Monday, July 23, 2012

Forty-one Shades of Grey...

You've heard of Fifty Shades of Grey, how about Forty-One shades of Gray? No, not the shades of gray in my hair, although I'm certain I have 41 strands. And frankly, gray in this case is much darker as in black. Black being typed words, shades being books, 41 being number of books read in the first part of 2012. And if you're wondering about the correct use of the word grey/gray, both are acceptable. You can look it up.

Filled with Woods, Stuart not Tiger, some Harlan Coben, James Patterson, a trip to New Orleans, literally and figuratively through the writing of James Lee Burke , some great non-fiction from Rebecca Skloot on cancer cells in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Tom Mueller on extra virgin olive oil in Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil and a reality, somewhat humorous,  check by Carrie Fisher in her two memoirs, the first six months of 2012 has been both fun and educational.

We went to Montreal, figuratively speaking, with Kathy Reichs in her first two books and her forensic anthropologist  character Temperance Brennan  and made a trip to Hawaii, both literally and figuratively through the books by Sarah Vowell in Unfamiliar Fishes and Susan Casey in The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks and Giants of the Ocean.

Sarah Vowell taught us the history of the islands and the fight against annexation  by the US, the historical sites still standing, leper colonies and cultural differences between the white man called Ha Ole and the polynesians.  A must read for anyone visiting the islands or wish to learn more about them.

Casey writes about catching a wave but her book was no Surfin' USA, more like Surfin' the World.  She takes us around the pacific ocean, including Maui, and Oahu and the ring of fire  (- circle of the ocean and it's coasts where the most dangerous waves perpetuate and occur) - to teach us about the ocean and it's ferocity of waves, a bit on climate change, shipwrecks and great bio's on those manic surfers, including Laird Hamilton, who live, eat and sleep the chance to surf the biggest waves the planet can produce. Read it and you'll never look at the ocean the same way again!

How many books the second half of the year? I'd like to finish the year over 100. Books that is, if it were age, well, I'm certain all my hair would be grey. Speaking of which, I've seen more people in airports and planes reading Shades of Gray that  I'd rather have the rest of my hair turn gray then read the next two volumes of EL James trilogy, so those two books won't be included but perhaps more non-fiction as I've started reading Douglas Brinkley's The Great Deluge, an insightful, eye opening account of New Orleans and Katrina, maybe more of James Lee Burke's Robicheaux series down on the Bayou, finish out Stuart Woods' Stone Barrington series, and pick up a new author, say Philip Margolin, whom I've read only one of, or Clive Cussler, whom I've read none of. I'm behind on reading David Baldacci and Kathy Reichs and have yet to read St. Paul boy Vince Flynn's latest, along with John Grisham, Jack Higgins, Tom Clancy and the ever entertaining tomes by Ken Follett.

What books are you reading or have been recommended?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

To each his own...

You've heard the phrase, " each his own" ?  It's meaning,  every person is entitled to his or her personal preference(s).

I'm certain you've heard of Paul Newman?   Actor,  film director, professional race car driver.

But have you heard of Newman's Own?

Strange how people connect, network and become acquainted.  Through the many books I've read and music I've heard, that circle of literal and musical artists and their interwoven relationship/ degrees of separation is astonishing, well at least to this writer. There are thousands of examples, but lets focus on one for now.

Paul Newman and one of his best friends started Newman's Own food company. His best friend being, A.E. Hotchner. If you're not familiar with Mr. Hotchner, he's a biographer/author who wrote the biography of one of his best friends, Ernest Hemingway. 

Who'd of thunk it that one of Hemingways' best friends is in the basement of Paul Newman's home, concocting a mixture of special ingredients to create, Newman's Own Salad Dressing.

 Since, 1982, Paul Newman and his foundation has given over $300 million to various charitable foundations and is the organization behind the children's camp called, Hole in the Wall Gang, named after the gang in his movie, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

You can learn more about Paul and A.E's relationship and the company Newman's Own in the books:  Shameless Exploitation in Pursuit of the Common Good : The Madcap Business Adventure by the Truly Oddest Couple

and...Paul and Me: Fifty-three Years of Adventures and Misadventures with My Pal Paul Newman
Two wonderful enriching books about life, friendship and seasoned with entrepreneurship. 

Speaking of salad dressing, I recommend Newman's own Lite Honey Mustard, drizzled over some romaine lettuce, vegetables, a circle or two of a red onion and a quartered strawberry, which I whipped together last night.

For the main course, Shrimp Scampi.  Where'd I find the recipe? In a book of course! A cookbook and to be exact, it;s called, Cook This, Not That!: Kitchen Survival Guide

Starting with olive oil, Newman's Own of course, I started the saute process.  Now, the recipe calls for a variety of serving options. I chose linguine.  Helpful hint: This being the first time I've attempted this culinary cuisine, I highly recommend having the linguine ready for serving before sauteing the shrimp. Why? Cause it takes very little time to cook the shrimp, garlic, onions etc, which is great but you have to hustle if time management isn't your strong suit and forgetting or waiting to cook the pasta later, I rushed through it.  Next time, will be better.

However, it turned out scrumptious. With seafood being the main ingredient I struggled with the wine selection, white, red, white, red. Then when I chose pasta as the bed, I uncorked a bottle of Kings Estate Pinot Noir that I brought back from my trip to Oregon.  A great pairing.

Musical ambiance was provided by Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Jimmy Durante through the miracle of music transmission - an iPod, well and outdoor speakers too.

All and all a great meal, cooked through the guidance of a book with ingredients while using some ingredients that serve a  charitable foundation. (bare with me on the photo format, for the life of me I can't seem to get them in landscape view.)

So, my stomach wasn't only full, but my heart too. Using Newman's Own dressing and olive oil, I not only fulfilled my appetite but by using two of the many products of Newman's Own, I've contributed to improving the lives of terminally ill children, if only for a brief moment.

His pizza is pretty good, pasta sauces are fantastic and the "Oreo-type" and Fig Cookies are delicious.

Bon Appetit, not only for your hunger, but for your heart too!


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Why does asparagus make your...

For those lovers of asparagus including yours truly, there's an interesting biological phenomenon that takes place after one eats it, well for some of us at least.  Now some may find this topic not worthy of conversation or discussion and deem it a bit embarrassing or immodest.

But part of life is discovery. Discovering things about ourselves that unless asked, we may never know.

So.... why does asparagus make our pee smell?  Well the answer lies in our genes and enzymes or lack thereof.  Some people don't possess the gene for the enzyme to break down mercaptin, a sulfur compound found in asparagus. The breakdown of this substance, which occurs during the digestive process,  is what creates the odor.   If you don't have the gene, then no smell. Now you know.

Why do old people grow hair in their ears?

Can I  lose my contact lens in my head forever?

What causes an ice cream headache?

These life mysteries can be answered in Mark Leyner and Dr. Billy Goldberg's funny and knowledgeable book entitled, Why Do Men Have Nipples? Hundreds of Questions You'd Only Ask a Doctor After Your Third Martini

Once you've read it, don't forget to read their follow up book called, Why Do Men Fall Asleep After Sex?: More Questions You'd Only Ask a Doctor After Your Third Whiskey Sour?

I've not read their follow up but it's sure to be as educational and fun as their first.

Now, back to asparagus.  Grilled salmon and asparagus are on the menu tonight.  George Foreman is grilling the salmon ( not really but his grill will and I'm using the same salmon rub as last time) and as far as the asparagus recipe, check out Paula Dean's by clicking on this link: Recipe.

After eating this delicious, healthy meal, I might just need to plug my nose.

Bon Appetit!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Letters to her Son...

What can be more personable than a hand written letter. Letters written between friends, lovers, mothers and daughters, fathers and sons.

In this instance, hand written letters from a mother to her son, a WWII soldier.  Among the many exhibits at the National WWII museum in New Orleans, a mother's letter(s) to her son were on display. Reading part of it, "....your Dad and so much..."  some words were hidden but we all can  fill in the blanks.

This woman not only dated her letters but wrote the time on them as well. What a great personable way to relate to her son by time "stamping" her letters.  In reading them, you could catapult yourself back to that date and time, visualize a woman at a desk or table, writing a letter to her son, a son that she would never see again.  A very impressionable display.

There are many items available for viewing, helmets, guns, planes, maps, diaries, etc and short films as well. One in particular is a must see and that's the 4-D movie, Beyond All Boundaries.  Shown in an Imax size theater and narrated by Tom Hanks, this movie puts you right in the action with sound effects, props and chairs that vibrate.

Personal items such as the letters first mentioned and journals too. How would one maintain their sanity while in captivity?  One soldier wrote his thoughts in any paper he had, then hid them in a tobacco canister while he was a POW. And to think, they've survived all these years.

Why is the museum located in New Orleans? The answer is on the first level as you walk through the door. It has something to do with a man named Higgins and a special boat.

And dont' forget to pay attention to the sidewalk as you walk to and from the museum.  The walks are made  with bricks donated in the honor of soldiers.

A big thank you to critically acclaimed author, the late Stephen Ambrose. Mr. Ambrose is the founder of the museum, a place where all citizens, of the US and the world can visit to learn  about World War II.

So as we say good bye to the month that contained D-Day and say hello to our month of independence, check out the list of books to learn more about those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms.

Next time you're in New Orleans, make the National World War II museum a must see.

World War II Books by Ambrose:

Band of Brothers

D Day: June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II

Citizen Soldiers: The U. S. Army from the Normandy Beaches to the Bulge to the Surrender of Germany

Pegasus Bridge: June 6, 1944

The Wild Blue : The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24s Over Germany 1944-45

The Supreme Commander: The War Years of Dwight D. Eisenhower

The VICTORS : Eisenhower and His Boys: The Men of World War II

Americans at War

The Good Fight : How World War II Was Won

Comrades : Brothers, Fathers, Heroes, Sons, Pals

Other recommended WWII books:

Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

James Bradley's Flyboys: A True Story of Courage and Flags Of Our Fathers