Readers’ Workout

So far April has been great.  We are still walking in the morning after a warm up with the dog.  Still getting up and stretching at 10 till each hour while at work and walking several laps after lunch.  Fortunately there is a covered parking garage at work so even if it rains, we can walk.  My stats have been over 10,000 for each day and my weight is remaining the same despite some naughty indulgences like Mexican food, chips and salsa and a cheeseburger.


Monday I was getting my bearings again as I was recovering from a colonoscopy.  Not much walking there and I was in a daze.  Those drugs knock you for a loop!

Plans for the rest of the week are to tackle some neglected chores around the house.  The driveway is recycled asphalt and when we get torrential rains (as we did last week) then the gravel starts collecting near the gate.  This means the labor of shoveling it away from the gate and redistributing along the driveway.  The gate is sticking open too much and I am afraid the UPS guy won’t be able to get in if it gets too much worse.

Plus there are branches to pick up around the house and field.

On the menu:

Cheesy Skillet Polenta and Eggplant Bake
Eggplant Parmesan with Carbonara Angel Hair pasta
Broccoli and Cauliflower Mac and Cheese, hardboiled eggs
Grilled Grouper with leftover Broccoli and Cauliflower Mac & Cheese

How is your exercise going this week?

Check out Readers’ Workout at Joy’s Book Blog!


A Year Between Friends: Crafts, recipes and best of all….friendship.


A Year Between Friends: 3191 Miles Apart is a lovely book filled with craft ideas, recipes, letters and best of all – friendship.

Molly Wizenberg wrote the forward and it’s a great beginning.  She explained how she discovered a blog called  Port2Port where Maria (MAV) was an author.  This was over 10 years ago.  Molly and Maria were fans of Stephanie Congdon (SCB) on Flickr.

The ladies began collaborating with photo projects and craft ideas. They have been corresponding for quite some time and the result was deep friendship between Maria and Stephanie.

This book is divided by the months of the year. They each take photos of their respective locales – Maria who goes by MAV is in Portland Maine and Stephanie (SCB) lives in Portland Oregon.  In addition to photos there are recipes and letters.


My dear friend Mary Margaret lives in Alaska and I live in Florida.  About as far away as friends can be and still be in the USA. This book reminded me of our deep friendship and how the miles didn’t matter a lick.  I can still call her and talk to her as if I’d seen her a day ago.  This has been going on since the late 1970’s. (Yes, I am a senior citizen 🙂

What a lovely display of friendship this book is.

From Amazon:  Maria Alexandra Vettese and Stephanie Congdon Barnes share a love of art and design, handmade pleasures, and a well-lived domestic life. Almost a decade ago, they began their first year-long project together, posting a photo from each of their mornings on their blog, 3191 Miles Apart, named for the distance between their homes in Portland, Maine, and Portland, Oregon.

The inspired recipe from this book is soup. But we haven’t been eating much meat lately and so, while I planned on chicken soup….I diverted to a veggie chili.  Very different but one of the biggest components in this book features healthy eating.

I made a black bean chili with finely chopped zucchini, green onions,tomatoes, mushrooms and a little bit of water. Once everything started thickening up I added about 3/4 cup of brown rice.

The plus of our healthier eating (and additional walking) is the weight loss.  My husband has lost 22 pounds while I have lost 12 pounds. Yes, I keep up with him eating and drinking yet my weight loss has been considerably slower.  🙂  Oh well!

Good book with great recipes and craft ideas.  You will love flipping through it.

Linking up with Deb at Kahakai Kitchen for her Souper Sunday series. The linkup for this week may be found HERE.

Also linking with Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking Series.


The Olive Farm. {An Irish woman starring in a BBC production landing in France. Very International.}

Expatriates-in-paradise genre – One of my favorites!

I have long been a fan of Irish actress Carol Drinkwater. She was my favorite Helen in the series All Creatures Great and Small, a series I very much enjoyed.  That’s where we got our son’s name, from the character Tristan Farnon.  She left that series in 1985.

When I read the books, after seeing some of the BBC television shows, it was her voice I heard when Helen was speaking.

When Carol wrote The Olive Farm  I was delighted to learn it would be a trilogy. Combining a favorite genre (expat-lit genre) with Drinkwater’s writing style makes for a winning combo. This is the first book in her bestselling trilogy, all of it set on her Provencal olive farm.

Carol met her husband Michel while they were involved in making a movie in Australia . He proposed to her on the first date and they married four years later.  Eventually they bought this gorgeous ruin of a villa built in 1904, located in Provence . The villa is named Appassionata – meaning passion – and very appropriate for Carol and Michel as they fall heels over ears in love with the place.

“I am in the south of France , gazing at the not-so-distant Mediterranean , falling in love with an abandoned olive farm,” Carol Drinkwater writes. “The property, once stylish and now little better than a ruin, is for sale with ten acres of land.”

After investing all the money she has they are able to move into their new home, devoid of electricity and water. French law is a different animal altogether from British and American laws as Carol learns while sifting through the endless paperwork and awaiting the many appointments to sign one or two papers. Finally, Appassionata is theirs!

Carol, Michel and his teen aged daughters Clarice and Vanessa arrive one extremely hot afternoon, with the promise of a swim in the pool. Alas….no water and the pool is a pit of sticks and branches. Carol struggles to make it a positive experience and tries to speak her limited French to the girls. The stepdaughters can speak English but make Carol work at communicating. Eventually they become a close knit family….. along with a number of stray dogs and good friends among the local citizenry.

The experiences she writes about were fascinating to me and she clearly has a better work ethic than I do. Restoring an old villa like that is hard work. HARD work! They uncovered ancient Roman looking steps and tiles. They found some of their olive trees were over 500 years old…’s an expat’s dream IF you don’t mind hard work – both physically and culturally.

Carol took language classes to improve her French, quickly becoming fluent. An engaging book about France , olive harvesting, conquering cultural barriers and love. Above alllove.

If you like the works of Peter Mayle and Frances Mayes I feel certain you would enjoy Carol’s musings about Appasionata and her love of southern France .

To learn more, check out the links below:

Carol Drinkwater
Home Hunts
It Shouldn’t Happen to an Olive Farmer!

Food: Caponata and Tahini Hummus on toasted baguette

The inspired dishes from this book include eggplants, caponata and tapenade. The little bites of appetizers you might enjoy sitting in the shade of Carol Drinkwater’s patio, the hot breeze licking your cheek as you sip an ice cold glass of white wine and nibble bruschetta.

Eggplants from the southern Mediterranean area would have a different taste from what I can lay hands on in Northern Florida but….still a wonderful treat.

An Irish woman starring in a BBC production landing in France.  Very International.

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday


Reader’s Workout

I’m over the head cold and that’s a mighty nice feeling.  Do you remember the first day you can breathe properly after a cold departs?  It’s a lovely feeling.  But all that recovery time led me to a smaller number of miles walked and few steps.


This past week’s FitBit report has me at 26 miles. that is 13 miles less than the week before.  This week I am improved in the steps.  Trying to eat better and get ready for my annual physical this week.  It sure would be nice to get on the scale and hear I lost weight and that my cholesterol isn’t as high as before.  Benefits of walking and eating well!

On The Menu

Grilled fish and baked sweet potato
Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie
Eggplant Parmesan
Chinese Takeaway
Landlocked Paella

How did you do this week?

Check out Readers’ Workout at Joy’s Book Blog!


Plated: Dinners, Feasts and Everything in between

plated Like so many cookbook reviews which tell about the kitchen basics, the chapters devoted to weeknight dinners, feasts, food good for leftovers and the usual advice for stocking the pantry – this cookbook has all that.

Now, that doesn’t mean it’s a pedestrian, so-so book laid out like so many others. This is an extraordinary cookbook, beautifully photographed with easy to follow recipes. There are numerous recipes I would like to try but I started with one for salmon.


I was not disappointed. I made a few of my own modifications but the basics of this recipe will be used again and again.  This first time I served it with garlic parmesan peas and pearled couscous.


The back of this book has a nice charted seasonal produce guide as well as a section devoted to Produce Techniques.  This means if you never handled a rutabaga or cooked Fiddlehead Ferns, a detailed description of the produce at hand, and how to cut it or prepare it, is provided.

This is also available as an eBook but honestly, I would rather have this book cover and tote it around, look at the lovely photos.

I received this boom from the Blogging for Books program and have enjoyed it from the day I opened the package. All opinions are my own and I received this book free of charge.

Pioneer Woman Recipes I have tried

I have bought quite a few of Ree Drummond’s cookbooks over the last year. Being one of the cheapest individuals on this planet I have only paid full price for the latest one, Dinnertime. It’s a great book and I have made several meals from it so far.


Besides the great photographs of the ranch, her kids and sexy cowboys you have easy to follow, step-by-step recipes that have always turned out well.

So many of her recipes are incredibly delicious and while they aren’t always low fat, your taste buds will thank you.

Here are a few I have made in these past few months.

Mediterranean Orzo Salad


Chicken Mozzarella Pasta

FullSizeRender (12)

Oven BBQ Roasted Chicken


Lasagna Rollups


By the way, my other Pioneer Woman cookbooks I grabbed from Thrift Books. Have you heard of that site? You can get any sort of book for a fraction of the going rate on Amazon. You can even start a wish list if the book you want is unavailable. Cool, huh?

To be forewarned, 98% of the time these are used books but the condition is described in detail. I am currently awaiting a copy of Tender by Nigel Slater.

Do you use any of The Pioneer Woman’s recipes? Any favorites you could share with me?


The Likeness by Tana French

Likeness The Likeness is Tana French’s second book in the Dublin Murder Squad series.

Working in the Undercover Unit years before, Cassie established the fake identity of Lexie Madison. She worked under the supervision of Detective Frank Mackey (I really like Mackey) and stayed in the undercover position until she was stabbed. She recovered and moved to the Murder Squad (Book 1 – Into the Woods) retiring the identity of Lexie Madison.

Fast forward years later……Cassie gets a call from her old boss Frank Mackey asking her to come to a field and make sure she isn’t seen. He won’t tell her what it’s about. Once she arrives she’s hustled into the abandoned famine cottage where Mackey and O’Neill show her the body of a young woman. The woman is the spitting image of Cassie and lo and behold, her identity is Lexie Madison. Frank sees a great chance to have Cassie assume that identity again and use her as bait to get the murderer. But first of all – Frank has to convince Cassie to go undercover again. She isn’t champing at the bit to do this but eventually she acquiesces.

Frank plans to tell the man who discovered the body that he actually saved the young woman’s life, that she was in a coma and only appeared dead. They plan to tell her five housemates the same thing and not allow them to visit while she’s in a coma. This gives Frank and Cassie a chance to study up on the deceased woman so Cassie can seamlessly slip into her life. Frank has gathered the housemates phones and there are videos of the six interacting with one another. They can watch “Lexie” laugh, how she walks, the cadence of her speech and see if she is affectionate or standoffish with any of the room mates. You are left to wonder who the murdered young woman was and how she came about getting the false identity of Lexie Madison. Will Cassie fit in with the tight little group of roommates? Will the murderer find her before she figures out who he or she is?

So far I have read three of her books and this was my least favorite. Doesn’t mean it isn’t a good story, it just wasn’t my fav of the three. What I like is how French introduces us to Rob Ryan and Cassie Maddox in the first book and then focuses on Cassie, Sam and Cassie’s old boss from her undercover job, Frank Mackey, in this book. Book three then focuses on getting to know Frank Mackey (this was my favorite).

I love the police procedural writings of Tana French and look forward to all of the books upcoming.

Since Steak Diane was served to “Lexie” on her first night back, I knew I had to make it.


It wasn’t complicated but it has some rich ingredients so….it won’t be on the regular rotation. It was tasty and I am glad I finally tried it. Full recipe is at Squirrel Head Manor.

Happy Reading!!