Saturday, June 21, 2008


There comes a time when you decide, enough! Life is too short to keep wondering how you start a blog or grind wheat. So this is the year to figure some of this stuff out.

I think it is a good idea to make a list of things you want to learn about or what seems to be a mystery to you. And then, one by one, start to tackle the thing that makes you feel like the dumbest person on the planet.

If you are like me, you are surrounded by people who know what it is you want to know. For instance, I wanted to create an Excel spread sheet. So I tapped my friend, Sharon (the best and most patient teacher ever), and she walked me through the process....several times. Without an attitude--which is key. And now I have created a few spread sheets--the type that can actually add, subtract, and give you a total! It's a miracle!

So from time to time, I will be adding postings on what I've taken the mystery out of. If for no other reason than to make you feel good that you already knew what I didn't!

Monday, June 9, 2008


I love Ireland! It is spectacularly green and gorgeous, relaxing, and the people are easy to get along with. The country is also small enough that you can see a good chunk of it within a two week period. Here are some tips:

Fly in and out of Shannon Airport. Driving a rental car out of Shannon is much less stressful than driving out of heavily congested Dublin. I've met a few people who drove out of Dublin in tears.

Rent car before you leave the States--I usually find that Auto Europe has the best rates

Purchase an Ordnance Survey road atlas before you leave home--I prefer spiral bound--it is easier for the map-reader in the car. Attach a highligher pen to the atlas so you can track your route. If you don't highlight your route, you will never be able to recreate it just by looking at the map--there are a gizillion roads to take you to your destination.

B&B's are the best and least expensive accomodations (other than hostels). The interraction with your host and other guests at breakfast can be a plus (or a minus depending upon your personality).

There is great shopping all over Ireland. Lots of woolen mills with beautiful knits to bring home, crystal, and interesting pottery. It is often surprising to be driving down a remote country road and then coming upon a little gem of a shop with handmade items.

Since most vacations outside of our own country can be a lot of work, take a vacation from your vacation and travel to the Aran Islands and stay a night or two. Fly Aer Arann to the Islands instead of taking the ferry - the flight is very short and not too pricey (adult return means roundtrip). The Ferry is VERY choppy--lots of people getting VERY sick! Not pretty. After you have arrived at your B&B in Inis Mor (the largest and most interesting of the Aran Islands) rent bikes and ride around checking out all of the excellent ruins.

Visit a traditional Irish pub after 10:00 pm for a music session. Sometimes they advertise, otherwise ask the barman if a session is expected that night. A good celtic music session late at night can be one of the highlights of your trip. And now that the pubs are smoke-free you can actually see the musicians.

My favorite guidebook: Rick Steve's Ireland

Sunday, June 8, 2008


I recreated this recipe from my memory of eating Calabacitas years ago in a little Mexican restaurant in downtown Phoenix.

Olive oil
Onion - chopped
Zucchini - roughly chopped
Crookneck squash - roughly chopped
Shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper

Heat oil in a skillet (I used garlic-infused olive oil). Sautee onions for a 5 minutes, then add squash and salt and pepper, and cook until fairly tender. Add corn. Heat through. Sprinkle on cheese. Serve hot. This is a great way to use up all that zucchini that I am sure you are growing in your garden!

Saturday, June 7, 2008


Benjamin Franklin: An American Life - Isaacson
John Adams - McCullough
1776 - McCullough
River of Doubt - Millard
The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt - Morris
Theodore Rex - Morris
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire - Foreman
Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self - Tomalin
Jane Austen: A Life - Tomalin
The Last Lion - Manchester
The Lion Alone - Manchester
Clementine Churchill - Soames
West with the Night - Markham
Jefferson the Virginian - Malone

Thursday, June 5, 2008


I have heard that if you love Rome go south, if not go north. So I go north. I've been to Italy twice, once with my sister, Tammy, and once with my Dad. Here is what I've learned:

Eat gelati every day
Walk everywhere
Watch out for pickpockets and gypsy children—keep wallet/money in safe place (inside clothes)—don’t use shoulder bag--
Eat at the sidewalk food shops—the pizza stands are excellent
Walk around town before 9:00 am and watch the market stalls being set-up—you’ll get the real flavor of the area
When eating breakfast or lunch at little café’s you pay less $ if standing at counter—you pay more when seated.
If you are shopping for jewelry, decide what you are looking for (bracelet, or whatever) and focus on that--otherwise it is very overwhelming. There are windows after windows filled with gorgeouse italian jewelry. It can make your head spin and you'll walk away with nothing because you won't be able to make up your mind--and I would hate to leave Italy without at least one piece of jewelry.
Buy art--preferably from the artist himself/herself.
Buy leather, a beautiful handbag or gloves. Even a coin purse is fun to have. Of course, I prefer the fab bag.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


This is a list of some of my favorite things to do while in London (typing this makes me homesick....)

Tower of London -
Cabinet War Rooms -
Westminster Abbey – go to Evensong
British Museum -
Buckingham Palace
Sir John Soane Museum -
Victoria and Albert Museum – interesting exhibits (great gift shop) -
Museum of Garden History -
London Eye (great for kids) -

Kensington Palace – beautiful palace where Princess Diana lived (no tours)—great park to take a picnic lunch

On Saturday morning go to Portobello Road for the outdoor Antique Market

On Sunday morning go to Hyde Park for Speaker’s Corner

Check-out evening classical concerts (sometimes by candlelight) at St. Martin in the Fields church—also, they have a great café in the Crypt (downstairs) – across from Trafalgar Square

Walk across Waterloo Bridge for the best view of London

Patisserie Valerie – great pastries, sandwiches, omelettes (Brompton Road)
Wagamama (asian food)
The Ivy (expensive, but very hip and trendy—will need reservations, best sticky toffee pudding)
Patara Thai – 9 Beauchamp Place

Anything on Sloane Street all the way to Sloane Square
Harvey Nichols
Abbott and Holder (across from British Museum) best antique original/print shop

The Claverley – clean, great location (right around corner from Harrod’s), but more expensive

Check-out for reviews, seat maps, etc.
Open Air Theatre Regent’s Park
Go to TKTS booth in London for half-price tickets day of performance in Leicester Square

RECIPE - Red Pepper Spread

I haven't actually made this yet but it is on my list! I had this spread at Zaytinya's, a Greek restaurant in Washington, DC. It was delicious so I wrote down the ingredients.

Roasted red peppers - chopped
Feta cheese
Red onion - diced
Olive oil - very little, maybe a teaspoon

Serve this on warm pita bread.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


Eleanor of Acquataine - Loved
The Leopard - Not as good as I hoped
Down the Garden Path - Very fun
The Little Ice Age - Reminded me of an important homework assignment
By Jeeves - Laugh out loud funny!
Watership Down - A classic recommended years ago by my darling Dad--excellent!
Twilight - Good story, so-so writing
Hamish MacBeth - good mystery
Agatha Raisin - good mystery
Luncheon of the Boating Party - Loved, felt as if I was in 1880's Paris
Bad Luck and Trouble - new genre for me, really enjoyed


The Accomplice - Elizabeth Ironside - Enjoyed
I Feel Bad About My Neck - Ephron - Sometimes very funny
Thrush Green - Read - Too simple
Imperium - Didn't love
Excellent Women-Pym - Enjoyed
The River of Doubt -Millard - One of my all time favorite books!
A Morbid Taste For Bones-Peters - Interesting
Lady Susan - Austen - One of the most outrageous protaganists ever
Infidel - Ayaan Hirsi Ali - Important to read, but sometimes painful
Persuasion - Austen - Loved
Northanger Abbey - Austen - Liked a lot
Heat - Bill Buford - Interesting to a point
Jane Austen - A Life --Tomalin - The best biography of Jane Austen
The Deathly Hallows--Rowling - Very satisfactory
Samuel Pepys: An Unequalled Self - Tomalin - one of the best biographies I have read
Mayflower - Philbrick - tedious
A Wrinkle in Time - L'Engle - enjoyed
Identical Twins - o.k.
44 Scotland St - good


The Case of the Mutilated Mink - Anderson - FUN
Angels & Demons - Brown - HATED
Chronicles of Narnia - Lewis - EXCELLENT!
The Secret Life of Bees - Kidd - VERY GOOD
The Pursuit of Love-Mitford - GOOD
The Rescue Artist - GOOD
The Jasmine Moon Murder - Laura Childs - ENJOYABLE, LIGHT READING
Love in a Cold Climate - Mitford - ENTERTAINING
Lucia, Lucia - Trigianni - O.K.
The Last Girls-Lee Smith - CAN'T REMEMBER
Till We Have Faces-C.S. Lewis - ODD
The Village - Miss Read - EASY, LIGHT READING
Sammys Hill - Gore - STUPID
Friends Lovers Chocolate-McCall - INTERESTING SERIES


Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - EXCELLENT - VERY CLEVER & WELL-WRITTEN
Educating Alice - GOOD
Screwtape Letters - A GREAT CLASSIC
Seedfolks - CUTE
Indian Summer - CAN'T REMEMBER
Pride and Prescience - FUN
The Woman in Black - VERY GOOD, SCARY
The Sunday Philosophy Club - GOOD SERIES
Harry Potter Book 6 - LOVED IT


The Stargazey - Grimes - good murder mystery
A Taste for Death - James - too brutal
The Crisis of Islam - Lewis - excellent!
Street Lawyer - Grisham - predictable
Here & There - Bryson - can't remember
Blessings - Quindlan - very good
Write Away - George - excellent book on the art and craft of writing
Revenge of the Middle-Aged Housewife - Buchen - predictable
Isn't it Romantic - Hansen - cute
The Case Has Altered - Grimes - good murder mystery
Brideshead Revisted - Waugh - very good
The Blue Last - Grimes - good murder mystery
1000 Nights in Venice - de Blasi - interesting but sometimes too much personal information
Winds of Change - Grimes - another good murder mystery
Pride, Prejudice & Jasmin Field - light
Christmas Visitor - Anne Perry - one of my favorite writers, always a good story


Quentins - Binchy - my last Binchy book--I'm done with her!
Mrs. Fytton's Country Life - Mavis Cheek - laugh out loud funny!
Queen Noor Autobiography - very good, interesting perspective from a pro-Palestinian
The Moonstone--Wilkie Collins - a classic detective novel--excellent
Pride and Prejudice - Austen - brilliant
Reading Lolita in Tehran - Nafisi - excellent, inside view of Iranian women
Seabisquit - Laura Hillenbrand - very fun read
Aunt Dimity: Detective - Atherton - light reading, creative concept
Death Comes for the Archbishop - Willa Cather - worth reading
And Justice There Was None - Crombie - good murder mystery, not too gritty
The Davinci Code - Dan Brown - unputdownable
First Ladies Detective Agency - McCall - very entertaining
Galileo's Daughter - Dava Sobel - a very enjoyable and education book - non-fiction
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - Rowling - great fun
Confessions of a Shopaholic - Kinsella - fun, light reading
Girl with Pearl Earrings - Chevalier - great concept, well-written
The First Elizabeth - Erickson - good
Bel Canto - Ann Patchett - well-written, but slow-going
A Christmas Journey - Anne Perry - anything by Perry is well-done


If You Want to Write - Brenda Ueland - good, instructional book for creative writing
John Adams - David McCullough - one of my all-time favorites
Southampton Row - Anne Perry - great
Come Tell Me Where You Live -Agatha Christie - very good, her biography about her time in Mesopotamia with her archaeoligist husband
Defend and Betray - Anne Perry - good
Mrs. Dalloway - Virginia Woolf - very good
Murder on the Orient Express - fun detective read
Death on the Nile - fun detective read
Like Water for Chocolate - didn't love
The Eustace Diamonds - Anthony Trollope - excellent, great story, most conniving heroine
Theodore Rex - Edmund Morris - excellent
Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets - very fun
Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban - favorite of all the books
Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire - fun
Counte of Monte Cristo (unabridged) - Dumas - one of my favorite fiction books ever
Romeo and Julie - cute
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn - very good
Skipping Christmas - Grisham - predictable
Back When We Were Grown-Ups - Tyler - very good
The Christmas Train - Baldacci - predictable