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“Dear Life”

Alice Munro recently published a new collection of short stories entitled Dear Life. A brilliant anthology of 14 short stories with mostly single word titles that signify a key event, description or a character in a story, Dear Life is really two books in one:  ten fictional short stories told from the perspective of characters striving to make sense of people in their lives, random events, and the decisions made; and four stories collectively called Finale that Munro says”form a separate unit, one that is autobiographical in feeling, thought not, sometimes, entirely so in fact.   I believe they are the first and last – and the closest – things I have to say about my own life.” Read more »


A Special Restaurant in La Antigua, Guatemala

La Antigua or “Antigua” attracts world travelers and tourists alike which means there is a wide variety of dining options in this colonial destination in the central highlands of Guatemala.  Among those choices is a very special restaurant called 39 Azul opened by a Norwegian chef by the name of Nils Rykken who looks like the twin brother of Mario Batali, crocs and all. The name of the restaurant reflects the address – 6.a Calle Poniente 39 – and the overriding color scheme of the restaurant, which is blue, a color often associated with the Norwegians or the Danish. But, the food is the star at 39 Azul – locally sourced ingredients expertly prepared with both a Norwegian and an international touch. Read more »


Steep and Cheap (SAC)

Steep and Cheap is a unique website that sells premium outdoor gear and clothing but what sets this website apart from other discount websites are two things:  first, the prices are unbelievably low; and second, only one deal is offered at a time for a very short period of time (usually 10-40 minutes) or until the item sells out (which is sometimes very, very quickly as in minutes).  Then, it’s on to the next deal. The sales are constant so those on the prowl for gear or great athletic wear need to act fast. But, as soon as one deal is over, another kicks in….all day long. Read more »


Organic Candy Canes

Candy canes are as much a part of our holiday season as the festivities. We hang the red and white striped sweets on the tree, smash them up with a hammer to use as a topping on cookies or to make peppermint bark, and we eat them in their natural state. The refreshing peppermint taste and the nostalgic shape draws most kids (big and little) to candy canes even though most of these seasonal treats contain corn syrup, artificial colors, and flavorings. TruJoy Sweets makes an organic candy cane using natural colors and flavors to create a healthier and better tasting candy cane using only four ingredients: organic evaporated cane juice, organic brown rice syrup, natural peppermint flavor, and organic fruit juice. Read more »


Forbidden Rice

While dining at the Veritable Quandary in Portland, Oregon last month, Wild Grilled Salmon over Forbidden Rice was served for dinner and I couldn’t decide which was better – the medium rare grilled salmon or the dark moist flavorful rice that was underneath the fish. Rice is normally a bland food that requires butter, salt, or spices to enhance the flavor but Forbidden Rice is different.  A delicious rice with a a nutty taste , Forbidden Rice looks like a black rice but is in reality, a deep dark purple color when cooked and although the expectation is for the rice to be hard and nutty like a wild rice, Forbidden Rice is soft and nutty. Folklore has it this rice was reserved for the emperors of China and therefore forbidden to all others; hence its name.

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“May We Be Forgiven”

There are paths, forks in the road, journeys we must take. Sometimes it’s not a choice, but about what we do with what we are given.

May We Be Forgiven was written by Amy M. Homes, an American writer who teaches creative writing at Princeton University and who goes by the pen name: A.M. Homes. Published in September, 2012, May We Be Forgiven is a fast paced novel that starts with a bang (literally) and gives new meaning to “The Big Bang Theory” of how a family is formed. Although many people think a family is created by a marriage or the birth of a child, a family is formed by people uniting or expanding in many different ways, both conventional and non-conventional.  And, when a family implodes, what are the survivors to do? Run and escape or come together? This is the dilemma faced by the major characters in May We Be Forgiven. Read more »


Daisy Flours

There is a difference in flours, just as there is a difference in types of milk, yogurt, apples, cheese, spices, and all ingredients. All too often, consumers think flours are the same or too similar to notice a difference but the reality is quite different.  An all-purpose flour generally works well in most recipes but there are two factors about flour that are important to remember:  (1) high-quality, unbleached and less processed flours taste better in recipes; and (2) flours vary greatly in protein content so the flour chosen should be based on the recipe: a low protein flour for pastry, a medium protein flour for cakes, cookies, pancakes, and most baked goods, and a high protein flour for breadsthat need to rise. Read more »


Crystallized Ginger

Crystallized ginger is an ingredient most bakers are very familiar with because the flavor and texture can add so much to a recipe, especially cakes and muffins.  When people speak or write of ginger, they are usually referring to the ginger root – a spicy hot and fragrant spice used predominantly in Indian and Asian cuisine. The younger roots -“baby ginger” – are milder and juicer and are often used to make crystallized ginger or candied baby ginger by simply cooking the root in sugar until it becomes soft and chewy. The sugar forms a protective coating around the ginger root thus acting as a natural preservative. Read more »


The Yoku Moku Holiday Tins

Every year, famed Japanese cookie maker Yoku Moku commissions an artist to design a holiday cookie tin to be filled with the company’s light crispy buttery minimalist cookies. The essence of a Yoku Moku cookie is in its simplicity – both in ingredients, design, and taste – so the exterior design of the annual holiday tin is louder, more colorful and meant to draw attention to a cookie that doesn’t rely on adornment for attention. Read more »



Fregula is a type of pasta from Sardinia that resembles toasted pearls. Some people think fregula is like couscous but this unique pasta is bigger, thicker, and more flavorful than couscous. Fregula or the “pearl of pastas” is made with coarse semolina flour blended with water and formed into little balls. The pasta is then dried and toasted to impart a nutty flavor when cooked. Ideal for soups or with cooked vegetables, fregula is a firm chewy pasta with a deep toasted flavor, unlike any other pasta. Read more »