Monthly Archives: November 2016



The Polar Bear
Author and Illustrator: Jenni Desmond
Sendak Fellowship Recipient, 2016
Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books, 2016
Genre: Children’s Nonfiction
Hardcover Edition:
Source: Personal Copy


This book is truly beautiful and more. It strikes me as a real treasure. The drawings are wonderful, touchable and dynamic. The text speaks to different ages as well as varied uses of the information, conveyed in creative ways.

The New York Times Book Review convenes an independent panel of judges to recognize best illustrated children’s books. This book is one of ten winners this year. It is also the recipient of the Sendak Fellowship for 2016. Hats off to Jenni Desmond, author and illustrator. Truly, the illustrations convey a sense of mysterious wonder at the polar bear, the landscape and the very being of this magnificent animal.


This is a book that can be loved and enjoyed by a personS from age three to age ninety-three. Different size print gives the adult who may be sharing this book with a young child clues about what parts of the book may best be shared with the youngest children. Wonderful stories can be told from the illustrations alone. And yet, the informational writing is top-notch and appropriate for so many kinds and levels of reading and study.


Not to be ignored is the emotional content of the book. From serendipity to the difficulties of life in the Arctic, every page is a new emotional adventure. I long to touch the fur, the thick legs, to stand beneath the tremendous height, to curl up with the comfort, to collect the joy of the physicality of this animal as I read. There’s humor in the polar bear shaking that long thick fur so that water sprays across the sea, surprising the young child who is a surrogate for the reading child’s adventure. Watch boisterous cubs slide through the snow. Joy permeates the page, the imagination, the very air around you as you read.


Looking for gift ideas for the very young or the very old or anyone in between? This book seems a precious possibility.



The Whistler
Author John Grisham
Publisher: Doubleday, 2016
Genre: Mystery
Hardcover Edition: 374 pages
Source: Personal copy

Indian Casinos, North Florida, corruption at many levels and murder. This one has it all in some complicated plotting. Mysteries are by nature plot driven. This Grisham novel is mostly plot; character and other elements take a back seat. In addition to the plot of this yarn, there is much information to be conveyed because of the nature of the crime under consideration. Judicial corruption is the focus of this story. Just keeping track of all the players on both sides of the law takes full attention.

There are things to be appreciated about the novel. After all, Grisham is a favorite author of many of us and with good reason. Reviewer Janet Maslin thinks he is on his game in this one. (She must like plotting.) Grisham is always ready to examine injustice. (I really liked Gray Mountain.) And he helps readers to understand the law.

If you are somewhat familiar with the Florida Panhandle that is a plus. Indian casinos are fresh ground. Casinos and corruption go hand in hand. But somehow, I thought money laundering more interesting in the recent movie Hell or High Water than in this novel. One thing about this complicated story is it is easy to tell the good guys from the bad. Less so with Hell or High Water. (a movie I recommend, terrific performances by Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine and Ben Foster ). One reviewer described Grisham at his best writing this fascinating look at judicial corruption. If you are hooked by this kind of injustice, this is the mystery for you.

Investigator Lacy Stoltz is my favorite character. I have a soft spot for brave women. Do tell your favorite character if you have read this one. Could it be her brother Gunther, or maybe the judge? Also, there’s the informants and the crooks. Quite a variety of folks are mixed up in this mystery. Without informants there would be no investigation and no case. And, there’s the setting. Nothing about this story makes one want to move to Florida, whether Key West, Miami, Destin, or Pensacola. Mostly the reader wants to run in another direction.



So thankful! My gratitude list is long indeed.

Wishing each of you much love from family and friends and a wonderful Thanksgiving Celebration!

Now I’m off to gather loved ones and journey to my daughter’s for a wonderful Thanksgiving Day. I honor great memories of Thanksgiving Days of past years. So blessed.



This popular new book by one of our favorite cookbook authors sits atop the Detroit Free Press Non-Fiction Best Seller List as well as the Advice, How-To and Miscellaneous New York Times Best Seller List. The book invites readers into the personal history of Ina Garten and her husband Jeffrey and to peruse interesting and accessible recipes for dishes they enjoy eating at home together.

She tells of meeting her future husband as well as such life experiences as taking a chance on a specialty food store in the Hamptons. She writes of camping and other adventures.

She mixes up the recipes, old and new, simple and sophisticated. I can smell the carrots and the earthy mix of bright and spice in her tsimmes. For years I’ve made a different version of this dish and always find it surprising. This Christmas I will make this vegetable version. It is such a beautiful orange what with carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, orange juice, and prunes and spices to balance the citrus.


I can’t wait to prepare Tarragon Shrimp salad, hopefully when I’m in Florida with good fresh local shrimp available. And I’m dreaming of challah with saffron.

Another Florida dream is mixing a batch of French 75’s, my favorite champagne cocktail. We had a big bowl of it for Jerry’s 25th birthday party during our Air Force days. At the end of the evening he lifted the large bowl and drained it. Oh if I could again see the smile he had that night as he emptied that bowl.


A recipe I’m hoping to fix soon is filet with mushrooms and mustard . Salmon tacos sounds like my kind of supper, too. And, I plan to learn to like broccolini, roasted Ina Garten style. Looks easy and delish!

She suggests you surprise people with your desserts. How about rhubarb and raspberry clafouti flavored with Armagnac. This dessert is cake and pudding in one pan. I always savor the texture, and I always love it. First I better find out more about this liquor. Oh, it’s a brandy from France. Who can describe the flavor?

And, there’s her pantry. I want to turn mine into one like hers. That’s another post. Stay in touch.




HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO the many many viewers over the three day period of the contest. Number of viewers for this contest was at an all-time high!

SPECIAL THANKS to those who commented to enter the contest to win a free fiction book. I wish everyone could win. I especially wish those who have not won before or are entering for the first time could win. Next time! (I never peek when I draw the names because if I did I would favor first time winners.) But truth be told, I am equally grateful to regular blog readers as I am to first time blog readers. Without all of you there would be no blog. Thanks for a holding a prominent place on the list of things I am thankful for.

From the bottom of my heart I wish all of you a very wonderful Thanksgiving holiday filled with joy and happiness with your family and friends.







I will be contacting new winners via e-mail for addresses. What with the holiday this week it may be the end of the week before I have your book in the mail. I mail book rate so it can take a few days. Next week-watch your mailbox.

And – Happy Blog Reading. Coming up: Book Comment on a mystery, a new cookbook, and a wonderful new children’s book. Also, one of Ina Garten’s steak recipes and a Thanksgiving side dish. All this and more, I hope. Put this in your browser and you will find the blog.



I am thankful to be showered with so many blessings. So sending out a blizzard of thanks to readers of this blog. I wish for you and your loved-ones a memorable Thanksgiving Holiday!

It seems an appropriate time to give away some first-rate fiction. By now most of you know the drill. Please comment in the reply section to enter the contest. 5 names will be drawn and 5 lucky people will receive a lightly used fiction book by mail or hand delivery.

Entries will remain open until midnight on Monday November 21. The more people who comment, the more fun! You may name a book you especially enjoyed recently, or a book you would like to see featured on the blog, or just let us know what is on your mind regarding books and reading. It’s so much fun to read the different opinions!



Recipe for Spatchcock Roasted Chicken and Vegetables
Adapted from Michael Simon on The Chew

1 whole chicken with backbone removed
½ pound carrots, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
½ pound parsnips, peeled and cut in half lengthwise, cut out core if necessary
½ pound potatoes, peeled and cut in chunks
½ onion peeled and cut in chunks
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon thyme
1 tablespoon parsley
4 crushed or torn bay leaves
1 teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cayenne
a shake of smoked paprika
½ to 1 lemon, cut in chunks.

This spice combination is inspired by Amy Thielen’s Roast Upside Down Chicken.
If you have sprigs of fresh thyme, by all means use.
I used dried spices.


Spices were mixed and combined with just enough lemon juice and oil to make a paste for seasoning the chicken.

Season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper and some of the rub mixture, and place in the refrigerator uncovered overnight.

Remove chicken from the refrigerator 30 minutes before roasting. Drizzle with olive oil and season with herb mixture. Rub all over chicken on both sides.


Cover baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place carrots, parsnips, onions, potatoes and lemon chunks on the baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the chicken skin side up on the vegetables.


Roast in the oven at 400 until chicken is golden and vegetables are tender, about 1 hour. Let rest for 10-15 minutes. Remove some of herb mix, especially large pieces of bay leaf or fresh thyme, if used.


Cut chicken into pieces.


To serve: Place vegetables on platter and top with chicken pieces.

Pictures reflect my process in this case of dividing the chicken to send half to a friend recovering from surgery and keep the smaller half at home. Presentation on a platter of the whole chicken makes a more impressive picture. Still, the chicken needs to be cut into pieces for ease of serving and eating.


Vegetables browned very nicely. However, these parsnips needed to have the cores removed, something I unfortunately neglected to do.

Serve with applesauce or American Spoon Cranberry Chutney.


The American Spoon Cranberry Chutney is soooo goooood! It is best served at room temperature.

Delicious chicken sandwich with sliced breast meat, spinach, mayo and cranberry chutney. You must have this condiment for your turkey at Thanksgiving.



This particular jaguar has become somewhat famous as detailed in Smithsonian Magazine, October 2016. Though likely born in the Mexican State of Sonora, he roams the Santa Rita Mountains near Tucson, Arizona. He even has a name, El Jefe, and is a most gorgeous jaguar covered in rosettes arranged in a unique pattern. Young males range into new territory and hence the crossing into Arizona.

At one time jaguars roamed throughout this region in southern Arizona, known as the “Sky Island mountain ranges, each range separated from others by desert and grasslands. In this area the Apaches under Cochise and Geronimo once held the land, and shared it with grizzly bears, wolves, mountain lions, jaguars and ocelots.

Some wildlife specialists believe Arizona can expect more jaguars to migrate north. El Jefe found plenty to eat in this area and has grown to a big adult male in his prime. Open pit mining and or a border wall will not make life easy for this wildlife.

A Canadian mining company plans to build a gigantic open-pit copper mine in this territory. If the project becomes a reality this mine would be the third-largest copper mine in the U.S. And so at present El Jefe could hold up a project worth jobs and money for the local economy. No such conflict is simple.

This intensely interesting article from Smithsonian details interesting information into the wildlife research in this area of the Santa Rita Mountains with heights of 9000 plus feet. The writer also documents a dog known as Mayke, a 65 pound Belgian Malinois, born in Germany, and now trained to track jaguar scat to assist biologists in learning the movements of the jaguar. It also documents the complicated issues of jaguar and habitat vs. the disfiguring landscape of mining. Such a mine as the one planned for this area, a mile wide and a half mile deep dynamited out of the foothills can generate anywhere from 55-88 round trip shipments a day of ore and dump more than a billion tons of toxic mine waste against the mountains in piles 600-800 feet high.

Find the article at…/return-great-American-jaguar
Or try goggling El Jefe Was Here, or American jaguar. Hopefully you’ll find a fascinating video of El Jefe on the move. Or check your library for this issue of Smithsonian Magazine.



This one is in historic Franklin, a small town Detroit suburb in South Oakland County. Here in 1837, Peter Van Every built a flour mill on the banks of the Franklin River. The river still runs today. The cider press was probably moved from another mill many years ago.


The ducks swim to greet you.

Apples – Choose your favorite variety.

Enjoy the fresh air and the gurgling sounds of the stream

Caramel apple anyone?

Other good food



Blazo’s pies made with quality Michigan ingredients


Soak up the fall beauty.

Fall means at least one visit to the obligatory cider mill or pumpkin farm or orchard. Tell us about your favorite such place. Turn this blog into a nation-wide travel guide.