Today I am sharing mom’s recipe for Barbecue chicken. It’s not just any barbecue chicken, it is
BARBECUE CHICKEN, Italian Style
The recipe can either be grilled or baked. We baked it the other night, and it was delicious! Extremely moist. I added a generous amount of garlic to the recipe and also put onions on the top (which is apparently a very Southern, or a very Martin thing to do – not sure which).
A very simple recipe, you probably already have many of the ingredients on-hand. There are only FIVE ingredients, not counting the chicken and the pepper! And, one of those ingredients is optional! Download your copy here.
Here is a picture of mom and I cruising Italy’s Lake Como. We were on our way to the restaurant Locanda Deli’Isola Comacina – the menu hasn’t changed since 1947! What an experience, what an afternoon! It was over a three hour lunch!
This restaurant has been referred to as one of the most beautiful restaurant locations in the world.
No, my quest (at this time) is not to visit the entire United States, but it is to read the United States. So join me in my journey across the nation as I read a book by an author from each state. Today I am visiting Hawaii – and the book I chose was The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings. When I saw the movie, I knew I had to read the book!
This was originally published as a short story (The Minor Wars” from the book House of Thieves). The main character is Matt King, a descendant of Hawaiian Royalty and American missionaries, sounds like aperfect life. But, his luck has changed. His wife, Joanie, is in an irreversible coma, following a boat-racing accident and will soon be taken off life support.
But, before this happens, he wants everybody to have the chance to say goodbye to her, and in contacting everyone he finds she was having an affair with a real-estate broker. Is this the person that the apparent adrenaline junkie Joanie ever truly loved? To make matters worse, his cousins are pressuring him to sell the valuable landholdings for development, which to him would be the last link to their past of their native Hawaiian ancestry.
All of this compels Matt to travel, and reconnect, with his two daughters – smart mouthed 10-year old Scottie and 17-year old Alex, a former model and also fresh from rehab. They go from Oahu to Kauai to find Brian Speer, the real estate broker Joanie was having an affair with.
Sounds pretty terrible – right? However, this DEBUT gentle novel is also funny. You can read it in a day. Frankly, I was sorry for it to end. I actually downloaded the book of short stories this originally came from. One interesting fact in the book, the daughter Scotty is sporting a George Clooney t-shirt – remember, he played Matt in the movie.
Here are some interesting facts about Hawaii:
The word Hawaii is from the Polynesian word hawaiki which means “face of the god” or homeland.
Hawaii is the only state that is not geographically located in North America. It is the only state that is surrounded by water and it does not have a straight line in it’s boundaries.
Because Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, he is the only president from outside the continental United States (oh yea, he was born in Kenya).
Hawaii is the only state to have increasing land area. Why? volcanic eruptions.
No other state grows coffee or has tropical rainforests.
The astronauts trained for the moon voyages by walking on Mauna Loa’s lava fields.
Hawaii is the only state to honor a monarch, celebrating King Kamahameha Day since 1872.
Hawaii 5-0 was the longest running police drama until Law and Order (shocking, I know). While the show was, and is, about the state police department, Hawaii doesn’t have a state police department .
The hula was originally a form of worship performed by men.
Surfing, or as it is known in Hawaiian, heenalu, was invented thousands of years ago by the Polynesians, who first settled Hawaii.
“There must be quite a few things that a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them.” Sylvia Plath
Nobody is sure where this holiday came from, possibly from the greeting card industry, but that doesn’t mean I won’t celebrate it.
Today, take a long bath! Baths go back thousands of years. Bathing in public facilities was a way of life in Ancient Rome. You might take a dip in the calidarium (hot tub), or meditate in the laconicum (sauna) and finish with a swim in the frigidarium (cold pool). Business was conducted in the baths, complete with easting and drinking. Some public bathhouses could hold as many as 6,000 people at one time. But, this was for a short period of time, as diseases spread by water. AND, early viaducts were made of lead, so they were also toxic.
At one point in Europe, many believes that dirt protected you from germs – so people didn’t bathe and perfumes caught on to mask odor.
But, thankfully by the early 1800’s, water regained acceptance and was equated with health. In fact, healing therapies were used, epsom salts and minerals became an approach to health. Spas appeared all over Europe.
“Noble deeds and hot baths are the best cures for depression.” Dodie Smith, I Capture the Castle
Did you know until the late 1940s, the average American only bathed once a week. Today, a daily shower is pretty much the way to go. But, I think everyone should indulge themselves in a long soak occasionally. So, get your favorite bubble bath product (or make your own), pick out some soothing music, light some candles and relax. Or do what I do, READ. In fact, I start each and every day with a bath and a book. I read so much in the bath, I treated myself to crayons made for the bath (for kids actually) and write words I want to look up at a later date on the wall! Here is an example – I could make a picture come out – but right now – my tub wall says “Feelings are Magnetic” and the word TAMJAM to look up later (it is a Croatian word for incense).
What are some of the advantage of a hot bath?
Improve Sleep – bathing before sleep raises the body temperature. So, when you are out of the bath, the body cools. This lets you body know it is time to rest. You can also add a few drops of lavender essential oil to the water.
Lessen pain – a warm, not too hot bath relaxes the muscles. There is evidence that adding some Dead Sea salt can help with arthritis.
Helps dry skin – Oatmeal is a great skin softener – it coats the skin and locks in the moisture. Use colloidal oatmeal, it won’t sink to the bottom as much.
Lessen stress – probably the best known side effect of a warm bath
Making your own bubble bath is easy, and it ensures there are no extra chemicals. Mix together 1/2 cup of mild hand soap or baby shampoo, 1 TBS honey or sugar, 1 egg white, and if you have dry skin add some almond oil. Put in a few drops of your essential oil choice, and add it with the running water, and you are good to go!
This is the second recipe I am sharing from my mother’s recipes and this selection is the recipe for cornbread, good Southern cornbread.
I’m going to cook my mother’s recipes one by one and document the journey. When I’m finished – I will have a recipe book waiting to be put together. This is a pretty easy one, but it is something every Southerner should know to make. And, cornbread should alway be cooked in cast-iron. In fact, if you look closely, you can see the pan I used actually makes corn shaped cornbread – how cool is that???? It was great to come across this pan – because it came already seasoned.
If you don’t know about seasoning cast-iron cookware – you can read about it here. This is a sacred tradition in a Southern household. In fact, I had a houseguest that wanted to cook while here. When they departed, I discovered to my HORROR my favorite cast iron skillet had been washed!!!!! I know the guest was trying to be kind, but I will never allow that to happen again.
You think I would be congratulating myself, but I’m not. Sometimes I think I need a 12-Step program for book addicts (I actually googled it to see if one existed!) Looking back on 2016, I think reading was the one thing I focused on throughout the year. It was a year of transition, a year of changes. After having a job for 27 years, my office closed at the end of 2015. I thought, whoopee! early retirement! But, life gets in the way. By the GRACE OF GOD, not having a job to go to every day gave me the time to take care of my mother. I became her caregiver and eventually moved her into memory care in April. While that wasn’t the end of it, it has become manageable. I still can’t have a full-time job in the regular sense, but I do have more time to pursue what I want to do. So, 2017 is going to be my year!
To make sense of 2016, I decided to look through the books I read and see if there was any distinct pattern to my choices. There is, and there isn’t. So – I decided to categorize them. The following saying should be my motto!
I also found three Nancy Drew books of mine at my mother’s house and reread them all. I thoroughly enjoyed them! I found this inscription inside THE BUNGALOW MYSTERY. Mrs. Jones was my Girl Scout leader, I was 9 years old. Reading has always been a part of my life apparently.
Also, one thing I said I was going to do since I wasn’t working 9a-5p was join a book club. I joined three that I go to (one meets every other month). Here are some books I really liked that I might not have read had it not been for a book club.
I realized my “go to” books tend to be mysteries. The creepiest book was BEHIND CLOSED DOORS by B.A. Paris. I received a free copy of this book through a drawing. A few days after getting the book, I received a letter form a character in the book asking for help. I also received a postcard from a character from New Zealand, which didn’t make sense until I read the book. It is one of the best marketing campaigns I’ve ever seen.
I am in an alzheimers support group, so I put together a reading list for them. You can see that list here.
I read 4 books about making vision boards – and I’m putting together workshops to do just that.
And, there are several books I just didn’t remember – I had to look them up on Amazon to refresh my memory (there were 8).
Where is my reading going to take me in 2017? I will continue reading around the world, with reading a book written by a European next. Also, I will resume my reading around the U.S. – reading an author from each state. I’m up to Idaho for this challenge.
I’m going to read some classics – and top of the list is THE ODYSSEY – which I have somehow never read. I am going to strive to not have non-memorable books in the mix. I want to read deeper. AND – I’m going to try to read only 1/2 hour in the morning, and not read prior to 7P in the evenings M-F.
I’d love to hear about other people’s journey with books. Here is my mom and her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
I did end the year with a bang – topping 100+ books! Before you get all gushy and start congratulating me, I have decided to read LESS next year. Yes, read LESS. I am going to make an effort to not read prior to 8PM during the week, and only 30 minutes in the morning. I have decided to read a few classics that have eluded me over the years. However, here are the dozen books I read in December 2016.
THE HUNGRY TIDE by Amitav Ghosh – Currently I am in a reading challenge to read a book from each continent, and this was my choice for Asia. Set in the Sandarbans, which is located on the eastern coast of India and Bangladesh (see map below). I’d never heard of this part of the world, and I loved learning about it. Piya Roy, a American marine biologist of Indian descent, and is in search of a rare species of river dolphin. She enlists the aid of an illiterate and proud local fisherman and a translator she met on the train. Reading this book is one of the reasons I love reading challenges, I wouldn’t have found this book otherwise and learned of a new world.
BIRD IN HAND by Christina Baker Kline – On the way home one rainy night, Alison hits a car that ran a stop sign and a death occurs. Everything changes in the blink of an eye. This is a story about four people, two marriages that are changing. It is a page turner.
RECKLESS by Susan Kiernan-Lewis (Mia Kazmaroff Mysteries) – I picked this up as it looked like a quick read set in my hometown of Atlanta. Mia has a paranormal gift and teams up with an ex-detective to solve a mystery. It was a quick read, but pretty much forgettable. Also she had some of the geography wrong for Atlanta – irritating, especially from someone that used to give historical tours of the city.
BASQUIAT – A QUICK KILLING IN ART by Phoebe Hoban – very compelling biography about the artist Basquiat, who died of a drug overdose at the age of 27. This follows his meteoric rise in the 80’s New York art scene and his ultimate burnout and drug consumption. It covers the graffiti art movement, the crazy world of art auction houses, his relationships with multiple women (including Madonna) and of course, his relationship with mentor Warhol. I liked it so much I continued my journey by watching the movie Basquiat, which is worth seeing if for none other than David Bowie’s portrayal of Andy Warhol (or should I say his channeling of Warhol).
ARTIFICE by Eric Bickernicks – this was a free download on Kindle, and since it was about art, why not? it was enjoyable, but a little silly and largely forgettable.
THINK AND GROW RICH by Napoleon Hill – This was originally published during the depression, and by the time of the authors death in 1970, it had sold more than 20 million copies! It is the product of two decades of research begun when Andrew Carnegie gave Hill he task of organizing a Philosophy of Personal Achievement. Armed with only an introductory letter from Carnegie, he interviewed over five hundred successful people including Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and others. This is the result of the research – and the 13 steps to success. It is a book to keep and refer back to.
A LESSON IN SECRETS – A MAISIE DOBBS NOVEL by Jacqueline Winspear – Maisie is working undercover in a university in Cambridge founded by the author of a pacifist children’s book which may have caused a mutiny during WWI. Of course, the author of this book is murdered almost as soon as Maisie arrives. This is a fun series, but I don’t feel this is the strongest book.
THE STORIED LIFE OF A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin – I found this on my bookshelf as I was doing my end of the year purge. I don’t know how I overlooked this little gem, after all it is about books and a bookstore! Set in the bookstore Island Books, A.J. is mourning the loss of his wife when his priceless copy of a Poe book has been stolen and a baby is left in the store. Quirky, but also uplifting, it is filled with interesting characters, critiques of classical books, and it is a wonderful book for those that love books and bookstores!
THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS by M.L. Stedman – In reading around the world, this was my choice for Australia. This is an incredibly sad tale (soon to be a major picture by Steven Spielberg) about Tom Sherbourne returning to Australia after WWI where he takes the job as a lighthouse keeper on an island about half a day’s journey from the coast. He eventually brings a wife, Isabel, After a few years of miscarriages, they find a boat washed up on shore with a dead man and a crying baby. They raise the baby as their own, but learn several years later, someone has been looking for the man and the baby. Amoral dilemma for sure!
THAT OLD CAPE MAGIC by Richard Russo – This is the story of Jack and Joy, who have been married for 35 years. Through this time, they have both tolerated their in-laws and have now separated. Reunited at their only child’s wedding. Jack has the ashes of both his parents in the trunk, with his mother talking endlessly to him. Part of the book is quite humorous, but it is not the strongest book by the great Richard Russo.
THE PRINCE OF FIRE (Gabriel Allon Novel) by Daniel Silva – i love the premise of these books, world famous art restorer by day, Jewish assassin by night (kind of). This is the 4th book in the series, and like the others it is fast paced, action packed. It covers a lot of ground, going from Rome, to Venice, Cairo, London, Paris and Jerusalem. Along the way Silva gives a history lesson from 1910 to the present, on the struggles between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Great exciting way to end the year!
I have been giving thought to what I will read going into 2017 – more on that later. Any suggestions? I will continue reading around the world, and continue my journey with authors from each state in the United States.
Obviously, I got sidetracked and didn’t get my October reading blog posted. I’m not going to get into a lot of detail – as there are almost 20 of them! But – here they go!
BOYHOOD: Scenes from Provincial Life by J.M. Coetzee – I was challenged to read a book from each continent, so I started with this book from Africa. The first of a trilogy about growing up in South Africa at the time of apartheid. Strong book. Coetzee was the 2003 recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature.
TERRA INCOGNITA: TRAVELS IN ANTARTICA by Sara Wheeler – As part of the reading challenge, I left Africa and went to Antartica. I realized how little I knew about Antartica!! A women spends seven months in Antartica as part of an artist program. I was so intrigued, I watched a documentary on Shackleton as a result of this. (This is one of two books I read in the past two months that deal with Antartica!)
THE BUNGALOW MYSTERY by Carolyn Keene – This is the 3rd Nancy Drew book, which I found at my mothers house. I had written on the front page “This is my first mystery book. Given to me by Mrs. Jones on 12/22/1966”. Well, I haven’t stopped reading mysteries after 50 years!
THE OPPOSITE OF EVERYONE by Joshilyn Jackson – This book is by a local author and I wanted to love it so much! It was okay – about an cryptic message received from an estrange mother to her daughter, now a high stakes lawyer in Atlanta. Enter a half brother she didn’t know of, and they search for the half sister that was a surprise too. Throw in a little Hindu and mix it with the South.
THE DESCENDANTS by Kaui Hart Hemmings – this was my Hawaii choice as part of my quest to read a book by an author from each state. I will blog about this separately, but if you loved the movie, you will love this book!
START SOMETHING THAT MATTERS by Blake Mycoskie – This is written by the founder of Tom’s Shoes – something I have been buying forever! There are a lot of good points about following your passion. Plus – I didn’t know he was a contestant on The Amazing Race!
MY FAMILY AND OTHER ANIMALS by Gerald Durrell – I am hooked on the BBC show, The Durrells of Corfu, which is based on this and the first book of The Corfu Trilogy. I loved this book and will read all three! Based on the writing of the youngest son, it is the adventures of a family consisting of a widow, three sons and a daughter that move to Greece.
BEHIND CLOSED DOORS by B.A. Paris – I received this book in the mail – and in a word – it is creepy! Especially when I received this letter a few days after receiving the book – from the character in the book. In fact, I also received a post card from New Zealand after I finished the book, which didn’t make sense until I finished the book. You can’t put it down.
WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE: A NOVEL by Maria Semple – Interesting format, with part of the book written as emails, letters and even F.B.I. documents. Bernadette is an agoraphobic and the mom of Bee, who has aced her report card. Bee wants her reward to be a trip to Antartica. As they are planning the trip, Bernadette disappears. Humorous and not overly sentimental. (The second book that deals with Antartica!)
Last week was the week of Thanksgiving in the United States. Americans across the land generally stop working and get together with friends and loved ones to give thanks. The year of 2016 has been a challenge, there have been some ups and there have been some downs. But, it has been a year of opening myself up and learning and receiving. This is the first year I haven’t actually had a “job”. But, still I worked.
It was a year of transition and education, resulting in reflection and meditation. We had to move my mother into memory care. As a result, we spent time cleaning out my mothers house. As many of you know, that can be a very emotional journey – with emotions ranging from highs and lows.
As I started going through my mothers recipes, I decided to cook her recipes one by one, document the results and make a page for each recipe. So, today I offer you the first recipe I cooked, Hawaiian Chicken. Yes, I could read this recipe, but I’m not sure everyone else could.
Here is a version for you to download and print to try out on your own, click here. Adjust the recipe to your taste, I use freshly squeezed pineapple juice and more garlic. And, yes, the 36 hours marinating works.
Next up – maybe her “Very Good Cornbread” of “Very Italian Chicken” (her names).
If you want to receive these recipes – sign up for my blog. When I’m finished, you will have a completed cookbook.
I’ll close with a picture of mom with all her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
September was a productive month for me when it comes to reading. If I could only figure out how to monetize my love of reading -I don’t think there are any jobs for a professional book club facilitator!
ANIMAL FARM by George Orwell – I read this in honor of Banned Book Week which was the week of 9/26/2016. I had never read this book, and I’m glad I finally got around to it. If you have put off reading it – first of all, it is available at your local library, and secondly – you can read it in an afternoon. Published in 1945, Orwell himself said it was about events leading up to the Russian Revolution of 1917. I’m not going to relay the entire plot, but you will want to discuss it with someone when you finish. Just remember, “The only good human being is a dead one.” AND “Man serves the interests of no creature except himself.”
A FOOL AND HIS MONEY by Sandra Orchard – This is the first book in a series about Serena Jones, who is part of the FBI’s Art Crime Team. It caught my eye at the local library – I think the title is very clever. The book, while entertaining and fun to read, is not overly clever.
THE ART OF NON-CONFORMITY: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life you Want and Change the World by Chris Guillebeau – I’ve long been a fan to Chris Guillebeau and I don’t know how I missed this book, but again, it was lurking on the shelves at the local library. Much of the book is inspired by Chris’s own story, but there are many case studies of others that have chosen to live unconventional and successful lives- and make a difference at the same time. I think I read it at the right time for me, having my office close after working there for 27 years I started 2016 optimistic feeling I could now live the life I truly want to live – I was given that opportunity. But, life gets in the way and I became my mother’s caregiver. However, I think this time was given to me to also decompress among other things. The book made me optimistic about my future – and the best lesson I learned – that life does NOT START AT AGE 65!
EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU by Celeste Ng – This book is a good example of why book clubs are so great – I don’t know if I would have found this book otherwise. Wouldn’t you be hooked with the opening lines “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet…”. This is the tale of a Chinese American family in a small Ohio town in the 1970’s. Lydia is the favorite child of three children – a blue-eyed Amerasian. She is the daughter that will fulfill the dreams her parents weren’t able to achieve. Her homemaker mother Marilyn wants her to pursue a career in medicine, something she was unable to achieve. In her father James’s case, he wants her to be popular. When her body is found in the lake, the Lee family is devastated and long-kept secrets and the inability to communicate surface. Lydia’s older brother Nathan is convinced the local bad boy Jack was somehow responsible. The youngest daughter Hannah, long ignored by the family, has observed everything going on. This book sparked good discussions about families, cultural clashes, and lack of communication. It is hard to believe it was the first book published by this author.
AFTER YOU by Jojo Moyes – This is the sequel to Me Before You and is the sequel the writer says she never planned on writing. But, I’m glad she did. After the death of Will, Louisa Clark joins the Moving On support group, but she isn’t exactly moving on. She is stuck, no longer wearing her funky clothes, working at a airport bar and keeping everybody away. An accident forces her back to her parents, and that starts a chain of events that will make her face her problems. A brisk page turner, it made me laugh and it made me cry, and most of all, believe in happy endings.
MRS. MALLORY: DEATH AMONG FRIENDS by Hazel Holt – I picked this up for a quarter and bought it to give to my niece Mallory. But, I had to read it first! It was a fun read, a cozy British mystery. Apparently it is the ninth book the Mrs. Mallory series, set in the village of Taviscombe inhabited by plenty of colorful characters.
LEAVING LUCY PEAR by Anna Solomon – set primarily in the 1920’s, it begins in 1917, when Beatrice Haven, a wealth Jewish pianist about to enter Radcliffe finds she is pregnant. She hides away at her uncle’s Gloucester estate. After the baby is born, she leaves the girl under a pear tree, knowing there is a group that come at night to rob the trees of their pears. The baby is discovered by Emma Murphy, the wife of a poor fisherman, who raises the girl as one of her many children. It skips ahead 10 years, and the child known as Lucy Pear knows she doesn’t belong to Emma. When Emma finds herself working for Beatrice’s family, things start happening. There are several interwoven tales and characters. My only complaint is I want to know what happens to the delightful cross dressing Lucy as she begins her journey – hopefully there will be a sequel.
HUCK: THE REMARKABLE TRUE STORY OF HOW ONE LOST PUPPY TAUGHT A FAMILY – AND A WHOLE TOWN – ABOUT HOPE AND HAPPY ENDINGS by Janet Elder – I don’t normally read “dog books” – I get too emotionally involved. But, how could I resist that little face? But, this book isn’t really about the dog. It is about a family finally getting a dog for their son Michael. After all he had been campaigning for years, complete with a power point presentation at the age of seven. But, they finally relent and adopt a red haired adorable toy poodle. When the family decides to take a vacation to go to Spring Training, they leave Huck with a family member. Within twenty-four hours they get the dreaded call, Huck slipped through the fence and is gone. The family immediately leaves and begins to search for the puppy. Taking place in a small town in New Jersey, the town is moved by the search and joins in – including school children, business owners and even a police lieutenant. Wonderful quick read about hope and generosity.
THE LANGUAGE OF BEES; A NOVEL OF SUSPENSE FEATURING MARY RUSSELL AND SHERLOCK HOLMES by Laurie R. King – I am a sucker for Sherlock Holmes. However, this series is new to me. Mary Russell is much younger wife of Sherlock Holmes (by about 40 years). The couple have returned home to Sussex after spending seven months in India, Japan and California. This case involves a surrealistic painter, Damian Adler (who apparently has appeared in this series before). Adler is Holmes’ estranged son (born to Irene Adler). He seeks help in finding his wife and young daughter. There is a harrowing trip by airplane into the wilds of Scotland, a series of bodies turning up – some dead by apparent suicide and some by seemingly ritualistic sacrifices. It was a fun read. (Sherlock kept bees in his retirement).
THE BOYS IN THE BOAT: NINE AMERICANS AND THEIR EPIC QUEST FOR GOLD AT THE 1936 BERLIN OLYMPICS by Daniel James Brown – This was a selection for a book club I joined early in 2016. According to the members, some of whom have been meeting for more than six years, this was the first book that everybody LOVED. This is the non-fiction book about the University of Washington’s eight-oared crew who represented the United States in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. There are two major backstories. The first is how all all nine team members came from lower to middle class families and struggled through school during the Depression. The Second is about Hitler’s Olympics. Along the way, I learned about the popularity of rowing in the 1930’s, with millions following the races on the radio. Best of all, it has been optioned for a movie directed by Kenneth Brannah!
What are your plans for reading? What do you recommend?
Yes, in the month of read a book about an allegory (in a painting), a biography of an author that wrote many books under an alias, and three books about Alzheimers. THE DITCHDIGGER’S DAUGHTERS by Yvonne Thornton MD – This inspiring book was written by one six daughters born to a laborer that worked two 8 hour jobs for 25 years. Donald Thornton wanted all of his daughters to become doctors and be successful independent black women. This is the journey of a family, even becoming a successful band, The Thornton Sisters. Mr. Thornton’s was tough, he was strict, but he gave out the wisest and wittiest advice! All of his daughters succeeded. Did they all become doctors? You’ll have to read it to find out. Here is a little clip of the band.
THE THINGS WE KEEP by Sally Hepworth – This was a book club selection – in fact, I went to an encore discussion that was demanded by members that missed the first discussion. Anna Forster has early onset Alzheimers, diagnosed at age 38, Her twin brother moves her into Rosalind House, where she meets Luke, who is near her age. When their relationship turns romantic, a tragic incident causes their families to keep them separated. Is Anna capable of falling in love? Is she be taken advantage of?
There is a supporting older lovable, but quirky elderly characters. The home’s new cook, Eve, gets involved in Anna and Luke’s story and breaks rules to keep them together. Eve’s seven year old daughter understands some of the older people better than anyone. It is written in a non-linear structure, and this mimic’s Anna’s growing disorientation. But it also keeps you wondering about what really happened. All is revealed in the end. Surprisingly, the book isn’t maudlin, some of it is downright funny. While there is no happy ending today for anyone with Alzheimers, I did feel gratified at the end for the future of Anna and Luke.
STILL ALICE by Lisa Genova – I know – you are probably thinking, wasn’t the previous book enough? Alice, a world-renowned linguist professor at Harvard, diagnosed with Alzheimers at age 50, with a husband that equally as successful. It is written with a third eye, but the story is told mostly through Alice’s point of view. It starts with Alice innocently forgetting things that she thinks are due to menopause and her busy life. When she gets lost and forgets appointments, she seeks help without telling anyone. Of course, the news is devastating and she has to share it. Because you see most of the book through Alice’s eyes, you see her increasing confusion over the course of the book. The climax of the book is a speech she delivers to the Annual Dementia Care Conference.
“Being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is like being branded with a scarlet A. But I am not what I saw or what I do or what I remember. I am fundamentally more than that..Please don’t look at our scarlet A’s and write us off.”
The book shows the family adjusting their lives and making compromises. It is told honestly and compassionately. But, there is no happy ending with this disease.
Lisa Genova has a Ph.D. in neuroscience, so she did her research. This is a self-published book which she sent to the Alzheimer’s Association, which endorsed the book.
Yes, I cried. No, I haven’t seen the movie. I will some day, just not today.
THE RED LEATHER DIARY – by Lily Koppel – This was part of a challenge from a group to read a biography by a woman about a woman (of course, I read more than one). Lily Koppel finds a red leather diary locked away in a steamship trunk. It is the the diary of Frances Wolfsen, one she wrote in daily from 1929 through 1934. Not a single day was missed!
Here is a story of a gilded age of the upper West Side. Florence lunched with her friends, went to the nightclub El Morocco at night, shopped at Bergdorf’s, road horses at the Claremont Riding Academy and more. She tells of her first kiss (to a boy), her infatuation with with a famous actress, the starting of a literary salon in her parents apartment. Even though she is a somewhat spoiled headstrong girl, she is also creative and intelligent.
Koppel searched for Florence, even hiring a private detective. She eventually locates her in her 90’s in Florida and reunites her with her long-forgotten diary. It was a fun book to read!
La Primavera – Botticello
BOTTICELLI’S SECRET – by Marina Fiorato – You know you are in trouble when you have to print out the picture of the painting the book is about! This was a book club selection – and it is a book club of women artist’s. It was billed at The DaVinci Code meets The Birth of Venus. But, the painting at the center of the mystery is not the Birth of Venus, but La Primavera. taking place in the 15th century, with prostitute Luciana Vetra posing for the above painting (she is the figure in the center). When Botticelli doesn’t pay her, she steals an unfinished version of the painting. As the bodies pile up, she turns to a priest, and together they go to nine cities in Italy. Are there really secrets embedded in the painting? There has been much speculation about the hidden meanings found in this painting, and this is an interesting take on it. But, the first part is a little tedious, the language profane and explicit. Yes, Luciana’s potty mouth gets tedious, and I found her language a little too modern at times. (I even looked up several words to see if they were used in the 15th century!). And I learned Italy wasn’t unified as a country until 1815.
LOUISA MAY ALCOTT: A Personal Biography by Susan Cheever – The book I often credit with giving me life long love of reading is Little Women. It was also my mother’s favorite book, she tried to name me Jo when I was born (my father said no daughter of his would have the name of a boy). So, when I was challenged to read a biography about a woman, written by a woman, I was delighted for find this one. It is a fascinating portrait about an intriguing time of American literature. Her father was a transcendental teacher. When she was young, the family moved to Concord, Massachusetts. It seems whenever the family had financial problems and had to move (which was often), Ralph Waldo Emerson came to their financial help. Other family friends included Henry David Thoreau and Nathaniel Hawthorn. Louisa went to work early as a teacher and seamstress. During the Civil War, she was a nurse in in Georgtown DC for six weeks. catching typhoid, and while she recovered, her health suffered the rest of her life. Her letters home were collected for her first critical recognition. The family also worked for the Underground Railroad.
The most surprising thing I learned is she published sensational pulp fiction under the name A.M. Barnard, a fact that wasn’t discovered until after her death. Incidentally, she died two days after her father – in fact, they had the same birthday.
Alcott resisted writing the book Little Women. Read here 10 things you may not know about Little Women!
BEFORE I FORGET: LOVE, HOPE, HELP AND ACCEPTANCE IN OUR FIGHT AGAINST ALZHEIMERS by B. Smith and Dan Gasby – This book was recommended to me by someone in my Alzheimer’s Support Group. It is the story of B. Smith, model, restauranteur, author, and talk show host. She is diagnosed at a fairly early age, 65-66. Much of the book is written by her husband, Dan Gasby, along with Vanity Fair contributing editor Michael Shanayerson. It is an honest account of the journey, told by her husband Dan, with portions written by B. herself. But it is also a true love story. It is sprinkled in with hard research, lessons on dealing with, and again love. I’m going to end this with a quote from B herself:
“I know where I’m going. I’m still myself. I just can’t remember things as well as I once did. So on short trips, I work hard not to be confused. I’ll say to myself, What are we going to do? How long are we staying? It’s like I’m talking to my other self—the self I used to be. She tells me, This is what we need to buy—not that. I’m conscious of that other self guiding me now.”
Watch this short video of B. and her husband – it only 2 minutes long.
As you may know, my mother is in memory care now. It is a long journey. The people with the disease need advocates, they can’t speak for themselves. Research for the drugs can run into the billions of dollars.
What can you do? Consider registering with the Brain Health Registry – it is easy, and it is free. And it will help with understanding the disease and hopefully for a cure, because with this disease, no one gets well, no one gets out, at least not now.
My niece Mallory is doing the Walk to End Alzheimers. Consider making a donation, no amount is too small. Click on her page here to read what she has wrote. Think about it, if you haven’t been touched by the disease, consider yourself lucky, for now.
If you have anything to share about this subject, leave me a comment. I will read them all!