Monday, January 5, 2015

Monday meme

One of my writers groups took the challenge to create memes. I'm not even sure what a meme is, but I thought I'd go with a pic I was playing with, even though it did not turn out the way that I'd imagined. This photo was taken a couple weeks ago on one of the few remaining carriage roads in New Hampshire. I used to walk and ride horseback on this road a lot while growing up as a kid. Those old New England rock walls run along the side of it, but they are hard to see in this photo, and have trees growing up from within them, anyway. Nevertheless, it is fun to wonder whose hands moved all those rocks into place 400 or so years ago. I see them everywhere when I go back home, although most are gone and are not as grand as they were with those rocks being moved into other uses.

The roads I walk today are a lot different from those of my youth, but some of the dreams I had when I was younger, still remain the same.




Friday, January 2, 2015

Two Lists for Book Lovers with Guest Author, Janet Kay Jensen, plus a Giveaway for her book, Gabriel's Daughters

It's the season of lists.

December brought us shopping lists, to-do lists, naughty-and-nice lists, and wish lists.

January brings us goals or dreams for the coming year, along with lists on how to achieve them.

Thus, I felt it was only fitting in hosting a post for Janet Kay Jensen to celebrate the publication of her new book, Gabriel's Daughters, that I should ask her to come up with a list of her own.

Lucky for us, Janet responded with two! As it goes, these lists are perfect for book lovers all around. You'll certainly want to check out these titles or revisit the favorites that you share in common.

So, here we go!

What are some of your favorite books and why?

1. To Kill a Mockingbird  by Harper Lee. The voice in this story is so clear and honest.
Author Janet Kay Jensen

2. A Separate Peace by John Knowles. An allegory about the small wars that take place in the human heart, as boys in an exclusive prep school prepare for World War ll and the world around them falls apart.

3. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton. She evokes a sense of place, and fate, that are unforgettable.

4. Mansfield Park  by Jane Austen: You can say what you like about Jane, but I think her humor is deliciously wicked. 

5. Anything by Charles Dickens: I think he created some of the most memorable and vivid characters in literature.

6. Atonement by Ian McEwan: Events unfold that can’t be taken back, and their effects last for generations. 

7. Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. Twain’s biting humor and social commentary take a back seat to the romance of floating down a raft on the mighty Mississippi.


Who are some of your favorite authors?

Anne Tyler, Barbara Kingsolver, and Ann Patchett.


Thank you, Janet!

As for me, I have been thoroughly enjoying my advanced reader's copy of Gabriel's Daughters. So I decided to come up with a list in describing my experience with her book.


5 Reasons I love Gabriel's Daughters

1. Deliciously perfect.   Many passages gave me pause, simply because I stopped reading in order to go back and reread what I just enjoyed for its flawlessness. Here's an example.

  Chef Damian was a large balding man with a big, booming voice. As a graduate of a renowned culinary school, he ran an efficient kitchen. His white coats were always starched and his hat appeared to be two feet high. Damian had a broad smile with a flash of gold between his front teeth and he rarely spoke without large gestures. As long as Harry stayed out of the kitchen, the two men maintained a working relationship.
  "I make the food," Damian explained. "He does the business. We both make the money."

2. Bordering on poetic.  This goes along with number 1, but here's another example to show you what I mean. It's passages like these that kept me glued to the story, and looking forward to reveling in others that would surely follow.

  She heard the soft "Whoo? Whoo? call of an owl in a scraggly juniper tree, and Mormon crickets answered in accusing unison with their rhythmic "You-you, you-you, you-you" chorus. She knew her memories of this night would glimmer with moonlight and smell of sagebrush while in the distance she would hear the owl's mournful question and the cricket's mocking reply.

3. Mysterious.  Would Zina's past catch up with her? And if it did, what would be the consequences?

4. Layered. The quotes at the beginning of each chapter seemed to possess lives of their own, with some allowing for personal reflection and all connecting intimately with progression of the story.  Here is one:

  Absence is to love what wind is to fire; it extinguishes the small, it inflames the great. - Roger de Bussy-Rabutin

5. Captivating. I simply couldn't get enough of the characters. Each one seemed to step off the page and into my living room as living, breathing human beings. Janet did a wonderful job of creating them, working them seamlessly into the story. As I read, I wondered what would happen to them as Zina's story unfolded and drew them into her decisions. I couldn't imagine how their futures wouldn't be left unaffected by her own.


By now, you are surely wondering what this book--which has so handily captivated my attention--is about. I highly recommend it. 

About the book, Gabriel's Daughters: 

Wrestling with issues of polygamy, homosexuality, and modernity, Gabriel’s Daughters examines them through the lives of the large, loving, and polygamous Martin family. The story is told primarily through the eyes of Zina Martin, a young girl who—upon discovering she is impregnated by her “sterile” teacher and will soon be married off to a man three times her age—escapes the enclosed polygamous town of Gabriel’s Landing, Utah. Zina then embarks on a journey of self-discovery, yet she can never fully escape the longing she has for her family and even the controversial and outdated lifestyle she once lived. Through both tears and triumph, Gabriel’s Daughters reveals a moving story that not only acts as insightful social commentary but also prompts readers to re-evaluate their lives.

About the author, Janet Kay Jensen:

Janet has written other books titled, Don't You Marry the Mormon Boys (Bonneville Books 2007) and The Book Lover's Cookbook (Ballantine Books 2003), and not surprisingly, has won some awards. You can connect with Janet at her blog (www.janetkayjensen.blogspot.com), website (janetjensen.com), and social media at twitter (https://twitter.com/JanetKJensenand facebook (www.facebook.com/JanetKayJensenAuthor). While you are on facebook, I recommend stopping by to say hello and "LIKE" her page. 

Also, be sure to enter the Gabriel's Daughters book giveaway below! This book, which is published by Jolly Fish Press, will be available from major booksellers on January 20!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year Resolutions!


Now that I'm looking ahead at a whole new year, with a whole new blank slate, I figure it's a good time to start filling that slate with a list of goals. Although I'm not sure if despite what I write, FATE has something else in store for me considering the 2 dreams I woke from on the past two mornings. Today, I was steering a sailboat through craggy, black rocks in strong winds and choppy seas. Yesterday, I was running from a crazy person intent on causing me harm. What's weird is that it's been a long time since any dreams graced my sleep.



Perhaps the fact that I escaped both scenarios without crashing or capture should lend me some peace of mind. Or perhaps the dreams meant nothing, and are simply linked to the migraine that's been lurking at the edges of the right frontal lobe of my brain -- a place that my bad headaches like to call home. Nevertheless, I resolved to make a list today to welcome in 2015, so I shall do it.



1. I'd like to cook more from recipes. Yes, I know how to cook, but with working more than full time, I tend to just stick to what I know and what is easy, which can get boring. So, at least once a week, I'd like to pull a cookbook off the shelf and find something unusual to make.

2. I'd like to make sure I keep getting to gym, so that I can keep hold of my health. It simply makes running around, particularly on the treadmill, a lot easier.

3. I'd like to take more time to do what I enjoy doing -- things that don't involve deadlines or commitments -- things like writing, drawing, hiking, or fishing.

There you have it. It's a short list, but my daily to-do is long-long-long, so I hope to find a way to squeeze these three big things into my each of my weeks to come.  Advice for doing so, or encouragement is always welcome!

Happy New Year and best wishes for your own hopes and good dreams!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Happy Winter Solstice! Music for Sunday

Ever since the days began getting shorter with the fall equinox, I have been looking forward to this day -- December 21st -- because this day marks the start of the sun's return back toward us.

While I enjoy any winter activity on a sunny day or bright, moonlight night, I don't like the darker days of winter. Like this morning, for example. I woke to the same gray skies that the darkness of last night had folded into. But with today's solstice date, I know that the march out of winter has begun.

Enjoy today's Sunday Solstice music and beautiful pictures. Happy Solstice, everyone! And don't forget to keep your eyes on the lights in your life.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A New Way to Pesto

The diminishing quality of pine nuts on the market over the last couple of years has brought disappointment to many-a-pesto-lover in the kitchen, given the high cost of these special nuts.

Many reviews and comments about pine nuts referenced a lingering bitter taste in the mouth that became known as "pine mouth," which was especially troublesome since it was impossible to know by look or smell if the nut you had on hand was good or bad. Even the FDA got involved, read here.

Making pesto can be costly enough, if you have to purchase all the ingredients from the store -- olive oil, fresh basil, Parmesan cheese, and nuts. Thus, I for one, wasn't thrilled about dropping cash on nuts that may ruin a whole batch, let alone leave me clawing at my tongue for weeks to get rid of that awful taste.

Thus, I searched for an alternative, and low and behold, I found one. Garbanzo beans.

However, if you want to avoid making glorified humus, preparation of the pesto requires a couple tricks.

First, you have to bake the beans in the oven at 225 degrees for about 40 minutes. Second, you MUST be sure to add lemon juice. This ingredient is essential, and I will warn you that many recipes floating out there on the web for this garbanzo bean alternative to pesto have omitted it. Unfortunately, those who don't know any better will be highly disappointed, and likely voicing my own son's remarks after tasting the first trial batch, which were, "That's not good." (Note: remarks have been modified to protect reputations of all parties involved.)

Fortunately, I didn't throw out the batch, and after a fair amount of reflection over what I'd done, I realized what was missing, and the pesto was easily saved. (Note: it always helps to refer back to your own original recipes.)

Pesto can be prepared for a variety of uses. I tend to use mine for cracker and sandwich spreads, so it has a thicker consistency than what may be drizzled over pasta.  Whatever your fancy, you can modify the recipe to suit your needs. Pesto is highly forgiving that way. Want a pasta dressing? Then add more oil, and back off a bit on the beans.

Enjoy your own experiments, and have fun welcoming pesto back into your kitchen (with a better budget, too!)

Pesto with Garbanzo Beans

1 can garbanzos
2 cups fresh basil, packed
1 cup Parmesan cheese
4 cloves garlic
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice

(optional: add 2 medium, seeded, roma tomatoes)

Mix all together in a food processor.

Serve what you need, and Freeze the rest in smaller tuperwares for up to 6 months.

I've posted a lot about pesto before. For the original tomato pesto recipe, go here.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Hello, Winter Sunday Sunshine and Music

Winter has settled in our valley with an unlikely companion this season - sunshine.

Usually our valley air gets hammered by inversions, where the cold air becomes trapped near the valley floor under a thick layer of impenetrable clouds, leading us to go through day after day without a sign of sun. Usually our valley gets highlighted in the news during these episodes as one of the worst places in the US for air quality.  Usually I spend my free time figuring out how and when I can leave this valley for brighter days. But not this year. So far, I've awoke on the weekends to glorious blue skies, leading me to make plans that actually take me outside -- here in the valley, of all places -- rather than elsewhere. I can only hope our good weather lasts, and take advantage of it while I can.

Here is a somewhat relevant photo that I found to share my experience with winter, thus far. (Since dropping my camera in orange juice a while back, it's been hard to get decent pictures, because the "new" camera I got, which was supposed to be identical to the first, basically stinks big-time. The quality of Canon's internal parts has obviously taken a nose-dive, unbeknownst to me when I thought replacing my camera would be simple, so long as I got the same model. And as far as the camera-in-orange-juice story goes, don't ask. It's complicated - but true to the luck I tend to run with.)

It's been a while since I posted Sunday music recommendations. This morning the view of the sun glinting off the snow-covered mountain peaks inspired me to search out some winter piano. Martin Herzberg's composition fit the bill.  Enjoy! I know I shall. It's filling my writing space and inspiring my muse quite nicely.



Sunday, October 26, 2014

Goodbye, Summer. Hello, Fall

Spring and Summer rose with the sun each day, and like them, I grabbed hold of the line to which they were attached and was brought along on their fast-forward and unrelenting ride. Now I find myself in the midst of autumn with the sun dipping from the sky sooner than I'd like each evening, veiling my activities under ever-darkening and cooling night tide.

In a few words? Life has been crazy and busy and full of changes to which I've been slow to adjust. Yet, the world has moved along, and a few more pages have been torn from the calendar; and now I am staring at the last few eves of October, while wondering where the refreshing breezes of September went. Or August's for that matter. I have always loved August and its restful morning light that shimmies in through my window, feeling warm and welcoming like an old friend.

As fall wraps itself up into winter, I hope to wrap myself into finding more time to relax and reflect and share a bit more with friends. Like the new recipes I've come up with and books I've discovered.

One book which brought me back to my New Hampshire roots was written by Melissa Coleman: This Life is In Your Hands. Although tragic, I found it riveting and thought-provoking and well worth the read.

Another was John Green's Looking for Alaska, which was okay. Well, more than okay. It was great. Okay? If you're wondering what I mean, then you'll have to read the book to find out.

Until next time, enjoy the place where you find yourself at, and remain hopeful and anticipatory of the moments that surely will follow.