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Review: Hippie Food by Jonathan Kauffman


The Story

Elkhart, Indiana, born Jonathan Kauffman traces the story of the Natural Foods movement in America starting with his memories of his own mother’s cooking.  He explores each movement, diet, guru, book in a fun way. This is a great read for anyone, but foodies will love it. It would be a perfect Christmas gift for the food-freak on your list, too!

My Thoughts and Some Memories and Recipes

I really enjoyed this on audio. It was like reliving my own early adulthood. My first job was as a clerk in a wholesale warehouse bagging natural foods sold by the pound to individuals on Saturday morning and to the sort of food buying co-ops he discusses in the book during the rest of the week. I made countless batches of carob chip cookies, too, while volunteering in the office of my Congressman that summer as well.


I went to college at Indiana University in Bloomington–a town with a Co-op grocery store (that I never visited–it was too long of a walk from where I lived). I loved the “Health Nut” sandwich at the I.U. library cafe–whole wheat “Wonder Bread.” a slab of American cheese, chicken, a pineapple-nut sauce, tomato slice and, naturally, those delicious grass-like alfalfa sprouts (actually, come to think of it, they ARE grass sprouts!). Delicious! Great vegetarian food, even in 1980, could be had several places, but the Tao and Rudi’s Bakery were the best. Here are their cookbook and my favorite recipe–their HUGE poppy seed cake.


As I learned to cook I bought more cookbooks. Back in the 80’s cookbooks, cooking magazines and women’s magazines were the ways in which recipes and food trends and fads were communicated.  I also enjoyed watching cooking shows on PBS–remember, Food TV, the Pioneer Woman, Jamie Oliver, and all the others were far in the future. The Frugal Gourmet was one of the first I liked–I still love a few of his recipes to this day, regardless of what became of him personally.


In Peace Corps, in the late 80’s nearly everyone brought one of these cookbooks. I was surprised to learn that “protein complementarianism” was debunked as not necessary. Not harmful, just not a dire need.  We were taught that in Peace Corps training. I took Diet for a Small Planet with me, as did several others. The other big favorite was More With Less. I also have the Living More With Less book which was about living simply and frugally. In the end, I used the locally produced Peace Corps Malawi cookbook the most for obvious reasons.

Hippie Food by Jonathan Kauffman

Recipes from my natural food binges

Here are some old favorites from the books above or other cookbooks and one from a magazine. While I haven’t made Complimentary Pie or the Six Layer Soybean Casserole in decades, I do still love Roman Beans and Rice and the quiche–which I make with fresh broccoli, carrots, green pepper, onion, and garlic. We love it. I treat “whole” or “natural” recipes like this just like any other cuisine–they are a part of my eating, never a strict diet.


I’ve always loved this salad just as it is. I imagine it should be made with feta, but that was hard to get in the early 1970’s. I would love it with that, too. Israeli Salad from the Moosewood cookbooks.


This quiche, as I said, is still a family favorite. A friend makes it with Velveeta and while I don’t use that product, it does make an unbelievably creamy quiche.


The 1970’s classic from Diet For A Small Planet


Roman Rice and Beans–Peace Corps staple and still on my menu today. I’ve never used kidney beans, but have used pintos or white beans. Diet For A Small Planet


Six Layer Soybean Casserole– I always used V-8 Juice and often more spices and garlic–this is from a La Lache League cookbook, so garlic wasn’t in many recipes.

There are so many more I could share–these are just a sampling. Enjoy!



Operation Christmas Child: My First Packing Party!


I went to a marvelous party
I must say the fun was intense
We all had to do
What the people we [hoped]
Would be doing a hundred years hence

Noel Coward, I Went To A Marvelous Party

Operation Christmas Child would probably cease to exist without the generosity of churches who collect merchandise year-round, sew tote bags, pencils pouches, dresses, sanitary pads and hair bands, crochet, and knit hats or sweaters, braid jump ropes out of unwanted t-shirts, and, best of all, have special collections to help with the cost of shipping and The Greatest Journey materials. Thank you to ALL groups–not only churches, who do these things!

Last year I went with a church about two hours away to the OCC Boone, North Carolina, Processing Center. (You can read the first of those posts HERE).  This weekend I drove back up to that church to participate in their annual shoebox packing party. I was amazed! This church is fairly close to the state capital, but people are not rolling in money. Like the community I live in and the one in which my own church is located, each gift is an act of generosity and may even represent true sacrificial giving. Yet the over 500 boxes went out generously and appropriately filled. No need for filler at the processing center–if there is any the day they go through. (Read my post on FILLER here).

Here are my thoughts on why this party was so successful:



See those stacked up boxes?? Those are the empties–all lovingly wrapped by one woman. She wraps ALL the shoeboxes for the church with donated wrapping paper. A true labor of love!

The lady who oversees OCC at this church knows her stuff! She volunteers regularly at Boone and knows how to pack a GREAT shoebox.  Everything was very well organized and the space between “lines” was generous so crowding and jostling did not occur.

Clear Instructions to Volunteers


Everyone who arrived for the start (that was not a mandatory time–folks were welcome to drop in or leave early as family needs dictated which was super). Everyone was told how the process worked and those who came yearly helped newbies without needing to be told to do so which was really nice. I talked with a little boy who was packing girls boxes all day intentionally! It was that kind of a group–caring!

Every box started with NEEDS: hygiene (washcloth, soap, toothbrush) most of which appeared to be bought in bulk, so likely these were provided by the church–though some items may have also been donated. School supplies were next—a box of 24 crayons, then a neat roll of twenty or so pages of notebook paper, (there were a few notebooks presumably for older kid boxes) a huge box of sharpened pencils (again these appeared to be a bulk purchase) which were banded together 3 at a time. (You could take more). There were a few erasers, too.

Then it was on to the fun stuff–toys, stuffies and more! There were stuffed animals (aka “stuffies”) suitable for any age, big to tiny. I loved sorting thru them to find just the right one for each box. How fun to add a bright red daucshund to two girls’ boxes! Another area had coloring books and a few picture books, then a great selection of balls, cars, etc. WOW items were mostly stuffies, but also Nerf footballs, a few Barbies and some other nice toys.

Finally, there were bins of flip-flops (bought on clearance in one purchase from Walmart, plus possibly some donations). Sadly, many people were too shy to sort thru the bins under the table to find a necessary size so many boxes went without. This was too bad–the sizes were generally there, but they needed to be dug out. The few clothing items available, as well as fabric for some girls boxes and a good variety of tote bags or backpacks, were the final items to select.

Every box got a letter that included the church’s name and address. There were also forms for children to fill out to tell the recipient about themselves–these are downloadable, HERE, from Operation Christmas Child. The boxes got rubber banded and placed at the foot of one of two altars in the church for prayers the next day.

Everything went very smoothly, people chatted happily and even a new face like mine was entirely welcome! Best of all, I got to catch up with the friends’ I made on my Boone trip.

I felt they did an outstanding job–as I’m sure all churches truly do!

My Thoughts for Any New Packing Parties


1. Organize, organize, organize!!  I loved starting with the necessities!

2. Sort clothing, shoes and anything else age/size-specific and LABEL them if possible making sure the label can be seen without unfolding the item. (Due to time and money this isn’t always possible).

3. Signage. Have “TAKE ONE” or similar at each “station” so volunteers–esp those who drop in and out throughout the party, know how many. OCC has printable signs for this purpose HERE.

4. Have your youth group sort the early toy donations to weed out things with liquids (like little paint sets with liquid paint or with nail polish etc).  Also, have them weed out any obviously used toys–things must be new or be indistinguishable from new. Throw out broken or incomplete items.  The can also cut packs of stickers into twos or threes to include with school supplies.  Have them give messy-hair Barbies to someone willing to rehab and modestly clothe them in homemade or purchased outfits. Pinterst has instructions and clothing patterns. Have them sort donated boxes. A boot box is NOT a shoebox–toss those or use them as organizing tools.

5. Enlist your quilting, sewing, crocheting etc., groups  to make tote bags, pencil bags, nice, but simple girls dresses (do NOT use actual pillowcases! Some countries have said flat-out no more of these! Use nice fabric), cloth sanitary napkins and other items, crochet coverings for flip-flop straps, crochet, knit or sew little soft toys or other items. Get people involved! Crafters often love to help even if they don’t pack an actual shoebox themselves. Ask local businesses for leftover logo-ed pens, water bottles, cups, notepads, etc. (See the bottom of this post for my OCC Pinterest board with patterns).

6. Educate your church or group. Taboos mean Poo emoji, whoopie cushions and the like may be totally unwanted. Girls may not be able to wear shorts or revealing tops. Other items that may be unwanted are Barbies with no “painted on” clothing or wearing skimpy dresses.  Donate items like kleenex, wet wipes, deodorant, tampons and disposable sanitary napkins to LOCAL charities. Send cloth sanitary napkins which can be washed and reused in big girl boxes. (You can buy these on Etsy if you don’t sew). Remind everyone to remove ALL packaging. For puzzles, cut the picture off the box and put it all in a Ziplock bag. Keep only packaging necessary to explain an item or that provide storage like a crayon box. There isn’t any trash pick up in most countries the shoeboxes go to.

7. If sending clothing make sure it is an appropriate size. Few people are as large as Americans. Skip men’s sizes except Small. Just like in the USA though, girls sizes can be problematic. Don’t send thin, meant-to-be-layered t-shirts. They will be too revealing. Bras are expensive–a basic S-M-L sport or sleep bra is a huge help. Underwear is often too expensive for families in shoebox-receiving countries so be sure to send it when possible, but stick to modest girls styles with no “cute” designs or embellishments. Girls are commodities in many countries. Let’s protect them. Skip the cheap socks and send underwear. Socks are no good without shoes.


Link to pencil bag pattern

8. School supplies are crucial! Paper can be so expensive you weep paying for it. In big kid boxes try to send a composition book or spiral notebook. This may be too expensive for some groups, I know. But talk to Wal-mart when school supplies are dirt cheap in late July and August. You can get spiral notebooks for a quarter. Erasers really do matter! Some children I’ve read about have had to erase old work and re-use the paper. But at least send the pencils! Did you know some children rent pencils and others are expelled for not having one? Forget folders and glue sticks–no one needs them. But try to get pencil bags–kids don’t have safe classrooms with desks to leave supplies in. This is a great project for a sewing group. Youth group, scout troop, or other group, can make them with ziplock freezer bags and cool duct tape.  Others make them from the boxes pencils come in by covering the box with contact paper or duct tape. My Pinterest board (at the bottom) has plenty of patterns for sewing, knitting or crocheting pencil bags.

9. Water doesn’t come out of the kitchen or bathroom taps. Water bottles are a GREAT thing. Any size, any design, but those with a wider mouth are great because school supplies and other little things can go inside them to save space in the box. A cup is always nice if you can’t afford water bottles.

10. Flip flops and shoes save lives as do toothbrushes. Why? Barefeet invite parasites like we never see! And an infected tooth may not meet antibiotics so it may cause death.

12. Skip kid-made crafts unless you send a photo of the children making them. They can be misunderstood. I was horrified to see a church elsewhere send beautiful white sneakers children had “decorated” or “ruined” depending on your perspective. Shoes are treasured and cared for. Put in the picture so they understand.

12. Include a note. These are cited over and over by recipients as so meaningful. You don’t have to include your last name or address. Photos are also really enjoyed. A family photo with first names is great. Why not do a family photo fund raiser? Snap a picture, print it out on regular paper and take donations? Put the money toward bulk purchases or shipping.

13. PRAY for each recipient as you pack and then again for all the boxes. It matters.

14. Follow up. Read out and post any thank you notes or emails the church or group receives. Report to the church any places your boxes–or the boxes of individuals in the church–have gone if you use the “follow your box” labels. This helps people to feel connected to the mission. Also by tracking where your boxes go, you can be more accurate in packing. If your boxes go to Northeast Africa, you can skip mittens, hoodies and other winter clothing items that eat up box space. Have a bulletin board where you can post information from the reliable, up-to-date source about a country or two each month. Post OCC videos or other materials from that country on your church website or on the bulletin board. These really help people to understand the dire poverty of most of the recipients.

Did you go to a packing party this year? Did you do a blog post on it? I’d love to learn from what others did this year. Leave me a link in the comments.

Operation Christmas Child: What are we all doing that’s new or different in 2018?



It’s National Collection Week at last! Find a drop-off location HERE.

This year I have made some changes–first of all I packed a huge number of boxes. That required shopping year-round. I kept finding bargains that were great quality and good for kids so I kept buying. Second I did my best to educate everyone I knew who packed shoeboxes to include school supplies and other essentials and to go light on dollar store toys! These were among the lessons I wrote about last year after I spent a week volunttering at the Boone Processing Center. [You can read the first of those posts here.]

I asked my friend Susan at Girls In White Dresses what she and her daughters are doing differently with their shoeboxes. Susan has packed shoeboxes for 20 years. She started when she was a Sunday School teacher and continued with her children. Today it’s an annual tradition for her family.  Susan is changing a few things this year:


Photo: S Braun

  • Removing packaging. This saves on shipping and, most places shoeboxs go do not have trash pick up or even a trash system. Trash blows around or gets put in a hole in the ground.
  • Sending water bottles. Clean water is a necessity and keeping it clean can be rough. To make the box more fun for the child she will also be packing items inside the water bottle–a great space-saving idea.


Photos: S Braun

  • Sending more school supplies. As a former teacher, Susan knows how important these can be, but now she is going beyond a pencil or pen or two and sending a nice little cache of useful items. (Please be sure to put crayons and magic markers in a ziplock over the box just in case.) Paper is often prohibitively expensive so please send a notebook of some kind if possible. Remember, too, that in most countries children cannot leave supplies at school–often there are no desks, no locks, etc. So a pencil bag or tote bag or backpack (the ones with strings take up little room) are a great help.

What I’m doing differently for 2018 and 2019

Sadly I forgot one of my planned big changes for 2018, so, in 2019 my big kid boxes will get math sets and scientific calculators.


  • Including Flip-Flops. Having heard from several shoebox recipients (via different sources) that flip-flops are appreciated or would be appreciated just as soap and clothing are, I’ll be putting flip-flops in more boxes when I can’t find shoes at a great price. I’ve always thought they were kind of a waste as they don’t hold up that well. This year many of my boxes include brand new shoes. Shoes can be a big expense for children who manage to go beyond the free early elementary years in many countries. I was diligent in searching for bargains and had many amazing finds! Nice, brand new shoes that my own kids would even wear. In fact, my daughter “bought” one pair off me by giving me the bargain price in cash!
  • Little Touches. A friend packed her first shoeboxes this year and did them early due to a planned move. I loved how she tied the emery boards with scraps of ribbon and did other cute things like that. It took no extra time or money or space in the box, but what a nice touch for a little girl who seldom sees or receives anything special or pretty. (Pretty, scented soap is another great girl gift).
  • Notes. The children repeatedly cite these as so meaningful that I want to include them so next year I’ll be including them for the first time.
  • Complete outfits. For 2018 no box has been packed with only a t-shirt.  Think about it–if you only own one dress you must then wear the nice new t-shirt OVER the yucky old dress! Girls will mostly receive dresses, a few will receive a skirt and blouse or t-shirt and one or two have shorts or leggings and t-shirt, but always clothing meant for girls. Always modest, but not frumpy. And all boxes include at least 2 pairs of underpants. With any clothing, I always ask myself, “Would my kid wear this?”


  • Better toys. I absolutely HATED much of JUNK I saw in boxes at the processing center. Whoopee Cushions? Really? Ugh. Cheap plastic clapping hands? This year there should be a flood of tasteless poo [“chocolate ice cream”] merchandise as that fad has finally hit the clearance isles. By joining Amazon Prime I have found great bargains on real Lego sets and Playmobil sets in little carrying cases, so several children will receive those. Also, one little boy is receving a nice wooden truck carrying blocks that I found on clearance after last Christmas.

messenger bag.jpg

  • Craft Kits. Several older girl boxes have coloring crafts–a messenger bag in one, a water bottle in another and so on. In the past I have made kits for paracord projects. I bought a stash of paracord dirt cheap. I print instructions with pictures and bag it all together.
  • White Socks. I go back and forth on socks or no socks? If you don’t have shoes, what good are socks? But I see so many pictures of schools all over the globe with girls in white scoks–usually short, cuffed ones that I’ve put a pair in every girl box. Happily I found great deals on them at Wal-mart!


What are you and your family or your church doing differently with your shoeboxes this year?


Some of my 100+ shoe boxes–an intentionally large number this year. In addition there are a carton of water bottles filled with school supplies and about 20 cartons pencil packs that I packed with the Pencil Granny and Friends facebook group. These will all go to the processing center to be filler for underfilled shoeboxes.


Top 5 Wednesday: The Longest Books On My To Read List



Top 5 Wednesday is a group on Goodreads.com that posts lists on fun bookish topics each week. You may do a blog post or a vlog- (video) post. Join the group, then join the fun!


This week’s topic was really hard! Both the distruction of attention spans by social media and the cost to publishers vs ROI means so few books are over 300 pages these days! So, I had included both new titles and some that have been on my list for ages–mostly due to not being able to get them on audio thru my library system or state regional libraries. (I did not include Les Miserables because I am reading it slowly, taking my time, but it is huge.)

The New Titles



Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty 464 pages.




Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver 480 pages

I tried listening to this book, but did not like the author’s way of reading it, so I will be reading it in print instead. 480 pages.

The Lingering Titles



The Bostonians by Henry James–this version claims 480 pages.




This year is the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I (aka “The Great War”)–maybe I should get with it and read this one.  I’ve included this one since I’m doing Nonfiction November–another Goodreads.com group you can join. 544 pages make this the longest book on today’s list.

1913: In Search of the World Before the Great War by Charles Emmerson, 544 pages.




I’ve been meaning to read this since high school in the 1970s!  South Riding by Winifred Holtby, this version claims 502 pages.


Review: The Monk of Mokha by Dave Eggers


A Tiny Bit of Background

Dave Eggers captivated me with The Circle, his eery corporate management by “like” novel that resonates with me becasue of my own experience in a culture that has a similar idea-sprouting routine (happily mine is nice, not menacing). His newest book, The Monk of Mokha, is a nonfiction account of a young man, a child of immigrants, who chose success.

Choosing Success

Mokhtar Alkhanshali is a 24 year old Yemeni American, working as a doorman in San Francisco and trying to go to college, when his girl friend says “You ever looked across the street?” That simple phrase, and the iconic statute it pointed to, started a rise to riches like something from an 19th century Horatio Alger novel.




Hills Brother’s Coffee statute and logo

Maybe you’ve heard of Arabica coffee? Sounds a lot like….Arabic. Don’t worry, I didn’t catch that till I read the book, either! Apparently Hills Brothers Coffee had–they put a stereotypical old school Yemeni on their can and made him a statue at their old corporate head quarters–across from where Maktar and his girl friend were talking that fateful night.


Well, it turns out coffee originates in Yemen. The same Yemen now enduring war and famine. But, coffee farmers there didn’t really know what they were growing–at least not in terms of what well-heeled San Franciscan, and Americans in general, would pay for the world’s best cup of coffee. Happily, Mokhtar had a wild idea to make Yemeni coffee known as the world’s best. Happier still, he spoke the language fluently, had a group of fellow Yemenis and others in San Francisco and elsewhere to bankroll his dream and the tenacity to stick with it.

What impressed me was that Mokhtar  grew up in a dirt poor neighborhood full of  those entertainment places whose name brings lots of spam so I won’t say it, as well as guns, an open drug market and lots of booze. The schools were pretty bad. Yemeni immigrants took the normal new-comer jobs of janitors, cab drivers, cleaning ladies, etc.  Mokhtar could easily have resigned himself to such a life–or maybe a notch or two up the immigrant ladder. Instead of wasting time on a pro sports or celebrity dream, Mokhtar, when not out goofing around with friends, read anything he could get his hands on–even Plato’s Republic. You see, Mokhtar choose to succeed.


When he decided to go to Yemen and export coffee he did his homework with a vengeance. He sought out the best help and advisors, educated himself, took industry certification exams and more. When he landed in Yemen he was ready except for…. [No Spoilers!] But when his ship comes in….well, you’ll have to read the book to find out!

I truly hope Dave Eggers will produce a Young Person’s version of this book. Parents may not be pleased that Mokhtar put college aside to pursue his dream, but the education he gave himself, plus the industry certifications he earned, were worth as much or more, to the success of his dream. I loved this book–and I don’t even like coffee. Go figure!

The Monk of Mokha by Dave Eggers



Here is the New York Times review link.

Here is an interview from PBS’ News Hour


Review: We Fed An Island by Jose Andres


“You should never feel guilty about feeling ambitious when you are trying to help other people. If you don’t dream then reality never changes.”

The Story

After hurricane Maria leveled Puerto Rico, chef Jose Andres and others got together to feed the people of the islands while FEMA, the Red Cross and others dithered and followed standard operating procedures that left people hungry, homeless and without hope. Military MREs were given out but were barely edible.

“A plate of food is not just a few ingredients cooked and served together. It is a story of who you are, the source of your pride, the foundation of your family and community. Cooking isn’t just nourishing, it’s empowering.”

As he tells his story, Andres tells of other disasters and how groups responded to the crisis. He documents the many times that President Trump’s TWEETS were nowhere near the reality and times when the President seemingly intentionally mislead the American people on the effort in Puerto Rico. He shows how ridiculous much of the response process is, how much over-spending and under-delivering is involved and how impractical many solutions are. Then he explains how he re-wrote the rule book on feeding people after a disaster.

“The group seemed to like my energy, but that was about it….They looked at me like I was a smart ass with some crazy vision of saving the world.”


My Thoughts

Having seen the foreign aid process first hand–the graft and corruption that eats up much of it, I know he is telling the truth. Having researched charities and the amount per dollar that actually reaches the intended “target” versus what is spent on staff, offices, transportation, etc., I know he is telling the truth.  FEMA, a name now reviled after Hurricane Katrina, gets more well-deserved criticism. STOP–standarad operating procedures really can mean STOP or stopped.

Having visited Puerto Rico, worked with educators and educational administrators there back in the early 90s, and having an uncle with a home on Vieques, I know everything he said about the kindness and generostiy of the Puerto Rican people is true. The communities pulling together is exactly what happens there.

Sadly, the legislative history of Puerto Rico’s relationship with the United States (Puerto Ricans ARE U.S. Citizens) was very dull even to me, a former law librarian who enjoys researching things like that.

As a librarian and historian, I loved seeing how social media is capturing history in the making. Andres made excellent use of it in documenting the story.

Some Things I Learned

I did not expect to hear the Southern Baptist Convention praised in this book! I had no idea that they provide fully staffed mobile kitchens to help in Red Cross disaster relief efforts. That was fascinating.

I may have misunderstood–I was, after all, listening while driving on my daily commute, but I did not know that the Red Cross spends only what is donated for that cause–not it’s millions in general. That shocked me. I know they are ridiculously wealthy, have horrendously high overhead, but I had thought they used the money on hand for each disaster. I knew they were a virtual government agency, but I really didn’t know the full extent of that. I had long ago stopped donating to them, but this reinforces my decision.


Why or why didn’t he include recipes!


Jose? Please find a different word for focus. I loved your accent but I heard a very different word in your accent! (laughing)


Six Degrees of Separation: Vanity Fair

This month’s Six Degrees starting book is Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackery. I first read “selected excerpts” from it in an anthology in my high school British Literature class. I finally read the book in its entirety in the Peace Corps in 1990 and loved it. All of my books today center on women with messy lives like Becky Sharpe


Anna Karenina is another amazing woman with a messy life! After Gone With the Wind, it is also my “next favorite” big novel.


The original brought to mind this marvelous modern retelling: What Happened to Anna K–the messy life of a rich younger wife of an older man.


How much messier can a life get? How about a husband and lovers in two different centuries? I haven’t read the others–too much icky sex for me, but you have to give it to Clare–that’s one heck of a messy life! Outlander.


Princess Margaret may have been royal, but she had a true mess of a life at times!99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret.


Sweet, smiling Ma on tv’s Little House on the Prairie made 70’s mothers cringe at their own sharp tongues and short tempers! But maybe Ma was only “keeping sweet??” Ma had a pretty messy life with that rascal Charles Ingalls. Caroline: Little House Revisited.


First Ladies have to be pictuer perfect even when their lives are messy. Lady Reporters must be on top of their game even when their lives are messy. When the two women get close the facade of their lives could not crack no matter the hurrican level mess of their lives.  Loving Eleanor.

Do you like compiling lists like this? Why not join in the next month when the starting book with be Dickens’ Christmas Carol? You can read more about Six Degrees of Separation here. Thanks to Books Are My Favorite and Best for hosting this fun monthly event.

Nonfiction November: My favorite nonfiction so far for 2018


Until I returned to writing about 8 years ago, I read almost exclusively nonfiction. For the last 10 years, though, I have had almost two and a  half hours of commuting time to deal with. It became unrealistic to just listen to nonfiction so that also contributed to the switch. This month I’ll be intentionally listening to or reading more nonfiction. To help with my decision, I joined the Goodreads.com group Nonfiction November which asks members to read 4 or more nonfiction books in the month. To kick off the month, here are my favorite nonfiction reads, so far, in 2018. To date, I’ve read 10 nonfiction books–including one I loved, but still, need to review. I’m not including it in the list for this reason.

An American Princess: The Many Lives of Allene Tew

by Annejet van der Zijl


Thanks no doubt to Meghan Markle, this has been one of the most popular posts on my blog this year! Even though it is about an obscure one-time wife of a minor European Royal and not about Prince Harry’s actress bride. It’s an interesting biography all the same. Here is the link to my review.

How To Get Dressesd and  The Accessory Handbook

by Alison Freer

These little books are FABULOUS! Their value far outstrips their size. Leave it to a savvy and talented Hollywood costumer to help women look good! Here are the links to my reviews:  How to Get Dressed and The Accessories Handbook.

Kick: The True Story of JFK’s Sister and the Heir to Chatsworth

by Paula Byrne


The Kennedy Curse claimed Joe Jr.,  Rosemary (though she did not die), Kick, Jack and Bobby–and nearly claimed Teddy. Kick is the sister who was presented at Court to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the current Queen’s parents) and shocked her parents and the British Aristocracy by being the very Catholic bride of the extremely Protestant Marquess of Hartington. She was also the sister seen as a near “twin” to JFK. Here is the link to my review.

Do you read nonfiction? Are you participating in Nonfiction November–even informally? Leave me a comment.

Top 5 Wednesday: Characters You’d Cosplay or wear as a Halloween Costume


Since I’m short and round and over 50 that leaves me with the Golden Girls as my most likely cosplay folks! Never mind, we can all dream, right?


#1 Literary Cosplay: Carol Burnett’s Scarlett O’Hara


One of the funniest takes on literature ever done! In the book, of course, the dress is made out of the drapes the Yankees somehow forgot to steal. In the sketch, Scarlett wears the drapes, rod and all, to comic effect!


# 3 Royal Cosplay


Well, ok, I couldn’t resist–that’s Carol Burnett again, famously playing Queen Elizabeth with the ridiculous hat and voice back in the 1970’s.


Both Carol and the real Queen Elizabeth have aged since then! But give me a coat dress, a hat, a white hairdoo and a good brooch and I’d be the queen!


Camilla–well, Tracey Ullman’s Camilla! For years on my old blog and for a while here on this blog, I wrote a spoof diary of ‘Milla. You can read those here. I was pleased the Tracey saw her the same way I do.


#4 Political Cosplay


I used to have the Hilary pantsuits and we have the same body-type though she manages her weight very well by comparison with me. Same lank, do-nothing hair too. Tracey Ullman also does a greet Angela Merkle. I can pull her off too–same dumpy body and short hair.


You can participate in Top 5 Wednesday by joining the group on Goodreads.com and then doing a video or blog post. It’s fun!

Top Ten Tuesday: Halloween or Creepie Freebie


Top Ten Tuesday is hosted each week by That Artsy Reader Girl. Here are the rules. Won’t you join in?


Halloween, aside from chocolate, is not my thing. Meh. I’m a Halloween Scrooge! It’s simple–I don’t like being afraid, frightened or scared. That’s that. I’m not wild about the dark, either. I do love black cats though and have one. Since this is a freebie, I’m taking it in various directions this week.

Favorite Creepy TV Show or Movie


I love the original cartoons from the New Yorker, the old black and white tv show, the cartoon version of the show and the movies and I can still sing the theme song. I love the Addams!

A Movie Scene That Nearly Makes Me Love Halloween


Halloween Fest from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Weirdest Halloween Scene in a Movie: Meet Me In St. Louis


Weirdest thing ever in a musical. I didn’t like Tootie anyway, but still, this was really “off.”

Favorite Non-choclate Halloween Treat: Great Pumpkin Cookies


I like them best “iced” with peanut butter. Yes, peanut butter! Try it! I made them for a guy in college and his fellow grad students in the journalism department loved them! Here’s the recipe link.

Here’s a Previous Version of this posts with more favorites:


Like any 60’s kid, I liked trick-or-treating. Chocolate. It was all about the chocolate! This week the Top Ten Tuesday selected a “Halloween related freebie: ten scary books, favorite horror novels, non-scary books to get you in the Halloween/fall mood, bookish Halloween costumes, scariest covers), scary books on my TBR, etc” for this week’s topic.

1. Favorite Halloween Decoration


This is our old haunted house! It has well-loved, hard-played-with soft Frankenstein, Dracula, Mummy, Black Car, Goblin, a witch, a huge spider and a bat! Both the green goblin and the mummy have done time as cat hunting trophies and have the teeth marks still to prove it. I think this came from Chinaberry in 2003. The nice thing–beyond the hours of happy play my kids enjoyed with it–is that all the inhabitants of the house are stored in the house. Very nice feature. I’m keeping it for my future grandchildren.

2. Favorite Halloween TV Show–as if there’s really more than this one!


I am a charter-member of the generation this, and the Charlie Brown Christmas, were created to entertain. Happily we have this on DVD, so though my children are adults I can still enjoy it once a year. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

3. Favorite Halloween Story


Legendary Hoosier Poet (I spent most of my life in Indiana) James Whitcomb Riley, wrote the poem Little Orphant [spelling is Riley’s] Annie. While today it does suffer from old age in some regrettably un-politically correct ways, I still treasure the memory of it being read at school nearly every Halloween season. That was back when you could be a witch or a mummy for Halloween and no on cared. Yes, that long ago. Here’s a link to the real poem and here’s a link to a friend of mine who portrays James Whitcomb Riley.

4. Favorite Halloween Candy


5. Least Favorite Halloween Candy


Yep, the dreaded Dollar Store Peanut Butter in Waxed Paper “Candy.” Here’s a funny blog post, Still the Worst Halloween Candy Ever by the Rambling Reverend. I’ve NEVER, ever–not as a kid, not as a parent, not as a Trunk or Treat Candy Giver have I ever seen a kid make any but the “Oh, gross…” face on getting these. I’m pretty sure Starving Children in Where-Ever would make that gross face even. Maybe it’s the after taste of the waxed paper. Or maybe its that they were manufactered in 1957 in such quantities that they’ve never had to rev up the ole’ p.b. extruder and make more–that aging in a warehouse flavor, perhaps? Yuck. Just yuck. I love REAL peanut butter. But this stuff? Use if for potholes in the street.

6. My Favorite Childhood Memory of Halloween # 1



Since I’m a 60s kid, photos are pretty rare. Most likely anyone in your family who was alive then still have a basket like my Mom’s, stashed in the back of a closet, of film to be developed when the budget allows. Yeah. Those would be MY childhood. So, no picture. But it was a simpler time. You bought a mask and that was about it. Then around 2 or 3rd grade people began going “overboard” and buying those tacky one piece costumes with a mask. My favorite wasn’t the darling kitty costume my Mom made me (though as an adult I love it) but the time I got to wear my big brother’s outgrown red blazer and be a “Buckingham Palace Guard.” No Disney princess crap back then. We saw a Disney movie ONCE per movie in those days. But, at least I didn’t have to go as a witch, bride or old lady like the other girls.

7. My Favorite Childhood Memory of Halloween #2


My parents made popcorn balls for us. They gave out candy, of course, but we got to have homemade popcorn balls too. Usually we had chili for dinner. I never did like other people’s popcorn balls–I think simply because like the dressing (aka “stuffing”) at Thanksgiving, the popcorn balls were something my Dad helped make. That made them special. He was a typical 60s Dad who played catch with a football or baseball and watched tv with us. He didn’t cook! Here’s a recipe if you want to try some.

8. Spookiest Music

Night On Bald Mountain–it was still spooky when my high school band played it in the 1970s!

9. Favorite Spooky Book


Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Possibly the only spooky book I’ve ever finished.

10. Spookiest Place I’ve Ever Visited


In the early ’90s co-workers and I visited Edgar Allan Poe’s grave late at night. At that time, the neighborhood was, shall we say “none too savory” so there was that type scary added, too. Happily nothing “untoward” happened. A co-worker rattled off much of the raven and we went back to the hotel. No photo of my own, because it was the early 90s. Point and shoot 35 mm’s were very hot, but no one had one with them on the trip. I don’t think disposables were a thing yet, either.

Bonus–Favorite Black Cat:


My writing buddy–Candy. And before you think I made that up for this post (I didn’t–I tell the truth here!), her name is “Candy Cane” and yes, she was named by a child! She prefers just plain “Candy.” And, she and her kitty housemates get tuna for trick-or-treat.


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