Another Turn of the Page: Turn Off the TV and Read

“I find television very educating.
Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”
Groucho Marx

tvI like television. I do not remember not ever having a television unlike my husband who did not have one in his early childhood. I am a great lover of fiction so drama, science fiction, medical and legal thrillers, etc. are what I watch. I do enjoy sports as well, particularly football. But in the US, the political season has taken all the joy out of my television watching. Every commercial break has some Super PAC commentator telling me something despicable about everyone running for office. How did these people get elected in the first place? The commercials make it sound like they all should be in prison. My mute button is starting to wear out. And of course tonight is the next “debate”. It will pre-empt two of my favorite shows, Madam Secretary and Elementary. Thank the TV Gods, the Green Bay Packers will be playing opposite the Trump/Hillary smack down.

Now I usually have a book handy even when I have the TV on, just to fill up the time when there is a break in the action to sell me something. But lately I have been forgetting to turn the sound back on. The book is so much better. I am also a night owl who watches a lot of late night TV but frequently I just go curl up in bed with a book. Much more calming for my brain. I’m sure I’ll go back to my normal TV habits after the election, I just hope I won’t have to be familiarizing myself with Canadian television. If you are also looking for a diversion, here are the books my group read last month.sept-copy1. Boar Island by Nevada Barr (2016) 374 pages. Anna Pigeon #19. Anna, a National Park Service Ranger, has to deal with cyber-bullying and stalking. Very little about the park so not one of the best in this series.

2. Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf (2015) 179 pages. Addie is a widow seeking companionship. She makes an intriguing proposal to her neighbor, a widower named Louis. She asks him to come over to her place and share her bed. It is just to talk and fall asleep together and break the loneliness.

3. We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates (1997) 454 pages. This book is about a large family, the Mulvaneys, living all happily until something terrible happens to the sole daughter. This book is basically about this event and the aftermath.

4. Custer’s Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America by T.J. Stiles (2015)
608 pages. All anyone knows about Custer is the fight at Little Bighorn, this biography covers his time in the Civil War, his time trying to make a fortune on Wall Street, his marriage and many other areas.

5. Chasing the Last Laugh: Mark Twain’s Raucous and Redemptive Round-the-World Comedy Tour by Richard Zacks ( 2016) 464 pages. A rich and lively account of how Mark Twain’s late-life adventures abroad helped him recover from financial disaster and family tragedy.

6. The Gilded Years by Karin Tanabe (2016) 379 pages. A historical novel based on the true story of Anita Hemmings, the first black student to attend Vassar, who successfully passed as white.

7. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (2011) 352 pages. The author starts with a compelling idea–taking vintage photographs with unusual subjects–and using them to weave a supernatural story of children who possess unusual abilities. A very strange and fantastic read.

8. Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II by Vicki Constantine Croke (2014) 368 pages. The remarkable story of James Howard “Billy” Williams, whose uncanny rapport with the world’s largest land animals transformed him from a carefree young man into the charismatic war hero known as Elephant Bill.

9. Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan (2014) 474 pages. Historical fiction featuring Robert Louis Stevenson and his American wife, Fanny.

10. Proof Positive by Phillip Margolin (2006) 320 pages. A legal thriller about the way CSI evidence can be misused by a killer to serve his own twisted sense of justice.

11. Iceberg by Clive Cussler (1974) 340 pages. An early Dirk Pitt (#2). Frozen inside a million-ton mass of ice-the charred remains of a long missing luxury yacht, vanished en route to a secret White House rendezvous. The only clue to the ship’s priceless-and missing-cargo: nine ornately carved rings and the horribly burned bodies of its crew. -Goodreads

12. Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs (2008) 336 pages. Augusta Simpson is turning 50, has two 20-something daughters, and her own cooking show which is experiencing a ratings slump. The story revolves around her need to heal from tragedy and develop better relationships with her children. Not up to the author’s usual standards.

13. Casualties by Elizabeth Marro (2015) 288 pages. The Casualties tells the story of the people living on a little street in Edinburgh, in the final weeks before an apocalyptic event which only a few of them will survive.

Institutional Food #2 – The Rehab Facility

So I was discharged from the hospital at 11:00 am and got to the Rehab Facility around 11:30. Got checked in and installed in my room by 12:30 pm. I know someone asked me if I had eaten and something was brought to me but that is lost in the mists. Probably because dinner that evening was very memorable, a Pizza Burger.

Now before I go any farther I have to explain the meal situation at this place. It is an  Assisted Living and Rehabilitation Facility. That means there are short-timers in rehab, like me, and there are long-timers or people who actually live here. We are separated into two wings but we can intermingle. I could have gone over to the other side for Bingo and a Packer Party on Sunday but I passed. Long-timers are mostly elderly seniors (Hey! who you looking at?) and as a group they mostly want their noon meal to be the main meal (what I call dinner) and their evening meal light ( what I would call lunch). They outnumber us so that’s how the meals are served. This will all make sense later.

Now, the Pizza Burger. As in the hospital you get a little menu ticket. On it are usually two choices for a main and then a bunch of sides. You can circle everything if you want. I think one of the choices that night was fish so I went with the Pizza Burger, on my Certified Nursing Assistant’s (CNA) recommendation. Later, I had to remind myself that I really didn’t know anything about their taste in food so recommendations were a crap shoot.

Pizza Burger

Pizza Burger

My dinner included a very soft bun, a beef patty covered in Marinara sauce and a few bits of cheese, a bag of chips and yellow jello w/ cool whip top. But that’s not all that made this a PIZZA burger. When I bit into it, surprise! it was stuffed with mozzarella. The cole slaw was good.

After getting pancake/sausage bites one morning for breakfast, I decided to stick with cereal, raisin bran, because I needed to stay ‘regular’. However this place is the same as the hospital, that is, make sure you ask for everything. If you don’t circle milk, you’ll eat your cereal dry. And the raisins are usually dumped in a pile in the middle. So I would break up the clump and get some milk and it was a good breakfast.

Sausage/pancake bites are soggy pancakes around breakfast sausage with some syrup for dip. A three year old would love them.

Sausage/pancake bites are soggy pancakes around breakfast sausage with some syrup for dip. A three-year old would love them.

Remember my explanation of lunch vs dinner servings? This is what I mean.

Meatloaf, Turkey and Swedish Meatballs

Meatloaf, Turkey and Swedish Meatballs

These were usually pretty good but whoa, that’s a lot of food for lunch. Each had a dessert and beverage as well. Veggies could have been crisper but I don’t think they were from a can. Then there was dinner.

Billed as chicken salad (left) and potpie on a bisquit (right)

Billed as chicken salad (left) and potpie on a biscuit (right)

On the menu it said chicken salad on tomato slices. I love chicken salad but an ice cream scoop of salad on one little tomato slice was pretty disappointing. Potpie on a biscuit was also a controlled serving. More like chicken a la king. It was fine but I wanted more! And come on folks! It was September. Our garden and our local Farmer’s Market still had really good tomatoes coming in. So did the grocery stores. Where are the people at this facility forced to shop? Here’s what I mean. One night a BLT was on the menu. Well can anyone resist a bacon sandwich, with a red ripe tomato and crispy lettuce on toasted bread? Sorry. This just didn’t come close.bbllttFortunately when I got home my Sweetie made me a BLT worthy of the name.

Finally, did you recall that tossed salad I praised in my hospital food post? When I saw tossed salad on my Rehab menu I thought oh yes! that will make up for any sins of limp bread, pink tomatoes or fruit cocktail. However, one tossed salad is not like another.

1. Actually different items to toss 2. iceberg lettuce.

1. Actually different items to toss (hospital) 2. Iceberg lettuce (rehab)

Oh well. I don’t mean to diss the food service at rehab too badly. The food came pretty promptly, I had choices and except for a few missteps, it was all edible, sometimes pretty tasty. However the whole time I was there I kept clicking my heels and repeating, “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.”

Institutional Food #1 – The Hospital

We talk a lot about food on this blog. Food we make ourselves, wonderful restaurant food whether it be from a high-end place and a basic roadside diner. We have written about meals friends have served us. We have talked about the sources of the food we cook with, like the Farmers Market, online shops or just out of our own garden. But I don’t think we have ever addressed institutional food. You know, the high school cafeteria, the college food service or the hospital experience.

Since my knee replacement surgery two weeks ago I have been subjected to hospital creations and then the meals at a rehab facility. Whose is better, let’s start at the beginning, the hospital. My first dinner after surgery was predictably unexciting. I was coming off of anesthesia and my meal ticket said ‘soft diet.’ My tray appeared at 5pm with vanilla ice cream, an Ensure shake, a banana, milk, juice, tea and a bowl of cream of wheat. I was hungry but not really in an eating mood. I drank some tea, had some juice and then bravely took a spoonful of Cream of Wheat, bleh! It tasted as bad as it looked. So I cut up the banana and added it to the bowl with two packets of sugar…two more packets of sugar later and it still was pretty bleh. So I ate the ice cream.

Cream of Wheat

Cream of Wheat

Everyday you are in the hospital they give you a little menu sheet where you choose your upcoming meals. For the day after surgery breakfast I stayed away from Cream of Wheat and went for scrambled eggs. Also orange juice and oatmeal.

Scrambled eggs?

Scrambled eggs?

When I lifted the lid from my plate I thought I was looking at chunks of butter. The eggs, all naked w/o benefit of salt, pepper, onion, cheese or green pepper, didn’t taste bad but they looked fake. They were obviously poured into a pan, then cooked or baked , and then cut into chunks and served. A very weird-looking scramble. I also had oatmeal that morning which was more palatable than the CoW but it also needed sugar and milk, which if you don’t circle on the sheet, you do not receive. This is the same if I had ordered dry cereal.

However after these meals the food at the hospital definitely improved. Turkey and gravy and a roll with green beans was pretty good. Especially the green beans. They were fresh green beans, not canned or frozen, and not cooked to the consistency of soft paste. I was shocked! I gobbled them up and sent my congratulations to the kitchen. Positive reinforcement is a good thing.

Beans with a crunch!

Beans with a crunch!

Encouraged I chose the roast beef, sweet potatoes, broccoli and tossed salad for my next evening meal. Oh, they finally took me off “soft diet”. Yes, I had done my bodily duty and my system was functioning again.roast-beefLooks pretty normal, right? Well except for the strange rectangles the meat was cut into. From the picture, my husband thought I had meatloaf but it was indeed roast beef. broccoli was good, the sweets weren’t bad but look at that tossed salad? Spring mix, tomatoes, even a cucumber slice! The kitchen was scoring big points with me. Oh, keep that salad in mind, it is going to look even better when I get to my next culinary adventure.

To top it off that’s chocolate pudding with whipped cream for dessert. I was starting to like hospital food more and more. However, all good things must come to an end. Friday, September 23, I was transferred to the Rehab Facility. First meal of the evening, a pizza burger.


I Had a Little Adventure

Hello there. I’ve been off having a bit of an adventure. Well if you can call knee replacement surgery an adventure. But after numerous cortisone shots, repair of torn meniscus six years ago, more injections ( this time some stuff made from cock’s combs that helped lubricate all those bone-on-bone moments ) and finally bone spurs that did me in, I had to have the whole darn thing replaced. It was the last resort.

Here’s my leg, the afternoon of September 20th, almost two weeks ago.

About three hours after surgery

About three hours after surgery

I was propped up on a machine I called the sled (I guess it looked like a one-legged toboggan to me) which was slowly pumping my leg , moving it up and down. My feet had little pumps on them, keeping the blood movin’ and the big blue thing is an ice pack. The tube on the far end is attached to an ice chest on the floor. Icy water is flowing through that tube and into that honeycomb pattern. It is very effective. I have spared you all of the wrapping and ace bandages and staples and ripe red plum bruising and I promise you won’t see any further down the line.

I am home now with my crutch, my walker and my exercise plan. But three nights in the hospital and eight nights at a rehab facility have certainly provided the fuel for a few more posts. Food, definitely, will be at the top of the list.

So as I continue to heal, stay tuned for reports from the field. A few from my fun time away and a few from my homecoming. Hey, If you can’t complain and laugh about a situation you don’t have any business going into it in the first place. See you soon.

Big Everything

We recently had a fabulous week in Montana, specifically Glacier National Park. Everything is big out there. Big sky, Big mountains, Big bears!

montanaOn Sunday morning Sept 4, as we were getting ready for our shuttle ride to the airport to come home, Curt complained that his throat was scratchy. He did a little salt gargling but I think resigned himself to the fact that he was probably getting a cold. Well we have since found out that Montana also has Big Germs that produce really Big Colds! By the time we landed in Wisconsin his nose was stuffy and Monday morning the coughing started. It is now a week later and the coughing has not let up, nor the sneezing, nor the blowing, well everything that goes with a cold but multiplied 5 times. Seems like 10 times.

For the first few days I made jokes about Man Colds being worse than Woman Colds, and for the most part that is true.

The Man Cold Vs The Mom Cold

But as this continued without a break I felt bad about joking, he was really miserable and so was I, so I finally got him to go to a doctor yesterday. Was it pneumonia? Well no, it’s is just a whopping big virus so no antibiotics for him. No, no, no! So we wait it out.

Now in this household, he does almost all of the food prep. I know, I am really lucky. I am the cleaner upper. But now I am doing all of the cooking and the cleaning! Okay big deal, you say, that’s how most of the world works. Now I am not looking for a shoulder to cry on, but I am just out of practice and I think I am coming to the end of my repertoire of meals. We are getting very close to the grill cheese sandwich and tomato soup dinner. Yes, soup out of a can, whereas Curt would be roasting and seeding and pureeing tomatoes from the garden and making a fresh soup. He would buy the cheese but probably bake the bread.

Now under normal circumstances, this would be fine but add to this mix my scheduled knee replacement surgery for next Tuesday. I have to maintain a household while also avoiding getting near Curt and any of his germs. And work on getting the house prepped for me, the gimp, who will be going into recovery mode. So can I get a bit of a shoulder to whimper on? Huh?


Another Turn of the Page: Checkout a Library Book

“A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people.
It is a never failing spring in the desert.”
Andrew Carnegie

“Without the library, you have no civilization.”
Ray Bradbury

shelveBefore I bring you our August selection of books I want to say a few words about libraries and library books. I am always gratified and amazed at how many members of this round table book group are reading library books. I say this because for years I have read that paper books will be gone tomorrow. Yep, nobody reads actual books. Audio books or digital books on Kindle and Nook is the future. I’ve been hearing that for over 20 years. Far as I know, it still hasn’t happened. And anyone who really wants a printed paper book will just buy it. (Sure, but they ain’t cheap)  Who goes to libraries anymore? Well, a  lot of people go to libraries and it is not just the retired or the “elders.”  Granted, my book group is composed of retired people. After all, who else can meet on a Thursday at 10am in a coffee shop to discuss books? And even though this group brings books they have purchased, books they read on Kindle, books they have listened to, they also are users of the library. Of the twelve books presented last month, I believe at least ten were library books. Mine was, and I listen and buy as well. Don’t get me wrong, if you are reading I don’t care how you get your books but if you aren’t reading because books are too expensive or you don’t know how to download an audio book, well damn! you’re missing the best deal in town. Libraries have these amazing people called librarians who will teach you how to download a book or will move heaven and earth to find any book you want to read. Hey! you retired people, since you are going to the library anyway, take those grandkids along. Best way to get them started reading – young. And it’s all free! No excuses. Get thee to a library. (full disclosure, I was a librarian for 30 years)

Here’s what we read. All obtainable at your local library.

August1. Boy: Tales of Childhood by Roald Dahl (1984) 176 pages. Roald Dahl’s autobiography. He is the author of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, The BFG  and James and the Giant Peach.

2. Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty (2016) 415 pages. Six responsible adults. Three cute kids. One small dog. It’s just a normal weekend. What could possibly go wrong? Warning: You will either love Moriarty or just find her books so-so, but give her a try.

3. The King’s Deception by Steve Berry (2013) 612 pages. This book has everything you need in an adventure; an old secret, a secret society, American agents, British agents, two old ladies and a thief. This is #8 in the Cotton Malone series.

4. Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult (2005) 426 pages. A family drama centered on a “kidnapping” that occurred 28 years earlier.

5. Dietrich & Riefenstahl: Hollywood, Berlin and a Century in Two Lives by Karin Wieland (2013) 640 pages. Marlene Dietrich and Leni Riefenstahl, born less than one year apart, lived so close to each other that Riefenstahl could actually see into Dietrich’s Berlin apartment. Coming of age at the dawn of the Weimar Republic, both sought fame in Germany’s burgeoning silent motion picture industry.

6. Mary Anne by Daphne Du Maurier (1954) 351 pages. Written in 1951, this is a fictionalised account of the life of Mrs Mary Anne Clarke, who was the author’s great-grandmother, and who is famous principally for being the mistress of Frederick, Duke of York (second son of King George III). Not a great read. Try one of Du Maurier’s more suspenseful books, like Rebecca, for your first taste of her writing.

7. Grant Park by Leonard Pitts, Jr. (2015) 400 pages. A nice mix of thriller and a historical novel, Grant Park begins in 1968, with Martin Luther King’s final days in Memphis. The story then moves to the eve of the 2008 election, and cuts between the two eras as it unfolds. A kidnapping and a plot to kill the newly elected President Obama keeps you turning the pages.

8. Walking Home: A Pilgrimage from Humbled to Healed by Sonia Choquette (2014)
384 pages. In order to regain her spiritual footing, Sonia turns to the age-old practice of pilgrimage and sets out to walk the legendary Camino de Santiago, an 820-kilometer trek over the Pyrenees and across northern Spain. Written in a daily “diary” style.

9. The Two Mrs. Grenvilles by Dominick Dunne (1985) 374 pages. This book is a fictional account of the real life story of William and Ann Woodward. William came from a rich and powerful family in New York and Ann was just of ordinary lineage. When Ann (Grenville) “accidentally” shoots William, thinking he was a prowler, the matriarch of the family, Alice Grenville, stands behind her to avoid any scandal, but the family suffers from this decision.

10. The Pursuit by Janet Evanovich (2016) 320 pages. Fox and O’Hare series #5. Nick Fox and Kate O’Hare have to mount the most daring, risky, and audacious con they’ve ever attempted to save a major U.S. city from a catastrophe of epic proportions. Just another fun read from Evanovich.

11. The Excellent Lombards by Jane Hamilton (2016) 288 pages. This coming of age on an apple farm story is full of wonderful descriptions — of life on a farm, as a child looking in on the adult world and family relationships. It reads more like a memoir than a novel.

12. Britt-Marie was Here by Fredrik Backman (2016) 336 pages. “A heartwarming and hilarious story of a reluctant outsider who transforms a tiny village and a woman who finds love and second chances in the unlikeliest of places.” – Goodreads

When is a Comic a Graphic Novel?

Gather ’round class. Today’s topic is COMICS!

I'm not sure if I was the focal point of everyone's attention or the kingfisher who flew behind me every once in awhile.

I’m not sure if I was the focal point of everyone’s attention or the kingfisher who flew behind me every once in a while.

Sunday I gave a brief talk to my friend’s Salon Group about the difference between Comics and Graphic Novels. The talk was only about twenty minutes so this was not an in-depth investigation into the history of comics but more like a quick overview followed by Show & Tell.  I figured getting a little more mileage for my effort was in order so here, dear followers, is the basic difference between the two, with a bit of comic book history thrown in.

One thing I did discover in my research is that there is a lot of disagreement and a lot of different definitions but these are the ones I settled on. Comic books are basically periodicals. They are produced monthly or maybe bi-weekly. The action is the most important element because it progresses the story to the next issue, making you want to go back to the comic book store as soon as the next issue is released. Now comics as we know them, didn’t get their start till the 1030’s. Before that “comics” were the funnies you read in the newspaper, mostly on Sunday.  That’s what I’m showing above in picture #2, a book containing full-page spreads of Little Nemo in Slumberland from the New York Herald, circa 1901 -11.

Little Nemo in Slumberland 8-5-1906

Little Nemo in Slumberland by Winsor McCay 8-5-1906

These were amazingly detailed and colorful. Nemo’s adventures were fantastic but he always managed to wake up in the end. The only thing resembling a comic book as we know it came about in 1938 when a bunch of comic strips from the newspapers were put together in a book called “Fabulous Funnies”.

But then in 1939 DC Comics released Action Comics featuring this really strong dude by the name of Superman and he was a big hit.

erThis was followed by Batman in 1940 and then Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Archie and others in the early 40’s. The Golden Age of comics had begun and everything from war stories to detective thrillers to westerns started to appear in comic book form.

So we march on to the 60’s, early 70’s,
The Silver Age: Lots of superheroes like the Flash, Fantastic Four ( Stan Lee), Spiderman (Steve Ditko). I personally liked The Jaguar (’61), The Fly and of course, Flygirl! (’62) The Fly always got top billing even though she was just as strong and way cuter.

I wanted to be Flygirl!

I wanted to be Flygirl!

Stan Lee started getting into it around this time too. You know him today as the guy who shows up for ten seconds in all of the Marvel movies mainly because he is responsible for a lot of those characters like the X-men, Thor, Iron Man, Captain America and more.

Fantastic Four 1961: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby

Fantastic Four 1961: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby

Bronze Age: (70’s, 80’s) Small presses and Underground Comics, featuring anti-heroes like Elektra and much darker plots.

Elektra Assassin; 1986, Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz

Elektra Assassin; 1986, Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz

And from then (80’s) on to today, The Modern Age!

Now here is where things get hazy. Publishers started putting a series of comics into one edition. These editions had really nice paper, not that flimsy newsprint. Slick covers and even volume numbers. Basically they were creating trade paperbacks but they called them Graphic Novels and of course charged a lot more. I think the publishers thought they were legitimizing comics but many writers just saw it for what it was, a way to make more money and frankly the writers weren’t ashamed of comic books. My favorite quote is from Neil Gaiman, one of my favorite authors of comics, books, short stories, essays.

When told by a reviewer that he didn’t write comic books but rather graphic novels Gaiman said, he.. “meant it as a compliment, I suppose. But all of a sudden I felt like someone who’d been informed that she wasn’t actually a hooker; that in fact she was a lady of the evening.”

So, what indeed are Graphic novels? Well they are essentially books. They have a beginning, a middle and an end. The story is told primarily if not entirely in pictures. Granted, some modern “graphic novels” or “trade paperbacks” read that way as well because writers started getting savvy and wrote their comic book plots with editions in mind. But they still originally came out one issue at a time. One writer referred to them as “comic strip books.”

Examples of real graphic novels? Will Eisner is credited with using the term graphic novel for the first time on the cover of his book, A Contract with God and Art Spielgelman’s Maus pretty much defined it further and gave the term legitimacy.contrctmausOr how about the really true graphic novels by Lynd Ward? The stories are told entirely in woodcut prints, no words, no captions.

Cover and two pages from Wild Pilgrimage; 1932

Cover and two pages from Wild Pilgrimage; 1932

So class, your quick and dirty look into the world of comics is over. If you were here I’d let you look and even handle some of my favorites but alas, that is impossible. All I can say is, “get ye to a comic book store!” There are some really great storytellers and illustrators out there and you’re missing them all if you think they are “just comic books.”

Old and new, here are some I enjoy. Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter, The Dark Knight Returns ( Frank Miller), Akira, Sandman (Neil Gaiman), Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Get Jiro, Batman: The last Angel and Batman: Arkham Asylum.

Old and new, here are some I enjoy. Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter, The Dark Knight Returns (Frank Miller), Akira, Sandman (Neil Gaiman), Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Get Jiro, Batman: The Last Angel and Batman: Arkham Asylum.

Getting Ready for Dog Days

August is almost upon us and the forecast for next week is hot, humid, hot and more humid. Last year we bought an ice cream maker, not the old-fashioned crank type but a spiffy electric Cuisinart machine. We made some ice cream when we first got it but then we put it away and you know, out of sight, out of mind. A friend of ours also has one and served us ice cream one evening. Well, that reminded me of our machine. Now the danger of having rich wonderful ice cream around is fat and calories and how good they taste and how I don’t want to stop eating. That’s when I started searching out frozen yogurt recipes. Here’s one I’ve adapted from a site called, Once Upon a Chef. This original recipe called for strawberries which I tried first. And Curt has used guava, which was just okay. But the other day I tried raspberries. I also had two really ripe plums which I added to the mix.

This recipe is super easy. The only tricky part is you have to remember to put the freezer bowl and the paddle in the freezer about 24 hours before you plan on making the ice cream. Or just leave the bowl in the freezer all the time, then you can be a little more spontaneous.

Fruit of your Choice Frozen Yogurt (4 servings)

1 pound strawberries or raspberries or blueberries or peaches or anything or mix and match
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 1/2 cups whole milk Greek Yogurt
(For the strawberry I used whole milk regular yogurt and it came out fine. For the raspberry one I used part regular/part Greek.)

Combine the fruit, sugar, and lemon juice in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for about an hour until it is nice and syrupy.berryTake the raspberry mixture and puree until smooth. Since I am not fond of raspberry seeds I then strained this puree through a sieve. For fruit without seeds you can skip this step.

Push the mixture through a sieve using circular motions

Push the mixture through a sieve using circular motions

Combine the fruit puree and the yogurt in a blender and blend until smooth. Put this mixture in a covered container and chill in the refrigerator until very cold.yogurtOnce everything is cold, put the bowl on the maker, add the paddle and the cover and turn it on. Immediately pour the yogurt/fruit mixture into the bowl. Then just let it work. It takes less than 20 minutes. You’ll be able to tell when it is getting thicker. I stick a spoon in and try it along the way. For this one I also threw some blueberries in at this point.

Turn it on, pour in the mixture.

Turn it on, pour in the mixture.

Getting thicker, almost ready to take out.

Getting thicker, almost ready to take out.

Once it has reached the desired consistency, take it out and put it in a container and pop it in the freezer for a couple more hours. When you are ready to beat the heat, take out and eat. Yum! Boy, those raspberries have a rich color.bowlSo if you have been thinking about an ice cream maker, I say, go for it!!


Last week I spent three fabulous days with two dear, dear friends from high school  (graduation: June 1967). We have been getting together on and off over the years either going out to Colorado to where Lynn lives or up here in Wisconsin with me or to Arlington Heights in Illinois, Audrey’s stomping ground. Last year we got together in Santa Fe, New Mexico and vowed that we would not let years go by before getting together.

Reason 1) We ain’t getting any younger.

Reason 2) We heard about the untimely death of one of our former friends.

Granted we had lost touch with Sue but it still was a shock to hear of her death in a car accident. In high school we used to be a “group” of five but Marie left us very early from a severe health issue. Then we were all working on marriage and kids and everything else that comes with life so we hadn’t even started to think about our mortality or getting together to celebrate old times, since those times weren’t that far in the past.

But hold on, this wasn’t supposed to get so maudlin. This year was our 2nd consecutive gathering and I was not going to miss it no matter what. That meant hobbling around on my arthritis riddled knees (coming up this fall: knee replacement ). So with drugs and a knee sleeve, I made it. Of course my besties sure made it easy. We held back on the walking (the tram around the Chicago Botanical Garden was great) and Audrey even had a small stool for getting into the back seat of the van. However the bag of frozen carrots I iced my knee with in the evenings might never be the same. The rest of the time we talked and ate, and laughed and drank, and talked and ate some more. Another year, solving all the problems in the world. We’ve all had our trials and tribulations, our health issues and setbacks, our joys and celebrations. It was good to share them. So I am ending here with some pictures that I know Audrey is going to kill me for posting. I subscribed her to my blog last week but I think I heard her say something about not wanting to see herself on it. Close your eyes Aud!!

Then: circa 1967. Looks like Aud and Lynn went to the same hair salon. Hmm, so that's what they did on those weekend outings without me.

Then: circa 1967. Looks like Aud and Lynn went to the same hair salon. Hmm, so that’s what they did on those weekend outings without me.

Now: circa 2016. Looks about the same to me except Aud and I have exchanged smiles.

Now: circa 2016. Looks about the same to me except Aud and I have exchanged smiles. (from left – Jeanne, Audrey, Lynn)

Another Turn of the Page: Hot and Now

“I always read. You know how sharks have to keep swimming or they die?
I’m like that. If I stop reading, I die.”
Patrick Rothfuss

tumblr_o6mue2D9qT1qzb5wzo1_1280After missing two months in a row (April and May), I am now making up for that by posting July’s books on the same day as the meeting. Yep, hot off this morning’s discussion. And I almost didn’t make it due to a doctor’s appointment that went long. Because of that I missed Rikki’s presentation on Jan Karon. In a short recap, Rikki told me she wanted to talk about the author of the wholesome Mitford and Father Tim books because Karon’s life was anything but stable or ordinary or wholesome. Briefly she dropped out of school at 14, got married (you could do that legally in South Carolina), had a baby at 15, two years later her husband was paralyzed from a gun accident and she was ultimately divorced and a single parent by 18. And it goes on from there. Sorry I missed it.

Since the table was packed with people (14) I have a lot of books to cover so I am going to get on that now. For your July reading pleasure:
july1. Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good by Jan Karon (2014) 511 pages. After five hectic years of retirement from Lord’s Chapel, Father Tim Kavanagh returns with his wife, Cynthia, from a so-called pleasure trip to the land of his Irish ancestors.

2. All Over Creation by Ruth Ozeki (2003) 432 pages. A warm and witty saga about agribusiness, environmental activism, and community. The author also wants you to learn about the evils of GMOs.

3. The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (2016) 340 pages. Two brothers, born fifteen months apart in Calcutta, India, are inseparable until the 1960’s when their interests begin to diverge. Udayar becomes a follower of Mao’s revolutionary politics but Subhash goes to America to continue his studies. A book you must stick with to discover how the lives of the two affect family and friends.

4. We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver (2003) 400 pages. This book is touted as an international bestseller. Well that may be true but our reviewer was less than enthusiastic about it. Kevin is a teenage mass murderer. And as one review stated,”It is a family saga that features a sordid tragedy, filled with abhorrent, compelling, wretched, titillating detail.” I suggest you read a lot of reviews before you consider it for your bookshelf.

5. Zero Day by David Baldacci (2011) 434 pages. #1 in the John Puller series. John Puller is a crackerjack military investigator, who heads out of the DC area to the south, to check out the death of a senior officer in unsavory conditions. It’s a goodie and you’ll be glad there are more in the series.

6. Steel Kiss by Jeffery Deaver (2016) 496 pages. Lincoln Rhyme #12. The “Steel Kiss” of the title is the name of a manifesto from a domestic terrorist, a man who is brutally murdering those he calls “Shoppers” by using the intelligent data chips in their own consumer appliances against them and sending rants to the newspapers about materialism and greed.

7. Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce (2014) 352 pages. This novel is a parallel story to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. Why would Harold walk 600 miles to see Queenie before she dies? In this story we discover what is happening with Queenie while Harold walks, the reason he walks, the present life of Queenie and their interlacing history. PS: The Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is really good so read it first.

8. Avenger by Frederick Forsyth (2003) 352 pages. An older thriller by one of the masters. Forsyth is the author of The Day of the Jackel. In this adventure we get to know the Avenger, a Vietnam vet who uses his unique set of skills to hunt down and bring to justice those who prey upon the innocent. Pure escapism.

9. General Patton: A Soldier’s Life by Stanley Hirshson (2002) 826 pages. Our reviewer found this book to be a very well written and very satisfying look at the American military icon, General George S. Patton, Jr. He said it revealed information about some of the myths and some of the unusual truths about Patton.

10. A Different Kind of Normal by Cathy Lamb (2012) 416 pages. A novel about a boy named Tate. He is seventeen, academically brilliant, funny, and loving. He’s also a talented basketball player. However Tate has been born with Hydrocephalus, the medical term for a very large head and facial features that don’t really line up.  Dealing with the mean-spirited people in the world is only part of his problems.

11. Where the Bodies are Buried: Whitey Bulger and the World that Made Him by T.J.English ( 2015) 448 pages. The story of James “Whitey” Bulger, the notorious Boston crime boss.

12. Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg (2015) 293 pages. On the eve of her daughter’s wedding, June Reid’s life is completely devastated when a shocking disaster takes the lives of her daughter, her daughter’s fiancé, her ex-husband, and her boyfriend, Luke—her entire family, all gone in a moment. June is the only survivor.

13. The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction by Neil Gaiman (2016) 522 pages. A great collection of nonfiction essays on a variety of topics—from art and artists to dreams, myths, and memories—told in Gaiman’s amusing, and distinctive style. A good book to own so you can pick up whenever you have time to read one or two entries.

14. Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld (2016) 492 pages. This book is the fourth in the Austen Project. This Project pairs six bestselling contemporary authors with Jane Austen’s six complete works: Sense & Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Pride & Prejudice, Emma, Persuasion and Mansfield Park. Taking these stories as their base, each author writes their own unique version. Eligible is Pride and Prejudice.