Thursday, April 26, 2012

Book Review: Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl

While I can't say Garlic and Sapphires was "a real page-turner", I did enjoy it.  Ruth Reichl shares with the reader her experiences as a food critic for the New York Times.  She writes in an autobiographical style about the various (mostly upscale) restaurants she dined in, food she ate, people she encountered and what it was like to be a restaurant critic.  To me the one of the most intriguing parts of the book was the study of social prejudice among the upper class.  Because she did not want to be recognized when she went into a restaurant, she took on elaborate disguises, even changing her personality to fit the character she was portraying.  The reactions she received varied drastically depending on what character she became for each visit.  It was astonishing how much her appearance affected the way she was treated by restaurant staff as well as other customers.

Her writing style was very enjoyable, however, I will admit I had to look up several words.  Reichl has quite an extensive vocabulary.  I appreciate a writer who makes me grow beyond the boundaries of my everyday language.  I got the feeling she wrote every word with thoughtful consideration.  

As I read about her experiences in these very upscale establishments, I couldn't help think about all the people in NYC who were going hungry while she was getting paid to enjoy foods such as foie gras and caviar every day, and how it would be great if she could find a way to use her writing ability to do something a little less pretentious.  And then towards the end of the book she starts to redeem herself as the personalities she adopts for her characters begin to reveal to her what she is starting to become.  This evokes a career change for her and, in my opinion, a happy ending. 

Perhaps I was taken in by the book because of my own love for cooking.  Reichl describes with perfect detail the satisfaction that cooking and food can provide.  The smells, the colors, the textures, the flavors, the sounds - my kitchen is more therapeutic to me than a day at the spa.  She describes the cooking experience in such a profound way that every foodie can appreciate.  I would love to have the gift of expressing my thoughts as beautifully as she does.  I would recommend this book for that aspect alone, and the story itself is just a fringe benefit.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Chocolate Vanilla Soap

Two of my all time favorite flavors combined into one sweet-smelling bar of soap!  Made with cocoa butter and other nourishing oils, this soap will satisfy your senses as you use it.  It's my favorite soap so far!  I made extra batches because I know these won't last long.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


Working in the flower beds today and discovered some baby ferns I dug up in the woods last year and transplanted to my beds. They are so cute when they are young!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Book Review: The Green Mile by Stephen King

My son is always trying to get me to read Stephen King books.  I think he may possibly be Mr. King's biggest fan.  Although I love the way Stephen King writes, I'm not a big fan of his usual genre.  So when our book club chose The Green Mile to read, I was a bit skeptical.  I never saw the movie, but I had a general idea of what it was about.  I tend to gravitate to uplifting, happy books, and a book about death row inmates seemed very depressing.  I figured I'd read it quickly and get it over with so it wouldn't bring me down for too long.

Shortly into the first chapter I knew I was going to love this book.  King writes in such a suspenseful way, I had a hard time putting it down.  Throughout the chapters he gave little glimpses of what was to come - piquing my interest with every turn of the page.  The characters were endearing enough to make you forget that they were actually death row villains.  He included just enough fantasy to balance the morose.  I was actually sad to get to the end of the book because I enjoyed it so much.  It's my favorite Stephen King book so far.

Of course, after reading the book I had to rent the movie.  I thought the casting was dead on!  The actors looked exactly as I pictured each character in the book.  The movie is never as good as the book, but this one was definitely close.  I'm glad the movie left out the part about the mean employee at the nursing home - that was my least favorite part of the story.  All things considered, I give both the book and the movie 5 stars.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Man Soap

I wanted to formulate a soap recipe that would be especially appealing to men, so I came up with this soap I'm calling "Man Soap".  The scent in this soap is a combination of essential oils that combines woodsy and spicy.  The rich brown and light cream tones even make this bar look manly.  This soap makes a great gift for the man in your life (or for yourself!).

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Tooty Fruity Soap

Tooty Fruity is a fun, pleasant-smelling soap made with bright purple colorant.  It smells like jelly beans.  Kids will love this soap!  It's made with all those good oils that make a great bar of soap:  
olive, palm, coconut, and Shea butter.  Make bath time fun and healthy and leave the harsh chemicals out of it by using this natural, kid-friendly soap.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tea Tree Soap

Tea tree oil has been used for thousands of year for its medicinal properties.  Studies have shown that it can be used to treat all three forms of infectious organisms:  bacterial, fungal and viral.  These qualities are what makes tea tree products good for acne, oily hair/skin, sunburn and a host of other skin ailments.  My tea tree soap also contains spearmint essential oil, which blended with tea tree oil provides an uplifting, fresh scent.  As with all my soaps, other oils such as coconut oil, olive oil and shea butter produce a great lather that nourishes your skin as it cleans.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Vegetarian Chili

People have been asking me to share my recipe for vegetarian chili, and I'm finally getting around to doing so.  This is probably the most often made meal in our home.  Even my carnivore teenage son loves it (but I have to run the blender through it to get rid of the "chunks" before he'll eat it).  When you blend this chili with an immersion blender or food processor it makes a great topping for fries!

Vegetarian Chili

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 can of black beans, drained & rinsed
1 can of dark red kidney beans, drained & rinsed
1 can of cannellini beans, drained & rinsed
1 qt. tomatoes w/ juice (I use home canned tomatoes, but store bought is fine)
1 cup water
2 Tbsp. chili powder
salt & pepper to taste 

In a dutch oven or large pot heat oil, then add onions and peppers.  Cook for about 5 minutes, then add garlic.  Cook for about a minute, then add beans, tomatoes, water, chili powder, salt & pepper.  Bring to boil, reduce to simmer and cook for 30 minutes. 

Variations:  add corn, black-eyed peas, hot peppers, hot sauce, 
Optional toppings:  shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, crumbled cornbread 

You can't have chili without cornbread, so plan to make some of that too.  
Maybe I'll share a cornbread recipe next time.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Baby Soap

The most gentle soap for the most sensitive little ones (and grown-ups too for that matter!!) - made from soothing ingredients like organic olive oil, corn starch and oatmeal.  This soap has no essential oils and no colorants, so it's extremely gentle with a light natural scent.  If you suffer from sensitive skin issues, give this soap a try.  As with all my soaps, there are no artificial ingredients and only the best oils make up these luxurious bars that are unlike anything you can find at your typical store.  Don't put commercial soaps full of chemicals on your baby, us all-natural organic soaps like this one.