Another Turn of the Page: February Already

“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”
John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America

Here in Green Bay, WI we are experiencing a really severe cold snap. It has been in the single digits for days with minus degree wind chills. The other day the high was -1. Everyone still manages to bundle up, get to the store or trudge to the mailbox even though you have to put on six layers to do these tasks. Face masks, which seem to be a political statement for some, are not only a must in preventing the spread of disease, they keep your face warm. I’m really liking mine in this weather, except for the fogging glasses. COVID-19 cases are going down in our state and we are one of the top states in getting the vaccine into arms. I am scheduled for my second shot next week. I dream about warm weather, going to the movies and travel. I plan on signing up for a summer art class and I’ve started making tentative travel plans for the fall. I am more optimistic than I have been in awhile. Even though it is still winter and still cold, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Authors are still writing and we, in the book group, are still reading. Enjoy our offerings this month and stay strong.

  1. News of the World by Paulette Jiles (2016) 209p. In the aftermath of the Civil War, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings from newspapers. His life is changed when he agrees to return a young white girl, who has been a captive of the Kiowa, to her family down in San Antonio. Currently a major motion picture starring Tom Hanks in the lead role. (Bea)
  2. The Woman who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies and the Unlikely heroine who Outwitted America’s Enemies by Jason Fagone (2017) 444p. The incredible true story of the greatest code-breaking duo that ever lived, an American woman and her husband who invented the modern science of cryptology together and used it to unmask Nazi spies and help win World War II. (Barb)
  3. A Most English Princess: A Novel of Queen Victoria’s Daughter by Clare McHugh (2020) 512p. From a recent review, “With court intrigue as vicious as the palace life is lush, this historical fairy tale of Queen Victoria’s daughter Vicky-who rises to German empress- is a rich indulgence.”  Our reviewer said that after watching the PBS series on Victoria, she pictured those characters/actors as she read. But the book was not as kind to Queen Victoria as the series was. (Nancy)
  4. This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger (2019) 450p. In the summer of 1932, four children, three horribly mistreated at the Lincoln School for Indians in Minnesota, make a life changing decision to run away. Although only one boy is a Native American, all are orphans. They steal a canoe and head for the Mississippi River. This journey will change their lives in big and small ways. (Jeanne)
  5. A Bite-sized History of France: Gastronomic Tales of Revolution, War and Enlightenment by Stephane Henaut & Jeni Mitchell (2018) 256p. Covering 2500 years of French history from the pre-Roman Gauls to the present day, this book covers the influence historical events had on the eating habits and cuisine of the time, and how they, in turn, influenced history. Our reviewer found the chapters on cheese and wine particularly interesting as well as the ones covering WWll. (Anita)
  6. Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls (2019) 416p. A sweet, nostalgic coming of age story of first love, a heady affair composed of teenage angst, insecurities, fear, jealousies, fraught emotions and all the mass of confusion that besets the teenage soul at the tender age of sixteen. (Linda)
  7. The Outsider: My Life in Intrigue by Frederick Forsyth (2015) 352p. For more than forty years, Frederick Forsyth has been writing extraordinary real-world novels of intrigue. Whether writing about the murky world of arms dealers, the shadowy Nazi underground movement, or the intricacies of worldwide drug cartels, every plot has been chillingly plausible because every detail has been minutely researched. But what most people don’t know is that some of his greatest stories of intrigue have been in his own life. (Paul)
  8. The Sentinel (Jack Reacher #25) by Lee Child and Andrew Child (2020) 353p. Typical Reacher, on his own, hitching a ride to a town he has never been to before. Ends up saving a geeky guy who is about to be kidnapped in broad daylight. But of course there’s more to the story. The bad guys who jumped Rutherford are part of something serious and deadly, involving a conspiracy, a cover-up, and murder. Jack sticks around to see it through. Note: Andrew Child is Lee’s brother. (me)
  9. I Marched with Patton: A Firsthand Account of World War II Alongside One of the US Army’s Greatest Generals by Frank Sisson (2020) 304p. A gripping firsthand account of World War II written by 95 year old Frank Sisson who served in the American Third Army under Patton and participated in many of the most consequential events of the conflict—including the Battle of the Bulge and the liberation of Dachau.(Dan)
  10. The Return by Nicholas Sparks (2020) 368p. The story of an injured Navy veteran and two women whose secrets will change the course of his life. Trevor returns to a cabin that he inherited from his grandfather to regroup. He is not prepared to fall for the local deputy sheriff or to get tangled up with a sullen teenager. Both women have secrets. In his quest to unravel Natalie’s and Callie’s secrets, Trevor will learn the true meaning of love and forgiveness. According to our reviewer, a very wonderful book from start to finish. (Pete)
  11. The Last Collection: A Novel of Elsa Schiaparelli & Coco Chanel by Jeanne Mackin (2019) 352p. The time is Paris leading up to WWII. A young American widow befriends designer Chanel and befriends and is employed by Schiaparelli. The two icons are at the height of their careers, each trying to dominate the fashion world. As the war closes in and with shortages of supplies things change in a big way. Nice historical fiction as well as a fun look into the world of Haute Couture. (Rikki)

    And a last minute addition:
  12. The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington by Brad Metzler (2019) 413p. In the months leading up to the Revolutionary War, some of Washington’s hand-picked body guards, along with the Governor of New York and the Mayor of NYC launch a deadly plot. This incident also foreshadows the origins of America’s counterintelligence movement that led to the modern day CIA. (Ellie)

I Miss ‘Going to the Movies’

I love movies. And I’ve been going to them most of my life. My parents must have loved movies too because my sister and I were taken “to the show” many times. Lots of westerns because my Dad loved westerns. Gunfight at the OK Corral (’57), How the West Was Won (’62), The Magnificent Seven (’60) and The Man Who shot Liberty Valance (’62), stick in my memory. We must have also been a family who like musicals because I know we saw The Sound of Music (’65), The Music Man (’62), Mary Poppins (’64) and My Fair Lady (’64). My mother would also buy the soundtrack albums and play them over and over at home. My sister remembers that she and I went to 007 movies by ourselves but that is a memory that doesn’t stick with me. The early ones were also in the 60’s so maybe we did. I would have been thirteen and she would have been ten. Seems unlikely but she insists it happened.

We also went to some gimmicky movies too. Hard to believe but we as a family, went to The Tingler (’59). It was about a parasitic creature that attached itself to your spine and grew when you were really afraid. The theater put electric buzzers under all of the seats so when the Tingler appeared in the movie your seat literally tingled or vibrated. Everyone would scream, or the Tingler would get you.

Parents back then weren’t as concerned or watchful of what their kids were viewing. I distinctly remember being taken to the local theater (The Capitol in Chicago) with my folks to see the original War of the Worlds. I was so scared that my Mom took me out of the movie, but did we go home? No. They wanted to see the rest of the film so she sat me down in the hallway outside the door to movie while they went back in to the showing. I sat on the the step for kids to reach the water fountain. I was family teased about that until finally, when I was older, I looked up when that movie was made…1953. I would have been four! Should have turned them in! Different times.

Capitol Theater, Chicago, Illinois

Before Covid hit my husband and I would go to the movies a couple of times a month. We have pretty eclectic tastes so if the reviews were good, and sometimes even if they were not, we would go. It could be a “chick flick”, a documentary, a war movie, a thriller, a mystery, a comedy. Really didn’t matter, they were all different experiences. Even the stinkers provided us with some discussion. Curt was never one for science fiction or fantasy. Oh, he went to all the Star Wars ( saw the first one while we were in graduate school together), the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Harry Potter. But when it came to all the various Marvel films or their ilk he really wasn’t interested. Of course by then we had a preteen son and so I had a new movie buddy for all the Xmen, Star Trek and various animated films that came out. But then then my buddy went off to college. So I found a friend who also enjoyed Ironman and Spiderman and Batman, but her husband didn’t. We had a good time together.

But as of today I don’t think I have been to a theater in over a year. Sure we can stream almost anything on our smart TV but it just isn’t the same. I want to be in a big dark theater with my box of movie popcorn. I want a huge screen with people and images larger than life. I want to immerse myself in the experience, like I am the only one there, like I am a part of the action. You just don’t get that feeling at home in the living room. Being interrupted by phone calls from unknown persons, or even pausing the film while someone runs to the bathroom is annoying. In a theater I don’t mind picking a quiet scene to zip out to the restroom. I have heard some theaters are slowly starting to open. There is limited seating and so far a limited selection of films. I haven’t reached the point where I will chance going yet but there will be a time when I will be back. Even if it is with a mask and a face shield and a bottle of sanitizer, I will be back!

 

Inauguration Day Cassoulet

Originating in southern France, a Cassoulet (kas-oo-lā) is a sumptuous casserole of beans baked slowly with cured and roasted meats. It is named after its traditional cooking vessel, the casserole, a deep, round, earthenware pot with slanting sides. Cassoulet does take time to make for there is overnight soaking plus a long afternoon of simmering and baking.

The Inauguration is a ceremony to mark the commencement of a new four-year term of the President of the United States. Over the years, various traditions have arisen that have expanded the inauguration from a simple oath-taking ceremony to a day-long event.

Since we were going to watch a day long event why not combine it with a day long cooking event? And don’t you think after four years of stress we just deserve some comfort food?

Cassoulet was originally a dish for the masses. When French peasants had access to meat, it was mostly less desirable parts of mutton, goose, duck and pork like legs,  knuckles and sausage made from trimmings (the good bits like breasts and loins went to the gentry – that’s where the term eating high on the hog comes from). Beans and garlic and onions were probably staples in most houses. Today the meat alone drives the price of this dish out of the bowls of poorer people. But we were also not going the full route, no duck confit or roast pork but instead a nice fat duck sausage and a Nueske’s smoked pork chop that our son gave us for Christmas.

Curt started with a recipe but as is his usual way of cooking, that was just an outline that he filled in with his own take on cassoulet. But when I researched cassoulet, I discovered, that in France, there are probably as many different versions as there are towns and villages. It’s a dish born of what’s available and stretching it to feed a family.

Nouveau Cassoulet à la Heuer

Ingredients:
1 lb of dried Great Northern beans (or other white beans)
1 medium onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 garlic head whole with outside skin removed, tips cut to expose the flesh
2 C. chicken broth
1 Tbs olive oil
Salt
1 large smoked pork chop
1 duck sausage (substitute mild Italian, smoked Polish or Andouille)
1 Tbs tomato paste
1 tsp dried thyme
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
Freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 C. bread crumbs
1/4 C. Italian parsley, minced
1/2 C. dry white wine (like Sauvignon Blanc)

White Beans, Garlic, Bay leaves, Onions, Carrots, Celery, Smoked pork, Sausage, Bread crumbs, Parsley

Soak the beans overnight or use a 1 hour fast soak (cover beans with water and bring to boil for 2 minutes, cover, turn off heat and let sit for 1 hour).  Drain, discarding the soaking water.

Put beans into a large sauce pan.  Add bay leave, garlic head, chicken broth and olive oil.  Add fresh water to cover the beans.  Bring pot to a boil then turn heat down to a simmer, partially covered for 1 hour. Add salt to taste, about 1 tsp.

Meanwhile, remove the pork from the bone and cut into 1″ pieces.  Set aside the meat and reserve the bone.

In a separate pan, sweat the onion, carrot and celery until the onion is translucent, add to the beans. Squeeze the softened garlic from its skin and add to the beans (discard the garlic skin).  Add the thyme, rosemary sprigs, tomato paste and wine to the beans.  Stir the beans to distribute the additions.  Add black pepper to taste.  Snuggle the reserved pork bone and the whole sausage into the beans.  Simmer for 1/2 hour.  The beans should be tender but not mushy.  Preheat the oven to 350˚.

Remove the bone and sausage from the beans and cut the sausage into 1/2″ slices.  Discard the bone.

Using a slotted spoon or spider, put a layer of half the bean mixture into an ovenproof casserole, a layer of the sausage and reserved pork, and a layer of the remaining beans.  Add bean cooking liquid to the casserole to just cover the top layer of beans. 
In a small bowl mix the bread crumbs and parsley.  Sprinkle the mixture over the top of the cassoulet.

Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes.  Push the crumb into the cassoulet with the back of a spoon and return to the oven.  Bake for 40 minutes, until the crumbs are crisp and browned and the cassoulet is bubbling.

Makes 4 generous servings. Serve with a hearty red wine or a good lager. Hope you had a Happy Inauguration Day, we did.

Another Turn of the Page: Missing Bookstores

I have gone to [this bookshop] for years, always finding the one book I wanted –
and then three more I hadn’t known I wanted.”

― Mary Ann Shaffer, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Yardstick Books, Algoma, WI

I miss going into bookstores. Independent Bookstores, Big Chain Bookstores, Used Bookstores. We used to go into Barnes & Noble and just browse in an afternoon. My husband and I would gather some books and magazines we wanted to look through, meet in the cafe, get a coffee and tuck into one of their little tables. I haven’t been back since Covid but I imagine all of the tables have been removed from the cafe. I am still not comfortable spending too much time in a store with other people. My grocery trips are pretty efficient in and outs. I haven’t been back to Lion’s Mouth, our local new/used bookstore in Green Bay. It is a small space and though I know people wouldn’t be packed in, sitting with a pile of browsed books probably would be discouraged. My other favorite independent bookstore is Yardstick Books in Algoma, Wisconsin. It is a delightful, warm, wonderful store. The owner, Heidi, does a really excellent job in book selection. That is pretty important when you are a small shop that can’t stock everything like B&N. Unfortunately, due to Covid and the owner’s bout with cancer, the storefront has remained closed. However, like B & N, like Amazon, like Lion’s Mouth, she will order anything for you and you can pickup or have the books delivered. Back in May I wrote a short post about pickup but never really mentioned the store but I think it is important I do now since our little shops are still struggling and can use as much good publicity as they can get. Yes, you don’t get the discount Amazon can offer but heck, I have a lot of travel money languishing since we can’t fly anywhere. So as you look through the books our group read this month, consider ordering from your local Independent Bookstore or order from mine. ( Another long post, lots of winter reading!)

  1. Simon the Fiddler by Paulette Jiles (2020) 352p. It is March 1865. Because of his youthful appearance, Simon Boudlin has managed to avoid military duty. But following a bar fight he gets conscripted into the Confederate Army. His fiddle talent puts him in the regimental band. At the war’s end, he continues to play and at a Union soldier’s party he meets indentured servant Doris. His plan is to travel and play and earn enough to buy her freedom. (Barb)

  2. White Rose by Jean Hanff Korelitz (2005) 416p. Based on the comic opera “Der Rosenkavalier” and updating it to a contemporary (New York) setting, this novel follows a middle-aged professor of history who falls in love with her best friend’s son, a florist. It is a story of how love strikes both an older woman (48), comfortable if not overjoyed in her life, and a young man (26) just starting out in his. (Marty)

  3. Live in Love: Growing Together Through Life’s Changes by Lauren Akins (2020) 336p. In this memoir, Lauren Akins, the wife of country music star Thomas Rhett, shows what it’s really like to be “the perfect couple” fans imagine. She offers a behind-the-scenes look at the challenges of being married to her best friend, who just happens to be a music star, and the struggle to find her own footing in the frenzy of her husband’s fame. (Marty)

  4. Home Front by Kristin Hannah (2012) 390p. Jolene, a mother of two and a helicopter pilot in the National Guard, is called up to serve in the Iraq war. Never questioning her commitment to serve, Jolene must leave behind her already troubled marriage and two young girls and fight for her country. (Nancy)

  5. Celestial Navigation by Anne Tyler (1974) 276p. Jeremy Pauling, the main character suffers from agoraphobia. He is afraid to leave his house, he trembles and shakes and collapses if he makes it farther than the end of the block. He has lived with his mother all of his life in a home that serves as a boarding house. Her death means changes for Jeremy, who must now confront the outside world in order to take care of himself. (Linda)

  6. My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira (2010) 364p. It is 1861 and Mary Sutter is a midwife who dreams of becoming a surgeon, an unheard of occupation for a woman during that time. Women weren’t considered mentally strong enough to be surgeons. Determined to succeed she travels into the battlefields of the Civil War to face and assist the injured and dying soldiers while learning from field surgeons. (Bea)

  7. Sweet Thunder by Ivan Doig (2013) 320p. The characters of “Sandy” Sandison and Morrie Morgan are brought back from earlier books, “Whistling Season” and “Work Song.” This one takes place in Butte, Montana in 1920. Miners at the Anaconda Copper Mine are fighting for better wages and working rights. Morrie, an editorialist for the local “Thunder” newspaper takes up the cause for the miners.(Bea)

  8. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (2020) 343p. Stella and Desiree grow up in Mallard, LA., a town comprised of light-skinned black people. Soon after their father is killed by nearby white racists, the girls run away to New Orleans. Here they reinvent themselves. Desiree marries the blackest man she can find and Stella decides to pass as white and continues to move on. Their lives converge in the next generation. (Me)

  9. Flight of Eagles by Jack Higgins (1998) 328p. The story of twin brothers, Max and Harry Kelso, sons of an American father and a German mother, both fighter pilot aces in WWII , Max for the Luftwaffe, Harry for the RAF. It’s a fascinating look at the war from both sides and how their love for each other is greater than their different sides in the war. The story is all tied together by a Teddy Bear, and I will leave it there. (Sue)
     
  10. The Inn by James Patterson & Candice Fox (2019) 384p. In this stand alone novel, Bill Robinson,a former Boston police detective, decides to become an innkeeper in the sleepy town of Gloucester. All too soon, he discovers leaving the city behind does not mean leaving behind criminals and drug dealers. (Dan)

  11. The Legend of the Christmas Tree Ship by Carl Behrend (2005) 358p.  Set in 1911, and based on a true story, this is the tale of Captain Schuenemann, skipper of the vessel that each Christmas season hauled thousands of holiday trees to Chicago from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Also a love story between the ship captain’s daughter and one of the crew.(Ellie)

  12. The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd (2020) 416p. A highly researched book based on the premise that Jesus was married. This is actually the story of Ana, his wife. The author’s research centers around everyday life during that time period of 16 – 30 CE, especially the harsh treatment of women who were neglected and silenced. (Jeanne)

  13. The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Days of Hollywood by Sam Wasson (2020) 416p. Chinatown is the Holy Grail of 1970s cinema. Its twist ending is the most notorious in American film and its closing line of dialogue the most haunting. Here for the first time is the incredible true story of its making. (Paul)

  14. Texas Outlaw (Rory Yates #2) by James Patterson and Andrew Bourelle (2020) 448p. Texas Ranger, Rory Yates, is sent to the remote West Texas town of Rio Lobo, a municipality with two stoplights. Detective Ariana Delgado is the one who requested him, and the only person who believes a local councilwoman’s seemingly accidental death is a murder. (Pete)

  15. Fortune and Glory:Tantalizing Twenty-Seven ( Stephanie Plum #27) by Janet Evanovich (2020) 320p. Another fun mystery featuring our quirky heroine, Stephanie Plum, some hilarious characters (Grandma Mazur), some sticky situations, and a dash of romance ( will it be Ranger or Morelli?). (Pete)

  16. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (2020) 288p. The main character is full of regrets about her life. After attempting suicide she wakes up in an unusual library in a space between life and death where she gets to try all the other lives she could have lived. (Anita)

Revisiting a Demonstration

Wisconsin State Motto

On March 9, 2011, I wrote about a demonstration at the Wisconsin Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin. After watching the protest and its aftermath in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, I decide to revisit what I felt and said 10 years ago. Could they be considered similar?

I started with looking at the reasons for the protests. At the U.S. Capitol, lawmakers were there to confirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. It is a purely ceremonial affair, though this time a small group from the opposing party were going to raise objections, a legal, but fruitless exercise. While they were in the Capitol, Trump was still unwilling to concede and called upon the gathering crowd of protestors, telling them, “We’re going to have to fight much harder.” Before the president took the stage, his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani called for “trial by combat” against the Democrats to win the election. And the President’s son said in his speech, “We’re coming for you.”

In Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker was intent on putting through his Act 10 Proposal, ostensively to balance the budget. The legislation primarily affected the following areas: collective bargaining, compensation, retirement, health insurance, and sick leave of public sector employees. In reality, it was a union busting tactic that would have a long reaching effect on teachers, nurses, librarians, to name a few and took money away from child care and aging and disability centers. People were outraged and the protest was done in advance of the vote in order to kill the bill. The legislature was controlled by the Republicans under a Republican Governor.

So we had two groups of angry upset people who wanted their wishes and opinions made known and occupied a capitol, but that is where the similarities end. Unlike Washington, the people in Wisconsin didn’t have to break into the building. No windows were broken, no doors were smashed, no weapons were discovered or brandished. The Assembly continued to meet, no one had to don gas masks and hide in their offices. So far in Washington, there have been at least 55 criminal arrests whereas in Wisconsin fewer than 20 people were arrested from mid-February to mid-March (the duration of the protest) and none were linked to weapons charges.

There certainly were some heated arguments during the Wisconsin protests but there was no violence to speak of. No one died. No one broke into legislator’s offices, no one smeared their feces on the floors and walls, no one purposely destroyed property. The biggest complaint in Madison was that the tape used to put up signs on the cement walls left a stain and residue. Once the protestors were aware of this they switched to painter’s tape. When that many people occupy a building for many weeks there is going to be some damage and there was a cost for clean-up and repair, about $7.8 million. Only $350,000 of that was for actual damage, the rest of the money was labor and overtime pay for law enforcement. The full damage in Washington has not yet been assessed but it could run up to a billion dollars, which we, the taxpayers will have to pay.

Also the Madison, Wisconsin protestors were just interested in keeping their wages and retirement, protect the future of their families, not overturn an election and threaten democracy. No weapons, no molotov cocktails, but very clever signage and excellent music. They were not forcibly removed until a curfew was established many weeks into the protest. Here is an image of our protest, compare it to the one in Washington.

Protestors camping in the Capitol rotunda, Madison, Wisconsin, 2011.
Protestors, Washington Capitol, 2021

Full disclosure, I was a librarian at the time and my husband taught at the University in Green Bay, both public employees, so we were personally affected by Act 10. I was not able to attend the demonstration in Madision but I fully supported it. I think it was justified. I may have supported the protestor’s right to a peaceful protest in Washington if that was all it was but those people did not come peacefully. They had weapons, they had bombs, they had ladders for god’s sake. This was premeditated attack. And they were encouraged by a delusional, sore loser. For what? Four more years of lies and division.

There are protests and there are riots. Madison was a peaceful protest, Washington was a senseless riot. Please click on the link above or here to see my original post. The two videos I posted show a stark contrast between the two events.

Ultimately, the Wisconsin legislature passed Walker’s Act 10 bill and I believe the state has negatively felt its consequences ever since.

Another Turn of the Page: December

Let you use this month to reset, refocus & regroup. Let you use this month to discover your purpose, calling, passions & take charge of your well-being, health & life… I pray that everything you choose to think, say or do, bring more & more alignment, energy, flow & liveliness in your life & world. Let all the dreams in your heart come to manifestation & let all your wonderful thoughts find expression in coming months. Stay Tough, Strong & Unbeatable! ”
― Rajesh Goyal

As we come to the last month of this crazy mixed up year I don’t want to look back on what has been but what is to come. We have a new President, we have vaccines on the horizon, and, if you look, there are hopeful stories everywhere. I watched “Who Wants to be a MiIlionaire?” last Sunday. This was the celebrity edition and David Chang, a chef we really like, was the contestant. He just kept pushing on through a variety of tough questions. Sometimes his travel experience helped him, some times it was his lifelines ( 3 other people who he called upon to help). But no matter how tough the question he continued to perservere to win the most money for his charity. He finally got to the $1,000,000 question, a feat no other celebrity had achieved and it was a doozy.

The question was, “Although he and his wife never touched a light switch for fear of being shocked, who was the first president to have electricity in the White House?” Was it Ulysses S. Grant? Benjamin Harrison? Chester A. Arthur? Andrew Johnson?

David did not have a clue but he had one lifeline left – phone a friend. He did. He read her the question and just before the time ran out, she said I think it’s Harrison. Now at this point he could have walked away with $500,000. If he went ahead and got it wrong he dropped back to $32,000 but he trusted his friend and that final prize would help a lot of people. He forged on and said “Harrison! Final Answer!” It was correct!

Ok. Just a quiz show but these are the kind of stories that make me put 2020 in the rear view mirror. That $1,000,000 will go to the Southern Smoke Foundation, a crisis-relief organization for people in the food-and-beverage industry, a business (even pre-COVID) not exactly known for its safety net. The foundation offers grants to help cover individual emergency expenses, from medical bills and car accidents to weather catastrophes.

Just one story of many, of people helping people. Stories are good, stories get us through the bad times. Here are the stories the members of my book group have been reading:

  1. One By One by Ruth Ware (2020) 372p. The corporate group, Snoop, is meeting at a French chalet for some skiing and to discuss the future of the company. A buy-out has been offered, and a difference of opinion on how this should be handled causes some tension. There are millions of dollars at stake, which might make everyone rich many times over or perhaps some would be left with nothing at all. No decision is made but later there is an avalanche and one of the skiers goes missing and two more people end up murdered. Shades of Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians. (Barb)
  2. Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware (2019) 337p. This book begins with the narrator, Rowan, writing a letter to an attorney begging him to accept her case. Rowan, a nanny, is in jail and has been charged with the death of a child in her care. This book was hard to put down as there were so many twists and turns along with high tech gadgetry, possible ghosts, a perverted male employer and children that just needed the constancy of parents in their lives. All in all, an exceptionally good read. (Barb)
  3. All the Devils are Here (Inspector Armand Gamache #16) by Louise Penny (2020) 448p. On their first night in Paris, the Gamaches gather as a family for a bistro dinner with Armand’s godfather, the billionaire Stephen Horowitz. Walking home together after the meal, they watch in horror as Stephen is knocked down and critically injured in what Gamache knows is no accident, but a deliberate attempt on the elderly man’s life. It seems Stephan collected works of art and one thread of the story finally reveals what happened with them and why. (Anita)
  4. Finding Christmas by Karen Schaler (2019) 384p. Our December meeting always has some Christmas books, this is Nancy’s. The plot of this one revolves around Emmie, a Christmas nut, who thinks she loves Grant, a Scrooge.  Obviously, it’s not going to work out, and she’ll meet Mr. Right.  Love wins!  Christmas, too!  Reading this story is just like watching one of those Christmas movies which isn’t all bad right now.  
  5. Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (2019) 355p. At the top of the bestseller list and receiving a lot of 5 star reviews on Goodreads, this “gripping novel about the whirlwind rise of an iconic 1970s rock group and their beautiful lead singer, reveals the mystery behind their infamous break up.” Written in the form of an interview. After all the praise, our reviewer found it tedious. (Linda)
  6. You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz (2014) 439p. Grace Sachs is happily married, successful therapist with a newly published book (entitled “You Should Have Known”), when she is shocked to discover terrible revelations about her husband of 20 years. The novel recounts her extreme emotion as she comes to terms with this realization and is forced to gradually sever one life and create another for her child and herself.(Marty)
  7. Admission by Jean Hanff Korelitz (2009) 452p. Portia is a Princeton admissions officer who is consumed and defined by her work. She has devoted years to selecting the nation’s best and brightest until the day when she is forced to confront a remnant of her past in a life-changing decision. (Marty)
  8. Walk the Wire (Amos Becker #6) by David Baldacci (2020) 422p. Sent to London, North Dakota, a town thriving on the fracking of oil, Decker and Jamison are ordered to investigate the death of a young woman named Irene Cramer, whose body was expertly autopsied and then dumped in the open — watch for the surprise appearance of a character from another Baldacci series. (me)
  9. Ahab’s Wife, or the Stargazer by Sena Jeter Naslund (1999) 688p. This novel spans a long period of time and several locations. It’s written from the viewpoint of Una, exiled as a child to live in a lighthouse, removed from the physical and emotional abuse of a religion-mad father. It is the romantic adventure of a young woman setting sail in a cabin boy’s disguise to encounter darkness, wonder, and catastrophe; the story of a devoted wife who witnesses her husband’s destruction by obsession and madness. (Bea)
  10. Noel Letters by Richard Paul Evans (2020) 384p. Our 2nd Christmas novel selection is from Pete who never fails to read one. A tale of love, belonging, and family, following a trail of letters that lead to a Christmas revelation about the healing miracle of hope and forgiveness. Another wonderful holiday story from Evans who always draws you in and makes you feel good at Christmas.
  11. Blue Moon (Jack Reacher #24) by Lee Child (2019) 373p. Reacher is on a Greyhound bus, minding his own business, with no particular place to go, and all the time in the world to get there. Then he steps off the bus to help an old man who is obviously just a victim waiting to happen. But you know what they say about good deeds. Now Reacher needs to make it right.(Dan)
  12. Valley of the Shadow of Death: A Tale of Tragedy and Redemption by Kermit Alexander (2015) 368p. And from our true crime fan: A heart-wrenching memoir from former all-pro, San Francisco 49ers cornerback Kermit Alexander. In this book he tells the devastating true story of the horrific massacre of his family and his subsequent years of despair, followed by a spiritual renewal that showed him a way to rebuild his family and reclaim his life. (Ellie)
  13. One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus (1998) 304p. An historical fiction about an assembly of pioneer women who, under the auspices of the U.S. government, travel to the western prairies in 1875 to intermarry among the Cheyenne Indians. The covert and controversial “Brides for Indians” program, launched by the administration of Ulysses S. Grant, was intended to help assimilate the Indians into the white man’s world. (Sue)
  14. Before She Was Helen by Carolyn B. Cooney (2020) 336p. In this mystery, set in a retirement community, Helen hasn’t heard from her neighbor Dom which is unusual since he texts her every morning to let her know he is ok. Today when she checks on him, he isn’t there, but then she finds a secret door between his garage and the other neighbor. How could being a good samaritan and checking on your neighbor turn into a disaster? (Rikki)
  15. Shamed ( Kate Burkholder #11) by Linda Castillo (2019) 500p. An Amish grandmother is murdered on an abandoned farm, her seven year old granddaughter abducted. Chief of Police Kate Burkholder plunges headlong into a case that quickly becomes a race against the clock. She knows the longer the girl is missing, the more likely a tragic outcome. Note: Even though this is part of a series, each one can be read as a stand alone.(Jeanne, the other one)

Pork and Beans

These are the Pork and Beans I grew up with but these are not the Pork and Beans we had for dinner last night. Far from it. The beans we had were Drunken Beans or Borrachos from the Heirloom Beans Cookbook by Rancho Gordo.

We have been finding a lot of good things down in our freezer as we eat our way through the pandemic. Most are things we cooked or prepared and stashed away for the winter but the pandemic is like a long cold blizzardy day in January so we might as well eat up now. So when Curt discovered the tub of Drunken Beans he also thawed out a package of boneless country style pork ribs. Because what goes better with beans than pork?

Since the beans were already cooked he only had to decide what to do with the pork. He went to one of his favorite chefs, Diana Kennedy (The Cuisines of Mexico) , and created a mash-up adapted from several of her recipes to make what he calls;

PORK IN ORANGE JUICE

Ingredients:

1 dried Ancho chili
1 dried Guajillo chili
1 med. onion, peeled and cut into chunks
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tsp. Mexican oregano
½ tsp. coriander seeds, roughly ground
1 tsp. salt
1 small tomato or 4 – 5 cherry tomatoes
¾ C. orange juice
1Tbs. apple cider or red wine vinegar
Black pepper, to taste
1-1/4# boneless country style pork ribs, trimmed of excess fat, cut into 1-1/2” – 2” chunks
1 Tbs. olive oil

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 300˚ F.

  1. Seed and stem the dried chilis and tear then into postage stamp sized pieces.  Soak in 1 C. boiling water for 20 minutes, then drain and add to a blender jar.  Reserve soaking water.

  2. Add to blender jar all the remaining ingredients and reserved chili soaking water    EXCEPT the pork and oil.  Blend to a fine puree.  Set aside.

  3.  Heat olive oil in Dutch oven or other oven proof pot.  Add pork pieces and brown on high for several minutes.  Once browned, add the chili puree to the Dutch oven.  The puree should not quite cover the meat.  Add a little water if it seems there is not enough liquid.  Continue heating  the meat and puree on the stove-top until the puree comes to a simmer.  Cover and put into the preheated oven.  Bake for 1-1/2 to 2 hrs.

    Pork after baking

    Note:

    After 1-1/2 hrs. the meat will be very tender and there should still be a fair amount of puree in the pot.  Remove the lid and continue baking until the puree is reduced to a sauce consistency and the meat has a burnished tone – about 15 minutes.  Watch carefully so the puree doesn’t reduce too much and burn.

While the meat is cooking, prepare and cook your beans or just heat them up if you found some in your freezer. Note: If you are making the beans from scratch and not using canned beans you may have to build in time to soak your beans.

Drunken Beans

And there you have it, Pork and Beans: Heuer Style.

Pork and Beans at our house

Bring them to the table in separate bowls along with a small bowl of cilantro (or chopped green onions if cilantro isn’t your thing). Serve with warm tortillas. You’ll never go back to the canned P & B again.

The Leftover Chronicles: Chicken or Turkey

Since we are approaching a holiday that primarily is devoted to roasting a large bird, you may soon have some leftover turkey or chicken, especially if you won’t be able to feed a table full of relatives. A couple of weeks ago one of the many food sites we subscribe to had an entire article on casseroles or, as they say in Wisconsin, hot dishes. I was raised on casseroles so there is fond place in my heart when I read about them, even if they all weren’t great.

When I was first out on my own, in my own apartment, feeding myself, I didn’t do a lot of cooking. Simple stuff yes, but I did buy my share of microwave or oven meals. One that I especially liked was Stouffer’s Turkey Tetrazzini. It has been years since I have had this but when I came upon Classic Chicken Tetrazzini in the casserole article I immediately printed it off. We had recently had a chicken for dinner and there was leftover meat in the fridge so I wanted to see if my love of tetrazzini was still there or if it just was good because I was a hungry single person with few cooking skills. I used to like Spaghettios too, but they taste really bad to me today. One’s palate definitely changes.

I halved the original recipe and made some minor changes and that is what I’m giving you here.

Chicken Tetrazzini a la Jeanne

Ingredients:
4 oz. vermicelli ( or thin spaghetti )
6 Tbls butter
1/4 C all-purpose flour
2 C milk
1/4 C dry white wine
1 tsp chicken bullion granules or “Better than Bullion” chicken base
1/2 Tsp seasoned pepper
1 C grated Parmesan cheese
2 C diced cooked chicken (or turkey)
5 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
1/4 C slivered almonds

Directions:
* Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare pasta according to package directions.

* Saute mushrooms in 2 Tbls butter. Set aside.

*Melt 4 Tbls butter in a large pan over low heat; whisk in flour till smooth. Cook 1 minute, whisking constantly. Gradually whisk in the milk and wine; cook over medium heat, whisking constantly about 8-10 minutes, or until mixture is thickened and bubbly. Whisk in the bullion, seasoned pepper and 1/2 C parmesan cheese.

*Remove from heat; stir in the chicken, mushrooms and hot cooked pasta. Spoon into a lightly greased, approx. 6″ x 4″ baking dish. (half of a 13 x 9).

Sprinkle with slivered almonds and remaining 1/2 C Parmesan cheese.

Bake a 350 for 35 minutes or until bubbly.

This half recipe was plenty for two for two meals. I added a side of steamed broccolli the first night and a green salad the next. And it tasted great. Sort of like I remembered the Stouffer’s dinner but a whole lot better. Of course turkey would be a perfect substitute for the chicken.

Do you have a Thanksgiving leftover recipe? I know this one will be mine.

Another Turn of the Page: The Next Chapter

“Victory is not the ending of success, But it is the turning of a new page.”

John F. Kennedy

I’m still savoring the win by Joe Biden. And I am looking forward to the next chapter in our country. A chapter filled with humility, empathy and wisdom. A chapter of unity. A chapter of truth. And a chapter of healing. I look forward to a government that works for our country and doesn’t broadcast like an inane game show every day. I look forward to intelligent decisions based on expertise and education. I want America to be for all the people not just a few.

Healing, unfortunately, is still out of our reach. So while we wait out the pandemic and hope for news of a vaccine and better planning to overcome this virus, our band of readers will only come together, here, on my blog. There are still a lot of great books being written and we are each working through our respective stack. These are the latest:

  1. Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbl Weiden (2020) 336p. after tribal police and feds fail. Since tribal police aren’t able to prosecute felonies and the federal government doesn’t always pursue the perpetrators, Virgil Wounded Horse is the person people turn to on the reservation to seek justice for crimes such as rape. Virgil seeks to discover who is responsible for the opioids and heroin being sold on the reservation after his nephew is arrested for drug possession. The book is well written and deals with issues such as Native identify and the past and present betrayal of Native Americans. (Barb)
  2. The River by Peter Heller (2019) 253p. Jack and Wynn are trekking through the Maskwa river in Northern Canada when an enjoyable journey turns into one of survival. (Linda)
  3. Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry (2001) 487p. Set in present-day Bombay. After breaking his ankle, 79 yr old Nariman Vakeel, must move in with his daughter and her family and share their small crowded home. The situation will test not only their material resources but their tolerance, compassion, integrity, and faith. (Bea)
  4. And Every Morning the Way Home gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman (2015) 76p. This novella, by the author of ‘A Man called Ove’, is a sweet and touching story of a Grandpa with dementia and his grandson. The writing is excellent. Our reviewer would recommend it to everyone, especially if you know someone struggling with dementia. (Nancy)
  5. Murder in the Marais (Aimee LeDuc Investigations #1) by Cara Black (1999) 354p. This book is the first novel in a series about an American/French investigator who takes over her father’s agency after he’s killed in a terrorist attack. Set in 1993 Paris, it centers around a Jewish neighborhood and a murdered elderly woman who is found with a swastika carved on her forehead. (Anita)
  6. Merry Christmas, Alex Cross ( Alex Cross #19) by James Patterson (2011) 323p. On Christmas Eve Alex is abruptly called away to a hostage situation. A distraught bankrupt businessman is holding his ex-wife and children, her new husband and a neighbor at gunpoint and Washington is suffering a blizzard making conditions cold and difficult. Alex and the police settle in for a long surveillance. (Dan)
  7. Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid (2019) 310p. Emira, a young black woman, takes the 3yr old she babysits, to a local upscale grocery store  and is confronted by the stores security guard who accuses her of kidnapping the child. The child happens to be white. A bystander has filmed the whole episode and things escalate from there. (Rikki)
  8. Next to Last Stand (Walt Longmire #16) by Craig Johnson (2020) 336p. One of the most viewed paintings in American history, Custer’s Last Fight, was destroyed in a fire at the 7th Cavalry headquarters in Fort Bliss, Texas, in 1946. Or was it?  When Charley Lee Stillwater dies of an apparent heart attack at the Veterans Home of Wyoming, Longmire is called in to try and make sense of a partial painting and a shoebox containing a million dollars, both found in Charley’s footlocker. (Pete)
  9. Winter: A Berlin Family, 1899-1945 by Len Deighton (1987) 571p. This novel is about two German brothers and their lives from before WWI to the end of WWII. One brother worked for the Nazi government and the other was a businessman who married a Jew. Told from the German perspective of both wars and the different life each brother had but how they loved each other anyway. (Sue)
  10. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (2016) 306p. A novel of slavery in pre-civil war America. It is a difficult read because of the atrocities visited upon the slaves. An interesting touch is the author re-imagines the Underground Railroad as a real railroad with stations and engineers. (me, the other Jeanne)
  11. Life Inside the Bubble: Why a Top-Rated Secret Service Agent Walked Away from It All by Dan Bongino (2013) 208p. A personal account of life inside the presidential “bubble,” a haze of staffers, consultants, cronies, acolytes, bureaucrats and lobbyists that creates the “alternate reality” in which monumental policy decisions are made. (Ellie)

 

What a Day! What a Great Day!

It is November 7th, I am in Wisconsin and it is 72 degrees.

We took a walk in the Arboretum where children without coats were running and playing.

People in their shorts sat by the bay.And there were others sailboarding…in November, in Wisconsin!!!But the best thing about today is Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have defeated Donald Trump and Mike Pence for the Presidency of the United States. It won’t be easy, and it won’t be smooth but I am finally hopeful after 4 years of divisiveness and hate. So get outside, dance, cheer, smile! But do it with you mask on and six feet apart. Winter is coming but today feels like spring.