We are Going to get Gas

Natural Gas. Not the natural gas from legumes and cruciferous vegetables but the kind that heats your house and cooks your food.

Ever since we moved out to the country, away from our local urban area, we have heated our home with propane. Well, to be honest, we heated with oil for a short time but quickly had that removed and contracted with the local propane company. A tank was installed in our yard and every 6 weeks or so the propane guy would show up and top off the tank. Prices varied from year to year but we didn’t have much choice. Natural gas didn’t come down our road because we didn’t have enough residents along our mile. And we weren’t interested in cutting and splitting wood and stoking a stove. We did have a small wood stove for a while but it super heated our living room while the rest of the house froze. Creosote build-up and chimney fires were always a worry.

Last year we had a super cold winter. Our locked in price on propane ran out and we had a few pretty high bills. So this year we prepaid at a locked in price for the full season to get a good price.  A month after we paid the money Wisconsin Public Service ( the local natural gas company) sent us a letter inquiring about our interest in natural gas. I guess we finally had enough people living on our road. Great timing!

Sure we were interested but what were the details? Were we going to take a big loss on the already purchased propane? When is this happening? Once we got the details it wasn’t as dire as we might have imagined. Still on propane this year, natural gas next spring. Whew! That saves some trouble and money.

Breaking ground

Breaking ground

But the pipe was getting laid this fall and two weeks ago it began. Pretty slick. Dig a hole, dig another hole further down the road feet (up to a 1/4 mile away), force a bore through the ground until you get to the next hole – attach the gas line to the bore and then pull the gas line back through the hole.  Not as much digging as I thought until – the bore is steerable and can maneuver around underground obstacles.…until they got to our house. Lots of rocks made it harder to just force the pipe through. So they dug a big hole and moved on down the road to lay the rest of the pipe on the other side of our neighbors house. Plan was to force the pipe from the other direction. Great idea until they hit the mother of all rocks. As the pipe went 6,7,8 feet down rather than forward, they gave up. So an actual trench had to be dug.

Conference: "Sheet! That's a big effing rock"

Conference: “Sheet! That’s a big effing rock”

Digging the trench.

Digging the trench.


Some of the "smaller" rocks

Some of the “smaller” rocks the size of watermelons, microwave ovens and ottomans


Trench and pipe

Trench and pipe

Well whatever they planned must have worked because yesterday they hauled away the big rocks, back-filled the trench leaving a hole open in the front of our house. Next week they’re supposed to dig another trench up to our house to make the service connection. Wonder if there is another big rock waiting for them?

We were left with a smaller hole and attractive orange tubs.

We were left with a smaller hole and attractive orange tubs.

Another Turn of the Page: And I remembered Everyone’s Name

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
Rainer Maria Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge

bookshelf graphic from Goodreads

bookshelf graphic from Goodreads

It’s been crazy around here with travel and family emergencies so I never got to the September book list. So, I am jumping straight into October. But first I have to tell you the neat thing about September: We had an influx of new members, three guys and a gal. It was great to have new readers sharing their books. And in October, they all came back and I, because of my sneaky notes, remembered everyone’s name. Yes!

I also made some comment about how great to increase the gender pool (we now have 4 men), to which one of the guys said, “yes, and we are the deep end.” I though about this a minute and said, “Wait a minute, that means , we are …the shallow end?”  Hmm, we are going to have to stay on our toes with these guys. But really, I love having them. The discussion, the input and the humor is a different dynamic and that’s good.

So, here’s what all fourteen of us read. PS: Three of these titles were reviewed in previous months but I list everything our members present in a month. After all we get some of our reading choices from each other. Oh, and by the way, Happy Halloween!

october1.The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown (2013) 416 pages. The story of the University of Washington’s eight-oar crew and their quest for gold. A team, composed of the sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, who defeat elite rivals from eastern and British universities and finally the German crew rowing for Adolf Hitler.

2. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (2014) 531 pages. A National Book Award finalist this New York Times bestseller is about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

3. Overweight Sensation: The Life and Comedy of Alan Sherman by Mark Cohen (2013) 353 pages. With exclusive access to Allan Sherman’s estate, Cohen has written the first biography of the manic, excessive, and hugely creative artist who sold three million albums in just twelve months, yet died in obscurity a decade later at the age of forty-nine.

4.Back of Beyond by C.J. Box (2011) 372 pages. Box, famous for his Joe Pickett series, tries his hand with a new character, Cody Hoyt, a troubled cop who tries to save his son from a killer stalking Yellowstone Park. The story is good, but doesn’t come close to his Pickett series.

5. The Martian by Andy Weir (2011) 369 pages. I am sure you have heard of this one because of all the movie buzz ( and the movie is good but the book is better). I featured the original cover because when I read this, the movie rights had just been sold. The story: “After a dust storm nearly kills him & forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark Watney finds himself stranded & completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—& even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.” Besides being a great story of survival this book has marvelous humor.

6. Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson (2015) 430 pages. An engrossing story of the sinking of the luxury liner, Lusitania, by a German U-boat in 1915.

7. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford (2009) 290 pages. Set in Seattle, this novel tells the story of a forbidden friendship between a Chinese-American boy named Henry Lee and a Japanese-American girl named Keiko Okabe during the Second World War.

8. The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain (2014) 352 pages. After the death of her father, Riley MacPherson returns to her childhood home. While clearing out his possessions she finds out more than she bargained for, her sister, who she believed committed suicide, may be alive.

9. Shakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary with the Bard by Laura Bates (2013) 291 pages. Bates had created the world’s first Shakespeare class in a supermax prison – the solitary confinement unit. Larry Newton, indicted for murder and sentenced to life with no possibility of parole, is the man she transforms.

10. Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman (2015) 384 pages. A love story set on the tropical island of St. Thomas about the extraordinary woman who gave birth to painter Camille Pissarro; the Father of Impressionism.

11. The Scam by Janet Evanovich (2015) 304 pages. Tired of Evanovich? Well Pete isn’t and he says this one ( #4 in the Fox and O’Hare series) is the most fun yet. Capers, cons and heists! What more could you ask for?

12. Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free by Hector Tobar (2014) 320 pages. A fascinating story, soon to be a major motion picture.

13. Light in August by William Faulkner (1931) 507 pages. Leave it to Bea to get us back to a classic. In this one, Lena Grove travels, on foot and with the aid of strangers, through the South in search of the father of her unborn child. Her journey introduces the reader to a variety of characters, including the child’s father, a man who falls in love with Lena, and a biracial man named Christmas. Strong, memorable characters. (And I couldn’t resist using a vintage cover)

14. Necessary Lives by Diane Chamberlain (2013) 368 pages. It is 1960 in North Carolina and the lives of Ivy Hart and Jane Forrester couldn’t be more different. Fifteen-year-old Ivy lives with her family as tenants on a small tobacco farm, but when her parents die, Ivy is left to care for her grandmother, older sister, and nephew. As she struggles with her grandmother’s aging, her sister’s mental illness, and her own epilepsy, she realizes they might need more than she can give. (I always though this author was a romance writer. I was wrong as evidenced by the two of her books presented this month).

Oysters on Chuckanut

view3Oysters on Chuckanut?  Is that a variation on the famous hors-d’oeuvre, Angels on Horseback?  Or, maybe some obscure British pub savory like Toad in the Hole.  Or, possibly a dessert even more obscure than Spotted Dick?

More precisely, it’s The Oyster Bar on Chuckanut Drive in Bow, Washington where we had more great food, more great views and more time with friends. But first, a bit about The Oyster Bar because I did a little homework.

During the Great Depression, the Rockpoint Oyster Company built an oyster shack between a cliff and Washington State’s first scenic highway, Chuckanut Drive. Here, oysters were sold by the plant manager, Mr. Maekawa, to the travelers that passed by. The little stand did so well a lunch counter was added and the Rockpoint Oyster Restaurant was born. But Maekawa’s family was interned during World War II and the restaurant sat empty from 1942-1946.

When Otto Amos bought the restaurant in 1946 his wife renamed it the Oyster Bar and they coined the slogan “The oysters that we serve today slept last night in Samish Bay.” The menu consisted of deep fried oysters and a ham dish. It was sold in 1954, major renovations were made, and the menu now included prawns, scallops, fish and chips and clam chowder.oldoyster barSince 1970 it has been bought and sold a couple of times and given a makeover in structure, the menu and the wine selections.

The Oyster Bar (2015)

The Oyster Bar (2015)

We were introduced to The Oyster Bar about 5 years ago when we were visiting our friends, Pam and Kenn, in Bellingham. As an afternoon diversion with our Green Bay foodie friends, Barb and Micheal, they suggested that we take a drive down Chuckanut Drive and have lunch at The Oyster Bar.  Well, the drive was spectacular, in part because of the view of Samish Bay and the San Juan Islands; in part, because of the breath-taking, sometimes white knuckle, curving road; and, in part, because of the precipitous, densely forested rise on the inland side and an equally precipitous and attention getting drop-off on the Bay side of the road.  About halfway between Fairhaven and Bow, The Oyster Bar is delicately perched on a steep cliff at a wide spot in the road with barely enough room to park a car between the roadway and the restaurant.

On this trip, because it is one of her favorite restaurants, Pam made reservations for all of us to go there for dinner. Once inside the restaurant you feel like you’re dining in a tree house because the view out the windows is nothing but trees and bay.  Here is a peek of the view from our table, that’s our friend Kenn in the corner enjoying the evening.

View from The Oyster Bar

View from The Oyster Bar

Once we pulled ourselves away from the view, we concentrated on the menu. Our waiter was very knowledgeable and steered us to a nice German Reisling to start things off. Not to dry, not too sweet. Something for every taste at the table.

A German Reisling

This was followed by appetizers all around.

row 1: crab cakes, gravlax row 2: raw oysters, mixed seasonal greens

row 1: crab cakes, gravlax
row 2: raw oysters, mixed seasonal greens

Curt, of course, had the oysters which he thoroughly enjoyed.  The high point of the oyster presentation was that little cup of a hard cider mignonette granita.  It was so refreshing and unexpected that, even though he normally takes his shellfish au naturale, he actually added some of the mignonette to his oysters this time.  I thought the salad, a combination of greens, toasted walnuts, blue cheese, red onions, gala apples, red grapes and a maple cider viniagrette, was fabulous. The gravlax disappointed. The salmon was very good but there was just too much goat cheese which overpowered the fish and most of which went uneaten. More on the crab cakes later.

After much laughter and talk and more wine being ordering, our entrees arrived. First up, Fresh Alaskan Halibut.



Pam and Barbara ordered this dish and found it delicate and perfectly cooked. The braised rhubarb and rosemary gastrique on top was a special addition. Going around the table, Kenn was next with Steak and Maine Lobster Tail.

Surf & Turf a la The Oyster Bar

Surf & Turf a la The Oyster Bar

I thought the presentation was interesting. This little tower didn’t last long once Kenn started to eat. I am not sure of the topping. From the picture it looks like pine nuts and maybe onion?

Michael ordered the special, Rockfish.



He described it as a very firm fleshed fish. As you can see by this picture and others, the vegetable of the evening was small new potatoes, steamed carrot, brussel sprouts and squash. Each entree also came with a starter of watermelon sorbet and a cheese souffle, see it up there above the rockfish?

Curt was next with, what else…the Fresh Local Oyster Fry!fried oysters?Not as pretty as the other dishes but he said they were great. They had a crispy parmesan breadcrumb crust and the dipping sauce was a creamy sour apple aoili.

Lastly, I had the Oyster Bar Crab Cakes ( from the entree menu). crabcakesPretty much the same as the appetizer, but a little bigger: Dungeness crab, Jonah crab, celery and onion cakes with a mango chutney. The chutney was a nice sweet addition along with the curried aoili.  And of course the vegetables of the day.

So if you are in Washington State, up near Bellingham, and someone says, “Let’s have oysters on Chuckanut”, run, don’t walk, to The Oyster Bar. Make sure you have good friends with you.

Latin Delights in Langley

porticoviewWe just got back from a glorious week on the west coast. Starting in Portland we ate our way up to Bellingham, WA and then back down a bit to Whidbey Island before flying out of Seattle. We were joined by two wonderful friends from Wisconsin (M/B) who are in our current eating group and two other great friends (P/K) who were part of our former gang of foodies in Green Bay. They now live in Bellingham, truly a wonderful place to visit. We thank them for choosing so well.

On Whidbey Island we stayed at the Boatyard Inn in Langley (for your information this is all Washington State except for the Portland part). It was a nice inn but it wasn’t a B & B nor did it have a restaurant attached, however the town of Langley had a lot of eateries. For lunch on our second day we ventured out to find someplace different, someplace good and someplace worthy of a group of foodies. We aren’t, for the most part, picky eaters but if all the menu has to offer is seafood I, for one, might not be happy.

Earlier while we had been shopping Pamela & Barbara has spotted a sign for the Portico: Latin Bistro & Cantina.









After checking out a pizzeria and a Mediterranean grill, this looked more promising. And don’t you just love chalkboards, especially ones propped up on a chair and secured with a brick? The entrance was down a short hall  and looked quite nice. And yes, there was a water view (see the opening banner photo).

Portico entrance

Portico entrance

The restaurant featured Latin American cuisine, which incorporated the tastes of Mexico, the Caribbean, Andean and Spanish. The small menu offered just two starters and five entrees but no one felt that the choices were limited.  Curt got things rolling by immediately ordering a plate of Chifles for the table. I took this as a good sign that he had quickly looked over the offerings and knew he was going to like the food here.



The Chifles were deep-fried green plantains with a garlic cilantro dipping sauce. They were excellent, the dipping sauce was wonderful, and everyone quickly polished them off while deciding what to order. P/K, M/B and I all decided on the Tostadas de Cochinita Pibil. They each were splitting their entree along with ordering Roasted Pineapple Salads. I was eating all my tostadas by myself.

tostadasThe tostadas consisted of braised pork with lettuce and salsa yucateca, which was a pickled onion relish. The dish came with rice and black beans. All was really good..

pineapplesaladThe salad was listed as a starter but our friends were glad they chose to share it because it could have been an entree  in itself. There were mixed greens, broiled pineapple, cotija cheese, avocado, and sweet potatoes all drizzled with a garlic & cumin vinaigrette. Another flavorful success!

Curt chose Ropa Vieja. The name means “Old Clothes” because the dish, consisting of slow cooked Cuban beef, peppers, and onions is supposed to resemble a pile of colorful rags. This came with fried plantains, rice, black beans and a dab of salsa yucateca. He loved it and I agreed, because I had a taste.

Ropa Vieja "Old Clothes"

Ropa Vieja “Old Clothes”

We had some interesting microbrews with lunch along with a lot of good conversation and naturally a lot of laughs. We are a merry group. And even though we all were full the waitress talked us into ” a chocolate flan to die for.” How could we resist? One order, six spoons and it was so good we devoured it before I even thought of taking a picture. Sorry.

All in all a very good choice for lunch. In hindsight I wish we had gone back for dinner that evening because there was still Ecuadorian Ceviche, Chicken Enchiladas with Mole de Xalapa and Jamaica Jerk Chicken to try.

Tomatoes, finally!

longtomAll summer we waited for the tomatoes. Once they were planted in the spring, we worried there was too much rain, then not enough rain, then would the bugs get them or would critters bite them off (deer try anything, then “ack! ptooey!”, spit out the nasty tasting bits, leaving your plants just little stumps in the ground). As the summer rolled on, we hoped the blossoms would set and of course that it would rain. Into August we had a lot of set fruit but naturally it was green. So we worried about blossom end rot. We read in the news about tomato blight. I’m hoping, end of August, red ripe tomatoes, it won’t be long now. So we waited, and waited and waited.  Early September and they are still green, except for an occasional cherry tomato. Hardly what I wanted for my BLT sandwich.

But then they started getting red (finally!!!) and we went from famine to feast. In the beginning it was joyous. Fresh tomatoes from the garden are ruby-red treasures. We had them with our scrambled eggs at breakfast, on our sandwiches at lunch and sliced fresh on the table at dinner.  Curt would just grab cherry tomatoes out of the bowl on the counter and eat them like candy. He made tomato soup and roasted tomatoes to freeze. He even smoked some. (getting them lit is the challenge, ha-ha).

Roasted. Ready to pack and freeze.

Roasted. Ready to pack and freeze.

As I write this, October is only 4 days away. Not only have we eaten a lot of tomatoes, I have given them to family, friends (who now run when they see me) and even strangers (I have a table with tomatoes at the road and a “free, take them” sign). They are in baskets everywhere in my kitchen.

Free! Free! Free!

Free! Free! Free!

I love fresh tomatoes and nothing I buy at the grocery can compare and I hate it when the season is done but can there be too much of a good thing? There are still quite a few on the plants and they will continue to ripen till the first frost, which may be late this year, so the end is not in sight, yet. Eventually Curt will finally say, ‘forget about them,’ but after waiting sooo long, it just seems a shame not to pick and use every one. And so it goes…

basketI wonder, can you get tired of bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches?

Another Turn of the Page: It’s All About Character

“If you will practice being fictional for a while, you will understand that fictional characters are sometimes more real than people with bodies and heartbeats.”
Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

shelf copyI always listen to books while I work in my studio. Studio work for me is a bit of painting and a lot of book construction. Once the designing and planning for the pieces is done listening to a story does not distract me. I can glue boards and cut pages while someone reads me a book. It is quite enjoyable. The funny part comes later. Once the book is done, for a short time, the story doesn’t go away completely. Maybe it is because I have the voice of the narrator still in my head but I can pick up a tool or start doing a task and what I was listening to when I did that task earlier, plays back in my mind. The characters flash back. Kelsier and Vin from the Mistborn series fly through the air on their way to avenge their people, Bill Hodges still tries to catch Mr. Mercedes – clack!, and Walt Longmire and the Bear head over to the Red Pony. Why? Maybe because, ” characters are sometimes more real than people with bodies and heartbeats.” These flashes occur only until I start the next book. Okay, you think I’m a bit crazy, I don’t mind, but next week when I start painting papier-mache boxes, Wax and Miles are going to be fighting on top of a speeding train again (The Alloy of Law).

You will make the acquaintance of a lot of great characters in this month’s books.

august1. A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchey (2012) 464 pages. In her last book before her death, Binchey takes us to the west coast of Ireland where Chicky Starr has returned to open a holiday hotel. The individual stories of all the guests who stay in the first week are what makes this book such an enjoyable read.

2. The Kingdom by Clive Cussler (2011) 392 pages. The third adventure in the treasure-hunting world of husband-and-wife team Sam and Remi Fargo. Typical Cussler adventure but still not as good as Dirk Pitt.

3. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (2013) 295 pages. A quirky romance with an unusual premise. Don Tillman, a professor of genetics with Aspberger’s syndrome, is seeking a life partner. So, he creates an application for the ideal match. His best friend, Gene, sends Rosie his way. Rosie meets all the requirements but is also more than Don expects. (followed by The Rosie Effect)

4. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner (1930) 267 pages. The novel tells the story of the Bundren family’s odyssey across the Mississippi countryside to bury Addie, their wife and mother. Told in turns by each of the family members.

5. Finders, Keepers by Stephen King (2015) 448 pages. The second book in the Bill Hodges trilogy ( following Mr. Mercedes). A different twist on an old theme as Bill hunts for a killer who is obsessed with an author and his characters.

6. Trip to Echo Spring by Olivia Laing (2013) 340 pages. The author examines the link between creativity and alcohol through the work and lives of six extraordinary men: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, John Berryman, John Cheever and Raymond Carver.

7. Camel Club by David Baldacci (2005) 606 pages. The Camel Club a group of misfits who try to uncover conspiracies and force the government to acknowledge the truth. The leader of the club, the “past-less” Oliver Stone keeps a vigil in a tent in the park across from the white house and works as a cemetery caretaker in the evening. During one meeting of the Camel Club, the members witness a real murder and a conspiracy to cover it up. First in a series.

8. So Big by Edna Ferber (1924) 376 pages. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, “So Big” is a novel of turn-of-the-century Chicago. It tells the life of Selina DeJong, a gambler’s daughter-turned schoolteacher turned cabbage farmer, who, as a widow with a young son, lives in a dutch village just outside of the city.

9. The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Andersen Brower (2015) 352 pages. An intimate account of life in the White House from the point of view of the service staff. This covers the Kennedys to the Obamas.

10. Zeitoun by Dave Eggers (2008) 342 pages. A journalistic account of a much-loved and respected Syrian-born small business owner, Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a resident of New Orleans, who stayed in the city after Hurricane Katrina to guard his home and to serve as a caretaker for the property and possessions of his friends and neighbors.












shelf copy

Quite Apropos

Just a day after posting about the chimney swifts I was checking for the dates of the Birds in Art exhibit at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Museum in Wausau, Wisconsin. As the page popped up I was surprised to see this picture listed in the exhibit information.

Andrew Wyeth, 'Swifts', 1991, watercolor on paper, Leigh Yawkey Woodson Museum

Andrew Wyeth, ‘Swifts’, 1991, watercolor on paper

It was as if Andrew Wyeth had been looking through the same lens I was looking through the other night. This piece will be part of an upcoming exhibit, Audubon to Wyeth: Paintings, Drawings and Sculptures. To make it even more special, it is owned by this little gem of a museum, right here in central Wisconsin. Definitely worth a visit if you are in the neighborhood.

Swift Watching


Picture credit: Jonestown, Texas Swiftfest

Right now a lot of birds are on the move since we are just beginning the fall migration. Chimney Swifts are no exception and they display a behavior which is fun to watch. Swifts look like little torpedos with fluttery wings, thus the nickname ‘flying cigars.’ Their wings move quite fast and the birds emit a high-pitched chattering while flying over your head. You probably have seen them and not known it because they tend to hang out with swallows. During migration, thousands of swifts roost together in chimneys, funneling into them at dusk.

To get a sense of how many are migrating, Audubon asks bird clubs and bird groups to conduct a count in their area. There is worry that the Swift population is diminishing because more chimneys are being capped or just removed because they are no longer in use. Our count was on August 8th and the chimney we watched became the overnight roost for 86 swifts. Other watchers got less than ten or none but a few got anywhere from 200-300.

This week one of our local birders reported seeing 2000 chimney swifts going into a large local chimney at the St. Norbert’s Abbey in De Pere, Wisconsin. I had a dinner engagement on the evening following this report so I decided to drive over after dinner to see if the swifts were still around. They were. There was another birder there and between the two of us we counted at least 2500 chimney swifts.

The next night I said to Curt, “Let’s go find some swifts.” And this time I took the camera.

When we got to The Abbey the sky was full of birds. (note: click on the picture to get a larger view)

Swifts in the Sky

Swifts in the Sky (How many do you think are in this frame? The answer is at the end of this post)

They swirled in a clockwise direction. Around and around. The sun set at 7:33pm but they still kept flying. Then about 7:45pm they started dropping into the chimney.

They dropped into the chimney.

They dropped into the chimney.

and dropped.

and dropped.

and dropped.

and dropped.

and dropped!

and dropped!

These pictures were taken in just the first minute. The birds continued to go into the chimney and in another minute or two the sky was empty. I think we once again had 2000 – 3000 birds. They will roost there overnight clinging to the vertical masonry. The next day will be spent foraging. They may roost again in this chimney or move on, eventually ending up in South America for the winter. It was a wonderful and amazing sight.

Swifts a bit closer up.

Swifts a bit closer up.

Answer.  We carefully counted 175 birds in just this small section of the sky

Next Time You are in St. John, N.B.

You may never get to St. John, New Brunswick even once so a next time is probably even more unlikely. However, there is a restaurant in that city that definitely needs a shout-out.


In May, we went on a birding trip to Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick, but we added two extra days in St. John before our ferry ride to the island. Our hotel served breakfast but the menu didn’t really excite us. So we asked the concierge for a good restaurant within walking distance. He enthusiastically recommended The Bourbon Quarter Restaurant. It was only a few blocks away and once we got there we discovered that Bourbon Quarter was also the Magnolia Cafe. Even when you check the Bourbon Quarter website there is a link to Magnolia and the menus all take you to Magnolia. I think it may be a daytime/evening thing. In the evening the bar is hopping and live music is offered.magnoliacafe450_206

But we were there for breakfast so it was much quieter and beer was not available.The menu said they featured New Orleans favorites and Canadian classics. This included Chicken & Waffles, a Bourbon Quarter omelet with chorizo, jalapeno and onion, Breakfast sandwich with beignets, and various combinations or eggs, potatoes, sausage and bacon. For me, the Pain Perdu looked intriguing. Pain Perdu means ‘lost bread’ and originally it was a way to save hard or day old bread, soaking it in milk (and sometimes egg) and frying it. However Pain Perdu in restaurants just means French Toast. I ordered it with a side of berry compote.


This was the best Pain Perdu/French toast I have ever had. The outside was crispy/ crunchy, the inside soft and eggy. When we inquired about the crunchiness, our server told us that the chef dredges the slices in bread crumbs after soaking it in a mixture of milk, eggs, cinnamon and vanilla, and then deep fries the bread. Whipped cream and syrup accompanied the dish.

Curt went with the Eggs Benedict served on cornbread, choice of Hollandaise or Creole sauce and then a choice of either Crab cakes, BLT, Sausage/Apple/Cheddar or avocado/Sweet Potato. He went with crab cakes and Hollandaise.

benedictTraditional Eggs Benedict is poached eggs, ham or bacon and Hollandaise sauce, served on an English muffin. This one, served with cornbread and a variety of in-betweens under the poached eggs, was very creative and good. The dish came with home fries and Curt also got the berry compote.

We went back the next morning and had the Classic Breakfast, two eggs, choice of peppered maple bacon or sausages, home fries and toast. It may not have been as creative as other menu items but it was well-prepared and equally delicious.

So the next time I’m in St. John, New Brunswick, I think I’ll try the Buttermilk Waffles or the Eggs Benedict with Sausage, Apple and Cheddar or….



Another Turn of the Page: Mid-Summer Reading

“Come with me,’ Mom says. To the library. Books and summertime go together.”

Lisa Schroeder, I Heart You, You Haunt Me

books-reading-shelfI have always loved summer. Summer meant no school and endless time for reading. Even in high school and college when summer also meant a job it was never a real job, at least not in my mind. When I went home after work there was no homework, no studying for tomorrow’s test, no worries about shopping and cooking and cleaning and paying bills. There was just time for reading. Now that I am retired and I can read anytime I want, at any time of the year, summer still feels like a freer time. And for me, unless it is for a book group or I want to research something, I read fiction because nonfiction is just too much like required reading for class. It seems my fellow book club members felt the same this past month because everyone talked about fiction. I think that’s a first.

July1. Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland (2000) 242 pages. Nancy presented Vreeland as our author this month. Vreeland specializes in historical fiction with art-related themes. In this one the ownership of a painting by the Dutch painter Vermeer is traced as it passes from one owner to another. The story is told in reverse chronological order, beginning with the most current owner, who hides the painting in his home, to the girl in the painting and her wishes to become an artist herself.

2. Rescue by Anita Shreve (2010) 288 pages. This is a story of a young EMT man who falls in love with a patient of his following an accident as a result of her drunk driving. Though they eventually marry and have a child her alcoholism forces a split and he must raise his daughter alone, only to have the mother return 18 years later. Not one of Shreve’s best efforts.

3. Lost Empire by Clive Cussler (2010) 416 pages. If you are looking for a quirky thriller it is hard to go wrong with Cussler. This one continues with the team of Sam and Remi Fargo (introduced in Spartan Gold), who on a scuba diving trip in Tanzania, discover a relic from a long-lost Confederate ship. This is the catalyst for a secret that could even bring down Mexico’s ruling party. Don’t think too much, just have fun reading.

4. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (2015) 438 pages. The setting is World War II, Nazi-occupied France. The story follows two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, and how they each respond when the Nazis invade, something they never expected. Their parallel stories portray the importance women played in wartime.

5. Painter of Silence by Georgina Harding (2012) 314 pages. Set postwar in Romania, this novel traces the story of Augustin, a deaf-mute, who has found his way across a war-ravaged landscape to give a message to Safta, his childhood friend since their days growing up together on her family’s estate. She was the daughter of the manor, he, the son of the cook.

6. Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards (2005) 401 pages. On a stormy night, a doctor must deliver his own wife’s son, but surprisingly, there is a twin sister as well. (No ultrasounds in 1964). The doctor realizes the girl has Down’s Syndrome and to protect his wife from the grief of having a child die early (common for Down’s children then?) he gives the child to his trusted nurse and asks her to take the baby to an institution. Instead she keeps the child as her own.

7. Memory Man by David Baldacci (2015) 405 pages. A typical Baldacci thriller which is good from beginning to end. However, contrary to more popular main characters, Amos Decker is over-weight, a bad dresser, and is hardly making ends meet as a P.I. after losing his detective’s job. All of this began when his family was brutally murdered, a crime that has never been solved. Oh, and did I mention he has an unusual ability of never being able to forget anything, no matter how minute.

8. Ruth’s Journey by Donald McCaig (2014) 384 pages. Authorized by the Margaret Mitchell Estate, this is the first-ever prequel to Gone with the Wind. McCaig recounts the life of Mammy, one of literature’s greatest supporting characters.

9. A Secret and Unlawful Killing: A Mystery of Medieval Ireland by Cora Harrison (2008) 336 pages. Second in the Burren Mystery Series, set in ancient Celtic Ireland (1509) with a female judge (Brehon) who is the sleuth. The historical perspective on the Irish system of hierarchy and society before English law came into force is more interesting than the crime solving.