Friday, November 30, 2018

Friday Favorites

Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist. He was born on November 30, 1835, in Florida, Missouri. Samuel L. Clemens went on to author several novels, including two major classics of American literature: “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”. He was also a riverboat pilot, journalist, lecturer, entrepreneur and inventor. Twain died on April 21, 1910, in Reading, Connecticut. 
Some interesting trivia...
Mark Twain favored white linen shirts and suits and smoked 20 cigars and countless pipes every day. 
He first fell in love with his wife, Olivia, when her brother showed him a photograph while they were on ship together. Twain said: "I do believe that young filly has broken my heart. That only leaves me with one option, for her to mend it." On their first outing together, he and Olivia went to a reading by Charles Dickens. She turned down his marriage proposals three times before accepting. For the rest of their lives together, she edited his novels, essays, and lectures.

The Lost Letter by Jillian Cantor

Book quote

“There isn't just one ending, one answer, one person who can make us happy, or not. Maybe we can all begin again, become different people.”

This historical novel is a unique tale of love lost and love found that transitions between two time periods, Austria 1938 and Los Angeles 1989 and into the early 1990's. The first storyline focuses on the Austrian resistance during World War II which centers around the love story between a Jewish stamp engraver's daughter and his apprentice, and the other storyline Katie Nelson whose discovery of an usual stamp in her father's stamp collection leads her on a journey of discovery with several unexpected happenings. Everything in the narrative focuses on one central mystery, an unopened letter with a striking stamp. Cantor does a great job transitioning between two narratives. The novel is well written and kept my interest as clues are unraveled to reveal the mystery. There are a series of coincidences towards the ending of the story that seem to me a bit implausible but does not detract too much from the story.

I loved the author's note at the end of the book where she helps us the reader separate the truth from the fiction by saying, "All of the characters in this novel, including Ted, are fictional, but many ideas in the book are rooted not just in my own personal experience, with watching my grandmother's memory decline, but also in real historical events. Though all the stamps and the engravers in this book are fictional, there were real engravers who took part in the resistance.”

Book Synopsis (Goodreads)
Austria, 1938.
Kristoff is a young apprentice to a master Jewish stamp engraver. When his teacher disappears during Kristallnacht, Kristoff is forced to engrave stamps for the Germans, and simultaneously works alongside Elena, his beloved teacher's fiery daughter, and with the Austrian resistance to send underground messages and forge papers. As he falls for Elena amidst the brutal chaos of war, Kristoff must find a way to save her, and himself.

Los Angeles, 1989.
Katie Nelson is going through a divorce and while cleaning out her house and life in the aftermath, she comes across the stamp collection of her father, who recently went into a nursing home. When an appraiser, Benjamin, discovers an unusual World War II-era Austrian stamp placed on an old love letter as he goes through her dad's collection, Katie and Benjamin are sent on a journey together that will uncover a story of passion and tragedy spanning decades and continents, behind the just fallen Berlin Wall.

EverReady Book Reviews 4 out of 5 stars

A Fall of Marigolds
by Susan Meissner

Book Quotes

“The person who completes your life is not so much the person who shares all the years of your existence, but rather the person who made your life worth living, no matter how long or short a time you were given to spend with them.”
"The marigold insisted I not give up. They are very resilient flowers, you know.... They aren't fragrant like roses and sweet peas, but they can stand against odds that the more fragile flowers cannot.... They can bloom in the fall, even after a frost. Even after all other flowers have given up."

This novel has an intriguing premise of how a scarf can be a connection between two women 100 years apart as each experiences events unique to their respective time in history. It is an emotional and well written book that deals with heavy themes from two of the worst NYC disasters, Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire and 911. You get two stories of tragic events within one book set many years ago and in the present as each experiences events unique to their respective time in history. Their stories are skillfully woven together by a beautiful decorated scarf of marigolds. I do need to mention some parts of the story had coincidences that seemed implausible but the story kept my interest start to finish. I also enjoyed learning bits of historical information on what is was like to live on Ellis Island in the early 1900's and the immigration process.

EverReady Book Reviews 4 out of 5 stars

Book Synospis (Goodreads)
September 1911. On Ellis Island in New York Harbor, nurse Clara Wood cannot face returning to Manhattan, where the man she loved fell to his death in the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. Then, while caring for a fevered immigrant whose own loss mirrors hers, she becomes intrigued by a name embroidered onto the scarf he carries …and finds herself caught in a dilemma that compels her to confront the truth about the assumptions she’s made. Will what she learns devastate her or free her?

September 2011. On Manhattan’s Upper West Side, widow Taryn Michaels has convinced herself that she is living fully, working in a charming specialty fabric store and raising her daughter alone. Then a long-lost photograph appears in a national magazine, and she is forced to relive the terrible day her husband died in the collapse of the World Trade Towers …the same day a stranger reached out and saved her. Will a chance reconnection and a century-old scarf open Taryn’s eyes to the larger forces at work in her life?

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Cranberry Pear Crumbles

A burst of literary birthdays 
"She is too fond of books, and it has addled her brain."
-Louisa May Alcott
Louisa May Alcott was often inspired by familiar elements when writing her novels. The characters in "Little Women" are recognizably drawn from family members and friends. It was originally published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869. The novel follows the lives of four sisters—Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March—detailing their passage from childhood to womanhood, and is loosely based on the author and her three sisters. It falls into the genre of coming of age. Louisa shares the same birthday as her father, Bronson Alcott.
C.S. Lewis was a British novelist, scholar, writer of pro-Christian texts and poet but best known for the Chronicles of Narnia series, seven volumes of stories about young children who find entry to another world through an old wardrobe.

Cranberry Pear Crumbles
Cook's Notes: Fresh cranberries work the best for this recipe. If using frozen, rinse and dry them before using. Recipe adapted from serves 4 (8 oz. capacity ramekins) or serves 6 made in an 8 x8 pan.

Topping Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup flour 
  • 1/3 cup old fashioned rolled oats or quick rolled oats 
  • ¼ cup brown sugar 
  • 2 tsp. Saigon cinnamon 
  • Pinch of salt 
  • ¼ cup butter, cold cut into ½ inch cubes 
Filling Ingredients:
  • 3 pears, firm baking kind e.g. Bosc or Anjou (about 3 cups) 
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries 
  • 1/3 cup sugar 
  • 2 TB. cornstarch 
  • 2 tsp. Saigon cinnamon 
  • ½ tsp. fresh lemon juice 
Topping Directions:
  • Pulse topping ingredients in a food processor 5 times or until butter is pea sized or use a pastry blender. 
  • Refrigerate topping while making the filling. 
Filling Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 
  • Combine pears, cranberries, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice and cinnamon in a large bowl. 
  • Divide filling evenly among 4 ramekins or place in an 8 x 8 baking dish. 
  • Sprinkle topping mixture over each or over baking dish. 
  • Bake 25 minutes or until topping has browned and the filing is bubbly. 
  • Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Act II Part II: Creamy Parmesan One Pot Turkey and Rice

Creamy Parmesan One Pot Turkey and Rice

Cook's Notes: An easy weekday meal that uses one pot to cook rice and turkey in a buttery broth then mixed with cream and Parmesan cheese for a delicious dinner. Chicken can be substituted for turkey and long grain white rice for wild rice blend. The recipe serves four and was adapted from
  • 3 cups cooked turkey, diced
  • 2 Tb. butter
  • 1 cup sweet onions, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. each Italian seasoning and parsley flakes
  • 3 cups chicken broth, low sodium
  • 1/4 cup apple cider
  • 1 cup mushrooms, diced
  • 1-1/2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 cup dry wild rice blend (I used Lundberg brand) or long grain white rice

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2-3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • Heat butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and mushrooms and cook for 2-3 minutes, until beginning to soften. Add in garlic and saute 2 minutes. 
  • Add cooked turkey, seasonings, broth, cider,rice and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer until rice is cooked 20-30 minutes. Add water if more liquid is needed. Add in broccoli, cream and Parmesan cheese. Mix well and cook uncovered 3-5 minutes until broccoli slightly wilted. 
  • Serve immediately.

St. Kateri Teckakwitha 
She is the first Native American to be declared a Saint. 
St. Kateri was canonized on 10/21/2012 by Pope Benedict Her feast day is July 14. She is the patroness of the environment and ecology as is St. Francis of Assisi.
Kateri was born near the town of Auriesville, New York, in the year 1656. Tekakwitha is the name she was given by her Mohawk people. It translates to "She who bumps into things."
Kateri was the daughter of a Mohawk warrior. She was four years old when her mother died of smallpox. The disease also attacked Kateri and transfigured her face. She was adopted by her two aunts and an uncle. She refused to marry and converted to Christianity as a teenager. She was baptized at the age of twenty and incurred the great hostility of her tribe for becoming Christian. Although she had to suffer greatly for her Faith, she remained firm in it.

Kateri went to the new Christian colony of Indians in Canada. Here she lived a life dedicated to prayer, penitential practices, and care for the sick and aged. Every morning, even in bitterest winter, she stood before the chapel door until it opened at four and remained there until after the last Mass. She was devoted to the Eucharist and to Jesus.

She died on April 17, 1680 at the age of twenty-four. Immediately after her death it was reported people noticed a physical change. Her face that had been so marked and swarthy, suddenly changed and became beautiful and so white Later Kateri became known as the "Lily of the Mohawks". Devotion to Kateri is responsible for establishment of Native American ministries in Catholic Churches all over the United States and Canada. Kateri was declared venerable by the Catholic in 1943 and she was Beatified in 1980. Hundreds of thousands have visited shrines to Kateri erected at both St, Francis Xavier and Caughnawaga and at her birth place at Auriesville, New York. Pilgrimages at these sites continue today.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Act II Part One:Reincarnate the Turkey

Reincarnate the Turkey  
Lots of left over turkey? Try an Ever Ready Special Turkey Noodle Soup
Cook's Notes: This recipe is adapted from a previously posted recipe French Chicken Noodle Soup (soup au pouletet aux novilles)
Add a twist to this classic soup by using cooked turkey with some unusual ingredients:  chopped apples, mustard, brandy and apple cider to make a grown-up version of chicken noodle soup. These ingredients balance the flavor  to make a delicious comforting bowl of  soup. Recipe serves 4-6. 

Turkey Noodle Soup
  • 2 TB. olive oil
  • 1-1/2 cups each finely chopped celery, carrots and onions
  • 2 TB. minced fresh garlic
  • ¼ cup brandy
  • 1 TB. Dijon mustard
  • 1-1/2 cups apple cider
  • 9 cups of low sodium chicken broth 
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. herbes de provence or 1 TB. each thyme, rosemary and marjoram fresh herbs
  • 1-1/2 tsp. parsley flakes
  • 3 cups cooked diced turkey 
  • 1-1/2 cups cooked wild rice
  • ½ cup finely diced Granny Smith apple
  • 2-1/2 cups dry curly egg noodles 
  • optional 1-2 TB fresh tarragon
  • In a large soup pot add olive oil. Add carrots, celery, and onions, saute 2 minutes. Cover pot and sweat vegetables over medium low heat 8 minutes. Add in garlic and cook 2 minutes more. 
  • Add brandy and mustard to deglaze the pot scraping up any brown bits. Cook until brandy is nearly evaporated. Add in cider, broth, water, bay leaf, cooked turkey, diced apple and spices. Bring to a slow boil, uncovered. Simmer on low for 30 minutes. Stir in egg noodles and cook noodles al dente about 8-9 minutes. 
  • Remove bay leaf. 

Act II Part Two: Creamy Parmesan One Pot Turkey with Rice and Broccoli

Monday, November 26, 2018

It's A Wrap for Cruising Down the Rhine and Mosel

There is much to say about a 15 day trip which started on River Melody in Basel, Switzerland and ended up on  
River Rhapsody in Antwerp, Belgium. 

This tour group certainly knows how to deliver the complete package with knowledgeable staff, providing us with local guides and maps for town exploration and bits of historical information and suggestions on what to do when on our own. They went beyond beyond giving us a two day stop at a 5 star hotel in Luxembourg and optional tours for free and bus service to a new location to pick up another boat. 
On the boat small touches did not go unnoticed. One night as we were sleeping they became Santa elves and magically transformed the entire ship to a Christmas wonderland 
and hung stockings on every door. 
The masterpieces that came from a small kitchen (galley) for three complete meals a day was no less than astounding to produce meals for 124 people with only 2 ovens. Each food item was carefully detailed in the arrangement. I found the desserts photographed better than main entrees though they were just as tasty. Each meal had several courses and were themed according to what country we were in using local ingredients. 
   mini salmon bite with creme frache on a spoon 

 salad plated with radish, prosciutto and a puff pastry stick  

Main entree Sauerbraten with cabbage and potatoes


My all time favorite is this ice cream encased in meringue. Inside the center was a bumblebee created out of meringue.  A total work of art !! Imagine making 124 of these and the pastry chef is only 21. 

Why is a toilet sometimes referred to as a Water Closet(WC) in Europe? There are so many guesses, including:
Long ago, the first plumbed bathrooms were no bigger than a closet.
It references the small rooms connected to natural water sheds (rivers) that washed away waste.
Most homes had only one small room with running water.
Hundreds of years ago, it was considered vulgar to refer to it as a toilet.
The first indoor toilets were placed in closets. Which is closest to the truth? I honestly don't know. Do you?

But a few words on public bathrooms (WC). To me their presences seemed quite elusive in the countries we traveled. Lucky for us our tour directors knew where to direct us. Each small town or city may have few but best not to count on finding one easily. Better choice seek out a bar, cafe or restaurant and ask to use theirs. In one town the McDonalds (and yes some larger towns really do have a McDonalds) actually closed their WC due to the hordes of tourists coming in groups and forming long lines. Upon entering WC you will find some free to use, others require half a euro, or need to buy a ticket and then go through a turnstyle. Some were carefully guarded by a woman who takes money and will not accept any sob story I don't have enough  money. My husband's best story is when we stopped at a large truck stop and he purchased a ticket for use of the WC and with that ticket receipt could apply a half a Euro toward a Starbuck coffee purchase. What a deal!  

For those who know me you can say I am NOT a person of few words thus so many postings were lengthy. But the joy of discovering new cultures brings renewed appreciation for all we have and with much gratitude thanks for following along on our amazing European adventures   
from the stunning architecture of of Antwerp plaza to  
the scenic town of Baden-Baden, Germany 
to the medieval gingerbread village of Riquewihr   
to the sweeping vista over the Mosel River-all was breathtaking. 

But really 

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Weekend Round-Up

Lucky me I was able to catch this runaway turkey 
and host a family Thanksgiving dinner two days after we returned.  We enjoyed the turkey and all the yummy sides. Even though the meal was not the fancy cruise boat presentation sharing a meal with family made this one all the more special. But no need to wait for a Thanksgiving holiday to serve these  recipes as they're good all year long. 
pictured clockwise 
Cornbread Stuffing, Butternut Squash Risotto, Turkey with cranberry blueberry  sauce, Wild rice salad and Mashed potatoes
Chocolate Pecan Pie 
recipe previously published on sockfairies
Sausage, Cranberry. Apple,  Cornbread Stuffing
2 cups cooked wild rice was added to the dish and serves 6-8

Last week I posted recipe Cabernet Cranberry Blueberry Sauce 
and knew it would be top of my list to try. And I was not disappointed. It's a rich sauce with wine and spices giving it  depth of flavor with the sweetness and tartness of the berries making a wonderful sauce. It's the perfect accompaniment for turkey, chicken and pork roast. Easy to put together as all ingredients go in one pot. A combination of blackberries, strawberries and raspberries would be something to try too. 
I adapted the recipe a bit by reducing the amount of spices so they would not over power the flavor. As for wine use a Cabernet, a full bodied wine, but an inexpensive brand works and know that the alcohol is reduced during the cooking process.  

  • One 8-ounce bag fresh cranberries
  • 6-ounces frozen blueberries (about 1 1/2 cups), unthawed
  • 1 cup Cabernet Sauvignon (or Shiraz, Merlot)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. Saigon cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. to 1/4 tsp. ground cloves, taste test

  • Combine all ingredients in a medium to large kettle, and bring to a rolling boil, stirring intermittently. Make sure kettle has room for sauce to at least triple in volume. The juices from the berries release and as the mixture boils rapidly, it will foam and a too-small pot will easily overflow.
  • Reduce heat to low and allow sauce to simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes, or until reduced and thickened slightly, and most of the cranberries have burst. Sauce will thicken more as it cools.
  • Transfer to heat-safe jars or containers with lids. Allow sauce to cool at room temperature before refrigerating. Sauce will keep airtight in the refrigerator for at least 2 weeks.
Wild Rice Salad
recipe serves 4-6
  • 5-6 cups cooked wild rice
  • 1-1/2 cups dried cranberries or dried cherries
  • Toasted pecans
  • Optional add ins-celery, crisp apple chunks 
  • Dressing Wishbone Raspberry Hazelnut Vinaigrette
  • Add cranberries to 1 cup of boiling water. Let berries set 3 minutes and drain water off. 
  • In a serving bowl add wild rice, plumped up berries and toasted pecans.
  • Add only enough dressing to moisten salad. 
  • Serve at room temperature.  
Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto
P.S. Looks like a lot but I did have help in the way of food contributions :)

Cruise Boat Wrap Up-All you need to know about traveling the Mosel and Rhine with some added food presentations and WC breaks.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Telluride Top of the World

Old West Spars with New West

Old West values with frontier roots meet the New West during the turbulent 70's in SW Four Corners with Tom Tatum's newest book Telluride Top of the World. It's a western adult adventure story, the second novel of a planned trilogy set in a decade fraught with greed, casual sex and drugs as ranchers strove to protect their land and retain their senior water rights as ski developers moved into the Rocky Mountain towns. Due to strong language and sexual content this powerful book is for mature audiences only.

The novel's cover is cropped from Kathryn Tatum's oil painting “Roof Top of the World.” Her painting conveys the real life emotions of being on a snow-covered mountain top and skiing down into the town of Telluride.

Stuart Cooper, the protagonist, is an idealistic adventurer and Peace Corps volunteer readers meet in Tatum's first book Fiji 1970. Telluride Top of The World is Cooper's coming home story in the 70's after the Vietnam War to a changing USA. Upon Cooper's return to his family ranch, YbarC, that he inherited from his father and grandfather, he finds the ranch on the brink of bankruptcy. Cooper fights to defend the ranch's vast land and senior water rights from the Ajax Ski Company and other land developers. He takes on land grabbing, money driven, river damming developers with an old fashioned gun fight. Cooper strives to bring his ranch to its former glory despite being sabotaged by corruption, betrayal and murder as he prepares for an all out war. He is joined by a cast of characters which include miners, drug dealers, ski bums, a prostitute, loyal family members, Indian mystics, Ute and Navajo tribal members, bankers and law enforcement.

Tatum brings credibility to his writing as he crafts Cooper's story by using his personal experiences as a Telluride resident for some 40 years, travels through the Four Corners region for extreme sports, a ranch owner, an attorney with vast knowledge of western water rights, energy development, Utes and Navajo culture and producer and director of action/adventure sports TV programs/documentaries.

Tatum's writing displays strong feelings about the importance of conservation and stewardship evidenced through the choices Cooper makes to protect his land and water rights. Tatum hopes readers will see that the protagonist Cooper will always continue a fight on moral high ground for Native American rights, the protection of nature or natural rights, and world cultural rights. Tatum has posted updated blogs on the issues of western US treatment of Native Americans and western water rights introduced in the novel on his website.

Tatum's descriptive landscape passages embrace the beauty of the land that surrounds the SW community of the Four Corners. It is his hope that with careful conservation of natural resources and land as well as dedication to building strong partnerships with Native American groups, agricultural and businesses in the Four Corner region, these resources will be available for generations to come.

Telluride Top of the World presents complex character relationships and thought provoking issues with fast paced action. Readers will be swept up by the story with many twists, turns and surprises.
Check Tatum's website for future book events, additional information about the author, and blogs on current issues in the Southwest.
This book review can found in Telluride Planet news publication.

Cinnamon Apple Muffins

GET TO KNOW YOUR APPLES Pink Lady , great balance of sweet and tart. Granny Smith , maybe the most popular baking apple. A little more tart ...