funny, street-smart reflection on its consequences. To understand Hamill ( Loving Women ), one must know his immigrant parents: Anne, gentle and fair; Billy, one-legged and alcoholic. The first offspring of this union--Republicans in Belfast, Democrats in Brooklyn--Hamill has a special gift for relating the events of his childhood. He recreates a time extinct, a Brooklyn of trolley cars, Dodgers, pails of beer and pals like No Toes Nocera. He recalls such adventures as the Dodgers' 1941 pennant and viewing the liner Normandie lying on its side in the Hudson River. We partake in the glory of V-J day and learn what life in Hamill's neighborhood was centered on: "Part of being a man was to drink." Puberty hits him and booze helps him to overcome his sexual shyness. But Hamill's childhood ended early. After dropping out of high school he lived on his own, working at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and drinking with his workmates. Wanting more, he studied art, soon meeting a nude model named Laura who was a lot different from the neighborhood girls, those "noble defenders of the holy hymen." And escape was always on Hamill's mind. First it was the Navy, then Mexico, but it was always the same--drinking nights which today he can't remember. There were fist-fights and jail time in Mexico and he learned that "drinking could be a huge fuck you to Authority." Back home with a job at the New York Post , he mastered his trade at the Page One bar every morning, drinking with other reporters. Much time was spent in saloons away from his wife and two daughters and he remembers the taunts of his childhood, "Your old man's an Irish drunk!" Then one New Year's Eve 20 years ago he noticed all the drunkenness and had his last vodka. When asked why, he said, "I have no talent for it." It may be the only talent Hamill lacks.

Website of the Week: – a great site for basic cooking techniques

Podcast of the Week: – “Inspired talks by the world's greatest thinkers and doers” – you can subscribe to this on Itunes but it is a great site and you can always listen to the talks right on your computer.

Vocabulary Word of the Week: Burrata – this was on our salad last night!

From Wikipedia:

Burrata is a fresh Italian cheese, made from mozzarella and cream. The outer shell is solid mozzarella while the inside contains both mozzarella and cream, giving it a unique soft texture. It is usually served fresh, at room temperature. Burrata, once only packaged in leaves, is nowadays wrapped in a plastic sheet, sometimes printed with a leaves pattern on the outside. Even so, the tradition of having a wrapper of asphodel leaves (leeks) is still followed, even if only covering outside the plastic. The leaves are indicators of the freshness of the Burrata; as long as the leaves are green, the cheese within is still fresh and ready to ooze out. The name "burrata" means "buttered" in Italian.


As with other mozzarellas, Burrata owes its existence to the water buffalo, a large beast that was brought to Italy from its native Asia sometime in the 1400s. Water buffalo milk is richer and higher in protein than that of cows, yielding 1.6 times more cheese. It also lacks the yellow pigment carotene found in cow’s milk, so mozzarella di bufala is pure white. Although mozzarella was originally made with the milk of water buffaloes, and the best still is (in Italy, the legal name for cow’s-milk "mozzarella," is fior di latte), almost all American mozzarella is made from cow’s milk.

Burrata originated from a small area of Apulia region, called Murgia. First produced around 1920 on the Bianchini farm[citation needed] in the town of Andria, (about 2/3 of the way up from Italy's heel to the spur of Apulia). In the 1950s, it became more widely available after a few of the local cheese factories - notably Chieppa[citation needed] - began producing it. It is generally suspected that factories were interested in it because it was a way to utilize the ritagli ("scraps" or "rags") of mozzarella. Established as an artisanal cheese, Burrata maintained its premium-product status even after it began to be made in a number of factories from Andria, Bari, Gioia del Colle, Modugno, all the way to Martina Franca, an eighty-mile stretch of Puglia. Notably, only in recent years has it traveled outside of its native Apulia.


Burrata starts out much like mozzarella, which begins like other cheeses, with rennet used to curdle the warm milk. But then, unlike other cheeses, fresh mozzarella curds are plunged into hot whey or lightly salted water, kneaded and pulled to develop the familiar stretchy strings (pasta filata), then shaped in whatever form is desired.

When making Burrata, the still-hot cheese is formed into a pouch, which is then filled with scraps of leftover mozzarella and topped off with fresh cream (panna) before closing. The finished Burrata is traditionally wrapped in the leaves of asphodel (leeks) tied to form a little brioche-like topknot, and moistened with a little whey. For convenience, these days the cheese is often placed in polyethylene, a plastic bag. The asphodel leaves, if present in packaging, should still be green when the cheese is served, to indicate the cheese’s freshness.

Serving indications

When the Burrata is sliced open, its ritagli-thickened panna flows out. The cheese has a rich, buttery flavor, and retains its fresh milkiness. It is best when eaten within 24 hours, and is considered past its prime after 48 hours. This cheese, due to its particular form (once opened, it must be eaten immediately) and the particularity given by the different texture of the inside and outside, can be served with salad, Prosciutto crudo, hard crusted bread, or with fresh tomato, olive oil and cracked black pepper. It may also be enjoyed tossed on top of drained penne or spaghetti.

Cooking and Dining Report:
I did do some cooking this past week but the highlight of this week was our dinner out on Friday night in Steamboat. We ate at Café Diva which I wrote about after last year’s book group trip to the Literary Sojourn. It is a very nice restaurant located right at the foot of the ski slope in Steamboat. The menu changes seasonally and offers some very unique dishes. Jack and I shared a salad featuring burrata cheese and arugula with olives and cherry tomato halves. Jack had Elk Tenderloin which he liked very much and I had Cornmeal Crusted Soft-Shell Crabs on a Sweet Potato Cake and served with corn and jalapeno relish – very yummy! Jack had a Colorado Peach Crumble with Vanilla Ice Cream for dessert. Check out their menu -

We ended up having breakfast on Saturday and Sunday at Winona's in downtown Steamboat - right on Lincoln Ave - really terrrific little place that offers breakfast and lunch only. We tried to go to Lucile's in Steamboat this morning but apparently it has closed its location there. I think they were too far off the beaten path.

Some recipes that worked out well this week:

From Fine Cooking - Steamed Mussels with Wine, Garlic and Parsley - one of our favorites and this is a great version -

From Fine Cooking - Pancetta, Tomato & Avocado Sandwich with Aioli - a nice summer dinner -

From Fine Cooking - Argentine Spice-Rubbed Steak with Salsa Criolla - another great flank steak recipe -

Judy also shared a couple of Fine Cooking recipes that she and Joe really liked - they both look yummy!:

Summer Vegetable Soup with Dill -

Grilled Chicken with Balsamic Apricot Glaze
Serves six to eight.


2 Tbs. unsalted butter
1/2 cup apricot preserves
3 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
Kosher salt
Vegetable oil for the grill
Two 4-lb. chickens, each cut into 8 pieces, or 5 to 6 lb. good-quality bone-in skin-on chicken thighs, drumsticks, and breasts, each breast half cut into two pieces
Freshly ground black pepper

How to make: In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the preserves, vinegar, red pepper flakes, rosemary, and a large pinch of salt; stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. (If making ahead, store covered in the refrigerator. Before using, warm over low heat to loosen the consistency.)

Prepare a medium gas or charcoal grill fire. Using a stiff wire brush, scrub the cooking grate thoroughly. Dip a folded paper towel into vegetable oil and, using tongs, rub it over the grill grate.

Season the chicken lightly with salt and pepper. Set the parts skin side down on the grill. Cook, covered, until the skin is golden brown, about 10 minutes. Stay near the grill, especially during the first 10 minutes, to manage any flare-ups, by moving pieces out of the way. If the chicken is browning too quickly, turn the heat down slightly or close the vents partially. Flip the chicken and cook until an instant-read thermometer reads 165°F in the thickest part of each piece, 5 to 10 minutes more. The thighs, legs, and thinner breast pieces are apt to cook a little faster than the thicker breast pieces. Transfer each piece to a platter when done and tent with foil.

When all the chicken is done, brush it with the glaze on all sides. Return the chicken to the grill and cook for another minute or so on each side to caramelize the glaze. Brush the chicken with any remaining glaze and serve.

Make Ahead Tips

The apricot glaze can be made up to a day ahead and stored covered in the refrigerator. Before using, warm over low heat to loosen the consistency.

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