Audiobooks · Books

From The Reading Table: Mastering the Art of French Murder

Mastering the Art of French Murder by Colleen Cambridge

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It is a rare occasion when I find a book that literally keeps me up all night. Happily, this was one of the best.

I have been a Julia Child fan for decades, so the title was a great hook to capture my attention. The reader did a remarkable job of bringing Julia to life. Actually, the reader did a remarkable job with everything thrown at her. There is an interesting mix of languages, locations, and people that are handled with ease.

The author has created not only interesting characters, but has brought to life a time and place that made me feel as if I might be watching a film.

There are plenty of references to mystery writers and characters which kept me on my toes trying to figure out ‘who done it’. And I have to say I was led down many a wrong path before I reached the culmination of the story. Who was involved? What was actually going on? You will have to read (or listen) to find out.

This book is apparently the beginning of a new series, another thing that makes me happy. If the next work is as good as this one, I could be along for long ride.

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Audiobooks · Books

From The Reading Table: I, Claudius and Claudius The God

I, Claudius/Claudius the God by Robert Graves

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I first encountered Claudius in paperback when PBS ran the British series. It was impossible to ignore. I read both books by Robert Graves, but I have to say that at the time my knowledge of Rome and its history was extremely limited. Fast forward a few decades, toss in a lot more knowledge of Rome and a return visit to Emperor Claudius via the audio versions of Graves’ books. The experience is even more interesting and amazing.

When I started connecting the dots of the history I had learned with the tales Claudius tells, I gained an entirely different understanding.

The first person account of encounters with historical names and places brings both the people and the history to life. Some of it terrifying. Some of it mundane.

Claudius survived a family that pretty much killed off anyone who got in the way. His journey was one of learning to keep out of sight while in plain sight (confusing, yes, but infinitely necessary). He lived in interesting times among interesting people and in places that we can only see in ruins.

The books are not for those who like their history cleaned up and tidy. History has never been either. I would like to suggest that the reader have more than a tendril of knowledge of the subject matter but in the end I’m not sure it would matter. If Claudius’ story captivates enough, it could lead you into an entirely new rabbit hole.

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Around the House

Anticipating Fall

Like many folks, I have had enough of Summer. The running joke around here is if you don’t like the weather wait 5 minutes. That worked back when we had a variety of options rather than the standard ‘hot’. Personally, I’m ready for a 5 minute change.

I have found myself contemplating pot roast and cozy coffee and baking something warm and, well, cozy. You get the drift.

I came across my holiday DVD collection today. Peanuts! All the autumn and winter specials. I can enjoy spending time with the kids as they wait for the Great Pumpkin or endeavor to collect lots of Halloween candy! I love the Christmas special, too.

I was thinking about the apple cake I made last year and contemplating doing it again. Did you try it? Scrumptious! I also want to try Erin McDowell’s biscuits and pie crust recipes.

September seems to herald the start of a new phase where we buckle down and get ready for winter weather. We gather favorite recipes and ponder gift giving while curling up with something to keep us company.

Hard to do that when it is hot and humid outside, right?

Here’s hoping you start your own end of year process. Are you collecting ideas, contemplating crafting, gearing up for a major (or minor) cleaning phase?

Sending you luck!

Classic TV · Musings · TV

Enjoying The Toons

Cartoons and Comics, that is!

If you have been around here for any length of time, you know how much I enjoy good cartoons and comic strips. Animation is an art that takes many forms. If you have ever found yourself watching a cartoon and being amazed at the beauty of the backgrounds, you are a kindred spirit.

If you have read comic strips for any length of time and found yourself caught up in the story, you are a kindred spirit, too.

These mediums are not just for children. Although as I contemplate the history of some of the makers involved in these classics, it is not difficult to consider that some of these folks were acting on their childish impulses. LOL!

I think you have to be less than Serious to make some seriously great cartoons.

I’ve watched Toon In With Me on MeTV ever since it debuted. What I have noticed lately is the improvement in the link segments. The segments between the cartoons. It often takes a while for a show to find its feet and there was a time when this show seemed to want to rely a bit too much on, shall we say, questionable characters and situations. A lot of that has been stripped away and the focus is on Bill, the cartoon curator, and his pal, Tooney the Tuna.

The show flows better, there is more to be interested in, and the overall experience is fun rather than <cough> attempts to be juvenile trying to be grown ups.

Comic strips are a great way to touch base with the funny and the wisdom of the ordinary. I have been introduced to new strips that have caught my attention and have found pleasure in returning to old favorites.

Sometimes it is a simple visit with Snoopy and Charlie Brown that can lift my spirits. Dropping in on For Better or For Worse reminds me of when the strip was brand new and the kids just growing up. Baldo adds a touch of humor and the kids are actually a pleasure to spend time with.

Personally, I find the daily touch base a great way to start my day.

Are you a comics or cartoon fan? What are your favorites?

Cooking · Food · YouTube

Discovering New Teachers In The Kitchen

If you have followed me for any length of time, you know that I love to follow cooks and bakers. I love to learn more tips, tricks and techniques to improve my cooking and baking. You also know I love YouTube because I find some very interesting folks there.

I am usually slow to the (any) party so when I came across Erin Jeanne McDowell on Food52 it was a double introduction. I had never ventured into Food52 territory before and I had never heard about Ms. McDowell even though she has been a prominent baking presence for several years.

I did say I am often late, right?

I tripped over her video about tomato pies and was hooked! Check it out:

Now, I love a good tomato. And I love pie crust. Is it any surprise that I love a good tomato pie? Each of the pies is a work of art and relatively easy to put together.

There is more to this baker than just tomato pies. She has a wide array of recipes (she’s written at least 3 cookbooks) and best of all she is a great teacher.

Check out The Dish interview:

I don’t know of anyone who has never had an issue (or issues) with cooking or baking. There is always something that we stumble with. What I look for are the teachers who explain what to look for – and show me – and how to fix it so I can feel a bit more confident in the kitchen.

I give credit to Natalie Dupree who showed me how to use a food processor and gave me the courage to get one of my own. Hey, if she could do it, so could I, right?

Sometimes we just need a helping hand to get our hands dirty, right?

Check out Erin’s videos and recipes. I sure will be, too!

Bingeworthy · Classic TV · Media · Movies · TV

Catching Up

In the midst of Hollywood Strikes there are still options for viewers

A recent article in the New York Times (read here) is a reminder that even though we are not being inundated by new shows, there is still a lot to watch. A lot.

And you know what? That is a good thing.

One of the things I hate about cable is the dearth of material which results in jacking up the monthly bill. There is nothing like a 3 figure monthly bill for a majority of stuff I don’t have any interest in. 🙁 Streaming can be a bit of a mine field, too.

But here we are with a plethora of material that had been relegated to the ‘I’ll Watch that later’ list. Or, we’ve taken the time to brows our various streaming services (free or paid for) and found a whole host of things we’d forgotten we wanted to see. Now is the time!

And, if you were sharp eyed you discovered that many of your free services had materials that also appear on some of the paid platforms. !!!!!!

Yep, it is true. Granted you might not find all of a series, but you could find just what you want to see and watch enough to determine if adding the subscription cost to your budget is worth it or not. I recently discovered that several series I used to pay for are now available for free elsewhere. Jaw dropped. Money saved.

Another thing I have taken advantage of is the search feature on to find out where I can watch something and what it will cost me. I use the same feature on my Roku box. It can be eye opening to see the options.

So, pull up your watch list, grab a pen and paper and make a list of what you want to watch while we wait for Hollywood to sort itself out. Catch up without the need for frustration and annoyance that everyone else has already seen it before you. Who cares?

Grab the popcorn!

Audiobooks · Books

Favorite Authors In My Library: Sue Grafton

I honestly do not remember exactly when I was introduced to Sue Grafton and her heroine, Kinsey Millhone. I suspect it was when the first of her Alphabet Mysteries moved into paperback, somewhere around 1982. At that point I was devouring several women mystery writers, but only one stayed on my To Be Read List. Sue.

I should tell you that at that point in time I was young, broke, and frequented the local library when budget would not stretch to cover new paperbacks, let along hardback books. Grafton quickly moved to my Hardback list and stayed there until I acquired my first Kindle.

The Alphabet series was set in the 1980s and stayed there. Something novel after a while because Sue had to construct her stories without computers, cell phones, and a plethora of other tech that just was not available. While Kinsey might have maneuvered the world of paper files and pay phones, many of her later readers wouldn’t have a clue.

Originally intended to have one book per letter for the entire 26 letters, sadly Sue passed away just after book 25 came out. Somehow, it just seemed right. Even now.

Kinsey is sharp, funny, quirky, and a whole host of other things that endeared her to me. I love her sense of humor, her loyalty, her guts and her fears. The books cover her journey not only to crack the cases her clients bring her, but also the quirks of her own life. The books are not just the unfolding of the crime(s) but of life’s mysteries, too.

The audio books are a delight to listen to. Perfectly matched with Judy Kaye’s narration, they bring Kinsey to life.

I won’t lie, I miss Sue and Kinsey. Both are interesting women who put everything into their work. I am grateful, not to mention thankful, that I have several versions of the books (audio, paper and electronic) so I can visit them, not to mention Henry (I can smell his baking from here…) whenever I want.

Check out more about Sue here.

Cooking · Food

Rao’s End of An Era?

With the news that Rao’s has been acquired by Campbell’s many of us are sorely disappointed.

I know many folks don’t understand the problem. For them any jar of pasta sauce will do. For the rest of us, however, Rao’s is on target with a clean list of ingredients (no sugar), a balanced flavor, and for those sensitive to acid from tomatoes, Rao’s rarely creates that discomfort.

Yes, it isn’t cheap but neither is making your own.

Read more about this acquisition HERE.

In the meantime, I’m stocking up.

Cooking · Dining · Food

Time For A Change?

When You Need to Revisit the Menu

August is that month when many folks deal with kids returning to school and the ‘normal’ shifts. There is a concerted effort to gather the necessities and prepare for the return to a more regular daily schedule.

For those of us without kids, or have older kids, the shift might not be so drastic but the need for a shift can be felt.

Many of my meals are pretty standard. I’ve been known to be on a ‘cheese sandwich for lunch’ routine that could last for months. I might switch up the sandwich, but the pattern would hold. Breakfast, my favorite meal, is not often the Big Meal I love, but is often cereal with occasional toasted something. (Toast is a THING in my house…) Lunch is often my main meal and as such can evolve and change depending on my whim or desire.

Lately, breakfast – that quick and easy start to my day – has become a bit… … … I hesitate to use the word ‘boring’, but <sigh>

My standard weekly breakfasts have been mostly cereal for months with little shift of the cereals (I switch between two) and the occasional toast. For a long time prior, however, I enjoyed my breakfast biscuits.

As a rule I don’t like early in the day heavy breakfasts. If I want a Breakfast (fill in with the full blown whatever your idea might be) it is usually for brunch. I’ve learned that eating early, around 6 a.m., tends to make me hungry by 10 no matter how much, or how little I eat. Annoying? You bet!

All that being said, and as much as I enjoy my cereal, I find that a change is needed. Hmm.

Perhaps it is time to return to yogurt? Maybe a return to the breakfast biscuits?

I have friends who bake their oatmeal for easy breakfasts that can be carried to work. I have to admit, baked oatmeal has been on my To Be Tried List… So have Breakfast Cookies, which seem to be a bit more complicated but just as easy to carry…

All said, a shift in the ‘regular’ meal pattern is a good thing. And I now have something to consider as I put together my next grocery order.

What do you think?