Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Don't you love road trips? Drinking Diet Coke and chatting away. Packing as much as you want. Stopping whenever. My friend, Pam, and I took a little road trip to Orange County. Within four hours from home we stopped at one of the best outlets in California. But I didn't buy anything (hard to believe) except for a pretzel at my favorite pretzel place--Auntie Anne's.

Then on to Roger's Gardens, a favorite Wold Sisters stop and now Pam is a fan, too (as are Jennifer and Darcey). We had lunch at Cafe R & D (thank you, Jill & Victoria) in Fashion Island--excellent. Here are a few other favorite stops:

Best breakfast with a view: Beachcomber at Crystal Cove smack-dab on the beach. After spotting 25, we stopped counting dolphins/porpoises (really, who can tell the difference?)

Best breakfast without a view: The Cottage in Laguna Beach

Best dinner without a view: Cafe Zoolu - best swordfish ever. If you go, split your order because portions are huge.

Best dessert with a view: Las Brisas - Berry Tostada (not really a tostada but a fabulous caramelized almond shell filled with vanilla ice cream and fresh berries)

Great hotel: Marriott Newport Coast Villas - we landed a great deal with a beautiful ocean view (see above pic)

Best splurge hotel: The Montage in Laguna Beach - didn't stay there but we roamed around the property pretending it was our private beach estate (if it was I would certainly invite you to visit)

Happy summer travels!

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Atlas Shrugged took up most of my reading time last month, but it was worth it. Whenever I read a serious, gotta-think-about- it-book, I like to follow it up with some lighthearted reading, which I did. Cold Comfort Farm was just the right pick. I loved the movie and for the first time in a long time the book and the movie matched (see review below).

Now I'm trudging through Richard and John: Kings at War, and after reading a good review in the Wall Street Journal I checked-out Willard Spiegelman's Seven Pleasures: Essays on Ordinary Happiness. Of course I must have something to listen to in the car, so I have Truman by David McCullough. I keep bypassing a few books in my stack, but they remain in my stack to be read nevertheless.

Next on the list is A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg. In the evening it is fun to peruse the great photos in My French Life by Vicki Archer.

Here is something fun that I found on A Garden Carried in the Pocket. It's called Book Seer and is designed to help you figure out what to read next--take a look, very clever. I entered Cold Comfort Farm and of the nine suggested books I had already read (and enjoyed) four.

Also, I am finally using the public library. I've now checked-out at least seven books. It's either the library or I have to buy another bookcase and I don't know quite where to put it (but I have one pictured in my mind with a nice matte black finish, secretly I'm thinking I could squeeze one in the family room). I don't know why I haven't used the library much before. When I was a kid our family went to the library at least a few times a month checking-out stacks of children's books.

Wouldn't it be lovely to be like the little school children having summer off to read away the days? That would be heaven. So, what are you reading this summer?

Friday, June 26, 2009


In between reading history books and biographies it's a treat to read some lighthearted but well-written stories. Sadly, it is not easy to find lighthearted and good writing in the same book. It is lovely to find that combination and even lovlier when it is fun and quirky and British to boot!

Cold Comfort Farm is a familiar story to me given that I've seen the movie a gazillion times. And suprisingly the book and the movie closely match (as opposed to Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day which was way off, the book so much better).

Flora Poste, our heroine, is an orphan at age 20 with little money. She moves in with the grimmest bunch of relatives to save money and fix their lives. This is the classic "before and after" makeover.

There are a lot of comical lines, "there'll be no butter in hell", with characters named "Ada Doom" and cows named "Pointless and Aimless". Years ago, after my sisters and I saw the movie, we were forever saying, "I saw something nasty in the woodshed".

I picked up my copy at the library but am now tempted to buy it off Abe Books. It's a good one to have in my own library.

Monday, June 22, 2009


Another really good recipe from the June issue of Gourmet magazine. Not too many ingredients and such flavor!

I followed the directions putting foil on a baking sheet and cooking the chicken (I used thighs and drumsticks) with all of the glaze. The sugar in the peach preserves burns quickly at such a high temperature, so covering the baking sheet with foil is a must.

Here is what I will do the next time I make this (and I will be making it again, soon). First, I will double the foil over the baking dish, and then I will cook the chicken half-way before I add about 3/4ths of the glaze. I would like to keep as much of the glaze from burning because the glaze is the best part and too much of it was burned to the foil of no use to anyone. Then I will heat-up the remaining glaze and serve it with the chicken or just pour it over the chicken when I move it to the platter.

I served this chicken with corn on the cob, and what else, more zucchini.

3 garlic cloves
1 (3-inch) piece peeled ginger, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup peach or apricot preserves or jam
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon hot red-pepper flakes
4 lb chicken wings, tips removed if desired

Preheat broiler.

With motor running, drop garlic into a food processor and finely chop. Add ginger and finely chop. Note: I used my blender instead of dragging out my food processor.

Add preserves, soy sauce, water, and red-pepper flakes and pulse until sauce is combined.
Line bottom and sides of a large 4-sided sheet pan with foil and lightly oil foil.

Pat wings dry and put in sheet pan. Season with 3/4 tsp salt. Pour sauce over wings and toss to coat, then spread in 1 layer.

Broil wings 4 to 6 inches from heat 5 minutes, then turn over and baste with sauce from pan. Continue to broil, rotating pan and turning and basting 3 more times, until chicken is cooked through and browned in spots, 20 to 25 minutes.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


This was a great, really easy dinner that I wanted to pass along. I put it together in around 30 minutes.


Red Curry Chicken
Whole Wheat Couscous with sliced green onions
Calabacitas (with squash from my garden, yea!)
Tomatoes (also from my garden, I have never seen such deep-red tomatoes in my life, delicious with a tiny sprinkling of sea salt)

First, my friend Darcey told me about the yummy Trader Joe's Thai Red Curry Sauce so I picked up a bottle. This sauce is excellent and I highly recommend it (beats buying 27 ingredients to make it).

I also picked up Trader Joe's Whole Wheat Couscous which cooks up in 5 minutes--I added sliced green onions since I had them. The Calabacitas is a recipe I've previously posted but next time I will use organic frozen white corn from Costco--my friend Jennifer loves it.

So, here is what I did:

Boneless, skinless chicken thighs seasoned with pepper. Pan fry in a tiny bit of olive oil. After they are cooked, pour the Trader Joe's Thai Red Curry Sauce on top and heat through.

Whole Wheat Couscous - cook according to instructions. I cooked the green onions with the couscous. Slivered almonds, raisins, shallots would also be a good addition.

Calabacitas - click for recipe

All served up with garden fresh tomatoes and french bread.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


I found this recipe in the June issue of Gourmet Magazine. It is a lovely, light, summer cake. The raspberries were so good, but I think blackberries or blueberries would be excellent, too. Another good cake that doesn't need frosting--gotta love that!


1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened

2/3 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoon sugar, divided

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 large egg

1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk

1 cup fresh rasberries (about 5 oz.) - or any fresh berries

Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Beat butter and 2/3 cup sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes, then beat in vanilla. Add egg and beat well.

At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour, and mixing until just combined.

Spoon batter into cake pan, smoothing top. Scatter raspberries evenly over top and sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar.

Bake until cake is golden and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool to warm, 10 to 15 minutes more. Invert onto a plate.

Friday, June 5, 2009


My, oh my. As much as I was put off by the 1,000+ pages in this book, I can't believe it's over. I loved most of it--sometimes the repetitiveness was a bit much but the plot is so good I was compelled to continue. It is on just about everyone's "books you should read" list. But 1168 pages is a little daunting. And since it isn't light reading you have to pay attention, it isn't a quick read even if you are a quick reader.

Written in 1956 and published in 1957, it is a good book to read right now in 2009. The plot is original: what happens when a free society loses its freedom due to government controls which are prejudiced against businesses and the men and women who create jobs, (spoiler alert!) causing the inventors and risk-takers to go on strike (whew, long sentence).

Ayn Rand is the writer and must have been brilliant. She crafts a complex message creating a story to drive home her philosophy. She writes about economics, personal responsibility, not blaming failures on others, the virtue of working hard, of being productive. It caused me to question my own usefulness and productivity. Rand writes in detail about a variety of industries such as: railroad, coal, steel, oil, ore, etc. Her research would have been time consuming, and she did so without the aid of a search engine.

I don't agree with all of the messages in her story, my friend Liz points out she would hate to think of a world without selflessness. But this book is well-written, has wonderfully developed characters, an original plot that keeps you plowing through all those pages, and it makes you stop and think about your beliefs on personal responsiblity. And its a good illustration of the consquences of an anti-business government.

Monday, June 1, 2009


Big news--we're composting now. For real. Not kidding. I ordered two compost bins (see top picture) from the City of Mesa and with the help of Jill and Hal (carbon goodies: straw, dried leaves, and twigs) we got the compost going. I could find plenty of nitrogen: grass clippings, kitchen garbage, and coffee grounds from Starbucks (wrapped in a nice little five pound package). Add water to produce great soil material. After reading a number of books it is clear that good vegetables and fruit comes from good soil.

A few days ago I actually went to Mesa Feed Barn to pick up a bale of straw. About had a heart attack when the guy stuffed in to the back of my car without any concern for tearing the inside. What was I expecting, a lovely wrapped package of straw? But straw is a great source of carbon and my yard lacks a good source of carbon since I don't have many twigs or leaves, yet.

For more info on composting, read Leslie's post on the Neighborhood Garden Party blog.

This is ridiculous, we are now in the 6th month of 2009. My word, time is hurtling along. Even my garden is growing is if it is on some kind of speed drug. I guess that speed drug is called the sun, which has been brightly shining here in Arizona with clouds hovering around the horizon.

The zuchinni, crook neck squash (which makes yummy Calabacitas) and cucumbers are ready for picking. The tomatoes, red peppers, and jalapenos are growing but not quite ripe. And the melons and eggplant are leafy but no fruit yet.

The flower gardens are going to be solarized in August so we are not planting any seeds. We have pulled the Sweet Peas which were gorgeous and pulled the Larkspur and the Four O'Clocks. All that's left are Hollyhocks (without flowers because they were shaded by the Sweet Peas, but still hoping for blooms) and Sunflowers. I will miss the little jars and vases of Sweet Peas on various tables throughout the house.

This is the first time we've ever tried Hollyhocks--which we planted by seed last October. They are not as tall as some get (Jill's are around 12 feet and higher) but they are gorgeous. I don't think they had enough room at the base of the plant to grow as tall as they could have but I like this height.

If you look closely at this cucumber you might see tiny little thorns sprinkled all over--they are sharp! I had no idea that some cucumbers have thorns. This is the burpless variety--don't know if the thorns are needed to get rid of the burps! But it is a really good tasting cucumber and I'm making lots of Thai Cucumber salads.

Have a great June!