Monthly Archives: March 2014


Some photos by Claire Stanley


Chicago here we are! A visit to the Shedd Aquarium. Come along and join the fun!
1200 S. Lake Shore Dr. Chicago, IL 60605




He’s shy, but oh those claws.

Find the seahorses

Find the seahorses



The color design might work on a shirt as well as a fish.


This is a blue I won’t soon forget.

Here's the gift shop

Here’s the gift shop


As always, I found some books:

National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of the Ocean by Catherine D. Hughes.
Bright colors….great graphics… larger size. Take a quick dip or dive in for a swim. Little ones will love this book. I loved it, too. Irresitable!

Fish Forever: The Definitive Guide to Understanding, Selecting, and Preparing Healthy, Delicious, Environmentally Sustainable Seafood by Paul Johnson.
Information….pictures…recipes… Soon I’ll be roasting, grilling, poaching, and sautéing fish. Amazing!

Voyage of the Turtle: In Pursuit of the Earth’s Last Dinosaur by Carl Safina.
A Journey with the turtle, a thrilling natural history adventure. I began to read this book almost as soon as I held it in my hand. The caliber of the writing is as thrilling as the adventure.

Thank you to Chicago and members of my family for a too brief but unforgettable adventure. There’s so much more to see.





Festival of Faith and Writing is a biennial conference held in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I always look forward to it. This year it will be held at Calvin College April 10-12. I hope to be in attendance with mind, pen and pencil at the ready.

I’m thinking about some of the authors I expect to hear, and books I want to read in preparation for the experience. You, too, might like to know some of the books and authors highlighted at the conference. Meet some new-to-you authors. Choose something that interests you to explore.

Anne Lamott, James McBride, Eliza Griswold, Verlyn Klinkenborg, Marilyn Nelson, David Rhodes, Luke Schelhaas, Jeanne Murray Walker, and Julie Spencer Fleming are some of the authors whose presence will likely excite many, and who particularly interest me. I am avidly looking at the tentative schedule to see what events I can manage to attend. And, best-selling novelist Wally Lamb is one of the featured speakers whose talk is open to the public.

This blog has featured David Rhodes, James McBride, Marilyn Nelson and Verlyn Klinkenborg during the past few months. Marilyn Nelson’s new book of poems is titled How I Discovered Poetry. I very much enjoyed her biography of George Washington Carver written in poems. The following link contains an interview with Ms. Nelson about her new book..

I’m a long time fan of Verlyn Klinkenborg’s writing and have read his essays about rural life. I am currently reading his book Several Short Sentences. His writing appears in the New York Times, National Geographic and other well-known publications. It often focuses on land use and farming both in upstate New York and in the West. His article in National Geographic recently explored the Norwegian Coast.

David Rhodes is a novelist. His book Driftless, set in the driftless area of Wisconsin, offered characters struggling to find their way and to understand themselves. His new book is Jewelweed. Like Klinkenborg, he brings thoughts on rural America.

I have previously enjoyed some of James McBride’s books, memoir and novels. I am struggling a bit with his latest Good Lord Bird that has received so much prize and press attention. Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird is a classic book for writers. I wish I had time to read from it every day. She is also a well-known author of best selling fiction, and her new memoir is Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope, and Repair.

I also look forward to hearing Eliza Griswold speak. I find her poems most interesting. I’m going to spend more time with her book The Tenth Parallel. She is an experienced reporter who examines the clash between religions in Africa and Asia.

There are several new-to-me authors I hope to read and or hear speak: Luke Schelhass, Jeanne Murray Walker, Tracy Groot and Julia Spencer-Fleming. Tracy Groot is from Michigan and writes historical fiction. Luke Schelhass writes for television. And Spencer-Fleming? I’ll learn more about her at the conference.

A Reading List for you to contemplate.
Eliza Griswold: The Tenth Parallel (non-fiction)
Tracy Groot: The Sentinels of Andersonville (fiction)
Verlyn Klinkenborg: The Rural Life (non-fiction)
Anne Lamott: Traveling Mercies (memoir)
James McBride: The Good Lord Bird (fiction)
Marilyn Nelson: Carver: A Life In Poems (poetry)
David Rhodes: Driftless (fiction)
Julia Spencer-Fleming: In Bleak Midwinter (mystery fiction)
Jeanne Murray Walker: The Geography of Memoir (memoir)

The Festival of Faith and Writing is a place where I always discover new things about reading and writing. Some author, a book or an idea will appear to surprise me. It’s the joy of being there.



The Meat Racket: The Secret Takeover of America’s Food Business
Author: Christopher Leonard
Publisher: Simon and Shuster
Genre: nonfiction
370 pages
Source: Personal copy

One word describes this book: fascinating. It reads like a good mystery. Yes, I’m interested in farming in America. Yes, I am shocked at the Tyson tactics and those of other giant food companies. Yes, I found the story of the Tyson family spell-binding. But, who would have thought that chicken sheds and farm politics could keep a reader going. The Meat Racket is a real page-turner.

Following the rising jaggernaut of Tyson Foods gives the reader an inside look at the American Food business. This author is a national agribusiness reporter whose reporting skills are top-notch. He turns the story inside-out. He is an excellent writer who draws a human face on every aspect of the situation. When you finish this book you will know more information about Tyson Foods than you thought possible. It’s bigger and more far reaching than you might think. It’s more than chicken, more than Arkansas. It is both triumph and tradgedy.

If you believe you should care about how the food you eat is manufactured, if you believe in fairness, if you want safe food, or if you want cheap food, you need to read this book. If you want a good quality steak, if you care about the farmers who produce the food you eat, if you care about the workers in food factories, or if you don’t, this book has much to say to you. It is carefully researched and documented. It is totally readable. It will inform the decisions you make about the food you buy and eat.

I admired many things about John Tyson and his son Don, laser focus and hard work to name two. I found their story most interesting. They created something huge out of meager resources. I learned about the high cost of cheap food. And, I’ll admit this book made me wish Teddy Roosevelt would come back to life and wield his big stick against big food business.

I urge you to read this book. We are waiting for your comments.



Aunt Kate’s Restaurant serves small sweet oysters harvested from the Tolomoto River/Intercoastal Waterway and fried to a golden crispness. Eating oysters at this spot continues a long tradition. They have been served under a grove of live oak trees alongside this river for more than 100 years. Buildings have changed, owners have changed, but an eating establishment continues to occupy this spot. You can enjoy some very good food waterside at Aunt Kate’s.

The crooks of the live oak branches are like artwork in the sunshine. Tiered decks step down to the water. At Sunday lunch we were serenaded by a musician who included one of my favorites––“Big Rock Candy Mountain”. This folk song was originally written and recorded in 1928 by Harry McClintock and later sung by the likes of Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie, climbing the charts at different times during the twentieth century.

The charm and comfort of Aunt Kate’s are undeniable.

Aunt Kate’s is located about two and a half miles north of the Vilano Bridge on the Tolomoto River. A sign on A1A alerts you to turn left. Drive nearly to the water and there it is under the spreading trees with plenty of parking.


Here they serve some very good food. Buttermilk ranch dressing topped my fresh salad.


The bacon broccoli cheese soup tasted smoky and rich with big chunks of broccoli.


Sweet and tangy pulled pork was Jerry’s choice. Look at those pickles. Makes you want to grab one.


I had a basket of oysters with creamy dill tarter sauce I absolutely could not resist. They were the finest oysters I’ve had this winter. The menu includes all kinds of seafood and other southern style dishes. There is a full bar and outdoor seating on the water. Check out their informative website.

Fine food and local charm make eating in this spot as sweet as the oysters.




Conducted March 3, 2014

Note from Paulette: This is the third interview in the 2014 Readeatlive Reader Interview Series. Rachel is a well spoken advocate for the art and pleasure of reading. Reading is an integral part of her life. She makes reading and living so much fun.

Tell us about what you have been reading recently.
This may sound odd, but I read more than one book at a time. In the morning, I spend a few minutes reading something to set the mood for my day. I’ve read and re-read Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now many times in order to remind myself to stay in the present moment, and not worry too much about the past or the future. Like yoga, it keeps me grounded. Currently, in the morning and on my morning break, I’m reading Wayne Dyer’s Your Sacred Self. It reminds me to check my ego for the day, and live life with love and acceptance.

At lunch, I’ve been reading I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzi. After seeing her interview with Jon Stewart on the Daily Show, I was so impressed with this young woman. She has the heart of a lion in regard to feminism and education, even after being shot in the face by a member of the Taliban. She carries herself with poise and dignity, and I just HAD to know her story!

In the evenings, I usually read something fantastically fictional before bedtime to just relax, and am currently entranced by Game of Thrones, the first book in the series by George R. R. Martin.

Did you have a favorite book of the past year?
Dan Brown’s Inferno was a real page turner! His characters are as well written and as clever as his plot. As always, I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. I fell victim to the ‘just one more chapter’ late night reading session for a solid week until the plot-twisting, thought-provoking end. What a ride!

What books would we be surprised to find on your shelves?
You won’t find much non-fiction, to be honest. I love the imagination and creative process that goes into a good story. Life gives me plenty of reality, so I read to escape to a world where the impossible is always possible.

Do you have a favorite author, or two?
I love series writers. I get so attached to characters. I don’t want the story to end in a mere 300 pages or less! Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series made me fall hopelessly in love with Scotland. Anne Rice has a wonderful way of drawing pictures in my mind, and I have read everything she’s ever written. Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series, J.R.R Tolkien (of course), Terry Brooks, and Stephen Lawhead’s Arthurian legend retelling were all wonderful as well.

Most recently, I’ve enjoyed Lorraine Snelling’s Red River of the North series, which is a fictional telling of one family from Norway settling in an area near Fargo. Homesteading was an arduous life. Reading about the toils of daily life at that time reminded me how much we take for granted now and gave me a new found respect for my grandfather’s family. (Aside: As you can see, it’s no wonder I got hooked on Game of Thrones.)

What book was a disappointment, and why?
Last year, a friend suggested that I’d enjoy Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I think she knew that I enjoy lengthy tomes with strong female protagonist characters. She was right on that score, however, I also enjoy writers that pull you in within a hundred pages or less. Ms. Rand took FAR too long to engage me (though I AM quite a tenacious reader, and doggedly pressed on), was too wordy, and I didn’t feel the page turning ‘pull’ until about 500 pages in! That said, I did enjoy the idea of the inventors of the world going on strike and removing themselves from the takers who just want to ride coattails. Bravo on her objectivist philosophy and ideas on individualism and capitalism–but could she have used a better editor to shave off 200 pages or more? I think so. (Sorry, Ayn Rand fans!)

What writer or writers would you invite to dinner?
I think I could talk to Diana Gabaldon about her research into the history of Scotland and The American Revolution for hours!

What helps you decide what to read?
Suggestions from friends, or the next installment of any series that I’ve previously read. Also, I’m a purist, so if the movie for a popular book is coming out, I MUST read the book first, even if it leads to the dreaded alas, the-book-is-always-better-than-the-movie critique.

Do you have a favorite genre, or not?
As previously mentioned, series writing, especially historical fiction.

With a job, a son to raise, and an active life, how do you find time to read?
I believe we all need balance in our lives, yin and yang, as it were. My passion for running and cycling is balanced with my love of calming vinyasa flow yoga or a meditative hike. My love for the adventure of travel and music is balanced by the simple joy of spending a night playing board games or making dinner at home. The world of pharmacy is very scientific and being a single mom is very non-fiction–even more so now that my son is a tween. So, my love of reading is something that I weave in throughout the day in order to find balance for the daily plot twists that life throws at me.

Tell us anything else you would like us to know about your reading life.
I wanted to write a novel when I grew up. It was going to be about an American girl marooned on an island in the North Atlantic after her ship sunk on the way to visit relatives in Norway. I wrote 30 pages of this at age 10 before my novel idea wore off. I then decided I’d rather be an advertising executive and write TV commercial ads. How did I end up becoming a pharmacist? Maybe we’ll find out when I’ve read enough to write my autobiography?? Stay tuned…

What book might you read next?
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot has been on my list for a while, ironically since it is non-fiction. I’ve been wanting to read it due to the tremendous impact that genetic research and the HeLa gene have had on cancer research. Of course, I will probably read it at lunch, while I read A Clash of Kings, the second installment of Martin’s Game of Thrones series before bed at night…balance you know!

Where do you read?
Everywhere! At the lake in the sun in the summertime, on the plane while I’m traveling to my next adventure, in the cafeteria at lunchtime, or in my favorite spot: curled up on my cozy couch at home.

From Paulette: Rachel, thank you so much for sharing your reading life. You also told me you had great fun reflecting on some of what you read the last year or so. You have much to tell us about reading practices and preferences. I share some of those practices and am glad to know we connect as readers. But more than that, you inspire me. I might even be able to keep some of the Reading Resolutions I made in January. I love listening to your enthusiastic talk about reading, and I know other blog readers will love listening to you, too. Reading is contagious in a good way.

As always, comments are welcome.



200 Skills Every Cook Must Have
Authors: Clara Paul and Eric Treuille
Publisher: Firefly Books 2013
Genre: How-To
251 pages
Source: Library copy

Here’s a book that changed my in-the-kitchen point of view. When I lifted this book off the shelf, the thoughts flashing through my mind went something like this: I don’t need any more cooking equipment I have no place to store, I don’t need complicated instructions or to learn difficult cooking techniques, This cookbook is of little interest to me.

But as I paged through this book, and then spent some time reading, I decided I might discover better ways to complete routine tasks. Maybe there were techniques I could execute in a more simple and effective manner. The book did appear packed with useful information.

And it is. It is a wise, easy-to-read illustrated guide to cooking techniques and equipment. It includes all sorts of useful information to make your time in your kitchen more successful.

The page on vinaigrette is organized as Tools and Ingredients, Method and Expert Tips, along with helpful photos. Vinaigrette is something I whisk together nearly every day, and still I learned something on this page. White Sauce is another example. Though I don’t make it very often, and I’ve known how to do it for years, the tips are helpful. An example of a piece of equipment that would benefit my kitchen is a smaller fine mesh strainer. That item would take up little space. I don’t expect to scale or fillet fish, yet it makes for some interesting reading. Cooking fish in parchment paper so it tastes yummy––there’s something I need to learn.

The book is readable, well organized and includes excellent illustrations. The graphic design and print are both totally inviting. Each page is a quick read. The book presents helpful information on equipment, skills, a glossary, dictionary, resources and charts and more.

This guide is not only for the novice cook. I’m not sure I can get along without it. This is a cooking book I know I would find useful. Check it out and see what you think.