Wednesday, August 31, 2011


After reading three of E.M. Delafield's "Provincial Lady" diary books, I'm thinking the BBC should produce a television series based on these light hearted stories (written in the 1930's) so that we could all settle down to watch on a Sunday night via our local PBS stations.  I'm not good at casting (except I've always thought Gabriel Byrne would have been the best Sirius Black in the Harry Potter movies) so I don't have a particular actress in mind (any thoughts, please share).

Written in diary format, our "PL"observes all the goings on with her dry humor comments thrown in for a bit of a laugh. This time, PL is on her way to America for a book tour.  We're never told what the book is about (or her name, for that matter) but it is fun to read her interactions  with the various people she meets while touring.

Sprinkled throughout the book is a series of queries and  memo's to herself, such as this one: "Take cast-iron resolution before I sleep never to make either of the dear children subjects of long conversations with strangers. ( Mem: To let Robert (husband) know of this resolution, as feel sure he would approve of it.)

The Provincial Lady in America was the perfect book following the serious read about William Pitt the Younger.

As an aside, I bought a used copy of this book through Abe Books.  But when I opened the book and saw "DISCARDED" in big bold letters, I gasped.  What?! Discarded?! That kind of hurt my feelings--the book condition was almost perfect and the story delightful.  Well, all I can say is thank the dear  heavens for Abe's and all those glorious second-hand bookstore owners.  Discarded indeed.

Friday, August 26, 2011

THE LUNATIC EXPRESS - Hoffman - Book Review

My friend, Alison, thought the premise of this book was so crazy and interesting that she recommended it as a must read.  Carl Hoffman's The Lunatic Express is ludicrous and a fun read (as long as you don't picture yourself on the various modes of transportation described as I sometimes did).

Mr. Hoffman is a journalist who has traveled the world for his craft.  Then, because life wasn't challenging enough, he came up with the idea to travel the most disaster-ridden modes of transportation in the most underdeveloped and poor countries on the planet.

Did you know that Latin American roads are considered the most dangerous with 1.2 million people a year killed in accidents?  I did not.  "The buses of Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia were particularly legendary for horrific crashes, often involving coaches plunging off cliffs, like the one in Peru in December 2006 in which a packed bus plunged into a 1,640 foot gorge, killing forty-five of the forty-seven passengers."  So, of course, he takes a bus ride but at least selects Bogota, Columbia where the bus companies have to post accident and fatality reports publicly.  What a comfort.

Hoffman takes the planes that have no maintenance inspections, the boats that overload beyond capacity, the crime-ridden trains (also overloaded), and of course the buses which routinely slide off cliffs in mudslides. The people who board these death-traps are poor and have no other choice to get to their jobs or wherever they need to be going.  And combine the high risks with the discomfort of overcrowding, cigarette smoke, heat, humidity, trash, and what I would imagine to be pretty heinous smells, makes one appreciate any length of commute here in the U.S.A.

Most of Hoffman's fellow passengers are pretty good natured (not the thieving criminals who are often on board) and at times are helpful to him--sort of taking him under their wing.  But, really, I am missing that risk-taking gene that Hoffman must have in abundance. Because there isn't one ride in this book I would want to experience.

Also included are interviews with the passengers who survived some of these horrific accidents.  And those stories are heartbreaking.

While at times the stories seem repetitive, overall I enjoyed reading about Hoffman's experiences and grateful I didn't have to live them.

Monday, August 22, 2011


I've always been intrigued by William Pitt, the youngest Prime Minister (age 24) in the history of England.  My friends, Lisa and Vic, recommended this book to me and I received it in near perfect condition from Abe Books (love that site).

William Pitt was Prime Minister for 19 years during tremendously turbulent times in Britain.  Starting in 1784, he picked up the mantle just as the American War of Independence (funny, we commonly refer to it as the American Revolution) was ending and during his leadership had to deal with the broken down finances from that war and then head right into the French Revolution, Napoleonic Wars, Irish rebellion, and the disaster of the East Indian Company.  Oh, and let's not forget the madness of King George.

So many familiar names from that era are scattered throughout the book: William Wilberforce,  Charles James Fox, Georgiana the Duchess of Devonshire, Admiral Nelson, Warren Hastings, Catherine the Great, really too many to name.

What I like about Pitt is his discipline and focus to help his country.  He loved his country and did not view his work as a sacrifice.  He was a serious minded leader who rarely took time off. His speeches and writing were eloquent.  In a speech in the House of Commons in 1797 attacking the French Directory (French leaders), Pitt declared, "There is one great resource, which I trust will never abandon us, and which has shone forth in the English character by which we have preserved our existence and fame, as a nation, which I trust we shall be determined never to abandon under any extremity...that we know great exertions are wanting, that we are prepared to make them, and at all events determined to stand or fall by the laws, liberties, and religion of our country." He died far too young, at the age of 45, from terrible stomach issues that would be easily treated in this day.

Some history books read as a homework assignment.  But, this was not tedious.  I did have to re-read paragraphs at times because of direct quotes which when written in the 18th century style are sometimes hard to understand the first time around. I highly recommend this book.

William Hague, the author, is the current British Foreign Secretary and an excellent writer. William Pitt the Younger was published in 2004.

Friday, August 19, 2011


Don't you love it when ingredients come together in your head and then actually tastes as good as what you imagined?  This dish did just that.  Even the little kiddos next door loved it.

(Forgive the boring name for this recipe--I am terrible about coming up with clever names for people, recipes, etc.)

1 lb Campanelle pasta
Garlic olive oil
1 small sweet onion, chopped
1/2 pound mushrooms, chopped
1 teaspoon (or more) crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup pasta water
Freshly shaved Parmesan

Heat oil in sautee pan.  Add onions, cook for 5-7 minutes until soft.  Add mushrooms, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.  Cook for 8-10 minutes until vegetables almost caramelized.

Boil pasta according to instructions. After pasta is finished cooking, remove 1/2 cup pasta water and add to mushroom onion mixture, stir.  Drain pasta (do not rinse).  Add pasta to mushroom onion mixture and stir.  Add Parmesan to dish, let melt.  Serve with extra Parmesan.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


News Bulletin: It's hot here in Arizona.  Which has led me to think about my favorite places in and around Laguna Beach.  I'm going to pretend I'm there for a bit. (Now, if I could just feel that cool breeze cross my face....)

 Love this little walk in Treasure Island Park just below the Montage Resort.  A switch-back pathway leads you to the beach.

Every trip to Laguna Beach includes a walk to the South Laguna Community Garden to see what's growing.

                                                    Even the plants have a nice view.

                               Coyote Grill is a new find (directly across from the community gardens).

The best swordfish tacos - Coyote Grill

A little further south in Capistrano Beach, is Lucy's (or El Patio).  El Patio is the official name but the locals know it as Lucy's.  Really good hole-in-the-wall Mexican food.

Located in the south end of Laguna Beach, is Laguna Thai By the Sea.  Everything I've ordered there has been excellent.  I am partial to the Ga Rhee Gai, Pad Thai and Rama Chicken.  But, really, you can't go wrong with anything on the menu.

Eva's Caribbean Kitchen is a tiny little box of a place with the best barbecue salmon.

Not pictured, Cafe Zoolu (reservations a must) is famous for the best grilled swordfish.  The portions are crazy big so split an entree (I always split the swordfish sampler which is three huge chunks of swordfish steaks each prepared with a different sauce.

Also not pictured is my new find:  Rhythm Spin, a Spin studio that I love.  I booked three one-hour classes while I was in Laguna Beach.  It was the perfect antidote to all the extra eating one does on vacation.  Plus it was fun to experience a different spin class outside my usual class back home.

So, after all that spinning, a donut was just the ticket.  South Swell Donuts offers delectable little darlings freshly made starting at 3:00 am every morning.

Serving set from Tuvalu

Candle holders from Tuvalu

Tuvalu Home can't be forgotten.  A home furnishing shop in the village proper always has a few items that call out my name.  Small bowls, serving pieces, candle holders, jewelry, you name it I've bought it.  Beachy, yes.  But not everything is so coastal that it can't work in an Arizonan home.

When we arrive in town we love to stop by one of those little roadside flower shops and pick up fresh flowers for the house.  There is one roadside stand in Laguna Beach by Browne's Flowers but the above  location is in Dana Point.

We wanted to leave fresh cut flowers for our hostess as a small token of thanks so we selected three bunches and Paige trimmed them up and made them extra pretty.

Well, our little imaginary trip is over for now.  I feel slightly cooler (if I keep the windows shuttered) and certainly more relaxed.  Hope you do, too.

Saturday, August 6, 2011


This yummy recipe comes from my friend, Shiree, who just raved about it.  It is delightful and the flavors are unexpected and refreshing.

And, did you know that you can buy already chopped and bagged Kale just as you can Romaine lettuce? Well, you can at Trader Joe's.  Love that place.

Play around with the ingredient ratio to suit you--I don't think you can go wrong.


2 cups cabbage, diced
1 cup chopped kale (leafy part)
2 tablespoons green onion, diced
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1/3 cup dried cherries, chopped
1/3 cup mint, chopped
1 cup cooked Quinoa
Goat cheese, crumbled on top
Avocado, diced


4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons Tahini
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
Squeeze of fresh lemon
A bit of sea salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Note: I did not use all the dressing.  Dress the salad to taste and you'll be fine.

                       Quinoa and Kale salad with Trader Joe's Chicken Lime Burgers (excellent).