Book Talk Tuesday: Bittersweet

Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist
Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist

I enjoyed Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist and I loved Cold Tangerines: The Play produced by Little Candle Productions in South Pasadena in June.

So I bumped Bread & Wine to the top of my Kindle’s TBR file.

Like Niequist’s first book, Bread & Wine is a collection of essays but is also much more. It’s part memoir, part commentary on the lost art of food and conversation, and part cook book.

Many of the included recipes sound delicious and I can’t wait to try them. Which is what, I believe, prompted Niequist to include them: so we’d be inspired to cook a little and invite someone over to share the meal and the conversation.

It’s obvious Niequist loves to cook but not just for cooking’s sake. She loves to cook for her family and loved ones. She enjoys making a meal an occasion to slow down, eat with enjoyment, and share conversations.

For the last several months, we’ve been sharing dinner every Wednesday night with a friend. I’m inspired to either broaden our net a little and add some other people around the table, or to add another weekly evening for sharing meals and conversation. Some of our favorite vacation memories are the conversations shared around the dinner table, whether the meal was around the campstove or a 5-star restaurant table. Although, there have been far more campstove meals than 5-star restaurants.

But that’s kind of the point. The meal doesn’t have to be fancy. It just needs to be shared.

Bread & Wine is a fairly quick read, and I enjoyed it a lot.

Media Monday: The Armchair Adventurer

The Amazing Race cast, Season 25
The Amazing Race cast, Season 25

I didn’t watch Season 1 of The Amazing Race, but I’ve seen all the other seasons. Number 25 just started last week.

I’ve seen the contestants race around Europe, and Asia, and Africa. I’ve watched them shave their heads, dare to confront their fears by jumping out of planes or off buildings, and eat some truly disgusting stuff.

I’m an armchair adventurer, hear me whimper.

My daughter, the Lovely Oldest, and I have applied to be on the show but they keep losing our paperwork.

We don’t live in the same house any longer, and we DVR the show but we often text back and forth about it.

Someone finding our phones would think we were speaking in secret code.

ME: #1 rule?


Me: Shank it.

LO: No, Rank it.

And on it goes.

While I would love that kind of adventure, another part of me knows that I’d be cast as the fat, old, non-athlete who’d likely be eliminated at the end of the first leg.

But I can dream. Which I will do all during this season. We left the teams Friday night in the US Virgin Islands, dripping wet, but eager to continue the adventure.

Food Talk Friday: Confessions of a Foodie

I’m inaugurating a new weekly blog topic.

Friday’s are for talking about food.

It might be a recipe, or an ingredient, or a television show, or even a food memory, but every Friday stop by here for a few thoughts about the stuff that keeps us fed, nourished, and feeling loved.

Monday, I reviewed two food movies and two of the books in my upcoming Tuesday posts are books about food. One is about the fellowship and love we share around the table as we cook and eat. The other is a compilation of food writing.

The Best Thing I Ever Ate

While I’m typing this, a food show is on the television and I’m trying not to let myself be distracted. The Best Thing I Ever Ate is extolling garlic. Garlic burgers, garlic spaghetti, garlic soup, and garlic with shrimp, and garlic sausage. And the show is only half over.

Oy vey.

I’m not a food blogger. I’m not a food stylist. I don’t have a fancy camera. I’m not a nutritionist. I have no culinary training. I’m just a good home cook married to another. We enjoy cooking (admittedly, he enjoys it more than I do), eating, and talking about food. We read recipes, cookbooks, magazines. We love movies about food. Our television in usually on The Food Network. The DVR is full of back episodes of Chopped, Iron Chef America, and Cutthroat Kitchen. One of the best events we attended in 2012 was an evening with Alton Brown.

I hope you’ll be back next week. I’m thinking a recipe will be our topic. But we’ll see…

What do you look for in a food blog?

Woe! It’s Wednesday: The Truth is the Best Defense? Or the Only Defense?

Because most all my friends are nice and considerate people, I don’t generally see too many trolls online. But I have noticed an increase in admonishing and finger-pointing posts and comments.

Typically, someone posts about a problem solved or crisis averted or even asks a simple question.

Yay! I learned to put on my socks!


Example: YAY! I finally figured out how to put on my socks. Those stripes and the ankle bendy parts were sooo confusing!

The replies vary from happy and encouraging:

  • Oh, good for you!
  • What’s the secret? So happy you figured it out.
  • So, share the knowledge!!?!

To … a bit less happy:

  • You’re such a dork. Glad you got it.
  • Yep, those “ankle bendy parts” are hard for blondes.

To downright rude:

  • Really? You think they’re hard?
  • Wow, I guess I never realized socks were so confusing. But I’m glad you persevered.

To completely inappropriate, not to mention irrelevant:

  • Don’t you know socks are ruining the planet? You should NEVER wear socks if you want to reduce carbon emissions and leave the earth a greener planet for future generations.
  • You’re posting about socks? That’s as irritating as someone’s picture of their dinner. You should only share news that’s worth sharing.

And worst of all, the BSP (Blatant Self-Promotion):

  • If socks give you trouble, check out my new website, just for the foot accessory challenged. I think you’ll like it! And pass it on.
  • I have a blog post about how to put on socks correctly for the post-modern parent. Here’s the link …

Maybe my posts are too bland to offend, but I’m blessed to say this is not a problem I have, just one I’ve observed.

I did have an interesting experience last week. A friend posted a list on a social media site, one of those, “I can’t believe stupid people out there exist who would say this” kinds of posts. It was a list of quotes, labeling all the speakers as uneducated bigots, chauvinists, and potential abusers and perverts. And all those quoted were identified by their political affiliation.

never respond to those kinds of posts. Never. Well, not since I got pilloried a couple of years ago for pointing out the inconsistencies in the poster’s own original statements.

Anyway, I rarely respond.

But this one irked me. I looked up a few of the people quoted and found what I’d guessed to be true: the quotes were either taken out of context, mis-quoted or otherwise erroneous.

I exhaled. I wrote a response. I deleted it. I walked around the room. I wrote it again. I edited it. Took a deep breath. And clicked Post comment.

My (edited to protect–well, me) comment:

There’s enough stupidity in the country to go around without labeling it by political party. After all, Joe B* said, “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook, man.” If B* can be forgiven and voted for, I think the others should at least get a closer look at the circumstances and context. W*** was quoting B* K*. A* spoke without thinking. A friend and I were talking once about date rape and she mentioned “rape-rape vs. date rape.” I said, “But date rape is rape-rape.” She realized immediately what she’d said and felt horrible. I would never bring that up years later to humiliate her. I also wouldn’t bring up B*’s plagiarism all these years later. Oops, except I guess I did.

I expected to be mocked, derided, and condescended to.

In fact, I heard … nothing.

Chirp. Chirp. Chirp.


That’s it. Mine is the final comment on that post.

And I had a little epiphany. When you respond with the truth, there is nothing else to be said.

Oh, how I pray for wisdom and discernment to be able to speak truth when appropriate. And when to shut up because it’s not the time.

Who’s with me?

Book Talk Tuesday: Evergreen

It’s no secret I’m a huge Susan May Warren fan. She’s just released a novella, Evergreen, a Christmas story in her Christiansen Family series. Evergreen is about the parents of the Christiansen siblings, John and Ingrid, home in Deep Haven with a newly emptied nest.

Evergreen by Susan May Warren
Evergreen by Susan May Warren

John has planned a surprise trip to Europe for Christmas for Ingrid. He wants to renew their vows on the Eiffel Tower in Paris, a romantic gesture that he’s certain will wake Ingrid from the funk she’s fallen into since her last chick has flown the coop.

But the man can’t catch a break.

Ingrid volunteers to head up the community live Nativity. And their nephew needs a place to live for a few months. And John suddenly learns that what he thought Ingrid could snap out of, is much deeper, something that he has no idea how to fix.

Evergreen is the perfect read for a crisp fall or winter afternoon.

Unfortunately, here in California, temperatures were still in the 90s when I read the book last week. I couldn’t snuggle under a warm throw or curl up with hot chocolate or a cup of coffee.

And it didn’t matter in the least. I loved the book. The snowy atmosphere of Evergreen translated from the page into my mind and I shivered along with the characters. As empty nesters ourselves, our related to some of John and Ingrid’s feelings and situations. Susan nailed it.

If you’re an empty nester, what surprised you that you weren’t expecting  about this stage of life? If you’re not an empty nester, is this a season of life you’re looking forward to or dreading?



I got to see two food-based movies last week.

Each told a compelling story of one person’s life with food.

The Hundred-Foot Journey
The Hundred-Foot Journey

In The Hundred-Foot Journey, an Indian immigrant to France becomes the chef cook at his family’s new restaurant, Maison Mumbai, which opens across the street from a hoity-toity place serving gourmet French cuisine.

Hassan Kadem, the young Indian chef has a gift for food and spices. When the family moves to town, the first person they meet is a sous chef, Margueuite, who works for Madame Mallory the restauranteur across the road. Hassan and Marguerite forge a friendship and a love for food and freshly harvested vegetables.

Helen Mirren plays Madame Mallory who is on a quest for a second Michelin star. She does not want her ambiance affected by the high spirits, joyous music, and spicy aromas wafting across the street.

Madame Mallory is slowly won over by Hassan’s food and when she sees her petty attitudes reflected in other townspeople. She teaches Hassan until he moves to Paris to pursue culinary perfection but loses himself and forgets why and what he loves to cook.

The Hundred-Foot Journey is charming and reminiscent of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I saw it alone but will make sure to see it again with Stud Muffin. He loves food movies.

Chef with Jon Favreau

Which brings me to Chef. We did see this one together. The only thing the two movies have in common is that food is a central character.  In Chef, Carl Casper, played by Jon Favreau, is the once-upon-a-time hottest chef in Miami and LA. Carl is stymied creatively and professionally by his restaurant’s owner, played by Dustin Hoffman.

Carl also has a beautiful ex-wife played by Sofia Vergara and a young son who yearns to spend more time with his perpetually busy and distracted father. A Twitter war gets out of hand and goes viral and Carl heads back to Miami to figure out what he wants.

He ends up with a broken-down food truck that he and his son and an LA friend restore and they begin cooking Cuban food. They drive to California, cooking and eating along the way.

There’s some rough language in Chef but no sex or violence. I loved seeing an engrossing movie that takes food and the comfort it offers seriously. It neither glorifies nor condescends to its intended audience: lovers of food and cooking.

In the closing credits is a short clip of a cook teaching Favreau how to make the perfect grilled cheese sandwich. The care and love poured into that lowly sandwich elevated it to co-star status.

Both movies are gentle love stories between a boy and his food and along the way he discovers his family and himself.

Both are highly recommended.

Woe! It’s Wednesday: 37 Years of Wedded Bliss

I forget who first made the joke, “We’ve been happily married for thirty years. That’s not bad for a forty-year marriage.”

37 Years of Wedded Bliss

It’s only funny because it’s sort of true.

Today, we celebrate 37 years of marriage.

It hasn’t always been happy. We went through a really rough patch about fifteen years ago when I thought we were done. Not headed for divorce but headed for something perhaps even worse: co-existence. We were opposed in every important area of life. Finances. Church. Family. I figured we’d be one of those couples who live together but have parallel lives.

I’m thankful we made it through that patch and came out on the other side stronger and even more committed.

It hasn’t always been easy. We’ve endured crazy work schedules, a stressful career where he literally placed his life into God’s hands each day on the job. People sometimes ask if I’m glad he’s not doing that anymore and that I must have worried about him all the time.

I didn’t worry, because I knew from the beginning that I would go crazy if I allowed myself to hitch a ride down the Worry Highway. I’m thankful that we get each other and he doesn’t question my love even if I’m able to send him to work with a kiss and a hug instead of wailing and gnashing teeth every day.

It hasn’t always been fun. Moving across the state isn’t fun. Raising a family isn’t always fun. Laundry isn’t fun.

But we do those things. Because we’re committed to each other. We hang in there.

Thirty-seven years of wedded bliss. It’s up to God how many more He’ll give us. I’m thankful for the ones we’ve had.


Book Talk Tuesday: Bread and Wine

This one sat on my Kindle for a loooong time before I moved it to the top of the pile. I first read Shauna Niequist a few months ago. I really enjoyed her first book, Cold Tangerines. 

breadandwineshaunaniequist (1)
Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist


Bread & Wine is a collection of essays about the nature of food and fellowship and sharing meals and celebrations around the table.

Shauna Niequist has been compared to both Donald Miller and Anne Lamott. She shares their commitment to honesty along their journey.

I was blessed to see a production in June of Cold Tangerines: The Play. It was amazing to see Niequiest’s words brought to life on the stage. I’m so glad she agreed to allow that project to bear fruit.


I’m baffled sometimes by God’s choices for our lives. Okay, my life. I’ve long wanted to have regular family nights around the table. Taco Tuesdays. Monday Night Football and Chili. Meatballs on Fridays.

A night where we would fix dinner and set the table and whoever showed up would pull a chair to the table and join in.

But my husband had a job that demanded shift work. We didn’t have a regular schedule. We might have Taco Tuesday for two weeks, then Tostada Thursday, then a week of nothing and pretty soon, we’d be back to wanting and thinking about regularly hosting friends and family, but not actually doing it.

Bread & Wine makes the case for how we truly connect over food and drink. Those connections and relationships are worth planning and cultivating.

I loved this book and it will be one I return to often. And not just for the recipes.



Media Monday: The Way Way Back

Utterly charming. I loved this one!

The Way Way Back

Duncan and his single mom are spending the summer at his mom’s new boyfriend’s beach house with him and his daughter.

The boyfriend, played by Steve Carell, is Trent and he’s a bully and a womanizer and a master manipulator. He’s the worst kind of abuser because he cloaks his verbal and emotional manipulation as “help.”

Duncan drifts to the local water park and strikes up a friendship with the manager. He soon leads a secret life as an employee at Water Wiz and begins to make friends.

Perfectly cast and acted, The Way Way Back is a special slice-of-life movie.

I loved how Duncan and Owen, the water park manager, developed a friendship. Owen may have been afraid to live his own life or make a change, but he saw truth clearly and wasn’t afraid to defend his friends.

Highly recommended!

Book Talk Tuesday: Playing by Heart

Playing by Heart is the newest release from Anne Mateer.

I’ve loved her first three books and this one does not disappoint.

Playing by Heart by Anne Mateer


Lula Bowman is on her path to become the first woman Ph.D in Oklahoma when a tragedy forces her to return home and her reputation as flighty Fruity Lu.

Chet Vaughn is a math teacher and boys basketball coach at the Dunn, Oklahoma high school. Chet lost the luck of the draft draw so his brother is off fighting in the trenches in World War I and Chet is home taking care of their mother.

Lula applies for a job teaching mathematics in Dunn but she is offered the position of music teacher and girls basketball coach. She accepts but is already looking forward to her return to the university.


Chet and Lula are drawn to each other, but the school has a strict policy regarding female teachers and men. Not to mention that Lula is planning on leaving Dunn at the end of the school year while Chet is stuck.

Mateer’s created a compelling story with fully realized characters who live and breathe. Chet and Lula’s attraction is real as are the reasons keeping them apart. This is a romance in the best sense of the word. The hero and heroine are likable and their obstacles rise naturally from their characters’ natures and circumstances. Nothing felt contrived, which is the kiss of death for me.

Lovely story and highly recommended!