Well Read

 

Like most of the country, we’ve had weird unseasonal weather down here. Last time I wrote you, it was so hot we were eating salads for dinner. Now it’s definitely autumn, with a freeze or two thrown in for good measure.

One day it’s flip-flops, and the next it’s boots and a puffy jacket. Ah, Texas.

I am grateful that I can choose not to go anywhere when the weather is beastly… and stay home and spend the day reading. As a friend recently said, “We’re retired, every day is Saturday!” Now that I can focus enough to savor a well-written book again, I want to share what I’ve recently read and loved. I think all of these would make great holiday gifts for the readers on your list.

  1. City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert – I am a big fan of all Ms. Gilbert’s work, although my favorite is still The Signature of All Things. This newest book creates an immersion into the sexy and fast-paced 1940’s show-biz, club scene with a coming-of-age tale that will sweep you up and take you along for the roller-coaster ride!
  2. Educated by Tara Westover – This New York Times best-seller is a stunning, insightful memoir that reads like the very best fiction. The author was born to survivalists in the Idaho mountains. Her family distrusted both the educational and medical systems, and lived with their own skewed code of ethics. Teaching herself enough to get into college, she went on to graduate from Brigham Young, Harvard and Cambridge Universities.  An eye-opening read about a young woman’s courage and conviction to get not only an education, but a better life for herself.
  3. Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs – Another memoir, this one is by Steve Jobs’ daughter. I will say, I alternately hated him, wanting to quit reading, and felt sorry for him. It felt voyeuristic to keep reading at times… and my heart broke over and over for the author. The book gave me some perspective on Steve Jobs, being told by a wise, insightful, and talented writer that wanted to love him, and be loved by him in return.
  4. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens – Also a N.Y.T. bestseller, and it’s very easy to see why! This story – of a fiercely independent young girl living alone in the marsh, leads up to a suspected murder that takes place in 1969, the year I graduated high-school. I found it easy to empathize with, and admire, the main character. I know I could not have had the courage to live as she did. I also appreciate that this is the author’s first novel, and she just turned 70. If you love nature (and Barbara Kingsolver’s books) you will absolutely love this book!
  5. Sand & Water by Michael Hoerning – Who knew a romance story could also be a can’t-put-it-down-page-turner?  I’m not a fan of the romance genre, but this engaging and well-written debut novel won me over. Romance, friendship, personal growth and spirituality, this book has it all. And, the icing on the cake… Michael is my cousin! I am very happy that his work is so good, and hope he writes another book soon.

I’ve also been re-reading my own book: Sick and Tired & Sexy, Living Beautifully with Chronic Illness. I find that it’s good to remind myself of what I know… taking my own advice, so to speak.

All of the books here are available at Amazon.com. Now, I need your help: have you read a great book you’d like to recommend? I need a great vacation read. One that will distract me on the plane, and amuse/entertain/educate me poolside. Please share your ideas in the comments below.

Thank you in advance,

XO Donna


Nice Nicoise

My Tuna Nicoise

 

 

Our weather has been a roller-coaster here in central Texas. After record-breaking non-stop heat, I believe we had 45 consecutive days  of triple-digits, now we are in our normal fall pattern of hot-cold-hot.

One day it’s in the 60’s, the next it’s in 90’s. Two days ago I wore a sweatshirt, jeans and boots… this afternoon, I’m going over to the pool. We have a saying here, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute… it’ll change!”

We’ve passed the mid-way point of October, and although I couldn’t wait for the heat to end, (I was beginning to doubt that it would) now that I know with certainty that it will, I am savoring these last few days of summer.

It was too hot to cook one night, so I kept it simple by preparing a hearty Salade Nicoise.  (In case you haven’t head of it before, it is pronounced “ni – swaz,” meaning in the style of Nice.) I knew it was a town in France, but what I didn’t know was that it’s on The Riviera; famous for it’s perfect sunny climate, spectacular views, aqua water, and stunning beaches. Think Cannes! Monaco! Bond!

This salad makes perfect sense coming from a place where food is made from what is locally and seasonally available at their markets.

From Shutterstock.

 

I first had it years ago prepared with seared tuna atop crispy Romaine lettuce and veggies. I thought that was how it was supposed to be served.

After delving into it’s gastronomic history, I found out that ain’t necessarily so.

At it’s simplest and most traditional – it’s lettuce, green beans, beautiful black olives, capers, fresh anchovies and a dressing of virgin olive oil, vinegar, and fresh garlic, basil, salt & pepper. It usually accompanies fish or chicken. Just a salad.

Workers made it into a hearty lunch by adding boiled potatoes and a soft hard-boiled egg or two.

I sear either Ahi or Yellowtail tuna outdoors on the grill. Indoors, I do it with the vent-fan on in a very hot skillet, and it has “pride of place” on top of my salad. You can also use tinned tuna from Italy –  it’s very different from ours. Otherwise, just use good albacore tuna from your grocery store.

You needn’t get too hung-up on ingredients, use what fresh ingredients you have on hand and enjoy it!

Sometimes I will eat the potatoes, sometimes I choose not to – staying true to my Primal Lifestyle diet, which has really helped reduce auto-immune disorder aches and pains.

I have yet to add anchovies, but may buy some jarred ones and after rinsing and patting-dry, give them a try. Do you have a favorite meaty, not-too-salty, brand I can try?

Here is my favorite dressing, a simple vinaigrette from Martha Stewart:
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 TBL fresh lemon juice
3 TBLS wine vinegar
2TBLS Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
1 TBL fresh chopped basil
1 TBL fresh chopped parsley or dill

Whisk it all together. Let me know your thoughts, send in photos with a comment – I’d totally love that! And let’s enjoy these last few days of summer together, over a meal.

XO Donna 



NO JOKE

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On April 1, at 4:30 in the morning, I had a stroke. Correction, I had two strokes. It wasn’t until a week after I was released from the hospital that I realized this happened on April Fool’s Day. 

For the first time in my life, I feel vulnerable, rather than bulletproof.

I know what the warning signs of a stroke are, but apparently I didn’t know all of them. I knew what my risk factors were, but again, I didn’t know all of them. Now I do, and I want to be sure you do too. 

I wrote about it yesterday here: 1010ParkPlace.com  For brevity’s sake, I left out some details that still have me shaking my head in bewilderment. Tell me what you think.

THREE MONTHS AGO I began working on a new novel. I’d had bits and pieces of it for a long time, but suddenly, it all came together. It’s about an attractive, successful woman, early 50’s, who has a stroke. 

Her prognosis is for a full recovery, but after more than a year, she still can’t speak. She loses most of her business, many of her friends drift away, and her marriage falls apart. 

Make no mistake, she will triumph over all of this.

ONE MONTH AGO, on Friday evening, March 22nd, I went to a “Pots and Plants Party” to help them “plant” 1,000 pink flamingos. For those of you who have been in Austin for a while, these are the folks who always had the “flock” of flamingos at the corner of Bee Caves Rd. and Capitol of TX highway.

AAE19564-8B79-48A9-823B-17C1C4EE4B03Although I was feeling exhausted and had just driven an hour home, for some unknown reason I felt compelled to change clothes, con my sweetie into coming with me, and drive another hour back to this gathering. 

We met the owner of the compan. I told him I missed seeing the flamingos, and asked him why he had closed his business. He told me he’d had a stroke back then, but you’d never know it! I told him about the book I was writing and he enthusiastically recommended a book by a woman neuroscientist who had a stroke.

I bought it the next day, and my hair stood on end when I read that the type of stroke the neuroscientist had, was the same type of stroke I’d created for my protagonist!

NINE DAYS LATER I had my strokes. Do you think I haven’t stood out in my yard and yelled at the heavens, “Is this some kind of sick joke?” 

As I think about it more and more, I marvel at the coincidences… and wondered if they were all preparation for me to know that like the neuroscientist, “flamingo man,” and my fictitious character, I will be fine.

Again, please read, it’s important: 1010ParkPlace.com

XO Donna


Don’t Tread on Me!

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I was greeted yesterday morning, over a delicious cup of coffee NOT made by me (since I’m clever enough to sleep an hour later than my darling) by the news that our neighborhood newsletter was warning more about snakes needing to be removed from people’s homes.

Do you remember the scene from the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indiana Jones is hanging over a pit full of writhing serpents and says, “Snakes. Why’d it have to be snakes?”

That’s exactly how I feel about them, and to hear about this before I’d even finished my coffee.  Arrrggghhh!!  

So what’s a gal to do?  Since we live in a city, (we’re out in the country, but it’s still within a city) a shotgun is out of the question. Not that I’d ever kill one, no matter how afraid I was.  Education (as with most things in life) is the answer!

Having been horrified when I moved here, upon learning that there are poisonous snakes everywhere in Texas, I took advantage of an avid herpetologist friend’s knowledge  to learn everything I could about snakes.  I wanted to be able to recognize the ones I needed to worry about…  instead of worrying about them all.

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As it turns out, any snake will try to bite us to defend itself, even a little green garden snake.  The State of Texas is home to 15 potentially dangerous snake species or subspecies. 

Despite this, each year, there have been more deaths in Texas attributed to lightning strikes than to venomous snakebites. The four poisonous snakes species here: rattlesnakes, copperheads, water moccasins, and coral snakes.

By not hanging around the banks of rivers, streams, and brooks, I can avoid water moccasins. Copperheads? Rattlesnakes? Out here, in the woods… and I’m not a hiker through uncharted trails. Nope, thanks.

Coral snakes are small with little-bitty mouths, usually only biting fingers when we stick our hands somewhere without looking first. I don’t garden without gloves, don’t reach into trees or bushes or woodpiles without looking first. 

 Snakes tend to be accidental house crashers. You might find one curled in a corner on your patio looking for coolness in the heat of the summer. Or in your garage… seeking the same. 

The good news? Rattlesnakes will usually signal if you’ve startled them by rattling or buzzing their tails,  giving you an opportunity to pee in your pants then run in the opposite direction! 

I’ve lived here for 41 years, and have never seen a dangerous snake anywhere besides my herpetologist friend’s house! More good news – they are as afraid of us as we are of them! 

The newsletter shared common-sense tips for living where there are poisonous snakes: turn on a light and have a look around before stepping out on your patio at night, or into your garage. And even look around first before stepping out on your patio during the day. Mindfulness, that’s all.

If you encounter a poisonous snake in your garage, on your patio, or in your garden… run away, and call wildlife management. Or, if you live out here, you can call the group of “snake wranglers” who will come fetch them. 

XO Donna

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Now We’re Cookin’

I don’t know whether my favorite room in our new house is the bathroom, or the kitchen – well, put that way, the kitchen wins –  but it’s been such a pleasure to take a long warm shower in such a roomy space. A luxury that I often took for granted before our RV life!

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I’m spending a lot of time in the kitchen baking – I love to bake, (in the 70’s and 80’s I baked all of my own breads) and I love having my tools and a big oven again! I want to share this GF Carrot Muffin recipe with you, not because it’s inherently healthy, or even healthier, but because it’s a darn delicious recipe. And it had me scratching my head, then laughing at my dense-ness, over the directions!

But, before I get to that, I want to chip in my two cents about GF cooking and the fact that going gluten-free isn’t healthier than eating gluten. Gluten isn’t some evil poisonous thing that’s been added to our food. Gluten is a protein found in flour, nothing more. It is this protein that grants things made with flour their elasticity, texture, rise, and exquisite flakiness. 2D676278-6ADA-48B8-947D-63F91A2274D8

Only a small percentage (1-2%) of the population are truly gluten intolerant (celiac disease) while 6% are gluten-sensitive and, like me, plain old allergic to wheat. We must avoid it to be well and healthy.

Switching to GF substitutes made of white rice flour, brown rice flour, potato starch, sorghum flour, etc. isn’t going to help if you’re switching  hoping to lose weight: pizza, even a GF one, is still pizza.

A cold-weather cozy: if you have access to Netflix, I highly, highly, highly recommend watching Michael Pollan’s fascinating four-part series, COOKED. The section entitled AIR is my fave… about bread.

If you want to make a healthy change, try switching to organic breads, and using organic flour for your baking. I personally use King Arthur products (and, no, I’m not being given anything for saying that) and they have a wonderful website and a good GF flour blend. I’ve worked out, and adapted, some great GF recipes… for when I want a treat. I’m happy to have them, but they are no comparison to wheat flour…  That said, this Carrot Muffin  recipe from The Minimalist Baker (nothing minimal about this recipe, the ingredient list is a mile long, but worth it) is pretty darn close!

After these muffins are baked, they must cool in the pan for a bit, then the directions tell you to, “turn muffins on their side in the pan.” I swear… I was stumped!  Do what? How?  Then I realized that she meant turn each muffin sideways in it’s space so air could circulate around the bottom. Like this: 6E2A9BF2-4150-4D15-8DF4-373F9E76EB3F

I couldn’t wait to eat one, but they must cool completely or half the muffin sticks to the paper! And, GF tends to taste better after it’s cooled, honest.  I store them for a couple of days in a big ziploc, then refrigerate or freeze. Let me know what you think!

XO Donna

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