Friday, January 29, 2021

Friday Book Review - The Lost Art of Mixing by Erica Bauermeister

 I gave a positive review a week or so ago of The School of Essential Ingredients. Are you still hungry?

Erica Bauermeister's The Lost Art of Mixing lets us catch up with Lillian and her crew, but it's more about the lives and goings on outside of the restaurant. This is a fine read, but it didn't engage me as much as the cooking school book. 

back blurb: We encounter Al's wife, Louise, whose anger simmers just below boiling point. We catch up with Isabelle, who memories are slowly slipping from her grasp. Chloe's a budding chef who hasn't learned to trust after heartache. Finnergan (new to us), quiet and steady as a tree, can disappear into the background. And there's Lillian herself, who's life has taken a turn she (we) didn't expect. 

The lives mix - sometimes it's smooth and fluffy as meringue, and sometimes it's oil and vinegar. No matter what -  the power of food, love, and companionship shines through. The Lost Art of Mixing is pleasant, but I found myself still looking for a grand finale dessert when I finished. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Wednesday Inspiration

 by Amanda Gorman - Youth Poet Laureate   Age 22

This blew me away on January 20, 2021.  This might be copyrighted, but I'm posting it here out of utter respect.  This is heart.  This is soul.  This is poetry. This is ART (yes, it's back!!!)

 Read and be inspired as I was on Wed 1-20-2021.   Just say wow and appreciate her words. 

When day comes we ask ourselves,
where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry,
a sea we must wade
We've braved the belly of the beast
We've learned that quiet isn't always peace
And the norms and notions
of what just is
Isn’t always just-ice
And yet the dawn is ours
before we knew it
Somehow we do it
Somehow we've weathered and witnessed
a nation that isn’t broken
but simply unfinished
We the successors of a country and a time
Where a skinny Black girl
descended from slaves and raised by a single mother
can dream of becoming president
only to find herself reciting for one
And yes we are far from polished
far from pristine
but that doesn’t mean we are
striving to form a union that is perfect
We are striving to forge a union with purpose
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and
conditions of man
And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us
but what stands before us
We close the divide because we know, to put our future first,
we must first put our differences aside
We lay down our arms
so we can reach out our arms
to one another
We seek harm to none and harmony for all
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true:
That even as we grieved, we grew
That even as we hurt, we hoped
That even as we tired, we tried
That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious
Not because we will never again know defeat
but because we will never again sow division
Scripture tells us to envision
that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree
And no one shall make them afraid
If we’re to live up to our own time
Then victory won’t lie in the blade
But in all the bridges we’ve made
That is the promise to glade
The hill we climb
If only we dare
It's because being American is more than a pride we inherit,
it’s the past we step into
and how we repair it
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation
rather than share it
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy
And this effort very nearly succeeded
But while democracy can be periodically delayed
it can never be permanently defeated
In this truth
in this faith we trust
For while we have our eyes on the future
history has its eyes on us
This is the era of just redemption
We feared at its inception
We did not feel prepared to be the heirs
of such a terrifying hour
but within it we found the power
to author a new chapter
To offer hope and laughter to ourselves
So while once we asked,
how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe?
Now we assert
How could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?
We will not march back to what was
but move to what shall be
A country that is bruised but whole,
benevolent but bold,
fierce and free
We will not be turned around
or interrupted by intimidation
because we know our inaction and inertia
will be the inheritance of the next generation
Our blunders become their burdens
But one thing is certain:
If we merge mercy with might,
and might with right,
then love becomes our legacy
and change our children’s birthright
So let us leave behind a country
better than the one we were left with
Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest,
we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one
We will rise from the gold-limbed hills of the west,
we will rise from the windswept northeast
where our forefathers first realized revolution
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the midwestern states,
we will rise from the sunbaked south
We will rebuild, reconcile and recover
and every known nook of our nation and
every corner called our country,
our people diverse and beautiful will emerge,
battered and beautiful
When day comes we step out of the shade,
aflame and unafraid
The new dawn blooms as we free it
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it
If only we’re brave enough to be it

Dang good!!!   Kudos to Ms. Gorman

Carry on. Stay safe.  And ponder

Monday, January 25, 2021

Monday Moment Book Review - Us Against You by Fredrik Backman

 Frederick Backman writes well about human foibles, character, and spirit. He has another winner with Us Against You and small town hockey rivals. The book is deeper than the rivalry between Beartown and Hed. It's about a high school girl who's been raped - sides are taken in regards to her and the hockey star who did it. And then what about other discoveries - what if a star on a team is seen kissing another male? What sides are taken there? 

Back blurb - With immense compassion and insight, Frederik Backman reveals how loyalty, friendship, and kindness can carry a town through its most challenging days. 

p. 5 Girls talking about being born male or female  "I'd be a boy. Because the world is kind of shitty toward them sometimes. But it is crappy toward us nearly all the time."

Later - We only pretend hockey is complicated but it isn't really. When you strip away all of the nonsense surrounding it, the game is simple: everyone gets a stick; there are two nets, two teams. Us against you. 

I enjoyed this deep exploration of two small towns. There are rich characters and a lot of drama against the backdrop of hard working, struggling folks, who need a "win".  Beartown itself is a character - sleepy, small town, innocuous - but political infighting and drama on a large scale level. Lots of living, drinking, fighting - all surrounding the love of ice. 

You don't have to know a thing about hockey to enjoy this book. You need to think you know people. 


Friday, January 22, 2021

Finally Friday - The Work Continues

 I did not post these easy quotes/memes on Monday, because in theory these should be true every day of the year. 

The man fought in peace. He believed in quiet non-violent protest. He asked to not be judged by skin color, but by actions.  That absolutely should be true. 

But it's easy to judge others. It's way too easy to make a disparaging remark, to put someone down, to bully, to make a life more difficult with a ridiculous law. 

I am guilty. I have no doubt that I give an off-hand remark that's just flat wrong. I don't want to. I don't deliberately do so. But....there's a but. It's not an excuse. It's a wrong judgement call that's been in the fiber of my being. 

However, if I/ We stay aware and make the conscious decision to monitor words and actions, we can move forward.   We have to be a We.

I'd like to think that Wednesday marked a "new" start.  A "fresh approach".  Let's reset the dial for kindness, concern, and less ugly rhetoric.   ???? Is that possible?

Naive..sure.  Wishful thinking?  Sure.   Play John Lennon's "Imagine" in the background.  Or Louis Armstrong singing "Wonderful World".   

Yea, it's Friday. Carry on. Stay safe. Be Kind.  

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Wednesday - Walk the Wire by David Baldacci

 Book Six in the Amos Decker series - another winner for this tortured soul of a detective. 

Walk the Wire by David Baldacci is a quick entertaining read.  Amos is a man with a memory that forgets nothing. From an old football injury, his brain just isn't wired like regular folks.  He lacks some social skills (but he tries) and he's a better team player than he used to be. His partner knows what she's dealing with, and his friends forgive his lack of tact. The man is a genius and can connect dots that aren't even there. 

The FBI (and the USA)  is lucky to have him.  

North Dakota - life just shouldn't be too complicated there.  But  - fracking, money, business, and death. 

Small town. Influx of cash. There's always someone in charge - some family with the roots, the name, the respect, and the hook.  There's a love triangle.  There's a power play.  It all seems so simple until it's not. 

I'm not going to blow any more plot. Baldacci has his pulse on the underlying issues of this country - fringe groups, oil/fracking/climate, greed and money, secret government military, and the basic decency of law abiding citizens.  Oh, there's conflict.  It seems we all Walk the Wire in the Baldacci universe. 

Read and enjoy!

Monday, January 18, 2021

Book Review - The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult

 Jodi Picoult always writes a timely, perceptive, issue related, character driven book. Her formula is distinctive, her quality remains impeccable. I watched a streaming author talk with her and she basically said that "If I start phoning it in, living off my laurels, then I will stop."  She truly pours a ton of blood, sweat, tears, and  research into her writing.  The  Book of Two Ways is her newest piece of evidence that she can hit the high notes for a book that makes you think, that entertains, and is very pertinent to our times. 

front cover blurb: Everything changes in a single moment for Dawn. She's on a plane - prepares for a crash landing. She braces herself as thoughts flash through her mind. The shocking thing is, the thoughts are not of her husband but of a man she last saw fifteen years ago: Wyatt Armstrong. 

The book then diverts into two.  Water/ Boston is her life there as a death doula - she helps families dealing with death. Her own marriage - on the brink of demise, though Brian truly helped her after the death of her own mother many years ago. And she has a teen daughter dealing with issues. 

Land/Egypt chapters takes us to a tomb dig and discovery - we go to the past when she was a student with Wyatt, and in current days when she seeks answers to what could have been and what is now.  Love? Competition? Connection?

cover blurb: Two possible futures unspool, as do the secrets and doubts long buries with them. What does a life well lived look like? Do we make choices...or do choices make us?

The Book of Two Ways can be convoluted, yet it's powerful. I've always liked the idea of sliding doors - if this, then that.  Jodi Picoult digs deep into Egyptian history, the path for death into the afterlife, and explores the depth of marriage and love and choices.  Entertaining and deep! 

Friday, January 15, 2021

Finally Friday - Words Matter

 Careful the things you say

Children will listen
Careful the things you do
Children will see and learn
Guide them along the way, children will listen
Children will look to you for which way to turn
To learn what to be
Careful before you say "Listen to me"
Children will listen

These are powerful lyrics from the show "Into the Woods"


Sadly, this meme sums up the horror of the storming of our U.S. Capitol, a stately building I've visited. It's for the people, filled with history, and worthy of respect. 

I think as we watch the ending of the current dumpster fire in Washington DC, I reflect once again on how much words matter -  "children (our future) will listen"

what one says
where one says them
how one says them

it all matters,  especially for a person (or people ) in power

Spoken word, written word,  it matters  (hence, the need for editing or just shutting up)

Thank you for reading this. 

and finally, courtesy of Fort Worth Texas - better late than never - WEAR A MASK AND STAY SAFE

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Wednesday Whatever - Wonder


 And now a quick book review of a really nice YA book - Wonder by R. J. Palacio.  I saw the movie starring Julia Roberts as the mother and it was quite good and heartwarming.  The book is even better. 

Augie was born with a facial difference and a challenged life. The kid is smart with a good sense of humor. He's just scary to look at and that presents challenges as he enters 5th grade after being home schooled. He has to face real life, real kids, and the gauntlet of preconceptions, rudeness, and life itself. 

Who he thought were friends weren't always there to have his back. Meanwhile his sister Olivia is dealing with high school and her own issues. She's been accustomed  to always deferring to Augie's issues. He's the baby, the medical miracle, and even though her parents care, she's been shunted to the background. 

This book  brings to the forefront real life issues, dialogue, and a family with some extra stuff to deal with.  The author does this with a nice mix of humor and angst. We can empathize, sympathize, and root for Augie to make it to 5th grade graduation with grace and dignity.  

Wonder is a powerful tale and worthy of praise. 

Monday, January 11, 2021

Monday Mix - The School of Essential Ingredients

 A friend, Linda H., lent this book to me with the caveat of "oh, it's good, but okay, but....".   

I found The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister to be very charming. I read it in a weekend. It's not incredibly difficult or even deeply profound, but it was very satisfying. And it was what I wanted at the time and that's awesome for a book - it served its purpose with dignity. 

Lillian's restaurant is a center. It's grounded and serves so many people.  Claire is a new mother. Tom has survived profound loss. Antonio is adapting to life in America. Carl and Helen, a long married couple, have their issues too.  Altogether, these students who gather on a Monday night learn a lot beyond cooking. 

cover blurb: The students have come to learn art behind Lillian's soulful dishes, but it soon becomes clear that each one each seeks a recipe for something beyond the kitchen. And, one by one, they are transformed by the aromas, flavors, and textures of what they create.

I really enjoyed this book and it made me want  to take a cooking class. I wanted to visit Lillian's restaurant and taste a dish with ingredients beyond my norm. It's always nice to read a "small" book with big dreams that mixes the right characters. 

Happy Monday. Let's have a good week. 

Friday, January 8, 2021

Flashback Friday Book Review - The Thorn Birds

 I do not tend to re-read books. When I do it's always a lovely experience and I'm glad I did it. Thus, after a conversation with a friend, Julie, during Covid Summer 2020, she volunteered to lend her re-read copy of The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough.

 I cracked it open over Christmas and was transported once again to Australia in 1915. Meggie Cleary, a stunningly beautiful four year old, enters my life, along with the whole Cleary clan. And of course, Father Ralph de Bricassart, a golden god on earth. His patron, Mary Carson - rich and cunning - the matron of Drogheda - the land, the home, the sheep - all a character itself. 

This sprawling novel covers 1915 to 1969 - love, death, fights, family quarrels, jealousy, rage, every emotion possible. The writing has you sweating in the Outback heat, fighting to survive in the dreadful runaway fires, and then drowning in the drenching rains. Australia is a land of extremes. The Cleary's are a clan of extremes. Together, The Thorn Birds is a winningly powerful heart wrenching soap opera of a book in a grand way. 

I loved it again, had forgotten so much, and was sad to read the last paragraph. This book gave me memories of my mother - she and I raced to read it on loan from the library. "Did you get to the part where....?"  "Oh my goodness, can you believe...?"  We both loved the book and then the mini-series starring Richard Chamberlain (be still my heart back in the day) and Rachel Ward. 

You can read a book with fresh eyes and enjoy a cherished friend. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Whatever Wednesday - some culture - Colorworks

New year, new attempt to break free from 2020 doldrums.  Sunday, while Ray yelled at Cowboy football on the television, I took a quick jaunt to the Arlington Museum of Art. It was two other lost souls and me wandering the galleries.  Here's one of the upper rooms. It's rather sad these days when life just isn't bustling. 
A bonus exhibit was from the Texas Photography Society - a juried collection of street view photography based on the premise of Vivian Maier's work. Some really nifty winning photos to peruse. 
I saw Ms. Maier's black and white photos a year or two ago. It was nice to contrast them with her color photography which proved a bit more playful. The photos featured were taken in the 1960s and 1970s. Her work had been discovered after she passed away - storage rooms filled with tons of prints and even undeveloped film. 

 Here's a view down from the upper gallery. The museum isn't fancy and I was there maybe forty-five minutes. I did feel refreshed - after all I had actually dressed up and left my house (yes, with mask on ). 

2021 - time to emerge a bit safely, support the arts, and escape reality for a brief moment. 

Enjoy and engage - that's a new mantra to employ. 

Monday, January 4, 2021

Monday Moments - Hello 2021 Clean Slate

Some filler as we begin 2021.   Another lovely snow pic from PA. 
A winter wonderland at peace.

Hope everyone had a good New Year's weekend - safe, no hugs, no parties

 And this is SO SO True in Texas.  You can sit on the patio without smelling like Off Bug Spray (as long as that darn brisk North Wind from Oklahoma isn't blowing across the border).   

You know what - 2021 looks the same to me. I always think it should be like awakening in OZ - a new technicolor life.  But back to work, still wearing masks, should start a diet. Hey, Ray's retired - that's new. 

                                        Some people to to priests

                                        Others to poetry

                                        I go to my friends

                                                  Virginia Woolf

Let's continue our writing fun, chats, and creativity - thank you blog land friends.