Saturday, July 28, 2012

Weekend Cooking - How to Eat Weekends!

I spotted "The Splendid Table's: How to Eat Weekends" on the 'new books shelf' at the library, and knew immediately is was just the thing for Weekend Cooking!

This post was written as part of Weekend Cooking over at  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...)

I am so glad that I picked up this book! It is so fun... I don't know quite how to describe it, but it is almost like a really good magazine full of little articles and sidebars and fun facts - and recipes too, of course. But, having said that, it is much more than a magazine because it is a sumptuous hardcover book with photos that Anthony Bourdain would call hard-core, Triple X food porn!

For example, there is a centerfold(!) type photo that spans two pages and shows the feast they call "A Home Style Vietnamese Sunday Lunch." There are a cucumber and melon salad; little dishes of this and that scattered around; and a platter of Vietnamese Green Mango Salad with Grilled Pork in the Center.

Another example feature is "An Italian Renaissance Supper." I reeeeaally want to make this! As with other cuisines featured in this lush book, the authors dive in and tell us how to outfit an Italian Pantry and Kitchen, and how to build a library of Italian cookbooks.

One of the recipes is for "Renaissance Lasagne!" There are sub-recipes (is that a word?) for Hand-Rolled Egg Pasta and Baroque Ragu. There is a sidebar about wine. And, there is a history lesson called, "The Islam Connection," about how that culture contributed to this recipe and how all this information came down to us through a diary kept of what was served "in the court of the Este dukes in Ferrara." AND, there is a separate "Building a Library" sidebar that goes with the history lesson.

The very first menu featured in the book is called, "A Mexican Comida." And, the very first recipe is, "Tomatillo Salsa with Fresh Cheese from El Cardenal." This is the recipe I made today.

1 medium garlic clove
4 sprigs fresh cilantro
1/2 lb. fresh tomatillos
1 tablespoon onion, coarsely chopped
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 to 2 fresh serrano chiles
8 ounces Queso Fresco (fresh Mexican cheese), feta, farmer, or firm goat cheese, cut into 1/2-inch x 2-inch sticks

1. In a blender or food processor, pulse the garlic, cilantro, tomatillos, onion, sugar and chiles to a very fine mince, until well combined but not entirely liquid. The salsa should have a slightly thickened texture to stand up to the cheese. Add salt to taste.

2. Pour the salsa into a serving bowl. Tuck some of the cheese sticks into it and have the rest on a plate. Set out in the middle of the table and have everyone dip away.

I am sharing photos of the ingredients, but not the "after" photo because, while the salsa was excellent, the Queso Fresco (I got authentic cheese) was crumbly and did not hold together well enough to look pretty. I really plan to make this again and to use chips.

That minor criticism aside, this is such a fun book! I enjoyed reading it and looking at the pictures.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Trifextra Challenge - A Great First Sentence!

Once again, I am taking part in the challenge at Here are the instructions for this weekend's game:

What we want you to do this weekend is to give us a 33-word opening line to your book. That's it. Make us want to read the next 333 pages of your work.

As Victoria poured over the list of countries that did not have extradition treaties with the U.S., she automatically wrote off those that were at war or otherwise unstable; but, the Maldives...interesting.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Bath Salts! - Chapter 10

This is Chapter 10 of my novel, "Bath Salts." I am entering this post in the challenge at where we are to enter a tale of between 333 and 3,333 words.

I am also hooking up with Sandra's Writing Workshop.

“How much further?” Randi called to Donovan. They were east of the interstate, driving through what seemed to be endless orange groves. They were on a two-lane country road; the lanes were narrow and the rig took up most of both lanes.
“I’m not a hundred percent sure. I never visited this guy – we don’t hang out.” Donovan replied. “I knew who he was in high school. We were in a couple of classes together. He was a really weird guy. He was really low class and filthy, but you could tell that he was also really smart, but in a creepy way…”
Matt interrupted. “Look. Y’all see that smoke up ahead?”
“Yea, I wonder what that’s all about,” answered Donovan.
As they drove on, a rising cloud of smoke became more and more visible. Suddenly, a battered light blue pickup truck came barreling toward them from the direction of the fire.
“That may be your friend now,” Matt drawled.
He stopped the big rig in the very center of the two-lane road so that the pick-up would not have room to go around on either side. There were deep ditches on both sides of the road, but Mike was not taking any chances of the truck going around him, opening his door, he stepped out onto the semi’s metal stair, and using the door as a shield he looked out the open window and raised his pistol.

Donovan had taken the same stance on the other side of the truck. In front of them, the pickup skidded to a halt. Caroline could see the terrified and confused look of the driver, Billy Knowles, an unkempt, overweight man in his mid-twenties.
Billy threw the truck into reverse and started to speed away from them backward. Matt and Donavan got into the rig, and started after him.
Billy sped backwards and had almost made it to the scene of the fire when he crashed into a particularly deep stretch of ditch on the left side of the road.
He was not hurt, but he was dazed. By the time he got out of the pickup and started to run, Matt and Donovan were out of the rig and after him. He ran into an orange grove and they were right behind him.
“Oh my God, I can’t believe this!” Caroline cried. She and Randi were standing, crouched, in the cab between the two front seats watching the men disappear into the grove. “Should we go with them?”
“I think we should stay,” Randi replied. “We don’t have guns. Bath Salts guy probably has one; I mean...he’s a drug dealer.”
Randi sat down in the passenger’s seat and went on Twitter on her phone.
“Holy crap!” she exclaimed to Caroline, “Venice is totally trending!”
Caroline hit the Twitter icon on her own phone. #Venice was trending, and so were #Zombieapacolypse and #Cannibals.
Meanwhile in the orange grove, Matt and Donovan were running after Billy. The trees in the grove were planted in rows, so they started up the same row. But, when they came to a gap where there was a tree missing, Donovan cut over to the next row, while still in pursuit.
“Billy!” called Donovan.
Billy glanced over his shoulder at Donovan. Without slowing down or raising his gun he yelled, “What do you want?!”

“Answers!” Donovan yelled back.
Billy stopped running and set the gun down near his own feet. Matt and Donavan ran up to him.
He was still doubled over from having set the gun down. He was huffing and puffing with his hands on his knees. “Let me…catch my breath.”
Matt and Donavan stood quietly for a moment. Then Donovan said, “Was it you? Did you put the Bath Salts in the water supply?”
Billy was red-faced and still out of breath. He shook his head ‘No’.
He stood up.
“I remember you, Donovan,” he gasped. “Heard you was a Navy Seal now.”
Donovan nodded.
Billy continued. “No, I didn’t do it. It’s this dumbass named Arnold Hucknett. He told me was going to retire from the City and be a distributor. He said he was having packaging printed up and everything, real professional.”
“I sold him ten huge buckets of the stuff…I didn’t know,” Billy wailed. He started to cry.
Matt and Donavan looked at one another, embarrassed.
“Where is he now, Billy?” Donovan demanded.
“He…he works for the City at the Water Department,” snivelled Billy. “I guess that’s how he done it.”
“I know he lives in the Venice Palms apartments, but I honestly don’t know the apartment number. I never been over there. He has a beat up white pickup with one of those fiberglass bed covers that have the door in back.”
Billy continued. “Look…I didn’t know about the water supply. I would never have sold him the second batch. I heard about the water supply just about five minutes after he took off outta here with the second batch.”
Donavan eyed him sharply. “What do you mean – second batch?”
Billy started babbling again, “I had no idea…”
“Look, cut to the chase, and quit making excuses. We want the short version,” Donovan commanded.

Billy seemed to pull himself together. “He had plastic buckets. They were empty fluoride buckets from the water department. I thought he was just recycling. Maybe I should have…”
“The short version!” barked Donovan.
“Ok, he had ten buckets. He took the two that I had ready last night, and I worked most of last night and got the other eight ready. He came and picked them up just a little while ago. After that is when I…I heard the news on the radio about the water supply. “ Billy hung his head and continued. “I put gas on everything and torched it. Then, I took off, and that’s when I ran into y’all.”
Matt and Donovan looked at one another. Donovan turned back to Billy. “Where’s he going?” he demanded.
“I don’t know!” Billy wailed.
“Do you have any idea how much trouble you’re in already?” Matt demanded.
Billy nodded sadly. “He…Arnold…he was talking about Heidi. She lives in Miami. I think she dumped him. He’s all pissed at her.”
“Billy, do you think he’s going to Miami?” Donavan said with surprising gentleness.
Donovan nodded. “Yea, he was going on and on about getting even with Heidi when he left and after that when I heard what he did in Venice, and he had already left with eight more buckets, I was thinking that he would probably do Miami next.”
“Oh my God…” Matt murmered.
“Let’s go!” said Donovan turning to go back to the truck.
Matt nodded and started after him. “What about Billy?” he called to Donovan.
“His house and lab are burned and his truck’s in a ditch,” Donovan answered back over his shoulder. “I don’t think he is a threat to anyone anymore.”
At that moment, they heard a gunshot behind them. Matt spun around, and Donovan dove for the ground while simultaneously looking back to see what was happening.
They watched as Billy’s body collapsed among the orange trees. The hand holding the gun dropped to his side and then his whole body and what was left of his head slowly went down.
Donovon rose to his feet and dusted himself off. “That’s probably for the best,” he said quietly. “Come on.”
And the two ran back toward the rig.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wondrous Words Wednesday at Wolf Hall!

I am reading "Wolf Hall" by Hilary Mantel! So far it is SO GOOD! I had read that her book, "Bring Up the Bodies" is one of the best books of 2012 (so far), but that it was a good idea to read "Wolf Hall" first. These are books about Tudor England - always a subject I enjoy!

I am not too far into "Wolf Hall," but so far the only words that I have come across that puzzle me are "sweating sickness." Don't laugh! I know what sweating is and I know what sickness is! But...the two together? What does it mean? The book says that every few years the sweating sickness kills a lot of people in London and they die the same day they get it!

I read several articles and found out that nobody really knows WHAT it was. Here is an excerpt from Discover magazine, June 1, 1997:

"Medical historians have never known what caused the sweating sickness. That the disease was neither plague nor typhus was clear from contemporary accounts. Its victims bore neither the boils typical of plague nor the rash of typhus. Now physicians Vanya Gant and Guy Thwaites, both of St. Thomas’ Hospital in London, think they may have identified the killer. Sudor Anglicus, they say, may have been an early version of a disease that has made headlines in recent years: hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, which erupted in the Four Corners region of the American Southwest in the summer of 1993."

I have written this post so as to participate in Wondrous Words Wednesday at

Monday, July 16, 2012

Review: "The Katyn Order" by Douglas W. Jacobson

We all know from high school that as Nazi Germany was losing the Second World War, the Russians pressed in from the east, and the Americans, English, and French pressed in from the west. They all met in Berlin...the Battle of Berlin ensued...Hitler offed over.

But, within that sweeping saga, there were, or course, a myriad of sub-plots, that we may not have learned about. "The Katyn Order" is one such story.

Before I say anything else though, I have to tell you that this is not a history lesson (even though you will naturally pick up a lot of information along the way). I think that it can best be described as a thriller and a romance.

It is the story of a male and a female operative in the covert Polish army. They are trying to expel the Nazis from Warsaw toward the end of the war. Basically, they are wedged between two enemies - Germany and Russia.

Under desperate circumstances, a romance develops. It seems to me that these wartime romances are often very powerful because of the dramatic backdrop of the times...the adrenalin.

The two end up on a mission together - to find and retrieve the Katyn Order - an order by Stalin at the beginning of the war that called for the murder of 20,000 Poles. So, it really is an action-packed thriller, as the two race around Poland searching for the order and battling first Germans and then Russians!

I REALLY liked this book! I received it for free in the mail in exchange from an honest book review on my blog, and I have to say that it one of the most well-written of this type of book that I have gotten.

The transitions from one character's story and another are very smooth...actually the whole book is very smooth. It flows well with no choppiness. The characters are believable and complex. I came to really care about 'the good guys.'

I feel as though the cities of Warsaw and Krakow were characters in the book. Warsaw was leveled by the Germans because the people did not surrender, where Krakow's buildings mostly survived. I did some checking and have found that, happily, a lot of Warsaw has been re-built in its original style.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in thrillers, romances, or WWII-era history!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Mysterious Weekend Cooking

I have missed the last couple Weekend Cookings. Been busy with work and - truth be told - I have also been goofing around on Twitter quite a bit! I was telling my dad - it's like going to TwitterTwitter Land and hanging out on the Island of Lost Boys and can get sucked in and time passes...

But, I did discover! Somebody Tweeted about it! It is a lot of fun; a lot of mystery writers blogging and sharing recipes. Try to check it out if you get a minute!

This post was written as part of Weekend Cooking over at  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...)

I made a recipe from the site!

Lucy Burdette's Broccoli Rabe and Sausage Pasta


1 bunch broccoli rabe, washed and chopped into one-inch pieces (discard tough ends and any yellow leaves( - (Libby's note - I left mine long because I thought it would look better!)
1 package Aidell's Italian chicken sausage (4 links) or other to your taste
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 box sturdy pasta such as ziti or rotelli
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Slice the sausage into rounds and fry it in olive oil (1-2 Tbsp) until brown and crispy. Remove to a bowl. Saute the garlic in the same pan for 45 seconds, then add the chopped broccoli rabe and the chicken broth. Steam until bright green but still a little crunchy. Add the sausage back in and heat. Hot pepper flakes could be added here if you like a little more zip.

Serve over pasta with lots and lots of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste.

Below is a picture of the finished product. Everyone liked it except one of the kids who was horrified by the liberal use of broccoli!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Wondrous Words Wednesday - "The Lantern"

I just finished reading "The Lantern" by Deborah Lawrenson. GREAT book, by the way. It is set in a to-die-for hamlet in Provence. A full review is coming, but for now, the words.

This post has been prepared so as to participate in Wondrous Words Wednesday a fun meme over at where we discuss new-to-us words that we have encountered in our reading that week.

Here are words that I looked up (on from the book, "The Lantern":

SUSURRATION - susurration \soo-suh-RAY-shun\ , noun: A whispering sound; a soft murmur. . . .the soft susurration of the wind through a stand of whistling thorn.

ALEMBIC - a·lem·bic   [uh-lem-bik] noun 1.a vessel with a beaked cap or head, formerly used in distilling. (Note: This makes sense because they are harvesting lavender and making an essence with it.)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Review: Flesh by Khanh Ha

I was excited to read "Flesh," by Khanh Ha because I am a huge fan of historical fiction, and this particular book was set in Vietnam - a first for me! I adore Vietnamese food and can see the French influences in the cuisine. But, to be honest with you, I have always been a bit murky about what was happening in that part of the world before the U.S. involvement.

I was looking for this book to fill in some of the blanks for me - and it did not disappoint in that regard. "Flesh" brings Vietnam - at around the turn of the last century - to life. Life was hard, and this book does not spare us. The book opens with a scene where our protagonist, Tai, is standing with his mother and baby brother at an execution. It is to be the execution of his father. Ha's powers of description are good, and we are brought into the scene and witness this act.

The execution is in the first pages of the book for a reason. The book starts there because the execution is the catalyst for nearly everything that happens in the rest of the book.

I am getting into spoiler territory at this point, but the execution generates the need for an acceptable burial spot. The Annamese - people of An Nam (See another post I did about this book, and specifically geo-political boundaries. It is pretty interesting, and includes a map of the old place names.) - believed that certain conditions had to exist at a burial location in order to facilitate a good after-life for the deceased.

This need sets Tai's quest into motion. Tai also has a mission to find the man who betrayed his father. This is not discussed much early in the book, although there is some foreshadowing in a few conversations.

The quests play themselves out, and there are plot in particular that I think you will find interesting.

So, the big question - did I like the book? I liked it. I think that the characters were very believable. I enjoyed the descriptions of a very different time and place. I think my only criticism would be a certain choppiness where we would start off in a new direction or on a tangent and I would be confused for a minute until I re-gained my bearings.

But, overall, I would recommend this book. Part of what I (and many of you, I suspect) love about reading is being whisked off to an exotic place for an adventure. And 'Flesh' fills the bill!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Trifextra Writing Challenge - Its the End of the World As We Know It

The Higg's Boson was never supposed to be isolated. It was never supposed to exist apart from matter.

That's just not the way the world works. Not the way things were set up.

So, once isolated, the Higg's Boson pulled another boson from a nearby atom. And, then each of those bosons liberated another. And, on it went. A chain reaction, if you will.

It is still happening. Right now, as I write this.

The atoms from which the bosons are being pulled are fragmenting. They are also no longer anchored in space - nor in time.

This is still happening at only the atomic level. But, since it is speeding up at an exponential level, the tear in the space/time continuum should be visible to the naked eye some time tomorrow.

After that, it will grow at a tremendous rate, turning everything in its path into sub-atomic particles.

The world will end in three days.


I have prepared this post for the This weekend our prompt was "The world will end in three days." See? Its just fiction. (That's what they told me to tell you, since there is no use panicking.)

A Favorite...

I am participating in Sandra's Writing Workshop Blog Hop. This time, we are to write a description of a favorite thing.


One of my favorite things is a book. Of course, I love a lot of books, but for the most part, it is the stories that I am enamored with and not the books, themselves.

This book is different. It is called "My China," and it is by Kylie Kwong. The book, itself, is a gorgeous creation. It is a big, red hardback tome.

When you open the book, the ink smells like newly minted money. The paper is heavy and smooth. There are dazzling color pictures on every other page.

The book is a travel and cooking compendium, so there are shots of the Great Wall and the Terracotta Army, as well as mouth-watering photos of authentic Chinese dishes.

It is a beautiful object on its own, but I also love the fact that its pages tell of traveling through exotic China seeing the sights and preparing and eating interesting foods. I take the book down from time to time, and literally feel like an armchair traveler from the moment that I open it.


If you are interested, I did a book review on "My China" several months ago.