Friday, March 31, 2017

The World According to Bella

A Messy Scene
I missed out on my promised western adventure. I've been too sick and it's my own fault. Mr. C and Mrs. S left without me. All I've done the past two days is lay around wishing my tummy felt better from throwing up lots. 
It all started watching Mrs. S clean out the refrigerator. She was throwing all this good stuff away. I silently begged for just a small piece or two but Mrs. S was firm no people food. I was patient, just sat there and watched. Several hours later I seized my  window of opportunity when Mrs. S left the house.  With all those good smells I totally lost it and knocked the basket right over. The top easily came off. I wasted no time digging into the buffet that lay all over the floor.  I knew I was in BIG trouble when Mrs. S returned and screamed. The Mediterranean Herb Feta Crumbles were scattered all over the living room. Actually I didn't even care for the taste. And the kitchen floor well let's just say I really had made quite a mess sorting through it all and sampling different stuff.     
It did take me a long time wrestling with a plastic bag trying to get inside to lick the baking cocoa powder. It made an impressive carpet stain.  
I quietly left the scene of the crime while Mrs. S cleaned and went to my room. I curled up in my bed and stayed out of her way. The next two days I was very, very sick.  
I did see some pictures of Mr. C and Mrs. S's Tucson downtown adventure at the art fair. It was pet friendly and looked like a lot of fun. I was sorry I had to stay at home and miss all the fun.
Mrs S likes to shop. First she was going to get me a personalized collar from Woofware but Mr. C said I didn't need a new collar. When she wanted to upgrade my  water dish Mr.C was firm with another no. They  did not bring me back anything but I was too sick to care. 

It's time to leave and its safe to say I made it through 30 days without seeing one javelina, rattlesnake or coyote.  And I was real happy not to have been with Mr. C and Mrs. S the other day when they saw this javelina close by.  
Except for the food incident Mr. C and Mrs. S said I have been very good and adjusted well to a new place. I've liked my four walks a day exploring the neighborhood and heading up towards the desert to check things out, sunning on the patio and keeping a watchful eye on the road runners and mourning doves.   
Wish me luck with long days ahead in the car with not much to do but nap. I have shed most of my fur coat so hope the weather is warm at  home. I miss Sadie, Luna, Mulligan and Wally.
I hope they've not forgotten me. I've been gone a long time. 
Love, Bella  

Spring for a Poem

Jane Yolen
photo credit ©Jason

Jane Yolen is an American writer of fantasy, science fiction, and children's books. She is the author or editor of more than 350 books including "Owl Moon", "The Devil’s Arithmetic" and the popular series "How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?'

She is also a poet, a teacher of writing and literature, and a reviewer of children’s literature. She has been called the Hans Christian Andersen of America and the Aesop of the twentieth century.

Jane Yolen’s books and stories have won the Caldecott Medal, two Nebula Awards, two Christopher Medals, the World Fantasy Award, three Mythopoeic Fantasy Awards, the Golden Kite Award, the Jewish Book Award, the World Fantasy Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Association of Jewish Libraries Award among many others.

or more information about the author, scheduled events, awards and book listings check out 

Yolen has been a poet and a poetry lover all her life. She wrote her first poem in first grade. Despite her father's misgivings early on that she couldn't make a living writing poetry, though he liked her poems, she eventually proved him wrong.
"Owl Moon" is an unrhymed picture book poem, a Caldecott winner. Yolen's daughter Heidi is the little girl featured in this book. Today she is all grown up and lives next door to her mother. 

"How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?" is a rhymed picture book written with Mark Teague. Its the first book in a series of over 12 books.  
"Here's A Little Poem" is an anthology Yolen  co-edited with Andrew Fusek Peters. 
On further exploration of Yolen's blog site  I would say she definitely has made a successful living as a poet having also published 10 adult poetry books, 40 children's poetry books and 41 Poetry Anthologies. 
Indeed Yolen is a prolific writer.  In late spring 2017 she has the following new books coming out 
"Before The Vote After" (adult poems) 
"Little Frog and the Spring Polliwogs"  
"On Duck Pond" 

 "How Do Dinosaurs Choose Their Pets" by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague
"Thunder Underground" 
But wait! There's even three more books scheduled for fall publication.
"Emerald Circus" (fantasy short stories, adult)
"Last Laughs Prehistoric Epitaphs" with J. Patrick Lewis (poetry)
"Once Upon A Story" (retold folk tales from around the world for young children)

A huge thank you to Jane who has graciously agreed to share some of her spring poems for Ever Ready April Poetry Month Kick-Off
More of Yolen's spring poems will be featured throughout the month. 

Turning the page
by Jane Yolen

"Turn the page," said the squirrels, but
nobody did.’—Resa Matlock

“Turn the page,” the squirrels say,
less a directive than a hope.
But the trees sit moping
in their winter shawls of snow.
No hope there.

“Turn the page,” the squirrels say,
less a motion than an amendment.
But the snowdrops hide their shy
and drooping white faces.
No hope there.

“Turn the page,” the squirrels say,
less an answer than a question.
But the icicles drip disdain
with every new drop in the temperature.
No hope there.

“Turn the page,” the squirrels say,
less a prayer than the last rites.
No one in the backyard answers Amen.
It’s an old complaint by February.
No hope there.

“Turn the page,” the squirrels say,
less a gasp of life, more a rattle of death.
But then with a wild wind beating
drumsticks across the land,
daffodils break out in garden grins,

And Spring, with a mighty effort
turns the page.

©2017 Jane Yolen all rights reserved

Thursday, March 30, 2017

A Birthday Celebration for van Gogh

Vincent Willem van Gogh (1853-1890) was a post-Impressionist painter of Dutch origin whose work, notable for its rough beauty, emotional honesty and bold color, had a far-reaching influence on 20th-century art. Van Gogh only sold one painting during his lifetime Red Vineyard at Arles. This painting now resides at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow. The rest of Van Gogh's more than 900 paintings were not sold or made famous until after his death. His works included self portraits, landscapes, still lifes, portraits and paintings of cypresses, wheat fields and sunflowers. His oil paintings and drawings are now some of the world's best known and most expensive works of art. 
Van Gogh moved to Arles in 1888 and stayed one year. He hoped Arles would be a refuge for him since he was ill from drink and suffering from smoker's cough. Van Gogh was enchanted by the local landscape and light, and his works from the period are richly draped in yellow, ultramarine and mauve. His portrayals of the Arles landscape are influenced by his Dutch upbringing; the patchwork of fields and avenues appear flat and lack perspective, but excel in their intensity of color.The vibrant light in Arles excited him, and his new found appreciation is seen in the range and scope of his work
Cafe Terrace at Night (1888)
Which brings me to this van Gogh painting.  When we were in Arles, France several years ago this photo below shows the same cafe where supposedly van Gogh painted the picture.
As a side note in Dutch the van is in lowercase unless beginning a sentence.   
So try to imagine yourself in this quaint little town sipping on your espresso, eating  a spring treat and enjoying the people watching. 
Happy Birthday Vincent van Gogh March 30, 1853 - July 29, 1890
Strawberry-Rhubarb Bars  
Cook's notes. This easy strawberry-rhubarb bar recipe will get your taste buds ready for spring. The recipe is adapted from and makes 16 bars.

  •  1- 1/2 c. sliced fresh or frozen rhubarb 
  • 1 c. sliced fresh strawberries, plus more for garnish 
  • 1/2 c. plus 1/3 cup granulated sugar, divided 
  • 3 tbsp. confectioners’ sugar 
  • 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt 
  • 1 c. plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled, divided 
  • 1/2 c. (1 stick) cold butter, cut into pieces 
  • 2 large eggs, plus 2 large egg yolks 
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon zest 
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • 5 drops red food coloring
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper.
  • Combine rhubarb, strawberries, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, and 1/4 cup water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook until fruit is softened and beginning to break down, 2 to 4 minutes. Cool.
  • Meanwhile, pulse confectioners’ sugar, salt, and 1 cup flour in a food processor until combined, 4 to 5 times. Add butter, and pulse until a coarse meal forms, 10 to 12 times. Press mixture firmly into bottom of prepared pan. Bake until golden around edges, 16 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
  • Puree rhubarb mixture in a food processor until very smooth, about 1 minute. Add in eggs, egg yolks, zest, and 1/3 cup granulated sugar, almond extract  and process until smooth, 15 to 20 seconds. Add food coloring and 3 tablespoons flour and pulse just until smooth. Pour over crust.
  • Bake until set, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack. Chill at least 2 hours or up to 1 day. Cut into squares. Garnish with sliced strawberries with  dusting of confectioners sugar. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Lunch Southwestern Style

Chipolte Burrito Bowls Southwestern Style
Skip the calories of Chipotle and try these burrito bowls right at home. It’s easier, healthier and 10000x tastier!
Recipe serves 4-6. This creative idea makes for a wonderful lunch, supper or an outdoor gathering with your favorite margaritas.   
Thanks Becky for the inspiration and the lunch.
  • 2 cups uncooked long grain rice or Mexican style rice
  • 4 cups cooked chicken diced, beef or chicken sausage, warmed in a crock pot   
  • 1 cup salsa, homemade or store-bought
  • 4 cups Romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 1 (15.25-ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1 can (15-ounce) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1/1/2 cups red onions, diced
  • 2 cups Mexican Four Cheeses 
  • 1 avocado, halved, seeded, peeled and diced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves

For the Chipotle Cream Sauce 
  • 1 cup light sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle paste or 2 tablespoons chipotle peppers, in adobo sauce, can be substituted for chipotle paste.
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or more, to taste
  • To make the chipotle cream sauce, whisk together sour cream, chipotle paste, garlic, lime juice and salt; set aside.
  • Cook rice according to package instructions.
  • To assemble the bowls, Set out each ingredients in a bowl. Start out with rice, beans and meat and go from there with all the choices. Let guests serve themselves. 
  • Serve immediately, drizzled with chipotle cream sauce.

and if you happen to be in Tucson area stop by Old Town Artisans for their delicious Prickly Pear Margarita, a signature state drink.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Smoothies with a Banana Fix

Flaxseeds- High Fiber Super Food- 
Health Benefits
  • Omega-3 essential fatty acids, "good" fats that have been shown to have heart-healthy effects. Each tablespoon of ground flaxseed contains about 1.8 grams of plant omega-3s.
  • Lignans, which have both plant estrogen and antioxidant qualities. Flaxseed contains 75 to 800 times more lignans than other plant foods.
  • Fiber. Flaxseed contains both the soluble and insoluble types.

Smoothies are so good for our bodies, our hair, our skin, our metabolisms, our energy levels, and so on. These vitamin and antioxidant-rich drinks are absolutely the easiest way to get in all your fruits and veggies. Instead of settling for your go-to strawberry-banana smoothie each time, try throwing some veggies, coconut water, and/or nut butter into your blender for a delicious, nutrient-dense boost.
Glowing Skin Smoothie or Banana-Mango-Avocado Smoothie
Recipe comes from
Cook's notes: Glowing Skin Smoothie recipe title caught my attention. The desert heat and wind do a number on your skin in the Southwest and I need to find ways ways to revitalize and hydrate my skin.
The frozen banana and avocado add thickness to the smoothie. The  mango and pineapple sweeten things up and the coconut water adds a tropical flare. With the addition of kale or spinach this smoothie packs a HUGE nutrient punch. Coconut water is ideal since it is so hydrating for our bodies and skin. It is sold in most grocery stores and at Target and Walmart.  You can substitute regular water,almond milk or your favorite juice. Try adding  in 1/2 cup blueberries as they are another super food great for your skin! 

  • 1/2 cup plain coconut water
  • 2 frozen ripe bananas, previously peeled & sliced
  • 1 cup chopped pineapple (frozen or fresh)
  • 1 cup chopped mango (frozen or fresh)
  • 2 cups spinach or kale
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced
  • optional: 1 tablespoon ground flax or flaxseed oil
  • A strong, powerful blender like Vitamix or Ninja works the best but since I am not on my home turf, a food processor worked fine. 
  • Add all of the ingredients to the blender in the order listed. Blend for at least 3 minutes or until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the blender as needed. Add more coconut water if it's too thick.
Blueberry Banana Smoothie
Cook's notes:
Cooking tip for smoothies:  
I always have a tub of frozen banana chunks and other fruit odds and ends like mangoes, mixed berries or blueberries in the freezer. Plan ahead and buy whatever fruit is on sale that week at the grocery store. Before it gets too ripe, slice it and throw it in a baggie into the freezer and it’s perfect for smoothies.

Recipe makes approximately two six-ounce smoothies. 
  • 1 large banana (previously frozen in chunks is recommended but not necessary)
  • 1 c blueberries (I used bagged, frozen)
  • 1 c milk (I used almond milk)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • sweetener to taste (honey, sugar, stevia, agave, etc.)
  • ice cubes (I used 1 c but use more or less, or none, based on preference)
  • Optional: protein powder,  chia  or flax seeds, cocoa powder, nuts, dried fruit such as dates, raisins, figs.
  • Blend all ingredients in Vita or blender and serve.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Star of the Week

Adding a banana to your daily diet has an array of benefits in your body. Bananas are rich in fiber, antioxidants and several nutrients. A medium-sized banana contains about 105 calories.
Banana Muffins with Yogurt and Cinnamon Granola Topping
Power House Muffins
Healthy Banana Creamscile Smoothie

Banana Bread
Recipe adapted from "Vanilla Bean Baking Book" by Sarah Kieffer. Recipe makes one large loaf or two medium size loaves. 
Cooking Tip: When cooking or baking with yogurt instead of sour cream, there are a few other things to keep in mind beyond the simple one-to-one substitution ratio: Go for whole-milk Greek yogurt: The yogurt closest in texture and flavor to regular sour cream is whole-milk Greek yogurt.
  • 1-1/2 cups flour( I used half white and half whole wheat) 
  • 1 tsp. baking soda 
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 TB. Saigon cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1 cup very ripe bananas, mashed about 3 medium sized bananas 
  • 1/2 cup sour cream or whole milk Greek yogurt
  • 1 TB. vanilla
  •  1/2 cup butter ( 1 stick) at room temperature  
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease one large loaf pan or 2 medium sized pans.
  • In a small bowl whisk together flour, baking soda,  cinnamon, salt and nuts. Set aside.
  • In another bowl mix sour cream or yogurt, vanilla and mashed bananas. 
  • Beat butter on medium speed until creamy adding in sugars. Beat mixture until light and fluffy, adding in eggs. Mix until well combined. 
  • Reduce speed to low and add in flour mixture and mix until ingredients are almost incorporated.
  • Add in banana mixture and mix with a wooden spoon just until combined.  Avoid over mixing.   
  • Bake about 35 minutes until top is dark brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. 
  • Cool 6 minutes an pan and invert on to a wire rack.
Care to indulge?
Splurge with Banana Cake with Brown Sugar Icing (Penuche Frosting)
Smoothies with a star ingredient- bananas 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Weekend Round-Up

Book Club Recommends

This compelling mystery novel starts off with a few sentences that hook the reader.

"If I'd blinked, I would have missed it. But I didn't, and saw something fall from the rear deck of the opposite ferry. It could have been a bundle of trash; it could have been a child size doll. Either was more likely than what I thought I saw: A small wide-eyed human face, in one tiny frozen moment as it plummeted towards the water. “

The premise of the story what would you do if you saw someone dropping a child off of a passing ferry boat? Jump off into the freezing waters of Lake Champlain from your passing ferry boat, of course! This is exactly what our heroine, Troy Chance did in this first mystery debut novel by Sara Henry. Then what would you do if no one reported the child missing? Take him home because you just know his safety is in your hands---maybe not---but Troy did because of a "feeling".

The theme of this story was very different from what one would expect, but Sara Henry actually made it seem realistic. This small, French speaking boy, Paul, clung to Troy but wouldn't or couldn't tell Troy exactly what happened to him. But he did know that he saw someone shoot his mom, and those same people kept him in a room by himself for a number of months. It is an exciting adventure with life threatening situations Troy goes through solving mysteries along the way.    

With this award-winning first novel in a series , Louise Penny introduces an engaging hero in Inspector Gamache to the reader. 
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, a methodical, experienced, brilliant detective, comes to the town of Sûreté du Québec with his team of investigators. They are called to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montréal. 
Jane Neal, a long-time resident of Three Pines, has been found dead in the woods. The locals are certain it's a tragic hunting accident and nothing more but Gamache smells something foul this holiday season…and is soon certain that Jane died at the hands of someone much more sinister than a careless bowhunter.
The title refers not just to a painting, but to the way some people live their lives. Rather than actively pursuing their hopes and dreams, they wait for good things to come to them.

Some Creative Peeps Ideas  

Drink Stirs
Peeps Nests 
Peeps in a Jar
Check out 11 DIY Peeps ideas for Easter

Spring for this recipe
Strawberry Crumb Bars
Cook's notes: These bars are perfect with a cup of coffee in the afternoon, or a scoop of ice cream for an easy spring dessert. The base is made with just butter, flour, a little sugar with some cornstarch. It’s shortbread-esque, and perfectly firm to support the thick layer of berries. The streusel has large crumbles with a nice crunch, and the delicate butter flavor pairs so well with the strawberries. And for the piece de resistance add a drizzle of almond icing. A spring birthday treat for Robert Frost' s birthday.

Recipe adapted from
For the Base

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter , softened to room temperature
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 3/4 tsp. Saigon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
For the Strawberry Layer
  • Dice 1 to 1-1/2 pounds of strawberries to equal 2-1/2 cups
  • 1 TB. granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp.  cornstarch
  • 2 tsp. orange zest 
For the Streusel Topping
  • 1/4 cup butter , melted
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar, light or dark (I used dark)
  • 2 TB. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. Saigon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup regular oats
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8 x 8 inch square baking pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper leaving an overhang on each side. Grease with butter or non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
  • In a large bowl beat together the butter and sugar until well combined. Turn the mixer down to low and beat in the flour, cornstarch, cinnamon and salt until combined. The mixture will be crumbly. Press the mixture firmly into the bottom of the prepared pan. 
Cooking tip: Flour your hands for this step. 
  • Bake for 13 minutes.
  • While the bottom layer is baking, make the strawberry layer and topping. To make the strawberry layer toss together all the ingredients (strawberries, cornstarch, sugar & orange zest) in a medium sized bowl. Set aside.
  • To make the streusel topping, in a medium bowl stir together all the ingredients using a large wooden spoon or rubber spatula. It will be crumbly. Place in freezer for 10 minutes. 
  • After the bottom layer is done baking, remove it from the oven. Let crust cool 5 minutes.
  • Carefully spoon the strawberry mixture over the shortbread base until it's evenly covered. Then add the crumbled streusel mixture over the strawberry layer. If you make a fist around the streusel and release your hand - it should form crumbles.
  • Bake for 30 minutes until the streusel topping begins to turn golden brown and you can see the strawberry layer bubbling underneath.
  • Cool completely before icing the bars. Place bars in refrigerator 15 minutes to set icing. 
Almond Icing Ingredients and Directions:
Whisk together until smooth 3/4 cup powdered sugar, 1-2 TB.fresh orange juice and1/4 tsp. almond extract.  

Biggest Find of the Day in Downtown Tucson-a little taste of home 

Friday, March 24, 2017

Can You Spring for Another Chicken Dish?

One chicken dish served two ways
Moroccan Grilled Chicken Kebabs
Cook's notes: A tasty grilled skewered chicken marinated in a Moroccan style spice blend. Serve the chicken over saffron rice with fresh pineapple pieces.  Recipe serves 2-4  and was adapted from
Note the recipe did call for pita bread to be more authentic but I had to substitute flour tortillas which was all I had available. The substitution worked fine.  
Cooking tip: I grilled skewered meat on lightly greased foil piece rather than directly on grill.
  • 1 lb. boneless chicken breast, cut into large chunks
  • 2 TB. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 TB. olive oil or Lemon Olive Oil
  • 1/2 tsp. each paprika, cumin and oregano
  • 1/8 tsp. each cinnamon, ginger, turmeric and cayenne pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • red onion chunks
  • tomato chunks
  • large slices of sliced zucchini
  • Mix all ingredients except chicken in a bowl. Add chicken and coat evenly. Cover lightly and refrigerate to marinate at least 20 minutes or several hours.   
  • Skewer the chicken with zucchini pieces, tomato, red onion and zucchini
  • Grill over medium heat about 10 minutes a side. Turn once.
Grilled Chicken Souvlaki Gyro with Tzatziki Sauce
Cook's notes: Follow the same steps above to grill the marinated chicken with onion, tomato and zucchini. Place cooked skewered meat in pita bread and serve with Tzatziki Sauce. 
Cooking tips: Make sauce early in the day before serving for flavors to meld. Cucumbers are watery, After dicing them place on a paper towel and sprinkle with sea salt to draw out the moisture.  
Tzatziki Sauce Ingredients:
  • 1/3 cup diced cucumber
  • 1 container (5.3 oz.) Plain Greek Yogurt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp, olive oil or Lemon Olive Oil
  • 1/2 tsp. each dill weed and parsley flakes
  • a few grinds of sea salt
  • dash freshly ground pepper
Tzatziki Sauce Directions:
  • Whisk to blend smooth.
Pair both meals with Mango or Lemon Sorbet

Meet Minnesota Author Barbara Saefke

NAC 2020 AUTHOR VIRTUAL TOUR MEET MINNESOTA AUTHOR BARBARA SAEFKE Barbara E. Saefke author Mystery and Romance Barbara...