Another Turn of the Page: Socks and Mittens

“One can never have enough socks,” said Dumbledore.
“Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn’t get a single pair.
People will insist on giving me books.”

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

I had to chuckle at this quote from Dumbledore in the first Harry Potter book. I dearly love socks but I also dearly love books. An ideal Christmas would be to receive both. Why am I going on about socks? Well our October book group met in the park again this month and though it was still comfortable, along with our masks, we needed jackets, and scarves, and some needed mittens, and we definitely needed socks. Unless a heat wave descends upon Wisconsin we won’t be in the park in November. Of course the way this year is going we might be experiencing hell on earth by then. But let’s remain optimistic and hope that by the time Nov 12th arrives (the date we would normally meet), we will be too busy celebrating the removal of the dangerous buffoon from our White House to think about anything else. One thing I can guarantee, we won’t stop reading. So, we had lots of books this month, even some members who could not attend in person sent me their titles so I will add names at the end of each annotation for the group’s edification.

  1. The Girls with No Names by Serena Burdick (2020) 336p. In 1910 the Women’s Suffrage movement was just getting started. Women were still beholden to the patriarchal standards of society. If a woman did not conform, rebelled or acted “inappropriately” she could be sent away to a sanitorium or to a house for wayward women like The House of Mercy in Manhattan. Its public aim was to rescue women from vice but it actuality was a Magdalene laundry where women were not redeemed from their sin, but imprisoned and exploited for free labor. (Jeanne)

  2. Cocaine Blues (#1 in the Phryne Fisher Mysteries) by Kerry Greenwood (2006) 326p. This series should be familiar to many from the Aussie TV series, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. In this, the first in the series, Phryne, a wealthy single woman living in England, is hired by a friend to go to Australia to find out if his daughter Lydia is being poisoned by her husband. Bored, and originally from Australia, she takes the case. (Rikki)

  3. Squeeze Me by Carl Hiaasen (2020) 352p. Carl Hiaasen returns us to the madness of Florida, in a deranged, irreverent and funny social and political satire featuring the imbecilic Orange one with his gerbil like attention span and his first lady, referred to here by their secret service names of Mastodon and Mockingbird. Gee, I wonder who he is referring to? (Pete)

  4. Fool’s Run: A Kidd Novel by John Sandford (1989) 254p. This series was written by Sandford under his real name John Camp. It features a guy named Kidd who is a painter, a tarot reader, and genius hacker of computers long before the days when everyone has a cell phone. It is a good story but very dated because it was published in 1989 when the technology was all about dial up connections and other things we never see nowadays. (Dan)

  5. Vinegar Hill by Ansay Manette (2006) 240p. After her husband loses his job, Ellen Grier and her family move back to their hometown of Holly’s Field, Wisconsin and move in with her in-laws. This is a harsh, loveless, and cold home filled with secrets. Ellen is troubled and depressed and angry and apathetic. She is finally able to come to a decision for her own family and her life. Interesting but very morose and bleak.(Sue)

  6. Countdown 1945: The Extraordinary Story of the Atomic Bomb and the 116 Days that Changed the World by Chris Wallace (2020) 320p. This is by Chris Wallace, the veteran journalist and anchor of Fox News Sunday. A behind-the-scenes account of the secret meetings and events across the globe during the days leading up to the world’s first use of the atomic bomb in wartime. (Ellie)

  7. The Guest List by Lucy Foley (2020) 320p. This is a classic who-dunnit mystery, and it all takes place during a wedding on an island in Ireland. The writing, the characters, and the suspense will keep you guessing. (Linda)

  8. Grace of Silence: A Memoir by Michele Norris (2010) 208p. Michele Norris – journalist and former host of NPR’s All Things Considered, has written a heartfelt memoir about her family and her work covering race relations in America. (Bea)

  9. Vesper Flights by Helen MacDonald (2020) 288p. From the author of “H is for Hawk”, a collection of essays, some more substantial than others, on the complexities of the natural world, the environment, climate change, and people. (me)

  10. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mandel (2009) 560p. First in the author’s Thomas Cromwell Trilogy. The novel principally follows the life of Thomas Cromwell, from his youth living with his sisters and abusive blacksmith father, to his eventually becoming, arguably, the most powerful man in England. It is a dense read that requires focus. Reviews run hot and cold. (Anita)

  11. I Still Dream About You by Fannie Flagg (2010) 315p. The main character, Maggie, is planning her suicide when a big twist delays her plan. A novel that is equal parts Southern charm, murder mystery, and old-fashioned wisdom. (Nancy)

  12. The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwache Emezi (2020) 248p. The novel begins with a Nigerian woman, who finds the body of her dead son, Vivek, on her porch. It seems he has been beaten. We gradually learn about Vivek’s birth, childhood and his disconnection with most of his peers as well as his suffering from blackouts and seizures. The book is part mystery as Vivek’s secrets and subsequent death are revealed. The novel explores the issues of transgenderism and homosexuality in a time and culture when these things were forbidden. (Barb)

  13. The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family and Defiance during the Blitz by Erik Larsen (2020) 585p. Erik Larson shows how Churchill taught the British people “the art of being fearless.” It is a story of political brinkmanship, but it’s also an intimate domestic drama, set against the backdrop of Churchill’s prime-ministerial country home. (Paul)

I made Bread!

So what? Big deal! Well, yes, big deal to me because I never make bread. I don’t think I’ve ever made bread. Curt is the bread maker par excellence in this household and I am perfectly willing to let him continue. But the pandemic has pushed me to try new things while I hang out in my home everyday. So we were watching The Great British Baking Show last Friday and it was bread week. The technical challenge was Soda Bread and after watching these people put together some pretty delicious looking breads in a very short time I thought, I can do that.

Basic soda bread is pretty simple but nevertheless, I started searching for recipes. I started with the New York Times because they have an extensive archive. Sure enough, I found a few and some were from one of our favorite cooks, Melissa Clark. I decided on Traditional Irish Soda Bread. No bells, no whistles, just a basic bread. I did find some suggestions for adding caraway or currants or both and I did consider these additions but once I started the recipe I had it all mixed before I realized I should have added them before I reached this stage. So, here is:

Traditional Irish Soda Bread
(recipe from Darina Allen)
(adapted by Melissa Clark)

1 loaf ( 8 – 12 servings )

Four Ingredients:
450 grams all-purpose flour ( about 3 1/2 cups)
3 grams fine sea salt (1/2 tsp)
4 grams baking soda (3/4 tsp)
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

  1. Heat oven to 450 degrees. (I used convection so my temp was 25 degrees less). In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt and baking soda. At this point put in any herbs or currants or other fruit or whatever. Make a well in the center and pour in the milk. Using your hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl. The dough should be soft but not wet and sticky.
    I should add here that this is REALLY sticky. I started with a spoon first just to get things sort of combined and then I went in with my hands. You’ll have to keep scraping off your fingers as you do this.
  2. At this point the dough seemed pretty crumbly and dry but I continued on. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface. Wash and dry your hands. Knead the dough lightly for a few seconds. I kneaded it more than a few seconds but soon realized that the smooth dough that I am used to seeing when my husband makes bread wasn’t going to happen here, so I stopped. Pat the dough into a round about 1 1/2″ thick.
  3. Place it on a buttered baking sheet and using a sharp knife, cut a deep cross in the center of the dough reaching all the way to the sides.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 400 degrees (375 convection) and continue to bake until the top is golden brown and the bottom of the bread sounds hollow when tapped, about 30 minutes longer.

    Wow! It worked.

    I was so excited when it came out of the oven. It looked like a wonderful rustic boule of bread. But of course the proof was in the taste. I made this close to dinner since Melissa mentioned it was at its best warm and slathered with butter. Curt had made skillet cabbage and corned beef hash and the bread was a great addition. It is a dense bread with a nice crust and very good. And now I can take bread baking off my bucket list.Tomorrow I am looking forward to French Toast.

Sign Wars

Tis the season of political signage. Up here in Northeast Wisconsin ( a mostly Republican area), and way before the conventions, we were seeing nothing but 4′ x 8′ professionally printed Trump signs everywhere. And a fair share of little lawn signs as well. There were a few Biden signs but the local Democratic Party office was having a hard time getting them. I got one of the first but it was before he named Kamala Harris as his running mate. I also put out a sign for the woman running for the House seat from our district.Trump signs kept going up while Biden supporters got put on a waiting list for signs. 400 signs finally arrived to fill a waiting list of 800!! Signs went out and another order was immediately placed. Then the nastiness started. In some neighborhoods, as fast as Biden signs hit the lawn, they were stolen. This is theft and trespassing in Wisconsin and can carry a heavy fine. Of course once the Biden signs started disappearing there were cases of Trump signs being stolen or defaced. Yep, the old tit for tat. And according to the police this is not unusual but this year there has been a big increase in sign theft over any previous election year.

I am happy to say Biden/Harris signs have a started to arrive regularly. But the Democrats up here have gotten creative. What is better than hand-painted signs? I was part of a Saturday morning where we painted and stenciled 4′ x 8′ signs and a lot of 4′ x 4′ signs. we were doing 20 that day and all were spoken for. We still are experiencing theft of Biden signs but people keep putting them out. Big signs, little signs, banners, signs wired to posts, signs nailed to fence posts.Trump’s got flags, we got flags!Last week a whole pile of paper Biden lawn signs were found in a ditch. Well here are the latest pile of signs the Dems are putting out. They are big, they are heavy and they will be fastened tight to walls, trees and fences.. Also if you are seen carrying one of these away from someone’s yard, you are going to stick out. Be careful, they might be booby trapped! But by far the best sign I have seen was way up near the tip of Door County (not from around here? Look it up). This was up near a little town called Gills Rock, close to where you get the ferry to go over to Washington Island. Hand drawn with, now faded, marker. One side said JOE, one side BIDEN. You want to steal it, this guy will just get another piece of paper and put it out again. Hey, everyone, Plan to Vote!!! Your life and mine depends on it.  PS: Put out a sign.

Another Turn of the Page: Reading a Life

“Reading is the key that opens doors to many good things in life. Reading shaped my dreams, and more reading helped me make my dreams come true.”
– Ruth Bader Ginsburg

I start this month’s book talk with a heavy heart. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Friday, September 18, 2020. Throughout her life she fought for gender rights not just women’s rights. Her own experiences of sex discrimination led her on this path.

“Upon graduating from Columbia in 1959, Ginsburg tied for first in her class. Still, when she was recommended for a clerkship with Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter by Albert Sachs, a professor at Harvard Law School, Frankfurter responded that he wasn’t ready to hire a woman and asked Sachs to recommend a man.” -ACLU,100 Years

Ultimately many of the cases she championed benefited both men and women. Our nation is in political and constitutional jeopardy with her passing.

But since this is a book group I decided to finish this introduction with some suggestions of books by and about RBG. I have not read these but I do have Sisters in Law on the pile next to my bed. Maybe it is time to move it to the top?

  1. Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon, Shana Knizhnik (2015)
  2. I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy (2016)
  3. My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg (2016)
  4. Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World by Linda Hirshman (2015)
  5. Conversations with RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life, Love, Liberty and Law by Jeffrey Rosen (2019)

And now on to what the Book Group in the Park read this month.1. Vanishing Act by Thomas Perry, Jane Whitefield series #1 (1995) 289p. Jane Whitefield is a Native American Guide who helps people disappear when they are threatened by the very powerful or unscrupulous. Thanks to her membership in the Wolf Clan of the Seneca tribe, she can fool any pursuer, cover any trail, and then provide her clients with new identities, complete with authentic paperwork. In this, the first in the series, an ex-cop suspected of embezzling asks for her help.

2. 1st Case by James Patterson (2020) 352p. Angela Hoot is an intern with the Boston FBI in cyber forensics. This is her first case where she has to outsmart a hacker who targets young girls and their families with his mobile app.

3. The Boy from the Woods by Harlan Coben (2020) 371p. Decades ago, Wilde was found as a boy living feral in the woods, with no memory of his past. The police never found his family and he was turned over to the foster system. Once he  became an adult he went back to live in the woods but now a lawyer, Hester Crimstein, who knows Wilde, has asked him to use his special skills to find a missing girl.

4. Trail of Broken Wings by Sejai Badani (2015) 370p. As their father lies in a coma, three Indian American sisters reunite with their mother at the bedside of the ailing patriarch. We learn the back story of this broken family, and the women they have become as a result.

5. The Ragged Edge of Night by Olivia Hawker (2018) 352p. A historical novel about the struggles of a friar in Nazi Germany, who is stripped of his office. He has to balance the needs of his family with the demands of his conscience to resist the regime amidst the ever-present fear of being seized by the secret police for his subversive activities. It’s based on the life story of the author’s grandfather-in-law.

6. The Book of Polly by Kathy Hepinstall (2017) 322p. Polly Havens is bold, irreverent and overbearing, almost a caricature of the seemingly mean lady next door who really has a good heart. She is widowed in her late 50’s and discovers shortly after her husband dies that she is pregnant. The story is narrated by her daughter Willow, who is 10 years old when the story begins.

7. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson (2014) 354p. Bryan Stevenson, who founded the  Equal Justice Initiative, describes some of the situations he’s been in and cases he’s represented. His legal practice focuses on defending the wrongly condemned, unusually condemned, or otherwise victims of the state. A must read for anyone interested in the U.S. justice system and why some people don’t receive equal treatment under the law.

8. The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa (2016) 384p. This is a fictionalized account of the events that took place before, on board and after the German ship St. Louis set sail in May,1939. It departed from Hamburg, Germany and was bound on a voyage to Havana, Cuba. The boat carried over 900 German Jewish refugees, who were hoping to escape the oppressive Nazi regime. However, in a tragic turn of events, once they reached the waters of Havana, the ship was refused entry.

9. The Gemini Contenders by Robert Ludlum (1976) 418p. Salonika, Greece: December 1939. In the dead of night, a clandestine order of monks embarks on a desperate mission: to transport a mysterious vault to a hiding place high in the Italian Alps. The sinister cache, concealed for centuries, could rip apart the Christian world. If you liked the Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown then this early Ludlum is for you. Some references and language may be dated since this was written in 1976.

10. Make Me by Lee Child, Jack Reacher #20 (2015) 417p. It starts with Reacher getting off a train in the small town of Mother’s Rest. He’s curious about the name and thinks he might spend a day or so there, checking out any local museum, getting the story from the locals, etc. He doesn’t have to be anywhere so why not? However this simple decision puts him into one of the darkest mysteries in this entire series, one that doesn’t become entirely clear until 30 or so pages from the end.

11. All the Wind in the World by Samantha Mabry (2015) 273p. This is a love story set in rural west Texas, full of magical realism, bees, pain, sadness, and a romantic arc. Hard to describe because there is no character development, very little backstory, and a setting that does nothing to tell you much about the society these people live in.

12. The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith (2019) 386p. In this first book in a  new fantasy series, books that aren’t finished by their authors reside in the Library of the Unwritten in Hell, and it is up to the Librarian to track down any restless characters who emerge from those unfinished stories. Clare, the current Head Librarian, discovers she has a missing character, Hero, whom she must track down before he makes contact with his author in the Earthly plane.

13. The Book of Killowen by Erin Hart (2013) 352p. After a year away from working in the field, archaeologist Cormac Maguire and pathologist Nora Gavin are back in the bogs, investigating a ninth-century body found buried in the trunk of a car. They discover that the ancient corpse is not alone–pinned beneath it is the body of a man wearing a very modern watch. Fourth in the series.

Yet Another Tomato Recipe

For awhile last month I thought we were going to be buried in tomatoes. The thrill of the first ripe tomato from the garden was gone replaced with the sadness that I was going to have to toss much of this bounty. The two of us couldn’t eat them fast enough. But goodie bags of tomatoes to friends and family helped diminish the piles that were forming in my kitchen. In the garden there are tomatoes still ripening but since our nights are getting cool and we don’t have the super hot weather we were experiencing in August, things have slowed down. However I still have more tomatoes than I would normally have so the search is still ongoing for different, interesting recipes.

Yesterday I found a Tomato and Feta Galette which looked really good . I didn’t have exactly what the recipe called for but close enough, so I figured, Why not?

The recipe called for one unbaked pie crust. Thumbs up! I wasn’t interested in doing my own crust yesterday and Pillsbury does such a good job. Here is the rest of the recipe with my changes added.

6 oz of Feta, crumbled.  I had about 3oz. So I added what was left of some shredded Mozzarella and made up the different with some Raclette, which is a semi-hard cheese most commonly used for melting. Perfect.

1 medium shallot, diced. Well the shallots I though I had were in the bottom of a basket that had been forgotten in the back of the pantry. Not for human consumption anymore. So, I used a medium to small white onion. I sliced thinly, not diced.

4 sprigs fresh Thyme, plus 1 Tbls fresh Thyme leaves.
1 Tbls. chopped fresh Basil
These two I had because I have herbs in a pot by my back door.

1/2 tsp Kosher salt. I did not use because all that cheese was going to add enough salt.
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

3 medium tomatoes ( about 1 pound) sliced 1/4 ” thick. I had some wonderful plum tomatoes and they are less watery than regular so I went with those.

• Set your oven to 400 degrees.
• Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
• Roll out the commercial pie crust dough to a 12″ round about 1/8″ thick. It doesn’t have to be perfectly round.
•. Loosely roll your crust around the rolling pin and transfer to the baking dish where you will unroll it.

• Sprinkle the cheese over the dough, leaving about a 2″ border .
• Sprinkle the cheese layer with shallot (onion), thyme leaves, basil and pepper.• Arrange the tomatoes over the cheese and herbs.• Gently fold the edges of the dough over the tomatoes, covering about 2″ of the filling and pleating the dough about every 2″ as you go. There was a bit of tomato water in the bowl where I kept the slices so I brushed a bit of that on the dough between the pleats just to make sure they stuck. Top with the thyme sprigs.• Bake until the crust is golden-brown and the tomatoes are soft, about 40 – 45 minutes. About 30 minutes in, my crust was getting a bit brown already so I used the crust guard I have for my pies and laid it around the edge about an inch in. You can also use foil. But all this can be different depending on your oven. I took my out at 40 min. Cool about 10 minutes before serving.It turned out pretty good. The crust was nice and flaky and that may be due to the less watery tomatoes. Curt thought it a bit salty for his taste even though I left out the salt but that may be from the combination of cheeses I used. Feta is a salty cheese. I think I would try it again with a low-sodium cheese like a fresh mozzarella. Sort of like a Margarita Pizza. I could imagine it with Swiss too.  Bon Appetit!

The Piece de Resistance

Toward the end of our son’s visit he made the best dish yet. Well, the best if you like chocolate. When he arrived he had brought a sliver of a tart he had made at home, a chocolate ganache tart. It was great but it was a tease and we wanted more. So we urged him to make another. He agreed, but decided to up his game and make a multi-layer chocolate tart.

As I photographed the process I was surprised at how easy this was to make. First came the crust, 1 1/2C crushed graham crackers thoroughly combined with 3 Tbls sugar and 6 oz. melted butter. Press this mixture into a buttered pie pan.This was then baked in a 350 degree oven for about 8 minutes. Let cool.Meanwhile place 2/3 of a stick of butter (cut into pieces) and 8 oz. of dark chocolate chunks in a bowl and pour in 2/3 C cream, which has been heated to barely a simmer. Immediately cover with plastic wrap and let sit 5 minutes.After the 5 minutes, quickly stir the butter, cream, chocolate mixture until smooth. Then pour into the pie crust and smooth the top with a spatula. For this tart he made a layer of white chocolate as well. For this layer use the same procedure but 1/3 of a stick of butter, 4 oz. of chocolate and 1/3 C of cream.This is poured into the pan on top of the dark layer, smoothed and then sprinkled with a powdered cocoa.Chill in fridge for at least 2 hours, or overnight if you can wait that long.

Then cut a very thin slice because this is one rich dessert. Nathan made a slight error in the white chocolate layer because it acted more like a frosting than a hard chocolate layer but it still tasted wonderful. No one cared, we just oohed and ahhed.

Come back soon Nathan, we miss your cooking.

The Chef as a young man.

The Son Takes Over

So after Curt cooked for us and Nathan assisted and learned some tips it was time for Nathan to take the lead. We told him he could do whatever he wanted but to keep in mind the garden was overflowing with tomatoes and zucchini. Curt would be sous chef and the person at hand to find the necessary pots, pans and utensils since Nathan was unfamiliar with our kitchen.

We sprung this on him on a Wednesday evening for a Thursday meal. By dinner time on Thursday he had plans for a Tomato/Zucchini/Chicken Curry.

Questions on our immediate supplies were asked. Ingredients were gathered.

4 Chicken thighs, 1 onion, 2 med zucchini, 2 C cherry tomatoes, coconut milk and curry paste and powders.

And Nathan took command of the kitchen. I think both of them were a bit out of their element with the reversal of rolls and the fact that the son wanted to do well for the father. Except for a few frantic moments, I think it went rather well.As for most dishes, the chopping and cutting took the most time. Once that was done, the frying of the chicken and the addition of the vegetables was easy. The addition of spices and the tasting to get the dish to be a good curry was the tricky part. But soon everything was rolling along quite nicely. The sous chef had the rice cooking and the head chef was getting the finishing touches on the curry. Both guys survived the experience and we had a fine dinner. We accompanied our meal with a some interesting beer Nathan brought from Eau Claire. He happens to live right by a local small craft brewery called Lazy Monk. Because no one could choose we ended up sharing an unfiltered farmhouse ale called Biere de Garde and a tart wheat brew called Blackcurrent Berliner. Both were great with curry.

Another Turn of the Page: Parking it Again

“The month of August had turned into a griddle
where the days just lay there and sizzled.”

Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees

Earlier this month the weather was still acceptable. The really stifling heat and humidity hadn’t arrived yet and there was no rain in the forecast. So back to the park we went. Most of our preliminary discussion revolved around the upcoming, or rather continuous, political season. Reading instead of watching the Republican Convention seemed to be an excellent suggestion. Covid was also a topic of concern because we are all wishing for the day we can comfortably get together and share our stories, our books. And also get together with our families and friends without fear.  We still don’t have a solution to our meetings once the snow flies. Well, my inspiration is at an end, I think I will let our books speak for us. Here’s August…….1. The Bone Keeper by Luca Veste (2018) 416p. This book opens with four children entering a disused tunnel where the legendary ‘Bone Keeper’, sort of like the boogeyman, is supposed to live. However only three come out the other side. The 4th is never found. We then jump 20 years ahead and a severely injured, confused woman staggers out of the same woods, claiming the Bone Keeper abducted her. This book is part urban legend, part classic detective story.

2. He Started It by Samantha Downing (2020) 400p. Three siblings are forced to reenact a childhood road trip in order to claim their inheritance. The drive to their final destination leads them into danger, as all are plotting behind one another’s back.

3. The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal (2019) 349p. A heartwarming, curl up in a blanket kind of read. Three strong woman, 2 estranged sisters and a granddaughter, who successfully beat the odds and become successful in their own beer brewing ways. Lots about beer but there is also pie!

4. Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (2000) 521p. A difficult book to summarize. This was the best I could find, “There are about five different narrative strands, woven together with newspaper articles, the controversial novel of a dead girl, and the last confession of an old woman with too many secrets. The timeline shifts back and forth dramatically and the narrators aren’t exactly reliable.” It is narrated from the present day of the characters which is the 30’s and 40’s.

5. One Good Deed by David Baldacci, Archer series #1, (2019) 432p. In this historical crime novel, set in 1949,  Baldacci introduces a new character: Aloysius Archer, a straight-talking former WW II soldier fresh out of prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

6. Island by Victoria Hislop (2006) 473p. A lot of research went into this novel that tells the story of events surrounding the lives of those suffering from leprosy in Crete during the Second World War, and their families and friends.

7. Lake of Sorrows by Erin Hart, Nora Gavin series #2, (2004) 328p. Second in a series of archaeological crime novels set in the mysterious boglands of Ireland. Once again American pathologist Nora Gavin and Irish archaeologist Cormac Maguire join forces to investigate a body found in a bog but this body seems to be from the 21st century.

8. The Answer is…Reflections on My Life by Alex Trebek (2020) 304p. Longtime Jeopardy! host and television icon reflects on his life and career. He debuted on Jeopardy! in 1984.

9. Cajun Justice by James Patterson & Tucker Axum (2020) 432p. Cain Lemaire, an ex-Secret Service agent from New Orleans, needing a new direction for his life, takes a job in Tokyo as head of security detail for a very successful and important CEO. But when things go bad he finds himself on his own and without the wealth of resources he had with the Secret Service.

10. A Remarkable Mother by Jimmy Carter (2008) 222p. President Carter’s loving, admiring, wry homage to Miss Lillian Carter, his dear mother, who championed the underdog always, even when her son was president.

Master and Padawan

A Padawan is a learner or apprentice. The term can refer specifically to a Jedi apprentice within the Star Wars universe. It can also be used more generally to refer to a trainee,
a beginner, or an inexperienced person.

In all of the cooking discussions going on since my son has been home, it came up that he just hasn’t been able get a handle on making a good steak. Grilling or pan frying meat is, once again, in Curt’s wheelhouse, as is most of the cooking in this house. So the search was on for a nice cut of meat to train the young apprentice.

Curt loves to shop in the markdown meat bunker at Festival Foods where the various cuts are close to their expiration date. Prices are great and if you freeze it or cook it right away there really is no problem. It just so happened that when this steak question came up Curt found three very nice tenderloin steaks in the MEAT BUNKER.  Of course, we discovered Nathan also shops the meat bunker at his Festival Foods in Eau Claire. Birds of a feather…

First came the ‘night before’ prep: generously salt both sides of the meat and put into the refrigerator overnight. This tenderizes the meat and does not make it overly salty.

Pre-dinnertime, next day: A preparation Curt has done in the past is a coating of coffee grounds and unsweetened cocoa nibs. For these steaks Nathan applied that on both sides of two of the steaks, leaving one plain for comparison.Next up, add some oil to the cast iron skillet and get it hot. Sprinkle in a few drops of water, if they sizzle, it is hot.
While the pan was heating, salad prep ( Nathan at the salad station) and garlic bread ( Curt at the oven station), was getting done. I just took pictures and drank my wine.Meanwhile the meat had gone into the hot pan. Approximately 6 minutes on one side, then turn. Same for other side and then get out the meat thermometer. Your temp should be about 135-140 degrees for a medium rare.Ultimately everything turned out great. Both preps, the choco/coffee and the plain, were a hit. Were all the questions answered? Will Nathan’s next steak be a success? All I know is further discussion and questions certainly took place after dinner.

Just Like Dad

Amidst a pandemic with jobs at a premium and businesses going under everyday, my son quit his job. He worked for the United States Postal Service as a “part-time” rural carrier in Wisconsin. Part-time is in quotes because it has been anything but.  A, weekends plus fill-in for regular route people who took vacation or were ill, turned into a six-day week. Because they were always short-staffed some days were as long as 13 hours. The Christmas rush never ended, it just morphed into the Pandemic Glut. But in the end it was the toxic management that finally put him over the edge. I won’t get into all the details but errors were not tolerated and punitive action instead of corrective action was always the norm. New hires hardly made it through probation.

When I would speak to him on the phone I could hear the stress in his voice. The guy liked his job, liked the people he served on his routes but it was just too nutty. So, after he quit, he self-quarantined for two weeks and came home to visit. We haven’t seen him in ages because he always worked holidays and when you are part-time, you don’t get vacation or sick leave. He came home last Wednesday and he is still here.

I asked him what he has been doing since he quit – answer: cooking up a storm. This guy is a chip off the old block, his Dad’s block.

He arrived with what remained of a Chocolate Ganache Tart he had made. OMG, it was so good that we have asked him to make another before he returns to his home, which sadly will be in a day or two.

I inquired as to what else he has been creating, Moussaka, Curry and Stir-fry to name a few. He says not everything is a success but he loves to experiment. That’s his Father’s approach as well. Here are a couple of darn good looking dishes he made while staying in (I think he has presentation down too).

Caprese Pasta: Bowtie pasta with tomatoes, basil, fresh mozzarella. Tossed in a balsamic/molasses reduction and sprinkled with grated Parmesan.

Next: Copper River Salmon with a side of Plantain Home Fries.
Spaghetti Bolognese
And of course more Salmon. This time with a Rice/Orzo Pilaf w/almonds and sauteed Summer Squash and Mushrooms.
I am impressed. He has been Sous Chef to his Dad all week and even made a curry the other night for us. He is single! No job. But whoever finally snags him will come home to a pretty nice dinner each evening. I’m going to hate to see him go.