Saturday, January 28, 2012

My Mom's Old Time Life Cookbooks

When I was a kid, my mom belonged to the Time-Life Foods of the World Cookbook Club. It was so cool...

To set the stage a bit, this was pre-internet and there was no cable TV or VCRs, and as far as video games go, well 'Pong' had not yet been invented. I know, I know, it sounds like a long time ago. But, it really was just like it is now - imagine that your cell phone has been stolen and your cable and WiFi are turned off. It was just like that!

So, imagine how excited I was every month when these great books showed up! Every month there was a book about a different country or region with lots of pictures and information and recipes!

This post was written as part of Weekend Cooking, a weekly meme hosted by Beth at Beth Fish Reads. Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to head over to Beth Fish Reads, grab the button, and link up anytime over the weekend.  (The button is on your right...)

When the "Russia" book showed up I remember I spent a long time drooling over the cover picture of Pysanky eggs. Here is how Wiki describes them, including a pic from the article: "Pysanky –from pysaty (писати), "to write"– are raw eggs created with the wax-resist method (batik). The designs are "written" in hot wax with a stylus or a pin-head. Wooden eggs and beaded eggs are often referred to as "pysanky" because they mimic the decorative style of pysanky in a different medium." I was DYING to make them.

When the Provincial France book showed up, I actually DID make a souffle!

When the Vienna issue came, I studied all the different types of cakes and pastries, right out of Alice's tea party. I was particularly interested - and still am to this day, as a matter of fact - in old wooden molds that they showed that are/were used to make cakes and cookies with raised pictures on them. I have since found out that these are called 'springerle' molds. I found a fellow blogger that did a posting on them, along with lots of VERY COOL pictures...pls check it out!

Below are some pics of some random used books from the collection that are for sale on Amazon. I believe those are Japan, France, and the Middle East. Next to it is a button to buy one of the three entire sets that they have. To be honest with you, I am enjoying trying to put a set together little by little by finding the books here and there at thrift stores, etc.  

Does anyone else remember these from 'back in the day?'

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Winter Rain

A cold and rainy January night in Southern Ohio. Here are some literary references to "winter rain" that I found on

... and though he might have gone home without either in ordinary weather it was not a pleasant feat in the pelting winter rain. Retracing his steps to Viviette's ...

They passed through the painted vineyards of Asti at the end of the grape-picking , and entered Ukiah drenched to the skin by the first winter rain. "Say," Billy said ...

The last leaves were falling from the trees under the early winter rain. Bare boughs and brown grass went past their windows and the fields were deserted. ...

Some days and nights of cold winter rain added to their misery. They dare not seek shelter, for every habitable place was watched. When daylight overtook them ...

Without, the winter's rain beat a low dead-march on the great windows, and the southwest wind sighed out its vast breath along the castle walls. It was long since ...

Jane Austen is Rolling in Her Grave

OK, you have to hear me out on this one. I would not have bought this book for myself, because it is not historical fiction nor a classic, nor one of the types of books that I normally read. BUT, sometimes it is good to step outside your reading comfort zone. And, my oldest son, Josh, gave me three books, including this one, for Christmas - which was very, very nice. So, give a listen (I think this is hysterical):

(pp. 34) "Then Mr. Darcy," observed Elizabeth, "you must comprehend a great deal in your idea of an accomplished woman."

"A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, and modern languages; she must be well trained in the fighting styles of the Kyoto masters..." (This being Mr. Darcy's idea of an ideal woman during the time when the zombies are taking over England.)

In addition to the blood lust and general zombie fighting added to Jane Austen's classic, there are some double entendres, like this from page 205:

"She remembered the lead ammunition in her pocket and offered it to him. 'Your balls, Mr. Darcy?' He reached out and closed her hand around them, and offered, 'They belong to you, Miss Bennett.'"

To supply some background, the premise for the book is that a plague is sweeping through England. This in the form of a virus that infects the dead and buried who then rise up from their graves in search of human brains to eat. So, this book is purportedly the "expanded form" (haha!) of Pride and Prejudice that is set in the time of the zombie invasion.

The book "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" is completely ridiculous, and sometimes ridiculous can be a very good thing. This is NOT a profoundly moving book that will stir your soul and change your life. But, if you need to lighten up a bit, and have a good chuckle - give it a read! I'm glad that I did!

Monday, January 23, 2012

'My China: A Feast for All the Senses' by Kylie Kwong

This is a cook book.

This is a luscious coffee table art book, with such extravagant pictures, paper, and ink that it actually SMELLS like a good book.

This is an exciting travelogue.

This is "My China: A Feast for All the Senses" by Kylie Kwong, and it is really one of my favorite books of all time. Five stars.

This post was written as part of Weekend Cooking, a weekly meme hosted by Beth at Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to head over to Beth Fish Reads, grab the button, and link up anytime over the weekend. (The button is on your right...)

In the introduction there is a (beautiful, of course) map of China. The places that we are going to visit are marked on the map with evocative pictures. When you first lay eyes on the map, you cannot wait to visit all of these exotic places with Kylie, and pick up some Chinese cooking tips along the way!

The first chapter is called, "Guangdong: Going Home." Guangdong is where our tour of China begins, because this is where Kylie's ancestors are from...she is visiting the old home and meeting relatives for the first time. (She was born and raised in Australia.) And, of course she shops and cooks with all of her newly discovered cousins. Actually, she shops and cooks her way across China in places like Shanghai, Lhasa, and Tiger Leaping Gorge!

There really is too much going on in this over the top book to fit into this post, so I will hit a few of my favorite spots. First, the terracotta army. Are you familiar with this? It is an active archaeological expedition featuring hundreds of horses, warriors and weapons (see the picture) that are believed to be guarding the grave of the first emperor of the united China.

And, of course, when she is in Xi'an to see the terra cotta army Kylie hits the food destinations! She visits the Xi'an main mosque in the Muslim quarter - and we get a recipe for lamb skewers. She visits the kitchen of a small restaurant, and gets us a recipe for Stir-fried Green Chilies and Garlic.

Although it is hard to choose, I would have to say that my second favorite locale that Kylie introduces us to is the Naxi village of Dayan. The Naxi are an ethnic group and Dayan is their old, old is like an Asian Venice with lovely canals spanned by carved stone bridges. Thre are plants and red paper lanterns everywhere! Kylie gets us a recipe called "Naxi-Style Chicken with Chilies, Green Pepper and Peanuts. This is one of the recipes that I made, and it got the seal of approval from my kids - no small feat.

Actually, I learned the basics of Chinese cooking from this book, and now I can "free-style" with whatever vegetables and meats that I have on hand. I learned to heat the peanut oil in the wok "until it shimmers." I learned to add a little sugar to savory dishes. Kylie is a relaxed and enthusiastic Chinese cook, and it is contagious! This book has really enhanced my life because now I can confidently turn out quick, beautiful Chinese dishes!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Total (book) Recall

When you are out and about do you see things that remind you of passages from books? Happens to me all the time. Here are some pictures that I just took of giant sycamores in the river bottom. Every time I see them I think of "Where the Red Fern Grows." I wanted to find the exact passage in the book, and I found this cool website where you can look up a word or phrase from a lot of books at once. Here is the site: scroll down to the advanced search. I put in 'sycamore' and got 291 results.

Here is a sample:

(Wordsworth) The day is come when I again repose/ Here, under this dark sycamore" (890).

The sycamore, I have hinted, was a broad tree, and must, in summer, have borne a goodly load of leaves: but now, in November, these were strewn thick over ...

Underneath the elm's long branches. To the pavement bending o'er; Underneath the mossy willow. And the dying sycamore. With the myriad stars in beauty ...

[Singing] The poor soul sat sighing by a sycamore tree, Sing all a green willow: Her hand on her bosom, her head on her knee, Sing willow, willow, willow: ...

Loud on the withered leaves of the sycamore-tree by the window. Keenly the lightning flashed; and the voice of the echoing thunder. Told her that God was in ...

Of course, after that I find out that the text of "Where the Red Fern Grows" is still under copyright so they can't have the full text online. But, you remember the part - when Old Dan and Little Ann tree their first coon in the biggest sycamore in the river bottom and Billy has to hack away all day and all night with the axe to chop the tree down? It almost goes without saying that I loved and still love this book. I read it to my youngest son, Alex, not too long ago, and more or less cried uncontrollably for the whole last chapter. (Another fine parenting tip brought to you by "LibbysBookBlog!")

I saw something else on the same walk on the Loveland Bike Trail that reminded me of another book, "A Painted House" by John Grisham. I really liked this book. It was about a little boy that lived in an unpainted house and longed for a painted house. I think the unpainted house symbolized poverty to him and a painted house symbolized security. Here is a picture I took of the unpainted house.

Great website for Book Lovers
I love this website! Please check it out. I don't know where he gets all these pictures from old books, but they are really amazing!

Friday, January 20, 2012

"Tinkers" by Paul Harding

I picked the book, "Tinkers" up at the airport before a long flight. I chose it because (1) it was not a bodice-ripper nor a business book like so many other books on offer at the airport, (2) a little gold seal on the cover told me that it was a "Winner of the Pultzer Prize," and (3) it was a slim volume, so I thought that I might be able to finish it on the plane, as I had three other books going simultaneously at home and I did not want go for four.

"Tinkers" was really different and very good. Well, first a confession. I really dislike poetry. I hate to admit that, because I think it makes me sound unsophisticated, as though I were saying that I prefer cool aid to merlot or fish sticks with ketchup to lobster!

But, I just don't like much poetry. "Tinkers" is NOT poetry, but it is evocative of poetry - and I really like it! Clearly, Paul Harding is doing something right! I am even one of those people that kind of skims over the parts where some authors include too much long-winded description of how things look. I like to kind of fast forward to action or dialogue.

But, listen to this from page 53, "He resisted the desire to stop the wagon and give Prince Edward an apple and crawl into the shadows and sit quietly and become a part of the slow freshet of night, or to stop the wagon and simply remain on the bench and watch the shadows approach and pool around the wagon wheels and Prince Edward's hooves and eventually reach the soles of his shoes and then his ankles, until mule, cart, and man were submerged in the flood time of night, because the secrets gathered in the shadows at the tree line that rustled and waited until he passed, and which made the hair on his arms and the back of his neck stand on end and his scalp tighten when he felt them flooding, invisible, the road around him, were dispelled each time he turned his direct attention to them, scattered to just beyond his sight. The true essence, the secret recipe of the forest and the light and the dark was far too fine and subtle to be observed..."

That passage actually reminds me of a passage from Pink Floyd's 'Comfortably Numb:'

"When I was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse out of the corner of my eye. I turned to look but it was gone. I cannot put my finger on it now - the child has grown, the dream is gone..."

Same idea...

Anyway, the point is that this author does description so well that even I really liked it.

So, the title comes from the fact tht the father and son are tinkers and fix metal things and clocks. There are cool descriptions of unusual clocks kind of interjected throughout the book. I dog-earred page 18 because it held a description of one such fantastic clock. When I got home, I Googled it to see whether it was real or something that the author had dreamed up.

It is a description of a Bohemian clock that kept track of the seasons and when fall came each year, all these tiny clock-work leaves fell to the bottom of the clock(!)

Anyway, I searched a number of different ways and was disappointed. No clock. Now I do not know whether it was made up or whether it exists and I just can't find it.

But, I digress. The book was very captivating. Though there was a lot of wonderful description, there was also a plot and the threads were fairly neatly tied up at the end - something I always appreciate!

The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors

Just this minute finished reading "The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors" by Michele Young-Stone (who has actually been struck by lightning in real life (whatever that is(!)). Great book! I give it 3 1/2 out of 4 thumbs up! The lives of lightning strike survivors weave parallel threads through the book and every chapter contains an excerpt from the actual Handbook, which is supposedly a book written by one of the characters. (I do not know whether I am explaining this correctly...It is like the "Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy," which is a book about a book also called the "Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. There - that should clear things up.)

This is one of my favorite types of books...realistic, but with a bit of the fanciful. For example, Becca is a lightning strike survivor and sometimes clocks run backwards around her.

To me, the author did a good job developing the characters and I really cared about them. There is some tragedy in the book, but there is really good closure, as well. Actually, there is such good closure that the end of the book has where-are-they-now paragraphs about the minor characters - kind of like the movie, "Animal House," if you are old enough to remember that!

This is a great book to read or give as a gift.

By the way, I found the cool lightning picture at

More About Africa and What I am Reading Now

Went to the library and picked up two more books from "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" series by Alexander McCall Smith. I got "The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party" and "Tea Time for the Traditionally Built." Both were good reads, and uplifting, as our protagonist, Precious Ramotswe, has a positive outlook.

If you did not read my previous posting, this series is about the one and only woman-owned detective agency in Botswana. I have really enjoyed reading about Botswana, and have wanted to learn a bit about Africa in general, because I have not read much about it.

So, while at the library I grabbed, "Djibouti" by Elmore Leonard off one of the shelves. (The only reason that I know that Djibouti is a country in Africa is because my eldest son, Josh, once had to pick an African country to do a report on. At the time, I suspected that he had chosen the country because it is (roughly) pronounced "Ja Booty," and as he was in the fifth grade at the time, I figured he liked to go around saying that.)

But, I digress.

I plowed through the Detective Agency books really quickly. They are light, fun reads. Then, I turned my attention to "Djibouti." (Yes, I am aware that I just said that I turned my attention to Ja Booty.) Basically, it is about a woman that travels to Africa to make a film about the Somali pirates. Seems like a good premise. But, to be honest with you, I could not get into the book. The dialogue seemed stiff. I put it down after a few chapters and just did not pick it up again.

So, I decided to test-drive a couple of Alexander McCall Smith's other series. First, I read, "The Sunday Philosophy Club." I read the whole thing, but to be honest, I thought that it dragged a bit. However, the end had a nice twist to it.

Next, I read "The Unbearable Lightness of Scones," from the "44 Scotland Street" series by the same author. THAT was a winner! In the book we follow the action of several families and individuals who live at 44 Scotland Street in Edinburgh. They are a lively group, and I am going to snatch up the rest of the series as it shows up at the library.

Smith. our author lives in Scotland. But, according to the dust jackets of his various novels, I know that he was born and raised in Zimbabwe. This was the British Colonial country of Rhodesia (I confess that I only know that from the movie, "Blood Diamonds.) Still curious about Africa, I pick up a book called, "The Last Resort: A Memoir of Zimbabwe." I am a few chapters in and am learning that it is about the murder and displacement of a lot of farmers there, many of them from the old colonial days.

To be honest, this book has been sitting open on the floor next to my bed for several days. I'm just not up for a lot of murder right now. I am enjoying good old hunky-dory Batswana too much with Precious Ramotswe. So, I think that I will return "Djibouti" and "The Last Resort," and try to get more of "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" books while I am there. Luckily, Smith is a very prolific author. By the way, here is a map of Africa that I got from the website of some international investment bankers at