Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Last BookLook - Springville paper closed down

Not sure what will happen to BookLook now. I will be having a meeting in the next week or so with Provo Daily Herald who owned and closed The Springville Herald. Hopefully I will be able to continue writing. Here is the last review printed in the column. No one knew about the closing or we would have all done something spectacular instead of a routine article.

BookLook January 27, 2011
Debbie Balzotti

“Queen of the Night”
It’s the dead of winter. The weatherman gleefully announces that we haven’t seen temperatures above freezing for weeks. Inversions are blown out of our mountain valley by snow storms depositing several inches of heavy wet stuff which turns to ice and stays plastered to sidewalks and roads. It’s time to head to St. George with a good book in the CD player and the promise of warmth and sunshine just four hours south!

J.A. Jance, an award winning mystery writer, wrote “Queen of the Night” in 2010 and dedicated it to the late Tony Hillerman. Like Hillerman, Jance brings many tribal legends and contemporary Native American practices into her story about the Cereus desert flower known as Queen of the Night. The fragrant white flower only blooms one night each spring but this year it is also a night of murder on the Tohono O’odham reservation in Arizona.

Retired sheriff Brandon Walker is again solving murders past and present. He is asked to follow-up on a 50 year-old cold case where a witness is ready to talk. He is also involved with the four brutal murders recently committed just outside of Tucson. His wife Diana and adopted Native American daughter Lani soon become involved in the cases.

One small part of the book involved the token Mormon character. Mormon is often used as a handy adjective to describe an extremely religious person with impossibly high standards of behavior – like using crazy or freakish. Why can’t she be a Methodist or a Presbyterian? Wouldn’t those good parents of teenage daughters get upset when they found out the girls were drinking and breaking the law in 1959? Well at least she wasn’t portrayed as another polygamist wife so I guess I should just get over it.

The rough gravelly voice of the narrator Greg Itzin helps the reader keep the large cast of characters straight as he pitches his voice high and low and slightly accented when needed. No easy task in a J.A. Jance novel filled with dozens of main characters. Hiking in the desert country around St. George is the perfect way to really get into the setting of the concluding chapters. And who knows? I might meet one of those other Mormons on the trail; you know the polygamist kind, not the freakish kind.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Happy Birthday Grandma Ava is 92

Grandma Ava with son Mark and daughter Lori. Donna and Mike were able to join in the singing of Happy Birthday by speaker phone. Ava enjoyed her party very much and although she wasn't smiling in her pictures she had lots of smiles for everyone.

Ava and Grandson Chris and his son Finn who will be 1 year old next week. They are 91 years apart in age.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Our Family Picture at Christmas

We took a family picture at Christmas this year since it was the first time to get everyone together for a couple of years. With Sean and Alyssa here after 2 Christmas's gone and Jon and Mariel back for the holiday from Iowa, we thought we'd better take a family picture. Our general "rule" has been every time we add a baby we need to take a new family picture and we added 2 this year - Finn and Nico!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

"Saving CeeCee Honeycutt" BookLook Jan. 20

“Saving CeeCee Honeycutt”
“Saving CeeCee Honeycutt” by Beth Hoffman is a novel about southern women in the 1960’s. It’s filled with lots of nuts and as syrupy as a slice of pecan pie. These characters are “Steel Magnolias” without the hair salon. They range from sweetly eccentric to full-fledged crazy and we love reading about their absurd behavior and uppity ways.

CeeCee is short for Cecelia Rose. CeeCee is the twelve-year-old daughter of Camille Sugarbaker Honeycutt, formerly and forever Miss Vidalia Onion Queen 1951. Camille was swept off her satin pump clad feet by a northerner (damn Yankee) and is now living in utter misery in Ohio. Momma Camille slips steadily, or rather unsteadily, into complete insanity as her husband spends more and more time on the road working as a salesman. Little CeeCee is left to care for her delusional mother with no support except a kind elderly neighbor lady.

After the untimely death of her mother who was run over by the ice-cream truck as she crossed the road dressed in one of her Goodwill gowns with matching heals and tiara, CeeCee is rescued by her mother’s elderly Aunt Tootie. Just picture little Cinderella driving off with her kindly fairy god-mother in a big Buick convertible headed for a happy ending in a southern mansion in Savannah Georgia.

Of course Aunt Tootie wasn’t christened Tootie, she was named Talullah. I love the names and nicknames of these southern women. When pronounced with a soft drawl and accented with an eyelash flutter they are pure poetry.

My own grandmother, Lucy Trotter Brigeforth Allen was nicknamed Aunt Tot. This odd moniker used a version of her middle name and carried the expectation that at age 37 this unmarried nurse would be the old maid of the family – everybody’s Aunt. Boy did she fool them! Picture the Southern Belle driving off into the sunset with her dashing Mr. Allen headed for a happy ending in a…farmhouse growing tobacco ever after.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Few of Our Pet Deer

This little group of deer is standing just outside the back door. When I slowly opened the door to take the picture I did get a few heads to turn but basically they are so used to us that unless we startle them they like to nibble our bushes and use our backyard for napping.

Goose is not a very good guard dog. She was visiting when the herd of deer was in our backyard mere feet away and instead of barking she just stood and watched out the door.

Friday, January 7, 2011

What happens at grandma's stays at grandma's

Read the shirt. Nico is enjoying cheerios and helping in the kitchen by throwing the dish towel on the floor.

Dawson and Haydon posed for my newspaper article on cookie decorating with grandma. This picture proves the cookies didn't come out of my oven - thank you Allen's bakery!

Gabe and Jonathan rode horses on a beautiful December day. (Gabe had help from Aunt Marie's mom.)

Monday, January 3, 2011

"Food Porn Daily" - really that's the title!

“Food Porn Daily”
If ever you should judge a book by a cover it’s “Food Porn Daily”. The cookbook by Amanda Simpson is amazing so don’t let the title scare you off. Or maybe you have an epicurean sense of humor and have visited their website also titled FoodPornDaily with .com added. The popular website features only mouthwatering pictures without any recipes so the new cookbook to go with the photos is brilliant.

The website has the motto “Click, Drool, Repeat.” For the cookbook the motto needs to be changed to “Flip, Drool, Repeat.” I agree it would be even better to add the words cook and eat to the list of activities for the motto. Every page has a very close up picture which entices the most reluctant chef to rush off to the grocery store with a list of ingredients while focusing on that picture of a perfect dish in their head.

In the introduction Simpson offers helpful tips on seasoning, preheating, frying and measuring flour. She also states, “Recipes are simply guidelines. In my opinion, there is no definitive right or wrong way to create a dish so long as the outcome is a tasty, satisfying experience.” The recipes do allow for adaptation but I would worry about that perfect picture from the book not appearing in living color on my plate if I make any changes.

What’s to recommend about this cookbook? The pictures of course and recipes ranging from grilled hot dogs to oysters on the half shell. I also like the creative chapter divisions by season. It implies a mood for food which I subscribe to wholeheartedly. Hot, thick soups like Loaded Potato Soup with bacon, cheddar, sour cream and chives are perfect for winter and Stuffed Heirloom Tomatoes can be made from our own garden-ripe fruit at the end of the summer.

I enjoy reading cookbooks while sitting in the kitchen with a cup of cocoa. I enjoy making new dishes from cookbooks. I also enjoy eating delicious food – especially cooked by other people. My new “Food Porn Daily” cookbook was created in response to salivating viewer requests on their website. I am hoping the next product to be generated by these food-lovin’ folks will be a restaurant menu. Then I can have my cake picture and eat it too.