Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Not a Book Review   2 comments

 

Aiden

What happens when a close-knit neighborhood loses a cherished resident – especially when it’s a five-year-old child killed in an accident?

What happens now without Aiden? Of course, we carry on; certainly we offer support to his parents – and each other. But my hope is we’ll also share memories with one another and continue to appreciate where we live – and why.

Our community is more than spectacular views, shared streets and intermittent contact. The few we don’t know by name, we recognize and acknowledge with a wave or smile. We know at least a little about one another, often through conversations in the street. Since the first week of June, however, those talks have focused on our grief.

Aiden was a child many of us have known since his birth. Yet, our feelings were more than the collective enjoyment of watching him grow. We embraced his curiosity, smile, friendliness and general joie de vivre. Aiden arrived in yards and driveways ready to engage. Sometimes it was a simple inquiry as to what we were doing; other times he told about recent adventures or to show a newly-unearthed treasure. Topics were never in short supply. He made everyone feel special, instead of the other way around.

His funeral was attended by many from far beyond the boundaries of our ‘hood. Most impressive was the number from down our street and around the corners who gathered to mourn the loss of what might have been, while relishing what he brought to our lives.

Posted June 14, 2021 by bluepagespecial in Uncategorized

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Stretching the Strength of Family Ties   Leave a comment

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Two sisters, two time frames and two stories are the foundation of Liz Moore’s novel Long Bright River. Mickey is the responsible older sister: an introvert, intelligent and a police officer who patrols the Philadelphia neighborhood of her youth. Kacey is outgoing, estranged from Mickey and an addict.

A spate of murders, including in Mickey’s district, results in her search for Kacey who’s gone missing. The narrative alternates between “Then” and “Now”, as told by Mickey. The former is about the sisters as young children living with their embittered grandmother; the latter follows Mickey’s search for Kacey in hopes she isn’t – and doesn’t become – another murder victim.

Even with its taut element of suspense, making this a rapid page turner, it is more than crime fiction. It’s a family love story about stretching the limits of trust. Moore’s writing evokes vivid images of hookers, drug dealers, corner stores and abandoned buildings along the streets of Mickey’s beat.

Equally as gripping is the girls’ past: their close bonds and the events contributing to the choices each makes. Their mother died of a drug overdose and their father abandoned them.

Mickey’s career choice and her reclusive personality inspire little trust among her family or Kacey’s friends. This stymies Mickey’s efforts to find her sister.

The past is not the only obstacle Mickey faces. Circumstances force her to question those with whom she works. Moore injects plenty of surprises leaving the reader to remember there’s always more than one side to a story.

Long Bright River

Four Bookmarks

Riverhead Books, 2020

482 Pages

Posted February 5, 2021 by bluepagespecial in Uncategorized

Studying for Citizenship   4 comments

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My grandmother came to the United States with her mother, two older sisters and younger brother when she was a young teen. I don’t know much about what her life was like when she arrived. I do know she was particularly proud when she became an U.S. citizen.

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I always thought she obtained her citizenship soon after her arrival. It turns out it was much later: when my mother was in high school. My mom said she drove her mother to the night classes. Other times during the week the two would study; each doing her homework as a means of reaching something better. My mom went on to be the first in her family to not only earn a bachelor’s degree, but also a master’s and doctorate. Her mom studied for the opportunity to enjoy the rights associated with being a citizen of the United States.

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For many years my grandmother believed she was already a citizen because of her residency and marriage to my Grandfather. That proved not to be the case. Apparently, some things never change. One of our daughters-in-law is from Mexico. After marrying my son the process of her obtaining a resident visa was daunting, expensive and timely. She hasn’t even begun the journey toward citizenship. That’s another story.

Even though I wasn’t around when it happened, I do know becoming a citizen was something my Grandmother was extremely proud of. I remember her talking about it every election knowing she had a voice in democracy.

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I suspect, based on the book she used to study, she was more well versed in the U.S. Constitution than most people born in this country. She never took the right to vote lightly. I can only hope this is true of people in this, the 2020, election.

When Timing is Everything — Even Reading   1 comment

The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue

I choose books based on reviews I’ve read, recommendations from friends or sometimes the title alone is enough to intrigue me. The latter and a review led me to Emma Donoghue’s The Pull of the Stars.

Unfortunately, there was no pull for me; I discovered this within the first 20 pages. The problem is that the background is the 1918 flu epidemic and the references to quarantines are simply too immediate — even more than a century later.

Donoghue’s novel is set in Dublin and its main character is Julia Power, a nurse in an obstetrics unit in a hospital decimated by the flu. By the way, World War II is still raging.

The Pull of the Stars

No rating

Little, Brown and Co., 2020

291 pages

Perks and Pinot   Leave a comment

Full disclosure: my husband and I were (unaffiliated/independent) guests at the newly opened Jax. We were treated to small plates, cocktails and  the Jax brand pinot noir from the Willamette Valley.

Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar may be new on the block, but this restaurant is no youngster. Downtown Colorado Springs is the newest locale for the Big Red F Restaurant Group, which independently owns and operates Jax.

Jax chef

In addition to tasting several Happy Hour dishes, we were introduced to Dana Query, wife of owner Dave Query who opened the first Jax in Boulder in 1995, Sheila Lucero, executive chef/owner, and Alan Henkin, beverage director. All shared insights about Jax. Although this was interesting and appreciated, it was overshadowed by the food, both in taste and plating.

It’d be a shame, or perhaps a sin, not to have oysters at an oyster bar and wanting to avoid regrets, I happily indulged. The two sauces were almost superfluous. Almost.

Jax tostadaThe tostada with kimchi, avocado and charred tomatoes on a brittle corn tortilla; calamari with a wake-up-the-sinuses mango chili sauce; meaty crab cake not obscured by breadcrumbs or fillers and ahi tuna poke over rice are exactly the kind of appetizers I would order again and again – even when footing the bill.

Jax poke

The poke was a particular favorite thanks to its fresh flavors augmented by roasted spiced cashews, serrano peppers and avocado. However, the dish we specifically requested may have been my favorite: shrimp and grits. Crispy fried shrimp nestled together on a bed of creamy, cheesy grits was a union of texture and taste.

It wasn’t necessary to do anything special to impress me, the food did that on its own.

Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar
11 S. Tejon St.
Colorado Springs, CO

Hope and Lies   Leave a comment

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Lies, lies and more lies are at the heart of Miracle Creek by Angie Kim. This courtroom thriller is rich with possible culprits responsible for two deaths: a mother and an autistic child.

The novel’s first line is only a hint of what’s to come: “My husband asked me to lie.” Young Yoo, referring to her spouse’s request quickly acknowledges that it wasn’t a big lie. Yet as the author deftly illustrates, a series of falsehoods no matter the size, can lead to unexpected consequences.

The narrative begins with an explanation of what’s referred to as “The Incident.” Korean immigrants Young and Pak Yoo run an experimental medical treatment facility: the Miracle Submarine, named for its shape and proximity to Miracle Creek. This pressurized oxygen chamber is used for therapy by two autistic children, a wheelchair-bound teenager all accompanied by theirs mothers and a physician seeking a cure for infertility. A fire erupts leaving two dead thanks to an unknown arsonist.

Jump ahead to the courtroom where  the surviving mother is on trial charged with murder, hers was the child killed. Each chapter is told in the voice of those involved: the Yoos, their daughter and the adults in the submarine at the time of fire. The evidence points to the mother, and her indifferent attitude makes it easy to believe she is guilty.

Yet, many lies slowly surface with suspicion clouding every character. Ultimately, readers are left asking themselves how far they would go to protect their loved ones.

Miracle Creek
Four-and-half Bookmarks
Sarah Crichton Books, 2019
351 pages

Our Once Lively Dog   7 comments

 (This is obviously not a review of a book or restaurant, just my feelings today.)

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              Jackson’s last day in the sun.

Today I said goodbye and thank you to Jackson, my shadow/companion of the last 12 years. This Pointer mix, we adopted from the Humane society filled our hearts in ways we never imagined. Andrew gets credit for picking him. Later he slept on the floor with Jackson that first night home. We had two sons in high school and one in college when he joined our family.

Each of us has special recollections of our exuberant dog, who until the last month, still had a lot of puppy in him.

He could be annoying whenever someone came to the door. He didn’t jump as much as bounce around. He knew which friends  meant a hike was in store, and he was always ready for a hike. This morning was no exception. His weakened state didn’t deter his desire. As much as he wanted to keep going, I knew it had to be short.

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                                    With our Swedish son’s shoe; he didn’t chew, he just liked it nearby.

Jackson is the third dog I’ve had as an adult. I think each member of my family considers him theirs. Having said goodbye to the others, including those belonging to friends, I expected this to be somewhat easier than it was; not so. Perhaps it’s because he filled another role when my husband and I became empty-nesters.

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                                                 The view from one of regular morning hikes.

He greeted me with a hug each morning, although this honor was later shared with my daughters-in-law. Even as adults, with pets of their own, my sons remained devoted to Jackson. Their sadness intensifies mine. So, I’ll try to think of Jackson’s happier days, because they’re among mine, too.

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                      Jackson’s first day home.

Posted June 24, 2019 by bluepagespecial in Uncategorized

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LA Food Bowl Part I   Leave a comment

Iranian rest

The Los Angeles Times Food Bowl is more than a celebration of food, although it certainly plays a major role. It’s also about the city’s culture and the various neighborhoods comprising the metropolitan area. Each contributes to the literal and figurative flavor of the city. Time constraints restricted us to only two of the month-long events – although we did dine at other restaurants during my recent five-day visit.

Iranian dinner menu

Every Wednesday in May Momed has offered an “Immigrant Dinner” featuring cuisine organized by an immigrant friend of the restaurant. We hit on Taste of Iran with guest chef Bita Milanian. The menu featured two appetizers and three entrees. We ordered one of everything. The most unusual, or new to me, was the Borani-e-labu. Diced roasted beets mixed with Persian yogurt gave this soupy, savory starter the color of cotton candy. (Sorry no photos.) The only problem was not enough pita with which to sop it up.

Iranian meatballEach entrée featured a blend of ingredients rendering it new to the palate: Kufteh: combined fresh herbs, ground beef, rice, barberries and walnuts. This was softball-size in shape and dressed with roasted yellow and red peppers.

Iranian chickenFava beans, lentils, pomegranate seeds, citrus, raisins, other rices and dates were among other components incorporated into the dishes.

Momed is short for Modern Mediterranean. It’s located in a residential area of Atwater Village.

Momed

3245 Casitas Ave.

Los Angeles, Calif.

LA Food Bowl Part II   Leave a comment

frites

Across town we enjoyed another LA Food Bowl event: Frites Fete at 189 by Dominque Ansel. This focused on something completely different: frites, aka pommes frites are French fries.

frites salad

The three-course meal began with an endive Caesar salad served with a cloud-like gougere made with gruyere,  hints of nutmeg and chili pepper. The entree choices were a choice of moules frites, steak frites or mushrooms. We all wanted the steak, but were curious about the mussels. Fortunately, we were able to order an appetizer serving, which was plenty. This was creamy, rich and as decadent as dessert.

frietes steak

Thinly sliced pieces of rare hanger steak in a house made demi glace was tender and grilled to perfection.

Of course, the frites were meant to be the star of the evening, but were overshadowed by the entrees. Still, the seasoned, crispy yet pliable fries were not the stuff of fast food establishments.

Dessert included a choice of tarte tatin: a puff pastry base topped with caramelized apple, caramelized banana or spiced pear. My favorite was the Fosters-like banana served with a generous dollop of crème fraiche.

In addition to what was served, was how. We had an exceptional server who was attentive, patient and had a good sense of humor – all were appreciated.

Ansel is, perhaps, best known for creating the cronut in New York City years ago. He opened a bakery and 189 in The Grove in Los Angeles in 2017.

189 by Dominque Ansel
The Grove Drive
Los Angeles, Calif.

Always Time for Cake   Leave a comment

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Even if there’s no birthday celebration on the near horizon, Gaile Parkin’s Baking Cakes in Kigali will make you wishing for a piece of homemade cake.

Reminiscent of Alexander McCall Smith “The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency,” Parkin introduces readers to Angel, who bakes cakes in her apartment and helps, by design or coincidence, her friends and neighbors solve problems of which they are often unaware and in the process dealing with her own.

Angel and her husband Pius are originally from Tanzania, but have moved to Kigali, Rwanda, because of his consulting job. Their two grown children have died from AIDS leaving behind their five children in the care of Angel and Pius. Angel’s grief for the deaths of her adult offspring lies just beneath the surface, overshadowed by her involvement with others and dealing with hot flashes.

Angel bakes cakes for all occasions. Her clients visit her home where she makes them tea while discussing the type of cake that will be most suitable. Some clients have a clear, specific idea in mind, while others are less certain.

Angel is always happy to offer suggestions, although she might sometimes disagree with the reason for which the cake is celebrating/acknowledging.

Parkin introduces a variety of characters representing a range of life experiences and means. Each is carefully portrayed making it easy to share Angel’s sympathies or distrust. Initially it seems that each chapter is a separate, independent story, but they all come together in a fun, albeit predictable, fashion.

Baking Cakes in Kigali
Three-and-a-half Bookmarks
Delacorte Press, 2009
308 pages

Posted March 31, 2019 by bluepagespecial in Uncategorized