My Reading Year


“Overdue Book Calendar” auntjune’s Etsy shop.

As the New Year approaches, I have begun a review of this one. What did I accomplish, what did I fail to accomplish, what is worth remembering and what would I rather forget? I’ve had the pleasure of traveling to the San Miguel Writers Conference, attending the Carnegie Center of Lexington’s Books in Progress Conference, the Kentucky Women Writers Conference and the Appalachian Writers Workshop. I met and learned from a number of wonderful writers, including: Rosalind Brackenbury; Jacinda Townsend; Marie Manilla; Hannah Pittard; Ronni Lundy; Scott Turow; Rebecca Gayle Howell; Robert Gipe; and David Joy. Most overwhelmingly joyously, I signed with Folio Literary Management’s Senior Vice President Erin Cartwright Niumata for representation. My website is up and running,, and Erin has my novel “After the Race” out to multiple editors and publishers for sale. It’s been a busy, exciting, successful year and I am so thankful for all those who have helped and guided me.

And I’m thankful for you readers. On average, about 100 people read this blog daily. I hope you have found a book you weren’t aware of, or a recipe, or maybe a playlist. I hope it’s made you laugh, or curious, or on occasion, thoughtful.

Today, I’m providing an overview of the books read in my book club. Tomorrow, I’m going to reveal my best reads of 2015 — not necessarily published in 2015. And as always, I’d love to hear what your book club is reading, what your favorite book of 2015 was, what you’re cooking or listening to while you read.

Book Club 2015 Reads

I Am Malala, Malala Yousafzal. Published in 2013, this is the autobiography of the teenage Nobel Prize winner. Our hostess served a Mediterranean platter of hummus, tzitaki, vegetables and pita.

A Dog’s Purpose, Bruce Cameron. See my earlier post:

Delta Scarlett

A Touch of Stardust, Kate Alcott. This novel, published in 2017, is supposed to be about a young woman from Indiana who becomes involved in the lives of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard during the filming of Gone with the Wind. It was simplistic, a bit silly, and our book club was not impressed.

The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins. This book was a success with everyone. See my earlier post:

Life after Life, Kate Atkinson. Also a big success. I’ve posted about Life After Life and Atkinson’s follow-up A God In Ruins

Saint Monkey, Jacinda Townsend. Whenever we can find a novel that has a Saint Monkey covertie to our locale, we certainly try to read it. Townsend’s Kentucky to New York odyssey had us in thrall. See my earlier post:

We Were Liars, E. Lockhart. A Kennedy-esque mystery of sorts.

archie ap comicUnbecoming, Rebecca Scherm. Another guessing game involving a triplet of would-be thieves with literary undertones and one of our favorites. I need to blog about this. Author Rebecca Scherm, as I understand, went to the same high school as I did.

Black Chalk, Christopher J. Yates. Another twisty page-turner that I can’t believe I haven’t blogged about! Look forward to that one.

Under the Wide and Starry Sky, Nancy Horan. The author of Loving Frank, which we all loved, followed up with this novel about Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife, which we did not love. See my earlier post:

Logo_-_MameMame, Patrick Dennis. Who doesn’t love Auntie Mame with her outrageous clothing, behavior, match-making and travels? It was a perfect, classic to end the year.


So there’s our year of book club reads. Tomorrow, my favorite reads of 2015.

Happy Reading!



In honor of Wendell Berry: Kentucky Writers’ Hall of Fame

wendell-berry-1 Please don’t tell him, but I love Wendell Berry.  OK, tell him.  Just maybe not his wife. Tonight, he will be the first living inductee into the Kentucky Writers’ Hall of Fame and I will be there.  With bells on and dancing a jig. Wendell Berry is a Kentucky writer, but more than that, a Kentuckian.  He lives on and works the “dark and bloody ground;” he writes about the land and her people.  He celebrates it and mourns it and enjoys it and adores it.  He’s an environmentalist, a novelist, poet, essayist, cultural critic, anti-strip mining, anti-coal activist, philosopher and a Mad Farmer. He has been awarded so many prizes, they must fill an entire room.  The Jefferson Lecture, The National Humanities Lecture, Guggenheim and Rockefeller Fellowships, the Roosevelt Institute’s Freedom Medal . . . and on. Wendell Berry does not merely give lip service to his beliefs; he enforces them by his actions.  In 2010, he pulled his papers from and ended his nearly-lifetime affiliation with the University of Kentucky in protest of the naming of the basketball dorm, “Wildcat Coal Lodge.” Congratulations to Mr. Berry.  In celebration, a few of my favorite of his words.

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
I knew her when I saw her
in the vision of Botticell, riding
shoreward out of the waves,
and afterward she was in my mind
as she had been before, but changed,
so that if I saw her here, near
nightfall, striding off the gleam
of the Kentucky River as it darkened
behind her, the willows touching
her with little touches laid
on breast and arm and thigh, I
would rise as after a thousand
years, as out of the dark grave,
alight, shaken, to remember her.
For An Absence
When I cannot be with you
I will send my love (so much
is allowed to human lovers)
to watch over you in the dark —
a winged small presence
who never sleeps, however long
the night.  Perhaps it cannot
protect or help, I do not know,
but it watches always, and so
you will sleep within my love
within the room within the dark.
And when, restless, you wake
and see the room palely lit
by that watching, you will think,
“It is only dawn,” and go
quiet to sleep again.
Parting from you,
rising into the air, I enter again
the absence we came together in.
My ways in house and field
and woods have reached an end,
dismembered of each other
and of me.  And you remain
on the earth we knew, already changing
into the earth you know.
Fire-driven through the air,
I go alone, a part
of what, together, we became.
From Jayber Crow:

“This is a book about Heaven. I know it now. It floats among us like a cloud and is the realest thing we know and the least to be captured, the least to be possessed by anybody for himself. It is like a grain of mustard seed, which you cannot see among the crumbs of earth where it lies. It is like the reflection of the trees on the water.”
     Congratulations Mr. Berry.
UPDATE:  Here’s a link to Tom Eblen’s coverage of the Hall of Fame event.

Monkeying Around: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler


Vintage Photo

     Karen Joy Fowler is an author with range.  The Jane Austen Book Club.  Sarah Canary (Pacific Northwest, 1873).  Sister Noon (Gilded Age, spinster and charity work in San Francisco).  Now, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, a novel about a family who raises a chimp as a child.

     Unfortunately, by telling you the premise of the book, I give nothing away.  The flap copy, the back jacket tell you this.  And it’s a mistake.  Because if you just picked up the book and began reading, it would take you until you were about 1/3 of the way through before you realized you were reading about a chimp.

     In her New York Times review of the book, Barbara Kingsolver expresses the same frustration.

To experience this novel exactly as the author intended, a reader should avoid the flap copy and everything else written about it. Including this review. The last writers to be unscathed by spoilers were probably the Victorians, who pounded out the likes of “Great Expectations” in weekly, serialized installments. No reviewer could blow the surprise of a convict benefactor or Miss Havisham’s cobwebby cake when these were yet unwritten. But in modern times, literary fiction presents a conundrum: The more craftily constructed its suspense, the more it tempts its advocates — in the interest of airtime — to reach into a serious tale and pull out something resembling a tabloid headline. Such as: “Girl and Chimp Twinned at Birth in Psychological Experiment.” That’s the big reveal in Karen Joy Fowler’s “We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves,” a novel so readably juicy and surreptitiously smart, it deserves all the attention it can get.

0609-bks-KINGSOLVER-cover-popupMatt Dorfman for the New York Times

     In the 1970s, Indiana University Professor Cooke and his wife bring two new members into their family simultaneously:  Rosemary and Fern. Rosemary is their biological daughter.  Fern is adopted; she was the child of a chimpanzee slaughtered by poachers in Africa.  Rosemary narrates the story, beginning in the middle.    Along the way, Rosemary and author Fowler raise hugely disturbing questions about the ethical treatment of non-human animals in our society.  Rosemary remembers being sent away by her family at age five; when she returned, Fern was gone.  Where she went and why is the puzzle at the heart of Rosemary’s story and Fowler’s novel.


IU Sample Gates.  GO  HOOSIERS

     Ultimately, it’s a novel about the truths we tell ourselves.  The issues we believe in more than self-preservation.  Memory, family, transformation, joy and grief.

     We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves won the Pen/Faulkner Award for 2014, and was recently short-listed for the Man Booker Prize.  It will be the topic of discussion at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning’s Brown Bag Book Club the weeks of October 30 and November 6.  By the way, The Carnegie Center is the recipient of this year’s Kentucky Governor’s Award for the Arts.  Here’s a very interesting article with Ms. Fowler about her father’s career as an animal behavioralist and some of her thoughts on the novel:


I would have a lot of fun with this book for book club night and for the menu, there is no question I would go as vegan as possible.

Golden Raisins mixed with peanuts

Peanut butter and marshmallow sandwiches.  Grilled.  Yummy.

Plantain chips

Banana Cream Pie


You know where I’m going don’t you?

Oh yeah:  monkees-logo


Rosemary:   Elle Fanning  Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences' 2nd Annual Governors Awards

Dr. Cooke:   Alexander SkarsgardAlexanderSkarsgard_900-600-05-14-12

Mrs. Cooke:  Drew BarrymoreDrew Barrymore

Lowell:  Joseph Gordon-Levittjoseph-gordon-levitt-feminist

Harlow:  AnnaSophia RobbAnna

Happy Reading!

National Book Award Winner: The Round House, Louise Erdrich

round house

Activities Around a Maidu Roundhouse. 1964. Frank Day, artist. Oil paint on canvas. Collection of Oakland Museum of California. Gift of Lyle R. Scott Collection.

It is 1988.  Joe’s mother arrives home covered in blood, in shock and severely physically and psychically injured.  She has been brutally attacked, raped and brutalized somewhere in the vicinity of a ceremonial Round House, a sacred space on the North Dakota reservation on which Joe and his family live.  Joe, a thirteen year old member of the Ojibwe tribe, decides it is beyond the ability of his father, a judge, and mother to mete out justice so he and his best friend Cappy take matters into their own hands.

The Round House by Louise Erdrich is literary fiction disguised as a crime novel, a searing portrait of the decimation of one family which represents the unjust degradations committed against a nation.

Walking through the kitchen door, I heard a splintering crash.  And then a keen, low, anguished cry.  My mother was backed up to the sink, trembling, breathing heavily.  My father was standing a few feet before her with his hands out, vainly groping in the air the shape of her, as if to hold her without holding her.  Between them on the floor lay a smashed and oozing casserole.

I looked at my parents and understood exactly what had happened.  My father had come in — surely Mom had heard the car, and hadn’t Pearl barked?  His footsteps, too, were heavy.  . . . Maybe he’d been too quiet this time.  Maybe he’d gone into the kitchen, just as he always used to, and then he’d put his arms around my mother as she stood with her back turned.  In our old life, she would have kept working at the stove or sink while he peered over her shoulder and talked to her.  The’d stand there together in a little tableau of homecoming.  Eventually, he’d call me in to help him set the table.  He’d change his clothes quickly while she and I put the finishing touches on the meal and then we would sit down together.  We were not churchgoers.  This was our ritual.  Our breaking bread, our communion.  And it all began with that trusting moment where my father walked up behind my mother and she smiled at his approach without turning.  But now they stood staring at each other helplessly over the broken dish.

Against this setting of sexual violence, Louise Erdrich’s main character Joe and his barely teen-aged friends are grappling with their own surging hormones and yearning for their own sexual experiences.  She contrasts the sacred round house with the Catholic church, dreams with reality, legends with the law, and the crime with justice system.  If the crime occurred on Native land, the suspect cannot be prosecuted because tribal courts may not prosecute non-Natives.  If it occurred on state land, state laws are in effect.  But Joe’s mother, the victim, cannot say where the acts occurred — only that they were somewhere in the vicinity of the round house.  As Maria Russo stated in the New York Times review of The Round House, “Law is meant to put out society’s brush fires, but in Native American history it has often acted more like the wind.”  ttp://

NYT imageNew York Times Illustration by Jon Han

The Round House was one of those books that kept popping up on recommended lists and I ignored it until the Carnegie Center’s Brown Bag Book Group chose it as a fall selection.  I’m very glad I read it.  As with all great literature, it opened a new world to my eyes; the closest I’ve been to North Dakota is probably Arizona or New Mexico but I haven’t any knowledge of Native American reservations or the Tribal Law and Order Act.  Nor was I aware, as Erdrich tells the reader in the afterword to her novel, that a recent Amnesty International report found “1 in 3 Native women will be raped in her lifetime (and that figure is certainly higher as Native women often do not report rape); 86 percent of rapes and sexual assaults upon Native women are perpetrated by non-Native men; few are prosecuted.”

The National Book Awards website features a blog appreciation of The Round House which you can read here: house cover

Ultimately, this is one of my favorite types of books to read and would be an excellent choice for a book club.  The prose holds a myriad of chewy topics, characters ranging from humorous to villainous, young to ancient and a plot that keeps you anxiously turning the pages.  For our purposes at daeandwrite, it also includes lots of wonderful food options, often even playing a role in the plot, which seems appropriate for a book whose protagonist is a teenage boy.

I took some apple slices and put them on my tongue.  I looked at Cappy.  We ate another jam sandwich each and just stood there watching in mesmerized hunger until (Grandma) started lifting out the fry breads.  Then we each took a plate and stood beside her.  She took the hot fry breads out of the bubbling lard with tongs and put the lumpy golden rounds on our plates.  We said thank you.  She wanted and peppered the meat.  She dumped in a can of tomatoes, a can of beans.  We kept standing there, our plates out.  She heaped spoons of the crumbled meat mix on top of the fry breads.  On the table, there was a block of commodity cheese.  The cheese was frozen so it was easy to grate on top of the meat.  We were so hungry we sat down right at the table.  Zack and Angus were outside, through her sliding doors, in the courtyard.  She made their Indian tacos now like ours, called them in, and they sat on the couch and ate.


The passage above provides plenty of fodder, excuse the pun, but if you want more options there are plenty more.  Banana bread, chili with hamburger meat, tomato paste, Rotel and cumin, bannock (flat bread), Juneberry jam.  As the weather has intermittently turned colder here, I’d go with the fry bread, chili and juneberry jam over vanilla ice cream.

Fry Bread

1 pkg. dry yeast

3 cups warm water

1 tbsp. salt

1 tbsp. sugar

6 cups flour

2 tbsp. oil

1/2 cup cornmeal

Dissolve yeast in warm water then add salt and sugar. Let stand for 5 minutes covered with a towel.  Add flour and oil to liquid mixture.  Mix and put on floured bread board and knead until mixture is smooth.  Put dough in a greased bowl, cover with towel and let it rise for 1 1/2 hours. Remove from bowl and put on bread board, knead in the 1/2 cornmeal.  Make dough into 2 balls rolling each into 12 inch circles 1/2 inch thick.  Cut into 2 inch squares and drop into hot cooking oil.  (Works best with cast iron skillet.)  Fry 5 to 6 pieces at a time for only a few moments.  Drain on paper towel and sprinkle with white powdered sugar.

Bannock recipe, if you want to try it:

Juneberry jam can be ordered here:


The Round House is set in 1988 so you could go with the hits of that year.  Faith by George Michael was the top song that year, believe it or not.  Egad.

Joe’s uncle Whitey loves The Rolling Stones and that’s never a bad choice.  I’d go with Some Girls, Emotional Rescue or Tattoo You, all released in the early 80s.

    I’m not even going to try to name any appropriate movie actors other than for Linden Lark and for Father Travis.

Linden Lark:  Matt Damon

Father Travis:  Brad Pitt

Happy Reading!

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

mulatto woman

  In Jean Rhys’ magnificent, sensual, masterpiece Wide Sargasso Sea, Jane Eyre‘s Mr. Rochester is no romantic hero.  Rhys’ re-imagines how Mr. Rochester may have obtained the wife who so infamously dashes the chaste Jane’s dreams of marriage by her nightmarish presence in the Rochester attic, placing him in Spanish Town, Jamaica to receive a bride and 30,000 pounds in dowry with no provision made for his bride:  Antoinette, the beautiful, mulatto daughter of a deceased mad woman.

   Rochester makes no effort to instill any security in Antoinette or the stepfather who has sold her conveniently away during the wedding ceremony.  When he reaches their honeymoon house, Rochester describes the scene himself:

Two wreaths of frangipani lay on the bed.

“Am I expected to wear one of these?  And when?”

I crowned myself with one of the wreaths and made a face in the glass.  “I hardly think it suits my handsome face, do you?”

“You look like a king, an emperor.”

“God forbid, I said and took the wreath off.  It fell on the floor and as I went towards the window I stepped on it.  The room was full of the scene of crushed flowers.

   Soon, the man Rochester teaches Antoinette to love him but has only lust and disdain for her.  “She was as eager for what’s called loving as I was — more lost and drowned afterwards” and rely upon him.  And yet, he “did not love her.  I was thirsty for her, but that is not love.  I felt very little tenderness for her, she was a stranger to me, a stranger who did not think or feel as I did.”

  In Rhys’ novel, Edward eventually turns away from Antoinette, and it is her sexual frustration that drives her to become what we know as the madwoman in the attic.  As described by Charlotte Bronte in the original: “the clothed hyena rose up, and stood tall on its hind feet. . . it snatched and growled like some strange wild animal.”

   Re-reading Wide Sargasso Sea for this week’s book club discussion at the Carnegie Center, I found myself pondering Virginia Woolf’s essay, A Room of One’s Own.  As Woolf, so much more eloquently than I could, said:

[…]any woman born with a great gift in the sixteenth century would certainly have gone crazed, shot herself, or ended her days in some lonely cottage outside the village, half witch, half wizard, feared and mocked at. For it needs little skill in psychology to be sure that a highly gifted girl who had tried to use her gift for poetry would have been so thwarted and hindered by other people, so tortured and pulled asunder by her own contrary instincts, that she must have lost her health and sanity to a certainty.
   Where lies the boundary between creativity-sensuality-madness?  Is a creative woman, a sensual woman by virtue of this aspect therefore mad?  Or was she considered to be so at one point?  Antoinette yearns for beautiful clothes, for the fragrance and luxury of brilliant colored flowers, to dress her hair elegantly and to dance.
   A more recent article from Psychology Today develops the thoughts further.
Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar published their famous theory – that Bertha is Jane’s alter ego (a personification of the rage engendered by pent-up female energy, especially sexual energy) – in 1979, in their co-authored book, The Madwoman in the Attic. But despite Gilbert and Gubar’s sophisticated comparisons of the patterns of metaphor and imagery common to Jane’s experiences and Bertha’s back-story, Bertha actually appears to be – among many other things – a figure who shows the potential fate of a woman who in her early life failed to assert herself (as Jane asserts herself) and who took refuge in commonplace thoughts and activities. Bertha sought freedom in promiscuity and drink, but Jane knows, as Mr Rochester has learnt, that that kind of behaviour is an illusion of freedom – for man as much as for woman. If Bertha is an echo of anyone in the novel, it is surely Blanche Ingram – the vacuous, conventional drawing-room beauty that Bertha herself once was, in Spanish Town, Jamaica. Bertha is what happens when you have no true sense of a self, and the language used to describe Blanche and Bertha (in her youth) also bears comparison – they are raven-ringleted, dark-eyed and arrogant; and Blanche’s own mother is already exhibiting Bertha-like physical attributes: her features are ‘inflated and darkened’ and her eye is ‘fierce’.


   The book is a feast for discussion in language and topic.  I couldn’t recommend it more highly.

Book Club Menu:

Rum punch:  See recipe

Fried Plantains:  Recipe Courtesy of Alton Brown, The Food Network

2 cups water
3 cloves garlic, smashed
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
1 1/2 cups vegetable or canola oil
2 green plantains
Combine water, garlic and salt in medium size glass bowl and set aside.

In a large (12-inch) saute pan, heat oil to 325 degrees F. Peel plantains and slice crosswise into 1-inch pieces. Carefully add plantains to oil and fry until golden yellow in color, about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes per side. (The oil should come halfway up the side of the plantain). With a spider or slotted spoon, remove the plantains from the pan and place them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, standing them on their ends. With the back of a wide, wooden spatula, press each piece of plantain down to half its original size. Then place the plantains in the water and let soak for 1 minute. Remove and pat dry with a tea towel to remove excess water.

Bring oil back up to 325 degrees F and return plantains to pan and cook until golden brown, approximately 2 to 4 minutes per side. Remove to a dish lined with paper towels, and sprinkle with salt, if desired. Serve immediately.

Read more at:

Fish en Papillote

This is my recipe and it’s easy.  Use any fish you particularly like.  Put several vegetables in the bottom of a brown paper lunch bag with a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper.  Carrots, zucchini, summer squash, celery all work well.  Place the fish on top of the vegetables and then fold the bag over to seal.  Cook in 350 Degree oven for 20 minutes.  Serve over brown rice.



Something wild and caribbean!


There’s been a movie made of Wide Sargasso Sea and it’s wonderful (and very sexy).




Mulatto Woman, Joanna Boyce Wells

Mulatto Woman, Eugene Delacroix

Market Day, Agostino Brunias

Breakfast Served Anytime by Sarah Combs


     In Sarah Combs’ charming debut young adult novel, Breakfast Served Anytime, a quartet of talented Kentucky high schoolers meet for the first time at summer “Geek Camp,” also known as the Governor’s Scholars program.  These superbly intelligent teen-agers find common ground and opposing sides in issues as close to home as mountain-top removal and summer crushes and as far away as the difference in metropolitan and farm living.

    Since this review was first published, author Sarah Combs has graciously supplied me with her own menu, a recipe for the Swiss Chard Lasagna featured in the book, which I’m going to try right away, and her playlist for the book.  Sarah is a frequent teacher, collaborator and contributor to the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning in Lexington and a swell girl in general!  Thank you Sarah.

    While looking for signs in all things, the protagonist admittedly misses some of the most obvious.  She generally “hates” first the things she will become most fond of, including her summer classmate Mason, who she ignores because he is a) smart; b) sassy; c) attractive; d) dressed like the Mad Hatter; e) not the brother of her friend who she has a crush on; or f) all of the above.  (ding ding ding for those of you who guessed “f”.)  Gloria’s prophetic signs include a Magic 8 ball, written words, random references to To Kill a Mockingbird, a drawing on a crypt and most prominently, a proliferation of blue butterflies.

Image  The butterflies appear as harbingers of change, forecasters of pleasure and soothsayers.

     In between the rather bizarre English class conducted at the Governor’s School by a rather mysterious teacher known as X and his adorable boxer Holyfield, Image the gang eats breakfast at a local restaurant.

    It’s a charming book.  I read it quickly and then gave it to my niece for her to enjoy as well.  If your book club chooses to read Breakfast Served Anytime, may I suggest:


Christmas Eggs

This is our family tradition.  Prepare 6-12 eggs as if you were going to scramble them.  Heat butter in a large skillet.  Crack and whisk the eggs with salt and pepper.  Add 1/2 to 1 block of cream cheese and whisk again.  Scramble in the buttered skillet until fully cooked.  You’ll never eat regular old scrambled eggs again.

Old Ham

According to the book, country ham is what city slickers call old ham.  Whichever you call it, serve it with the eggs.

Whole wheat toast with real butter and homemade jam

Fresh asparagus and fresh corn on the cob from your local farmers’ market


country (“old”) ham biscuits
Krispy Kreme doughnuts
just-picked corn on the cob
just-picked summer blackberries
Ale-8 (Bourbon optional 😉
And for Calvin’s mom’s Swiss chard lasagna, how about this recipe…I’m not positive, but I think it came originally from Three Springs Farm. It’s a little bit complicated), but MAN, it’s worth it and so good:
Bechamel Sauce:
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1 Turkish bay leaf
6 tbs unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves
Swiss chard & mushroom layers:
1 lb chard, center rib and stem cut from each leaf
4 tbs olive oil
1 1/3 cups chopped onion
4 large garlic cloves, chopped, divided
1/4 tsp dried crushed red pepper
Kosher salt
1 lb crimini mushrooms, sliced
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
9 7×3 inch lasagna noodles
olive oil
1 15-oz package ricotta
6 oz Italian fontina
8 tbs parmesan
for sauce:
  • Bring milk and bay leaf to simmer in medium saucepan; remove from heat. Melt butter in heavy, large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add flour and whisk to blend. Cook 2 minutes, whisking constantly. Gradually mix milk and bay leaf into roux. Add 1/2 tsp salt, nutmeg, and cloves and bring to a simmer. Cook until sauce thickens enough to coat spoon, whisking often, about 3 minutes. Remove bay leaf.
  • Blanch chard in boiling salted water 1 minute. Drain, pressing out all water, then chop coarsely. Heat 2 tbs oil in medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, 1/2 of garlic, and crushed red pepper. Saute until onion is tender, 3-4 minutes. Mix in chard and season to taste with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat remaining 2 tbs oil in heavy. large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and remaining garlic. Saute until mushrooms are brown and tender, 7 to 8 minutes. Mix in nutmeg and season with coarse salt and pepper.
for lasagna:
  • Cook noodles in medium pot of boiling salted water until just tender but al dente, stirring occasionally. Drain; arrange noodles in single later on sheet of plastic wrap.
  • Brush 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish with oil to coat. Spread 3 tbs sauce over bottom of dish. Arrange 3 noodles in dish to cover bottom. Spread 1/2 of chard mix, then 1/2 of mushrooms. Drop 1/2 of ricotta over in dollops and spread in an even layer. Sprinkle with 1/2 of fontina, then 4 tbs parmesan; spread 3/4 cup of Bechamel sauce over. Repeat layering with 3 noodles, chard, mushrooms, ricotta, fontina, parmesan, & 3/4 cup Bechamel. Cover with 3 noodles and remaining Bechamel.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake lasagna covered for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until heated through and top is golden, 20-30 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.


Black Coffee in Bed, Squeeze

Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, Lucinda Williams

Punky’s Dilemma, Simon & Garfunkel (the cornflakes song)

Up for Breakfast, Van Halen

Orange Juice Blues, Bob Dylan

Easy Like Sunday Morning, Bob Dylan

Lots of good morning songs too.  Good Morning from Singin’ in the Rain, jazz standard Good Morning Heartache, etc.


Author Sarah Combs has created a story soundtrack for Stay Bookish that she shared with me.  It’s a lovely addition or alternative and Sarah explains her choices here:  Her soundtrack includes some John Prine, The Everly Brothers and one of my perennial favorites, The Decemberists.


Again with the young adult!  I’m clueless.  Do you have suggestions?


When Women Were Birds (That’s a book, not a theory)


Terry Tempest Williams wrote a book called When Women Were Birds.  After finishing it, I don’t know that she ever theorizes, among the many theories and philosophies she espouses, that women were actually birds at any time.

I s’pose if women evolved from birds, and birds evolved from dinosaurs, then women were actually dinosaurs.  Terry doesn’t even mention this!



She does yammer on about her mother’s legacy of dozens of empty journals and endlessly ponders what the significance of those white pages could be.  The significance of the empty journals could be that her mother had nothing to say; or she was, as Terry told us, unwilling to show her thoughts at all.  But if it was that simple, what would she have to write?

The Carnegie Center book club chose the book because Refuge, Ms. Williams’ earlier memoir of her mother, was beloved by readers everywhere.

There ARE birds scattered throughout the book:  Ms. Williams’ shared a bird-watching passion with her grandmother; married her husband because he requested a field guide from her while she was working at a book store; and she is an ecologist, scientist, wilderness advocate and teacher, thus encountering our two-legged friends frequently.

The book claims to be 54 variations on finding your voice.  I guess with the broadest possible interpretation there might be 30 variations on finding your voice.  The other 24 are variations on befuddling your readers with the unexplained dialogue inside the author’s own mind.

I didn’t care for the book, but should you choose to read it and talk about, the best I can suggest for food is:

Carrot and Beet Salad.  Shred 5 carrots and one beet in a food processor.  Toss them together with 1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds and 2 tablespoons lemon juice. You could form this into a kind of nest if you wanted to be creative.  Put a hard-boiled egg in the center, if you are into that kind of thing.

Pasta:  if you get thick spaghetti and cook it according to package directions, then dress it with olive oil, it will look somewhat like the worms the little birdies eat.  It’s fun to actually set up a pasta bar and allow your guests to create their own dish.  I use turkey pepperoni, shredded parmesan, sun dried tomatoes, toasted almonds, pesto.  Whatever you like, put it in a small bowl and invite folks to dig in.

For dessert, if it’s Easter or thereabouts you could serve Cadbury eggs on a bed of whipped cream.  Jelly bean cookies might be fun.  Make the cookies according to the Toll House recipe on Nestle’s chips but don’t add chips or nuts.  Add jelly bean instead.

Cheap Cheap … that means enjoy.