Thursday, July 27, 2017

Readings and Greetings: Delightful, Delicious, and Dangerous


My husband and I both enjoy warm summer evening on the patio.  Fresh cheeses, berries, a variety of crackers, and a bottle of wine create a delightful summer atmosphere, even when the temperatures are soaring. Summer is our season, when we may ache from too much golf or gardening, but our muscles are not stiff, tight, or sore from the cold. 

Lately, I’ve been coming home from La Baquette with fresh light croissants filled with buttered calories that bring a smile to my lips or a fresh baguette.  Finally, my husband asked me, “Why the sudden interest in croissants and baguettes?”

Without a moment of reflection I laughed, “Hah! Blame it on Louise Penny and Inspector Gamache.”

“Oh, is this another French or Canadian mystery you’ve been devouring like chocolate mints?”

I smiled sheepishly. “Yes, the rich meals served by Gabri and Olivier at the Bistro in Three Pines are described like fresh honey from the hive. I can nearly taste the crisp baguette, smeared thickly with pate, as the characters indulge themselves in the foods.”

Later that evening I interrupted Jack’s television viewing to read from Louise Penny’s The Cruelest Month. Standing in the doorway to his computer room, I announced,  “Here is the type of description I’ve been reading for the last six months.”  Placing his computer on the floor and smiling at me, like do I have a choice, I began to read.

Just then Olivier appeared with their dinner…Gamache’s coq au vin filled the table with a rich, earthy aroma and an unexpected hint of maple. Delicate young beans and glazed baby carrots sat on their own white serving dish. A massive charbroiled steak smothered in pan-fried onions was placed in front of Beauvoir. A mound of frites sat on his serving dish.
Beauvoir could have died happily right there and then, but he’d have missed the crème brulee for dessert.

“Sounds rather heavy for a summer meal.”

“It’s not summer in this story it is during a blizzard in Three Pines, near Montreal, Canada.” I explained still standing in the doorway to his man cave.

“It does sound like meal Pat French would prepare for us in her restaurant in Eau Claire.”

“Yes, it does. I think she’d like these books, too.”  I stepped back out of the doorway and reached for the phone to text her, but instead ended up on my computer writing about the foods and good reads.

Louise Penny touches our senses with emotions and teases our intellect, as we listen to Inspector Gamache question then listen as the characters share their stories. Always showing patience, always attentive Gamache listens for what others might miss. He gets to know each character surrounding the mystery, while the reader seems to be listening and looking over his shoulder. When he trips in the dark, the reader stumbles too. Just as the mystery begins to unfold for me, there’s another twist, and I’m sent back to rethink the clues over and over.    

I’ve skipped around reading Penny’s books, beginning with the A Great Reckoning. Each book is a standalone, but after reading several out of sequence I decided to go the beginning and start through the series correctly. I’m so glad I did because now I know more about the poet, Ruth Zardo, and her pet duck.  Her poetry is blunt, rough, and painful to read sometimes, but she is such a powerful character I can’t help but want to get to know her better.

Then last week I picked up a new book by mystery writer Donna Leon called Earthly Remains. It is book twenty-six in her mystery stories about Commissario Guido Brunetti set in Venice and the surrounding islands. As I’ve read today I felt myself carried to the luguna where Davide, a caretaker keeps his bees. Over a two week period, as Brunetti relaxes away from his demanding job as a detective, he and Davide row daily in the fresh air and waters around Venice.  Like Inspector Gamache, Brunetti is served fresh summer meals from the Mediterranean Sea. A platter of fresh shrimp, baby octopus, mussel, clam, canocchie (mantis shrimp), latticini de sepia (cuttlefish eggs) is served with olive oil, fresh baked breads and a bottle of wine.

Then Davide, who has become a friend to Brunetti goes missing, and the clues begin to fall in place, as the mystery unfolds.

Reading makes it so simple to escape my surroundings, and imagine another moment in time. After spending a day or two rowing near Venice on the Mediterranean, I plan to serve boiled shrimp, melted butter, fresh garden tomatoes, and a buttered croissant for dinner tonight.


I find that books are simply delightful, fresh foods delicious, and so much more fun when served with intrigue, danger, and mystery.   


Monday, June 26, 2017

The Luckiest People

People
People who need people
Are the luckiest people in the world,

It's been over a month since I completed a blog or wrote a story for a contest.  Part of me fretted and stewed, but then my brain and body began to relax. Music danced in my blood day after day. Like a broken record Barbra Streisand's voice floated in my head . Her words seemed to transform my soul from worry to delight and relief.  


We're children, needing other children
And yet letting our grown-up pride
Hide all the need inside,
Acting more like children
Than children.   


I realized that people mean the world to me: sharing stories, working together, discussing life, living life, making memories, meeting new friends in new places, and rediscovering old friends.



 Lovers are very special people,
They're the luckiest people
In the world.
With one person, one very special person
A feeling deep in your soul
Says you were half,
Now you're whole.
No more hunger and thirst

We've traveled to Wisconsin to visit family, spent a day with a rediscovered pen-pal while in Missouri, crisscrossed the state of Oklahoma and drove down to Texas to find a lost cemetery and unmarked grave. Jack's traveled with his buddies, and I've traveled with my girlfriends.  We need each other, but we need our friends and family nearly as much. 


But first be a person
Who needs people.


Last week I realized, as I sang her song quietly in my head while playing golf, that my back didn't hurt. It hadn't hurt for several weeks. I experienced no pain: no pain down my legs like streak lightning, no pain that prevented me from turning through the ball, no pain at impact.  Feelings that I had not experienced in a decade. The realization lifted every ounce of weight off my old low back and catapulted me into bliss.  

People who need people
Are the luckiest people
In the world!


Without pain I could enjoy my time with people. Giving my attention to their words, not worrying about my back! New songs drifted in and out of my head, a lightness gave me energy and I smiled. How blessed I am to have readers who relate to my stories, to have family and friends who share their lives with me, and to be living in American.  Look out world, here I come.  


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Golf Gypsy In a Pickle

It's one thing to stretch and rub a leg cramping while walking or playing golf, but it is a moment of agony to wake up in the middle of the night with three toes cramped tight, turned under and sideways while the left calf is pulsating knots of pain up and down the leg.  Screaming, grabbing, and yanking myself out of bed to stand and push the pain away, as tears of surprise and near anger flowed down my cheeks, is one way to handle the moment. Actually, I didn't stop to think of a better way. 

Options in the past for recovering from summer's heat, and the perspiration my body exudes when exercising have been to drink "Smart Styx" replenishment supplements, 60-100 oz of water daily, eat a banana, or drink a nice cool beer in a frosted mug with salt on the rim, and continue to take daily doses of calcium, potassium, and magnesium pills. 

I mentioned my agonizing leg cramps to my physical therapist, Natoshia, Therapy in Motion. Immediately, like a chorus to a song Natoshia and another therapist chimed in "You need to drink pickle juice!"  They looked at each other and laughed.  She continued, "You need to drink pickle juice or eat a dill pickle everyday, and eat a banana before you play golf or go for long walks." 


"I've never heard of pickle juice as a cure," I retorted and then laughed, "Unless it was to drink with Crown Royal shots after you've lost a golf match." 

Naturally, that line was a stopper. They listened as I recalled the time Manon and I were beat early in a "Horse Race" at a golf tournament at Smoky Hills Golf Course in Hays, Ks.  As spectators, the cart girl came by offering us drinks.  Our friends who'd also lost suggested we try Crown Royal shots and dill pickle juice.   I can assure you that I did not suffer leg cramps that weekend, nor did I suffer a hangover, but we sure laughed a lot. 

But I digress.  

Being a dutiful student, I bought a 6-pack of Pickle Juice at Academy Sports, and bananas at Braum's, plus Ice Cream bars just because. I ate the banana before I drove in the driveway. That afternoon while relaxing on the patio, I discovered that I enjoyed the flavor of the nutritional bottle of pickle juice, loaded with sodium, vitamins, calcium, zinc, iron, and potassium.  For those, like me, who can eat a healthy dose of salt consider sprinkling salt on bananas, grapefruit, and cucumbers instead of sugar. 


Most recently, I rediscovered the old fashioned giant dill pickle that spurts juice everywhere when I take a bite. For a brief moment, I'm back at the Coleman Theatre on a Saturday afternoon with friends where I could buy a large dill pickle out of the jar for only a dime. Coleman Theatre


Did the pickle juice and banana help? Yes.  So far no leg cramps in the last three weeks.

I'm not recommending this pickle juice/banana regime for everyone, because I have low blood pressure, perspire measurably, and can handle salt.  I've always been a salt lover, while my husband can thrive on chocolate. If I eat ice cream I often follow up with a saltine cracker and smile. 

In reflection, perhaps it is the salt of the earth that helps us to endure.