Friday, November 28, 2008


I love Thanksgiving leftovers. Since we haven't traveled to see family the past three years, I only make one vegetable side dish for us and then focus my energies on the turkey, cornbread dressing, and cranberry sauce. It takes a while for me to tire of that winning trio. However, we always have lots of turkey, and I chop up the extra portion, freeze it, and then chuck it in soup for months afterward. The frozen meat hits the hot broth, and our kitchen is filled with the lip-smackin' aroma of Thanksgiving all over again. Below is my recommendation for what to make with your leftover turkey this year; just substitute turkey for the chicken.

Chicken, Mushroom, & Wild Rice Stew

¼ c butter

2 T olive oil

2 c chopped onion

1 c chopped celery

1 T minced garlic

2 (8 oz) containers sliced baby portabellas

6 T flour

2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp salt

1 ½ tsp pepper

2 qts chicken broth

4 c chopped cooked chicken

3 c cooked wild rice

1 c half and half

1 tsp dry thyme

2 T dry sherry

Heat butter and olive oil over medium heat. Saute onion and celery 5 minutes. Add garlic for 2 minutes. Add mushrooms for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add flour, garlic powder, salt, and pepper; cook 2 minutes stirring constantly. Add broth, stirring until smooth. Bring to simmer; add chicken and rice and cook 20 minutes. Add cream and thyme; simmer 5 minutes. Stir in sherry.

Yield: 3 quarts

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Too Many Secrets

As a fan of The Thirteenth Tale, I couldn't help noticing the author often mentioned Wilkie Collins's novel The Woman in White, comparing it to the deliciously Gothic classic Jane Eyre. There are some similarities, but what I found most impressive was Collins's use of so many contemporary writing trends. Collins was a contemporary of Dickens and Bronte, yet her novel feels far more modern. The polite British society of the 1850s is quite recognizable, but at times the book feels more like a modern crime investigation. It's written from multiple perspectives, and each character's narration is noticably and amusingly biased.

I can hardly summarize the plot without giving away too much, and that would be tragic, as the most enjoyable feature of the book is the string of secrets revealed about so many of the characters. I expected a few of them, but each secret led to an even juicier one as the plot thickened enticingly.

I'm surprised I haven't had the book recommended to me before, and Jackamo and I were just wondering today why it's never read in schools. It's so much more entertaining than Dickens! Why must we be forced to trudge through Great Expectations (twice in my case) when we could instead be gobbling up The Woman in White? (Ditto when it comes to reading MacBeth instead of Shakespeare's comedies.) Alas, our educational institutions too often stamp out the fun of reading.

[Bonus points to the commenter who can identify the 1990s film from which I stole my post title.]

Friday, November 14, 2008

Disappointing Sequel

I just finished Cybele's Secret by Juliet Marillier, a kind-of sequel to Wildwood Dancing. Whereas I quite enjoyed Wildwood with its creative take on two classic fairy tales and exciting conclusion, I think Cybele is slow, random, and disjointed. It is a character and fantasy plot device potpourri--not in a good way--and I found the romantic scenes cringeworthy. One of the concepts of the book that is especially pointless and irritating is protagonist Paula's confidence that the magical denizens of The Other Kingdom are setting all the characters on a quest "for the greater good" and "to learn a lesson." Somehow it was easier to overlook this tiresome message in Wildwood. Cybele was diverting enough to complete, and that's about all I have to say about it.

Worrisome Day

Although it's more personal than what I usually post on my blog, I just thought I'd mention three concerns specific to this day:

1. My mom is having her first chemotherapy treatment today.

2. Jackamo's son is having hernia surgery today.

3. I woke up to the news this morning that Westmont College (where Ickie and I worked for two years) and much of Montecito, California, is burning. The college occupants were sheltered in the gym and no one is reported hurt, but I'm sure many of our friends have lost their homes. It just gives me a sick feeling to look at the photos of the fire.

Also, Ickie will be traveling to Denmark next week, and while it's probably the safest country on the planet, it's still worrisome to be apart. Also, I'm consumed with envy (very bad). So if you're not inclined toward prayer, I would consider it a kindness if you were to start on our behalf.

Here are a few photos of Westmont and Montecito pre-fire (click for enlargements):