Thursday, October 27, 2016

On a Pale Horse by Pierce Anthony

On a Pale Horse (Incarnations of Immortality, #1)On a Pale Horse by Piers Anthony

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  When Zane shoots Death, he has to take the job, speeding over the world riding Mortis, his pale horse/limo, measuring souls for the exact balance of Good and Evil, sending each to Heaven or Hell instead of Purgatory. The new Thanatos is superbly competent, ends pain when he ends lives. But Satan is forging a trap for Luna, the woman Death loves.

For October book group.

Ah, to re-read a favorite thirty years after it's publication. This might be a book that didn't quite stand up to the passing of time, but nevertheless, I still enjoyed it for nostalgia's sake.

It's kinda fascinating really; I LOVED this series when it first came out and devoured every book. I read them again later. And read them yet again. Now it's probably been 10 years? And outlook on life and awareness of the printed word has changed a bit.

  • This read a bit like Heinlein. How so? The pontificating on how things "should" be in society. 

  • This read a bit like Heinlein in Anthony's treatment and portrayal of women. I never noticed the shallowness before - women are judged solely on their looks: a turn of leg or a tress of hair, beauty is rewarded, homely is to be avoided and decried.
  • For women, 40 is considered "old". Just ask Fate, who was dressed in tweed and conservative clothes.
    > Comparing Mother Nature to a 'distaff dog'.
  • The concept of saving the damsel in distress.

    I could go on, but my point is made.

I am also aware that this is an exploration of death, and of our belief in Heaven and Hell. What I find with this current reading, it is very much a WASP point of view, or Christian point of view. At at time in the US when church attendance is at a low point, where more people are agnostic or apathetic than not, and many people just are worried about the status of their "souls", this bit just didn't hold up very well - in my humble opinion.

What makes this book still fascinating to read is the personification of the Incarnations - they are Mortal until they don the aspect of Death, Fate, War, Time, Nature. I enjoyed watching Death become his office, dealing with a elemental bureaucracy, where even the computers have attitude. I greatly enjoyed Mortis and his ability to transform according to need. The touch of 'tabloid' TV brought a nice sense of humor to the plot.

Ultimately, mixed on whether this has stood the test of time, but enjoyed it anyway for nostalgia's sake.

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Monday, October 24, 2016

Michigan, 2016

Saginaw, MN to Saginaw MI

The Great Lakes Tour

Two States and One Lake for One Restaurant

So many title options for this posting!

The reason for this trip to visit Bradley's in Saginaw, MI.  Scott and his wife opened Bradley's in 2014, after a year of extensive remodeling.  We were informed the space had been empty for 20-25 years and it was in rough shape - we saw the pictures.  It was in rough shape. They completely gutted the interior going to the studs and beyond.  Pretty amazing work. 

But, I should start at the beginning, which is in Saginaw, MN, just outside of Duluth, where we buttoned up the house and headed out. 

Saturday/Sunday:  Manitowoc, WI was our first stop.  We slept over Saturday night, then Sunday morning toured the Maritime Museum (HIGHLY recommended) and caught the 130p ferry for Michigan.  This was the Badger's last run of the season, and we couldn't have planned better weather for the 56 mile four hour crossing:  70*, sunny, mostly calm seas.  The main excitement of the trip was the ferry hauling one of those mega-semi trailers - the XXL trailers that haul wind turbine generators and wind turbine blades around here.  Yes, they backed one of those trailers into the ferry.  How cool is that!?!  

Sputnik crashed in Manitowoc
Manitowoc WI, Maritime Museum

The Badger docking

Loading the mega-trailer on the Badger. 

Sunday:  We arrived in Ludington, MI, about 630p-ish, but because we were among the first six cars ON the ferry, we had to wait.  Mostly we had to wait until they could pull afore mentioned trailer off. So it was about 730p before we made it too our B&B, where we discovered a very unfortunate mix-up had occurred.  Because the Innkeeper was very apologetic about the error, I won’t mention the establishment.  Mistakes happen.  In a nutshell, another person by my first name checked in (sans reservation) but he thought it was me, and thus, when I showed up, the mistake was revealed.  Being a Sunday night during non-peak tourist season, I wasn’t worried about procuring a room at a hotel and, in all honesty, the Comfort Inn was a very nice room for about the same price.  After a late dinner, we crashed.

Departure from Manitowoc, WI

56 mile crossing - four hours

Arrival in Ludington, MI

Monday: We toured the Big Sable Lighthouse, drove up to Douglas Valley Vineyard, then tootled across the state to Saginaw, MI and checked into our hotel. 

Big Sable Lighthouse, Ludington, MI

View of Michigan coast from lighthouse  
Douglas Winery

Tuesday: Saginaw we toured the Castle Museum in downtown Saginaw, MI.   Another HIGHLY recommended museum.  We easily spent about 2 ½ hours there.  Bonus!  Castle Museum is only a block from Bradley’s! 

Castle Museum

Bradley's Restaurant - I highly recommend it!

We surprised Scott, the Husband's longtime acquaintance at the end of lunch rush, enjoyed a fantastic meal (the mac and cheese was amazing!  The Husband had some kind of burger with bacon and fried onions, with a side of truffle fries.  O.M.G.) then introductions all around.  We wandered away for a couple hours so they could prep for dinner, and came back to another great meal (a pork dish for the Husband, Gnocchi for me.  YUM!).  The four of us went out for a round of drinks and socializing before calling it a visit and saying good night and best wishes.

Wednesday: We were on the road again.  Up to Bay City for breakfast at Maggie’s.  We decided to skip the Navel Museum in favor of the 5 hour drive along the shore of Lake Huron.  My humble opinion, won’t need to do that drive again.  It’s ¾ houses/cabins and ¼ visible lake shore.  Disappointing. 

Arrived in Mackinaw City about 4ish, caught the next ferry to Mackinac Island, get settled in our hotel, and found dinner.  

Mackinac Island

Mackinac Island

The Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island (no, we did not stay here...)
Thursday: In the morning we rented bikes and biked the middle of the island because that seemed to have the most historical things to look at, then came back along the shore, where the Husband’s peddle fell off.  Ah, the joys of rental bikes – parts fall off or seats don’t stay up.  Returned the bikes, grabbed lunch, then spent three hours touring Fort Mackinac.  Dinner and called it a day.

Fort Mackinac

Friday/Saturday: Time to head home!  Ferry ride back to Mackinaw City, halfway point being Marquette, MI, where the Husband found the most amazing Cajun restaurant.  Seriously, this place was awesome.  Alligator Bites for an appetizer, Bouillabaisse as a main dish, and BINGETS for dessert!  I FINALLY got to try a BINGET!  Who would have thought there would be such a great Cajun restaurant in downtown Marquette?

Grand Island Harbor, by Pictured Rocks National Shoreline, Lake Superior

And thus, ends the trip:  three lakes (Superior, Michigan and Huron), two ferry rides, all for one restaurant:  Bradley's.   Totally worth it! 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Dark Wind by Tony Hillerman (Leaphorn and Chee #5)

The Dark Wind (Leaphorn & Chee, #5)The Dark Wind by Tony Hillerman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  A corpse whose palms and soles have been "scalped" is only the first in a series of disturbing clues: an airplane's mysterious crash in the nighttime desert, a bizarre attack on a windmill, a vanishing shipment of cocaine. Sgt. Jim Chee of the Navajo Tribal Police is trapped in the deadly web of a cunningly spun plot driven by Navajo sorcery and white man's greed.
Read as an audio book. I really enjoy the narrator of Dark Wind. He's done a couple in this series, and he's absolutely perfect.

Premise of the story is, Jim Chee has found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, and is a partial witness to a triple murder that may involve a very large drug deal gone wrong. The Feds and the DEA are convinced Chee - being a mere "Navajo" policeman - is involved somehow. Chee, with his understanding of the Navajo and Hopi ways, methodically unravels who killed three men while figuring out who has been sabotaging the Hopi windmill.

This was a wonderfully written mystery, with more twists and turns than a desert arroyo. I was just delighted in how the plot slowly unfurled, with all sorts of subtle red herrings, then everything culminating in the resolution. I enjoyed the duality of the Navajo and Hopi cultures presented in this one, and a glimpse at the government bureaucracies in that corner of the world.

Thaaattt being said...the book felt unfinished. I was left with some unanswered questions and a feeling that I didn't get the whole story. I knew the book was done. "The End" was spoken out loud. There were no more disks. But I still had items that needed to be answered!

Ultimately, a wonderfully done narration and very enjoyable book.

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Monday, October 17, 2016

Recipe Review from 10/10/2016

A busy week!  I put the Husband on a plane for Virginia - he had an all-staff meeting from Tues thru Friday, well, Wednesday/Thursday with two travel days on each side.

And work had me up on The Range for two days, in addition to my usual yoga classes, a run to the vet for booster shots and the usual errands.   Not complaining about the Range runs at all - it was peak color on Tues, and despite some sustained winds Wed and Thurs, the colors were just as enjoyable.  Just less leaves on the trees.

Bean and Bacon Soup  (Taste and Tell Blog by Deborah)  gluten free
Friend Tess found this recipe and passed it along.  Only one significant alteration and that was I used dried beans instead of canned - I had some on hand and it was easy enough to cook them up.  It did require some pre-planning, so if time is of the essence, use canned. 

I really enjoyed this - a combination of creamy bean mixture with whole beans complimented by a background of bacon.  This re-heated very well.  Using 1lb dried beans, this made about 7 servings.  This was great with a crusty bread to sop up the soup.

Serves: 4 servings  (I ended up with about 7 servings)
Photo from Taste and Tell
  • 8 oz. smoked bacon, diced
  • 1 cup diced yellow onions
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 3 cans (15 oz each) Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • (I used 1lb dried white beans, pre-cooked)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
  1. Cook the bacon in a soup pot or Dutch oven until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate. Discard all but about 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease.   
  2. To the hot bacon grease, add the onions, carrots and celery. Cook over medium heat until they start to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook an additional minute. Stir in the chicken broth and beans. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a bubble then reduce the heat to low and let the soup simmer for 1 hour.
  3. Remove half of the soup to a blender or food processor. Using an immersion blender, process until smooth. Return the puree to the soup pot and stir into the remaining soup. Add the tomato sauce and ¾ of the reserved bacon and stir to combine. Taste and season to taste with salt and pepper. Let the soup simmer until it is heated through, about 5 minutes. Serve topped with the remaining bacon.

Slow Cooker Pork Chops and Noodles (Ckng Lght, Sept 2016)
I know it's Fall when the slow cooker is pulled out and the first hearty pork and noodle dish is created.  This dish was perfect for a beautiful October day.  There is a bit of prep on the front end - chopping veggies and searing the meat, then it's hands off until its time to cook the noodles and thicken the sauce.

My only complaint with this dish is, I found it to be a bit bland, which, given the sherry vinegar and the herbs, was a bit of a surprise.  I will note, that 7 hours might be too long for the pork.  Monitor your slow cooker and adjust timing accordingly.  5-6 hours might be plenty.

Serve with some artisinal crusty bread to sop up the sauce.  

1 1/2 cups unsalted chicken stock
1 1/2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
photo from
Cooking spray
3/4 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 2-in. pieces
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps quartered 
(I used cremini 'shrooms - cheaper to buy
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 thyme sprigs
2 oregano sprigs
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 (6-oz.) bone-in center-cut pork chops
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
3/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided
1/4 cup dry white wine
6 ounces uncooked whole-wheat egg noodles
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

1. Combine stock, vinegar, and flour in a 6-quart slow cooker coated with cooking spray. Stir in carrots, mushrooms, onion, garlic, thyme sprigs, and oregano sprigs.

2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Sprinkle pork chops with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add pork chops to pan; cook 2 minutes on each side. Place pork chops in slow cooker.

3. Add wine to skillet over medium-high; cook 30 seconds, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Spoon wine mixture over pork chops in slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW for 7 hours or until vegetables are tender.

4. Cook egg noodles according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain.

5. Remove pork chops from slow cooker, and keep warm. Remove and discard herb sprigs. Add heavy cream, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper to vegetable mixture in slow cooker, stirring to combine. Stir in cooked egg noodles. Divide noodle mixture among 4 plates; top each with 1 pork chop, and drizzle with any remaining sauce in slow cooker. Sprinkle evenly with thyme leaves.