Stealing Magnolias

  

Stealing Magnolias: Tales from a New Orleans Courtyard *****

by Debra Shriver

An Edible Book Review inspired by Jain at Food for Thought, a delicious blog for readers with an appetite for the written word.

“In this dreamy and seductive entrée into the magical city that is New Orleans, author Debra Shriver, a twelfth-generation Southerner, Francophile, passionate preservationist and jazz devotee creates a book that is part-love letter, part scrapbook, and gives readers a rare tour behind courtyard walls and private gates of this enigmatic city, which is often considered the Paris of America.”

“So whether it’s food, gardens, décor, decoration, architecture or design, this book engages the reader to experience every element of one of the world’s most romantic cities. Chapters highlight food and entertaining, decorating, gardens, landscapes, local traditions, interiors, and architecture. Readers will find themselves enthralled by exploring a unique and lavish compilation of original works by more than twenty photographers and artists who share her vision.”

What a delightful tour of the Crescent City through the pages of this book as well as a feast for the eyes & taste buds!

This book would make a perfect gift for the hostess-with-the-mostest, Francophile, or anyone who enjoys ‘lifestyle’ books. The sampling of culinary & cultural flavors to be experienced within these pages are sure to whet your appetite for a visit to New Orleans. It made me long to steal away for an extended weekend, since it’s been 15 years since we visited there.

With New Orleans evoking “a deep virtual sigh, that surrenders all weight of thought and behaviour”~ the chapter on Recipes & Rituals, tempted me to surrender my wallet, all reason, and hours of my time searching for sterling silver oyster forks, antique oyster plates, & vintage porcelain pots de crème cups :-) 

Entertaining with family heirlooms & the silver service is the norm, where these treasures are used in everyday ways, not just special occasions~ serving up crawfish in grandmother’s crystal finger bowl, or presenting deviled eggs on antique Limoges oyster plates.

 My Fitz & Floyd Classique D’Or (French in name only :)  set a foundation for a Mardi Gras-inspired table. . .

I’m still dreaming of pots de creme cups & oyster plates, as well as beautiful French-inspired ‘lapkins’~ a large napkin measuring 24 inches square that grace a seasoned host’s table. Typically monogrammed (the monogram serves as a metaphor below the Mason- Dixon line :) with initials that are embroidered on linens & embossed and on correspondence, in a similar fashion that the crown motif can be found stitched and  stamped throughout the city.

 I used two napkin rings, layering a gold fleur-de-lis ring on top of my banded Fitz & Floyd ring.

“Icons and symbols of New Orleans style are repeated, and none is more familiar than the ubiquitous fleur-de-lis. The French lily, which was initially embraced as a nod to the city’s royal European roots, is now a poignant, ever-present reminder of post-Katrina rebirth.”

Table Ingredients:

 Gold chargers – Hobby Lobby

  Fleur-de-lis Napkin Rings & Placemats –  Bed, Bath & Beyond

Flatware – Horchow, Goblets – Abigails

Feathered Masks – World Market

 

“As a Southerner, I know true hospitality when I see it, yet the Orleanais are the consummate convivial creatures. In a city known for forty food festivals a year, an exhaustive list of world-class restaurants and too many star chefs to count, Southern hospitality combines French table service, European flavors and Creole traditions. The result:  a population of charming, outgoing, epicureans.”

“Locals dine out so frequently that, in older establishments like Antoine’s and Galatoire’s, regular customers have both a house account and a personal waiter. In fact, New Orleans author Peter Feibleman wrote that  when he was a child, an uncle warned him, ‘You can’t let an unknown waiter serve you,’ explaining that it was ‘akin to eating on the floor.’ ”

“Drink in hand, the hosts will make proper introductions, followed by lively conversation, none of which will ask—or care—‘What do you do?’ The first question is always, ‘What do you drink?’ ”

 

 

“A friend calls New Orleans ‘Europe with heat.’ She means the lusty, leisurely, European lifestyle is recalibrated to an even slower, heat-driven and tropical pace. Searing temperatures are matched only by the more palpable spices of its cuisine— a hot peppery jambalaya, the African-inspired ingredients of a salty andouille gumbo, or a spicy, roux-soaked etoufee. Neighborhoods, accents and menus are an irresistible mix inspired by  France, Italy, a dose of Spain and the melding flavors of Africa, the Caribbean and the Deep South.”

“The old city is at once exotic and familiar, cool and hot, scrappy and elegant, friendly and even dangerous. Her contradictions draw you in, and then, one by one, dominate your senses. Sight, sound, scent and taste collide and conspire to captivate.”

With New Orleans a foodie’s paradise, there was plenty to tempt my palate between these pages for Food for Thought.

Pralines are named for the French Marechal du Plessis-Praslin, Duke of Choiseul- Praslin, whose recipe of sugar & pecans is now a classic New Orleans’ treat.

  Serve warm & fresh from the kitchen with a demitasse of chicory flavored coffee. You can also crumble them on top of vanilla ice cream for a quick & easy dessert.

 

I followed a quick & easy microwave recipe in the book, a similar recipe can be found here.

Another reason to fall in love with New Orleans~ Carbohydrates are never a sin :)

“Be prepared to plunge into an authentic cocktail hour. At every party, a full bar service, fully-bartended or self-serve, is always set up within easy reach of guest. Cocktails, having been created here, are such a part of New Orleans culture, that we know we’ll be served the real thing:  a Sazerac, an Old-Fashioned, a Sidecar or perhaps an orange-scented Ramos Gin Fizz. And, the French tradition of Champagne and Champagne aperitifs is alive an well.”

“New Orleans never strays far from its founding French fathers, no matter the meal or the month. Evenings in high-end restaurants often begin with the traditional Parisian prelude:  Champagne or a Champagne cocktail in tall, faceted French flutes sold throughout the city’s antique shops. It is said that the cocktail was invented here.”

Kumquats were a popular fruit with the early Creole people of New Orleans. I celebrated with a Creole Champagne Cocktail for Food for Thought.

Kumquats are seeded and mixed with Cointreau and sugar, heating the mixture until the sugar is dissolved. Cool and store in the refrigerator.

Spoon one of the kumquat halves or several small pieces into the bottom of a Champagne flute with a little bit of the Cointreau. Top with your favorite chilled Champagne.

 

“Between these covers are the images that draw me, an outsider, back to the city time and time again. I am neither historian nor native daughter, yet I am bewitched. On these pages, I have compiled musings on the spell that New Orleans has cast upon me, the house my husband and I now call home, the foods we like to eat, the cocktails we often drink, the local music we listen to and play later to quell the homesickness when we are far away, the jazz clubs and dive haunts we return to, the footpaths of grand gardens and home we have visited, and the well-worn sidewalks of our neighborhood, the Vieux Carre.”

 

As a lagniappe, or something extra, Debra Shriver has offered a list of favorites including places to rest your head, shopping experiences, sensational sippers, best oyster dishes, and ending with a dozen reasons to return to New Orleans again & again.


Thank you for your visit, I’m joining:

Things That Float My Boat

 

 

A taste of warm weather this weekend has us. . .

 

 

 Enjoying some Chair Time . . .

 

 

Seeing signs of the promise of Spring. . .

 

 

 

 

 

Sunning ourselves like the birds. . .

 

 

 

 Watching the mini waves roll in. . .

 

 

 

 

 

Wishing you signs of spring wherever you are~

 

 

Thank you for your visit & to my hostesses, I’m joining:

 

  • The Tablescaper for Seasonal Sundays~

  • Mary at Little Red House for Mosaic Monday

  • A Southern Daydreamer for Outdoor Wednesday

  • The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels–A Love Story

      

     

    The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels–A Love Story ***.*

    by Ree Drummond

     

     

    An Edible Book Review inspired by Jain at Food for Thought, a delicious blog for readers with an appetite for the written word.

     

     

      Okay, so I’m a sucker for a little romance mixed with humor, so this was a great recipe for light reading for Valentine’s Day.  A sweet, quick read and funny in true Ree-style for those who are familiar with  The Pioneer Woman. While the story is sure to warm the cockles of your heart, there is also plenty of inspiration to warm your belly, with the recipes to be found and included in the back of the book.

     

     

    From The Pioneer Woman: 

    “Back in 2007, I started writing the bodice-ripping saga of how I met and married my husband. What started out as a few paragraphs turned into a forty-plus chapter online serial, which concludes on our wedding day. The published version of Black Heels includes the complete online serial (with added material) as well as a whole new section, which documents our entire first year of marriage.”

     

     

     It also provided me with inspiration to wrangle up a table for a little dish fun for this edible review~

     

     I took my cue from the colors on the book jacket, lassoing and filling some mason jars with flowers, on a foundation of burlap. The bandana-inspired paisley bowls & plates are from Bed, Bath & Beyond.

     

     

    “Read along as I recount the rip-roaring details of my unlikely romance with a chaps-wearing cowboy, from the early days of our courtship (complete with cows, horses, prairie fire, and passion) all the way through the first year of our marriage, which would be filled with more challenge and strife—and manure—than I ever could have expected.

     

    This isn’t just my love story; it’s a universal tale of passion, romance, and all-encompassing love that sweeps us off our feet.”

     

     

    “It’s the story of a cowboy.

    And Wranglers.

     And chaps.

     And the girl who fell in love with them.”

     

     

     

     

     

    “We lived life at entirely different paces. His day began before 5:30 am, and his work was backbreaking, sweaty, grueling. I worked so I’d have something to do during the daylight hours, so I’d have a place to wear my black pumps, and so I could fund a nightlife full of gourmet food and colorful drinks. For Marlboro Man, nightlife meant relaxation, an earned reward for a long day of labor. For me, nightlife meant an opportunity to wear something new and gloss my lips.”

     

     

     

    “At times the differences concerned me, Could I ever be with a man who’d never, in his entire life, eaten sushi? Could I, a former vegetarian conceivably spend the rest of my life with a man who ate red meat at every meal?”

     

     

    “My mind began to race, trying to figure out what it all meant. Do I need to learn how to whittle? Cook fried chicken? Ride a horse? Use a scythe?”

     

     

    “And children? Oh. Lord.That means we might have children! What will we name them? Travis and Dolly? Oh my gosh. I have children in my future. I could see it plainly in front of me. They’ll be little redheaded children with green eyes just like mine, and they’ll have lots of freckles, too. I’ll have ten of them, maybe eleven. I’ll have to squat in the garden and give birth while picking my okra.”

     

     

     

     

    “Does the world of agriculture have a different chart of wedding anniversary presents? Would the first anniversary be paper. . .or motor oil? Would the second be cotton or Weed Eater string?”

     

     

    I rustled up some Cowgirl Food straight from the pages of the book. . .

     

     

    Tagliarini Quattro Formaggi (Four Cheese Pasta)

     

     

     Recipe here

     

     

     

    “We shared each other’s histories while cooking in his kitchen in the country, me whipping out my arsenal of L.A. vegetarian delights with the same pride and enthusiasm that Marlboro Man shared his carnivorous ones.”

     

     

     

    And more Cowgirl Food to fortify you~

     

     

    Chicken Tortilla Soup, recipe here

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Thanks for your visit & to my hostesses, I’m joining:

     

    5 Ingredient Fix

    5 Ingredient Fix: Easy, Elegant, and Irresistible Recipes****.*

    by Claire Robinson

    An Edible Book Review inspired by Jain at Food for Thought, a delicious blog for readers with an appetite for the written word.

    Claire Robinson—host of Food Network’s 5 Ingredient Fix—is here to help you get dinner on the table with minimal fuss and just a few great ingredients.”

    “With everyone struggling to steamline and budget, Claire’s recipes make preparing delicious meals a snap. Showing you how to choose the right ingredients along with a little culinary know-how is her specialty. According to Claire, cooking doesn’t have to be complicated to be impressive:  Simplifying the process with fewer ingredients saves time, frustration, and, ultimately money.”

    “From breakfast treats like Brioche French Toast with Strawberries and Cream, to fun starters like Mini Shrimp Cake Poppers, to comforting dinners like Buttermilk Pecan Chicken with Cheesy Penne, all of Claire’s recipes have no more than five ingredients. A quick trip to the supermarket and one bag of groceries later, and affordable, better-than-restaurant quality meals can be ready in minutes.”

     I loved the food styling & beautiful photos in this book and I found plenty of recipes to tempt my palate. . .

    There are also simple to follow directions and suggestions for additional ingredients to toss in if you have them~ like a pinch of cinnamon, a splash of vanilla, a sprinkling of sesame seeds. . .

     Since 5 is the magic number, I opted for 5 recipes to prepare, chosen with a conscious effort to eat a little healthier after the gluttony of the holidays. . .

    That aside, I would be happy to indulge in a sugar fix with Millionaire’s Shortbread~ a crunchy rich shortbread with caramel & chocolate. . . Flourless Chocolate Lover’s Cake. . .Chocolate Pot de Creme with Cherry Whip. . .

    Or  Carbo-Load with Polenta “Fries” with Roasted Tomato Sauce—chilled polenta cut into strips & fried in olive oil . . . Claire’s Carbonara. . .Rich Porcini Mushroom Risotto. . .and my personal kryptonite~ ANY type of potato~Walnut-Sage Potato Gratin—potatoes, cheese AND heavy cream. . .

    *sigh*

      Toasted Fruity Israeli Couscous~ recipe available from Food Network

     Ready in 20 minutes and satisfying with the crunch from the pistaschios & sweetness of the apricots. I added some chicken & reheated the next day for a quick lunch.

     

    “Each ingredient should truly stand out in a recipe, and with five or fewer ingredients, you’re really going to taste the food you’re cooking. My dishes are ones that are simple to shop for, easy to prepare, and fun to serve, and they promote healthy seasonal eating. By following my recipes you’ll wind up with lighter grocery bags, a heavier wallet, and uncluttered kitchen, and, most important, delicious meals to share with your family and friends.”

    Fig & Blue Cheese Tart~

    Frozen Puff Pastry, Carmelized Onions, Dried Figs, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Blue Cheese

    Carmelized onions & figs are favorites at our house, plus blue cheese~

    “After years of cooking, playing, experimenting, and learning, I’ve found that my magic number of ingredients is five or fewer.”

    Grilled Romaine Spears with Citrus Vinaigrette~  Romaine, Orange, Shallot, Dijon Mustard, Lemon-infused Olive Oil

    I cheated and used my panini press instead of grill pan for the Romaine~

    “When your ingredients are good, there’s no need to mask and muddle the flavor with unnecessary add-ons. I always want to know what my food really tastes like.”

    Mocha Meringue Bark, recipe available Food Network

    My concession to a sweet treat for Valentine’s Day :-)

    And a little sip (nip?) of Chocolate :-)

    Espresso Martini~ Espresso, Vanilla Vodka, Dark Creme de Cocoa, Kahlua, garnished with whipped cream with some chocolate shavings

      Menu Ideas for Memorable Meals  are included in the back, with themes like ‘Skip the Sit-Down Cocktail Party’, ‘Casual Friday Night’, ‘The Lighter Side of the Holidays’, ‘Frosty Evening Gathering’  & ‘Bountiful Brunch’ to name a few~

    Thanks for your visit, I’m joining:

     Jenny Matlock for Alphabe-Thursday~ this week’s letter is S~ for Simplifying, Streamlining & Serving Meals in a Snap

     Rattlebridge Farm for Foodie Friday

    StoneGable for On The Menu Monday~

    Squatter’s Rights

    No lake life posts from me lately due to the weather. The forecast predicted temps to reach the 60’s this weekend, and we hoped to boat but there was a strong wind that kept us off the lake.

    It didn’t affect these guys though. . .

    Our neighbors, who we rarely see in the fall or winter, have lost their dock to squatter’s rights. . .

    Squatter’s Rights or  Adverse Possession is a process by which premises can change ownership. It is a common law concept concerning the title to real property (land and the fixed structures built upon it).

    By adverse possession, title to another’s real property can be acquired without compensation, by holding the property in a manner that conflicts with the true owner’s rights for a specified period.

     I hope you enjoyed some mild weather this weekend where you are~

    I’m joining A Southern Daydreamer for Outdoor Wednesday~

     & Watery Wednesday ~ prepare to get your eyes wet :-)

    Let Love Bloom

     Love is Blooming at my table in honor of

    Valentine’s Day ~

      Roses are blooming on my china, napkins, and in my soup tureen I filled courtesy of Trader Joe’s.

    I’m the happy recipient of my Great Aunt’s china, marked Avenir China, Limoges France. Since at one point in the 1920’s as many as 48 companies were producing wares marked Limoges, it’s been as difficult to identify as a box of unmarked chocolates, which I can’t determine the content of without a “pinch” test. . .

    After some googling and visiting Replacements, I was able to narrow it down to a pattern by G. Demartine & Cie, which produced and decorated porcelain from the late 1800’s to early 1900’s, but only as far as a pattern number and ‘manufacturer status unknown’.

     

     I’m happy to use it for a Valentine’s Day Tea and offer up some sweet treats. . .

     My silver filigree footed dish was a consignment store find and echoes the edge of my runner I found last year from Home Goods.

    It’s serving up some cocoa meringue cookies. . .

    Pink roses have a rich history that comes with being one of the longest existing roses known. When roses began to be cultivated, the majority of them existed in various shades, from the palest pink to the deepest crimson, and were the dominant species among wild roses and likely among the earliest roses to evolve.

     As a symbol of grace and elegance, the pink rose is often given as an expression of admiration. They can also convey appreciation as well as joyfulness. Pink rose bouquets often impart a gentler meaning than their red counterparts.

     These demitasse spoons are part of another Great Aunt’s silver pattern by S. Kirk & Son. . . I got them by default since they were monogrammed with W’s,  and look like an M upside-down :-)

    This tray belonged to my grandmother and was given to her for her years of service as church secretary, and is serving tea on my table :-)

     My grandmother’s pressed glass compote is serving up jam-filled shortbread hearts. . .

    Second only to red roses in popularity, white roses symbolize truth and innocence. They also represent silence, secrecy, reverence, humility, youthfulness and charm. You can use them to say, “You’re heavenly”, “I miss you” and “I’m worthy of you”. . .

     A white rosebud symbolizes girlhood, representing purity and are traditionally associated with marriages and new beginnings. The white rose is also a symbol of honor and reverence, and white rose arrangements are often used as an expression of remembrance.

    The name for cocoa is theobroma, which means ‘food of the gods’.  We know that chocolate is meant for us, because the melting point for good chocolate just happens to be the temperature within your mouth :-)

    In the 1800’s physicians commonly advised their lovelorn patients to eat chocolate to calm their pining~ and as an elixir for love, chocolate has been believed throughout history to bring smiles to the broken-hearted and to prompt amorous feelings in both men and women.

     

    It is believed that Madame Du Barry served it to all her suitors;  Montezuma, the king of the ancient Aztecs, believed chocolate would make him virile; and Casanova consumed chocolate instead of champagne to induce romance. Personally, I would rather not have to choose between chocolate & champagne :-)

    “Our skin has been hibernating in layers of clothes for months; we are accustomed to gray. We can start to think that this is how it always will be. And then, there’s Valentine’s Day. A day to look in your lover’s eyes and see color. To eat something that plays with your taste buds and to remember romance.  But here’s the thing. If you live in your senses, slowly, with attention, if you use your eyes and fingertips and your taste buds, then romance is something you’ll never need a greeting card to make you remember.”  ~ Erica Bauermeister, The School of Essential Ingredients

     Napkins & Teapots ~ Home Goods

    Thank you for your visit, I’m joining:

     A Stroll Thru Life for Tabletop Tuesday

      Tablescape Thursday at Between Naps on the Porch~

    French Country Cottage for Feathered Nest Friday~

    The Tablescaper for Seasonal Sundays~

      Rose Chintz Cottage for Valentine’s Day Tea ~

     Common Ground ~Vintage Valentine Party~

    Very Valentine

    Very Valentine ****

    by Adriana Trigiani

    An Edible Book Review inspired by Jain at Food for Thought, a delicious blog for readers with an appetite for the written word.

    “Meet the Roncalli and Angelini families, a vibrant cast of colorful characters who navigate tricky family dynamics with hilarity and brio, from magical Manhattan to the picturesque hills of bella Italia. Very Valentine is the first novel in a trilogy and is sure to be the new favorite of Trigiani’s millions of fans around the world.”

    “In this luscious, contemporary family saga, the Angelini Shoe Company, makers of exquisite wedding shoes since 1903, is one of the last family-owned businesses in Greenwich Village. The company is on the verge of financial collapse. It falls to thirty-three-year-old Valentine Roncalli, the talented and determined apprentice to her grandmother, the master artisan Teodora Angelini, to bring the family’s old-world craftsmanship into the twenty-first century and save the company from ruin.”

    “While juggling a budding romance with dashing chef Roman Falconi, her duty to her family, and a design challenge presented by a prestigious department store, Valentine returns to Italy with her grandmother to learn new techniques and seek one-of-a-kind materials for building a pair of glorious shoes to beat their rivals. There, in Tuscany, Naples, and on the Isle of Capri, a family secret is revealed as Valentine discovers her artistic voice and much more, turning her life and the family business upside down in ways she never expected.   

    This was a fun, quick read, the first book of a trilogy (you can also read book number two which is out now).

    You have to love a character described as: “I’m not the pretty sister. I’m not the smart sister either. I am the funny one.”

     

    It was also fun & timely as a theme of a tablescape, using my components from a Christmas table, adding in some shoes, chocolate, rose petals, Valentine votives & some new napkin rings.

     

    “We’ve changed though, the Young Italian Americans. As my generation marries outside our group, our children don’t look as Italian as we do, our Roman noses shorten, the Neapolitan jaws soften, the jet black hair fades to brown, and often directly to blond. We assimilate, thanks to the occasional Irish husband and Clairol. As the muse of southern Italian women, Donatella Versace, went platinum blond, so went the Brooklyn girls. But there are still a few of us left, the old-fashioned paisanas who wait for curly hair to come back in style, can our own tomatoes, and eat Sunday dinner together after church. We find joy in th same things our grandparents did, a night out over a plate of homemade pasta, hot bread, and sweet wine, which ends with a conversation over cannolis at Ferrara’s.”

    “We are very proud of the components we use to make shoes. Gram travels to Italy every year to buy supplies. When you cook, it’s all about quality ingredients, and the same is true for making shoes. Sumptuous fabrics, fine leathers, and hand-tooled embellishments make all the difference and define our brand. Loyalty plays into Gram’s work ethic also. She buys our leather and suede from the Vechialrelli family of Arezzo, Italy, the descendants of the same tanner my great-grandfather used.”

    Food is abundant in this book, which no doubt will continue in this delicious trilogy. . . delicate crab cakes, tiny potatoes with buttons of sour cream and caviar, clams casino, baby lamb chops, roast pork. . .

      

    The requisite bowls of pasta, manicotti, ravioli & lasagna. .  . which according to Valentine’s mother’s rule of etiquette, dictates that it must be presented whole, like a welcome home gift~ not with a square missing as to be seen as a leftover :-)

    Wine is flowing, olive oil is drizzling, bread is baking. . .

    Scents of butter, sage, & warm burgundy wine are just a few that waft from these pages. . .

    Instead of cooking any of a dozen meals, I took liberties with this description of Valentine’s father in the book for Food for Thought:

    “This is a man who would sprinkle grated cheese on cake if he could.”

    So I am serving a cheesecake sampler, with a well-heeled server in honor of the Angelini Shoe Company (and my husband’s birthday :-)

    “Very Valentine is a sumptuous treat, a journey of dreams fulfilled, a celebration of love and loss filled with Trigiani’s trademark heart and humor.”   

    Napkins & Napkin Rings/ Pier 1

    Glass Shoes & Handbags/ Hobby Lobby

    Well Heeled Server & Velvet Shoes/ Home Goods

    The winner of my giveaway  by Random Number Generator is Slyvia at Slyvia’s Simple Life~

    email me, Slyvia and I’m make arrangements to get your gift cards to you!

    Thank you for your visit & to my hostesses:

    Queen of the Road

       

    Queen of the Road: The True Tale of 47 States, 22,000 Miles, 200 Shoes, 2 Cats, 1 Poodle, a Husband, and a Bus with a Will of Its Own****

    by Doreen Orion

    I’m joining Jain with my Edible Book Review at Food for Thought, a delicious blog for readers with an appetite for the written word.

        “A pampered Long Island princess hits the road in a converted bus with her wilderness-loving husband, travels the country for one year, and brings it all hilariously to life in this offbeat and romantic memoir.”

    “Doreen and Tim are married psychiatrists with a twist: She’s a self-proclaimed Long Island princess, grouchy couch potato, and shoe addict. He’s an affable, though driven, outdoorsman. When Tim suggests ‘chucking it all’ to travel cross-country in a converted bus, Doreen asks, ‘Why can’t you be like a normal husband in a midlife crisis and have an affair or buy a Corvette?’ But she soon shocks them both, agreeing to set forth with their sixty-pound dog, two querulous cats—and no agenda—in a 340-square-foot bus.”

    “Queen of the Road is Doreen’s offbeat and romantic tale about refusing to settle; about choosing the unconventional road with all the misadventures it brings (fire, flood, armed robbery, and finding themselves in a nudist RV park, to name just a few). The marvelous places they visit and delightful people they encounter have a life-changing effect on all the travelers, as Doreen grows to appreciate the simple life, Tim mellows, and even the pets pull together. Best of all, readers get to go along for the ride through forty-seven states in this often hilarious and always entertaining memoir, in which a boisterous marriage of polar opposites becomes stronger than ever.”

    What a hoot this book was…a quick, entertaining read~ I learned about this book from Jain in her fun review last year and added it on my very long list of books to read. The author, whose idea of ‘roughing it’  is staying at the Holiday Inn, is less than thrilled at being promoted from ‘Princess from the Island of Long’ to ‘Queen of the Long Narrow Aisle’ . Their journey in their 40 foot, 40,000-pound, 179-gallon diesel tank bus, is fueled with more than a few funny disasters, and acknowledged with a commemorative cocktail at the beginning of each chapter.

     Their liquor cabinet is stocked with every kind of infused vodka or flavored liqueur imaginable for maximum martini mixing~ the only ingredient they seem to lack is a bottle of Dramamine for the several shots I would need to endure this bus ride :-)

    Overnighting in Walmart parking lots, RV parks & Campgrounds, there more than a few mishaps. . .

    “With all the disasters we experienced on the road (fire, flood, armed robbery and finding ourselves in a nudist RV park, to name just a few), happy hour, understandably, became somewhat of a necessity. During the few stretches without any mishaps, we continued this new custom (look, the memories still stung, OK?) and the happy hour habit became one of our favorite bus traditions. Even when stationary, we continued to adhere to it rather strictly (some might even say, ‘Obsessively’).”

    Bus Phobia commences soon after starting their adventure:

    “On the slightest downhill, I’d try to mind-meld with Tim, to get him to put on the engine brake, my foot stomping on air. At every turn, I’d clutch the seat, anticipating a rollover. At every dip in the road, I’d hold my breath, listening for the sound of bending steel, a portent of our imminent, albeit mercifully swift, midsectioning.”

    “What was I afraid of? I kept asking myself. The answer was always the same: careening off the road amidst the sound of our belongings crashing.”

    Hurlatini

    • 1 part rum

    • 2 parts Midori

    • 1 splash pineapple juice

    • 1 splash sweet ‘n’ sour

    • 1 white-knuckled squeeze of lime

    “Pound martini shaker against emergency exit until window breaks or ingredients sufficiently mixed for self-medication.”

    “What if someone makes a sudden stop? What if we hit an elk? What if the brakes go out? I keep imagining us careening over the edge of the road. I don’t even imagine the dying part, just the careening. The screeching of tires, the shattering of glass. But most of all, the careening. The CAREENING. I can’t take it anymore!”

    Their bus approaches a bridge with a sign posted:

    “Limit 13 Tons”. . .

    “That was all I needed to turn my reel into a full-fledged centrifuge; I could feel my lunch quickly separating itself from my intestinal tract. ‘WE’RE TWENTY TONS! WE’RE TWENTY TONS!’ I screamed, contorting myself, even as my eyes remained glued to the road.That there are no armrests turns out to be a serious design flaw when the buddy seat is inhabited by a bus phobic.”

     

    Love Me Bender

    • 2 parts passion fruit liqueur

    • 2 parts champagne

    • 1 part raspberry liqueur

    “Rest shaker on hip, gyrate, drink. If you can still recall that the love of your life is making you live on a bus, repeat.”

    After a scare of an electrical fire on the bus Doreen has an epiphany–surprising herself that she gave no thought to her beloved shoes during her crisis, in spite of her history of “rampant & resplendent consumerism”. And as one would expect mixes up a martini in celebration… a lovely shade of orangey-red:

    Fire in the Hole

    • 2 ½ parts Bacardi 151

    • 1 ½ parts orange curacao

    • Squeeze of lemon

    “Hold lit match in one hand, shake in other. Bring together until hair catches fire. Make note to use only 80 proof next time.”

    It seemed only fitting that I took a little road trip for Food for Thought, rather than staying at home to cook my book.

    While they stop and visit places of interest you’d expect like Mount Rushmore, Graceland, Carlsbad Caverns & Yellowstone National Park, they also sought out local attractions and stopped in at area wineries for wine tastings. That was the perfect excuse to prompt us to get in the car to visit a local vineyard for a tasting that is a short thirty minute drive for us, that we had never taken the time to visit.

    Davesté Vineyards 

     

     

    We brought a bottle back to enjoy by the lake with some cheese~

     “ ‘Don’t worry, honey,” Tim reassured me. ‘What’s the worst that can go wrong?’

    ‘Flood? Locusts? Pestilence? And for that matter, rioting townspeople?’ I offered.”

    In Massachusetts, Doreen rediscovers Friendly’s:

    “As kids, we used to go to Friendly’s for ice-cream treats, and for really special occasions, we’d preface our desserts with one of their fabulous burgers. Being an East Coast thing, Tim had never heard of it until I squealed with delight when we happened by a Friendly’s in our Jeep.”

    “We have to go! We have to go! I exclaimed, channeling my inner twelve-year-old as I bounced in my seat.”

    I rediscovered Friendly’s myself since I hadn’t been to one in about*ahem* forty years~ a treat for us when we visited my grandmother.

    I received only a few strange looks while we were there, either due the fact that I had my pulled out my little camera to take photos of the menu & meal, or the fact that we were the only kid-free table in the restaurant :-)

    “You must understand that at Friendly’s freverything is freenamed. The onion rings are ‘fronions,’ the shakes, ‘fribbles,’ and so on.”

     Our ‘fronions’  were as tasty as I remembered them. . .

     I recommend you buckle your seat beat, mix yourself a martini (or two :-) and enjoy this bumpy & entertaining ride.

    You can see more travelogues on the author’s website here.

     Thank you for you visit~

    I’m joining Susan at A Southern Daydreamer for Outdoor Wednesday~

    Jenny Matlock for Alphabe-Thursday~ this week’s letter assignment Q

    For more Food for Thought, click on the book titles to read more reviews by other Thoughtful Readers:

    Winter World

     

    Winter World **** by Bernd Heinrich

    I’m joining Jain with my Edible Book Review at Food for Thought, a delicious blog for readers with an appetite for the written word.

    The weather outside is frightful . . . while we thankfully have not had as much snow as the Northeast, it’s been colder than normal here in the sunny South. Snowbound, I had the perfect excuse to stay indoors and read a couple of weeks ago. This book provided *interesting reading while I was tucked away, cozy indoors, watching the birds and wondering how nature adapts to the frigid temperatures and winter landscape.

    (*interesting reading for those defined as a bit of a Discovery Channel or Animal Planet geek :-)

    “From flying hot-blooded squirrels and diminutive kinglets to sleeping black bears and torpid turtles to frozen insects and frogs, the animal kingdom relies on staggering evolutionary innovations to survive winter. Unlike their human counterparts, who alter the environment to accommodate physical limitations, most animals are adapted to an amazing range of conditions. In Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival, biologist, illustrator, and award-winning author Bernd Heinrich explores his local woods, where he delights in the seemingly infinite feats of animal inventiveness he discovers there.”

    “Because winter drastically affects the most elemental component of all life — water — radical changes in a creature’s physiology and behavior must take place to match the demands of the environment. Some creatures survive by developing antifreeze; others must remain in constant motion to maintain their high body temperatures. Even if animals can avoid freezing to death, they must still manage to find food in a time of scarcity, or store it from a time of plenty.”

    “Beautifully illustrated throughout with the author’s delicate drawings and infused by his inexhaustible enchantment with nature, Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival awakens the wonders and mysteries by which nature sustains herself through winter’s harsh, cruel exigencies.”

      I set a Winter World-inspired table with pine cones, lichen covered branches, moss & a few nuts for foraging squirrels. . . on a landscape made of a jute runner layered on a snowy white quilt.

    “Perhaps none depends on snow more than the snowshoe hare. The size of this hare’s tracks are out of proportion to the animal’s size. As a result of its low foot-loading, the hare can walk, hop and run very near the top of the fluffiest snow. As a consequence, the more that snow accumulates, throughout the winter, the more easily the hare can reach its food, the fresh twigs of small trees and brush.”

    Woodland botanicals, snowy white orbs, and branches fill my lanterns on the table. . .

    Rock Salt is sprinkled to mimic an icy coating, rather than to melt the snow on the sidewalk :-)

    I was surprised to learn that Crossbills often lay their eggs in winter, so they are able to raise their young when the seeds of spruce or pine cones are most plentiful.

    Heinrich is a scientist with a talent for relating his love for nature, his appetite for discovery, and his humorous insights in a fashion that is enjoyable for the reader.

    My appetite led me to Pine Cone Cheese for Food for Thought, you can find a recipe here.

    Winter can be difficult for birds when the days are short and nights are often cold and long. The natural food supply has been consumed or is hidden by snow.  Water can be hard to find, and food needed to provide the energy to keep birds warm might be scarce.

    Food for Thought also led me to make pine cone bird treats for our feathered friends. . . snowy day fun for kids if you have the materials on hand, with a recipe found here.

    I hope you will fly over to join the fun as I co-host Food for Thought with Jain here, Feb. 1st.

    You’re invited to nosh your way thru your novel, munch upon a memoir, take a bite out of a biography, digest the pages of a decorating book, or feast upon a favorite cookbook. . .sharing an edible passage or food-inspiration from your book~

    Rate your book & link it to Amazon:

    ***** EXCELLENT!
    **** good read
    *** average read
    ** so-so
    * just skip it~

    Other Winter World Table details:

    Bird Dishes: Gracie China/Home Goods

    White Plates: Oneida Westerly Basket

    Jute Runner & Napkins: Pottery Barn

    Thank you for your visit & to my hostesses:

    Oogy: The Dog Only a Family Could Love

    Oogy: The Dog Only a Family Could Love****.*

    by Larry Levin

    I’m joining Jain with my Edible Book Review at Food for Thought, a delicious blog for readers with an appetite for the written word.

    This week’s letter assignment is O in Mrs. Matlock’s class, so I’m sharing Oogy’s story for Alphabe-Thursday~

    “In 2002, Larry Levin and his twin sons, Dan and Noah, took their terminally ill cat to the Ardmore Animal Hospital outside Philadelphia to have the beloved pet put to sleep. What would begin as a terrible day suddenly got brighter as the ugliest dog they had ever seen–one who was missing an ear and had half his face covered in scar tissue–ran up to them and captured their hearts. The dog had been used as bait for fighting dogs when he was just a few months old. He had been thrown in a cage and left to die until the police rescued him and the staff at Ardmore Animal Hospital saved his life. The Levins, whose sons are themselves adopted, were unable to resist Oogy’s charms, and decided to take him home.”

    “Oogy”an affectionate derivative of “ugly”, is a heartwarming tail for dog lovers, or for those who simply enjoy pulling for the underdog.

    I’m a sucker for dog stories, especially those with a happy ending, which I’m relieved to report is the case for Oogy despite his rocky beginning. I’m always anxious to know before getting emotionally involved & spending hours in a book if the animals or dogs fare well. This was a quick read and one I enjoyed and began with not a little trepidation.

    The sad and ugly truth and facts of dog fighting and ‘bait’ for those fights~ any animal and often cats~ that can be found through ‘free to good home’ ads, strays, kidnapping, etc. is simply too horrific & hard for me to wrap my brain around.I think you’ll find, “the dog only a family could love” is one that you will love too.

    Oogy spends his mornings keeping the boys & dad company during their routines of getting ready for school & making breakfast. He eats his kibble while the twins enjoy their breakfast of pancakes. . .

    “He continued to heal and then began to flourish. His condition and the cruelty he had endured produced a heartfelt, deeply caring reaction among the hospital staff. His happy, affectionate nature was seemingly more pronounced because of the horror he had undergone.”

    “The fact that a brutalized, mutilated pup had so immediately and so completely reposed his trust in us made all of us feel that we had been rewarded. He was one of us.”

    Besides Pancakes, Food for Thought was plentiful, although not in the traditional sense. . .

    “In his first six months with us, in addition to chewing up the futon couch, Oogy gnawed the middle out of the seat cushions of the two camelback sofas in the living room. He bit the eraser off any pencil he could find and would climb onto tables and desks to get at them. The decapitated pencils were left where they had fallen. He at a pair of my glasses. He chewed apart a wooden drawer in the kitchen. He ruined videotapes, countless CDs and CD cases, pens, crayons, and markers. He broke though every screen on every door in the house and scratched the paint off the doors when he wanted to get out. He ate the antennae off every landline telephone in the house and then ate off the replacements.”

    My own house has gone to the dogs. . .

    “He tore apart insulated galoshes, flip-flops, scarves, sneakers, shoes, plastic fruit, and the head of one of Noah’s lacrosse sticks. He chewed up hard rubber dustpans, flay swatters, and brushes. He ate books, barrettes, and toothbrushes, shredded newspapers, ripped apart magazines, tore chunks out of books.”

     

    “I noticed that Oogy’s bag of food was missing, as was some cheese and the lunch meat that had been in the cold drawer. The fruits and vegetables had not been touched. The beverages and salad dressings had not been opened. What was left of the missing bags of food was in pieces underneath the dining room table, which is where Oogy likes to take his illicit treasure. He seems to think of it as his little cave, where no one can see him. . .”

    “. . .Oogy had figured out how to open the refrigerator.”

    “I put a bungee cord across the handles for the freezer and the refrigerator adjacent to it. It was the only way to keep him out.”

    “On several occasions since then, though, when the last one of us to use the refrigerator has forgotten to clip the cord in place, Oogy has raided it. I can tell by his demeanor when I walk in the door. If he isn’t greeting me joyously but is skulking, his body low to the ground, head drooped but watching me, I know he is feeling guilty of something, and the first thing I check is the refrigerator. Then I go to the dining room and clean up the debris.”

    “. .  . what appeals to everyone about Oogy is that he is proof that what we all know is lurking out there– the awful and, yes, inevitable tragic loss, the unexplainable savage attack, the seemingly insurmountable occurrence –can, in fact, be survived with love and grace intact, without bitterness or resentment, and with an appreciation for all that follows. Oogy is, right there in front of everyone he meets, tangible living proof that there can be happiness, love, and hope on the other side of unspeakable and unimaginable horror.”

    “This is a story about what can happen when the worst in people meets the best in people and the best wins. In spite of its subject, this is a gentle tale of one man’s love for his dog and the angels along the way who brought Oogy into his life.” -Susan Richards, author of Chosen by a Horse

     Thank you for your visit & thank you to my husband who indulges my obsession with Food for Thought by eating like a preschooler :-)

     Visit Jenny Matlock for Alphabe-Thursday~ for more alphabet fun :-)