Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Book Review

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See.

Walking through the library some many, many weeks ago, I noticed a display of books. Each book was propped on a stand with a card sticking out of the top. I had to investigate.

Each card sticking out of each displayed book was a recommendation from a specific librarian.

This was a display full of recommended books. Favorites.

That sounds like a good place to get ideas for what to read next. Except that I almost never need more ideas. I usually have too many books to read. I usually have to take books back before I find the time to read them.

This time was no different. Except that I picked up this book. Even when I had more than enough to read already. Even though I didn't know when I would get to it.

But it looked exotic sitting on that recommendation table at the library.

I had to get it. And I didn't regret it.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Monday, December 30, 2013

Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker

Book Review

Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini.

This was an easy book to pick up. I was browsing the large print aisle at the library.

Yes, I do this. No, I'm not a senior citizen. Yet. No, I don't have particularly bad eyesight. Yet. No, I don't need reading glasses. Yet.

I browse the large print aisle because I like large print for reading on my treadmill. I can read normal-sized print when I walk on the treadmill, but not so well when I jog. Too much bouncing to follow a line of print comfortably. This is where large print really comes in handy.
Yeah, yeah, I've tried audio books when on the treadmill, but I can only tolerate staring at a blank wall for so long. Even while listening. I need something for my eyes. 

Large print does the trick. And the librarians stopped smirking at me in the large print aisle years ago, once they learned how many books I read and how many miles I cover in a year. And all this is recreational. None of it counts as part of my full-time job. The walking/jogging or the reading.

Oh, speaking of reading...

Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles

Book Review

Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles by Ron Currie, Jr.

I don't exactly remember how I ended up with this book.

I must have been in the library. I ended up with a library copy of the book.

I must have been standing in front of the New Releases shelf. I ended up with a copy labeled, "NEW".

But now, months (?) later, I can't remember.

Sometimes, I browse through a recent copy of Bookmarks magazine while at the library. Ah, at the library, check.

Sometimes, while browsing Bookmarks, I read snippets of reviews that point me to books to read. Maybe this was it. Check?

Sometimes, I browse the library website, looking at new releases.

Maybe it was just different enough that I had to try it out.

I just can't remember how I ended up with this book.

I haven't been paying very much attention to these things lately. Other matters have been pressing on my mind. For months now.

Now, it is time to get busy reviewing this book. It's never too late for that.

Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles

Monday, November 11, 2013

Eating Gluten-Free at Macky's Bayside Bar & Grill

Beach Towns

It seems that beach towns are pretty much the same everywhere. Traffic. People. Not enough parking.

Bumper to bumper traffic. Mobs of people. Not enough parking where you need it.

Is this a universal truth? Does it have to be a universal truth?

Could we get this un-universal-truthed? Please?

If we could, there would be benefits for us all. Because we all end up at the beach. Sooner or later. We do.

All that traffic proves it.

It's no different in Ocean City, MD. No, not Joisey. Maryland. On the peninsula. And they have beaches.

Beach. Shore. La playa. Whatever you call it. Everyone goes there. Eventually.

And eventually, all those people want to eat.

And us gluten-free want to eat too. Really, we do.

No funnel cakes. No deep-fried Oreos. No churros. No corn dogs. No soft pretzels.

Not for us. None of those things for us gluten-free eaters.

We need real food. Real, gluten-free food.

Luckily, we found a nice place that has a gluten-free menu and a kid's menu.

Macky's Bayside Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Macky's Bayside Bar & Grill

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Glutino Gluten Free Bagel Chips - Parmesan and Garlic

Bagel Chips for Everyone

I have had to learn to look past pretzels and pita chips and bagel chips.

These all have been pushed in recent years as a healthy alternative to potato chips, presumably.

I look past all of them. I can't eat any of them. Not usually. Not the usual varieties.

And despite the intended health benefits of *not* eating potato chips, I can, in fact, usually eat baked potato chips. If I find some available. Any potato chips fried in shared vats of oil are still off limits for me. Of course, I never really know which potato chips come from shared vats of oil. I never know what else was fried in that same oil. Cross-contamination is a very real threat to me.

But back to pretzels and pita and bagels.

I can have these if they are gluten-free.

So, when I find gluten-free bagel chips, I want to try them. I don't find them very often. I don't get to try them very often.

This was one of those rare times that I got to try some gluten-free bagel chips.

Glutino Gluten Free Bagel Chips - Parmesan & Garlic

Sunday, October 27, 2013

New Earth

Book Review

New Earth by Ben Bova.

I used to read science fiction quite often. And I liked it.

And during that time, I found my all around, favorite author, Lois McMaster Bujold. She was writing science fiction.

And before I knew it, I had read everything she had written to date. Then, I had to look for other authors.

But after reading her, I couldn't find any science fiction that I liked as much. Not as much as Bujold.

Not Asimov. Not Clarke. Not Brin. Not Herbert. Not Heinlein. Not Le Guin. Not Card. Not Bradbury. Not Robinson. Not McCaffrey.

And so I had to start reading other things. Other authors. Other genres.

It has been a long time since I have read much scifi. But I recently saw this book on the shelf of new releases.

And then I realized that I had never read any Bova. Well, it was time to fix that.

New Earth

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Eating Gluten-Free at Cafe Poca Cosa

Mexican, but From Mexico

Not so recently while traveling, I ended up in Tucson, Arizona. By design.

The first dinner there, we had Mexican food.

When asked what kind of food we would like for dinner the second night, my response was "Mexican."

"Even though you just had some last night?"

Sure, why not.

"What better place is there to get Mexican food? I didn't come all this way looking for Italian. Or Indian. Or Greek. Besides, we might as well get it while we can, since it doesn't get any better anywhere else."

That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but it's not far off. And certainly the quantity of viable Mexican cuisine options drops like a rock outside of the southwest. Not many are viable, out east. Not many.

So, we were off for more Mexican fare. And I wasn't the least bit sorry.

Café Poca Cosa on Urbanspoon

Cafe Poca Cosa

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Betty Crocker Gluten Free Brownie Mix

Brownies for Picnics

It was time for our neighborhood picnic again. We just had to decide what dessert we were going to bring.

Trifle. We were all wanting trifle. Really, really wanting a trifle. We had been thinking and planning and expecting a trifle.

Expecting trifle for weeks.

But this month has been so busy for all of us that there just wasn't enough time to make a trifle. Not squeezed between everything else.

Something had to give. It was down to the wire, the last moment for a definitive decision. Sorry, trifle, but you... are out.

No one was thrilled. The faces were long and the room sagged. I couldn't take it. So I promised that we would make a trifle sometime, soonish, after the craziness has settled down a bit. Of course, I don't really know when that will be.

Yikes. Maybe for a family birthday? Maybe after the holidays?

In any case, we still needed something home-baked for our neighborhood picnic.

I wouldn't be caught dead bringing something from the store to our neighborhood picnic. I wouldn't be caught dead bringing something glutenated to our neighborhood picnic. No way. Not me.

I am now expected to bring something gluten-free. Or rather, my neighbors look forward to me bringing something gluten-free. That's it. Look forward to it.

As they should. There are more than a handful of gluten-free folks in the neighborhood. I couldn't possibly let them down. To the cupboard, I went.

Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Brownie Mix

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Last Runaway

Book Review

The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier.

This is a new book by an author I have enjoyed reading.

I've read several of her books, the most recent being Remarkable Creatures in 2010.

Chevalier is a master at writing historical fiction.

Most of her books are based loosely on an actual historical event or person or creation.

Girl with the Pearl Earring paints a fictional narrative around a most famous painting and painter.  Remarkable Creatures is based on obscure, but historical figures.  Burning Bright depicts friendships with a historical painter-poet.

Historical fiction with what Ms. Chevalier does well.

It was easy to pick up this book and expect an enjoying read.

I was not disappointed.

The Last Runaway

Monday, September 23, 2013

Eating Gluten-Free at P.F. Chang's

Chinese Restaurants

When dining out, I really prefer the unique, mom-and-pop ethnic family restaurants. But since having to be gluten-free, the options for me at these small, homegrown restaurants can often be extremely limited or non-existent. (One fantastic exception to this is Chef Chu's!)

Being gluten-free has given me a new appreciation for large, corporate, chain restaurants. Not love, mind you.  Just appreciation. These chain restaurants have been very responsive in addressing the current trend of offering gluten-free selections.

(Note: I really hope this is not just a trend with the restaurants. I have no expectation, or hope, that I will be lucky enough to ever eat gluten again without getting sick. That is not a trend. That is a lifestyle. I sincerely hope restaurants are making permanent additions with their gluten-free menus.)

Chain or not, if I can be assured that a restaurant will make my meal safe for me, I am much more relaxed and comfortable. I like relaxed and comfortable.

And chains have the advantage of being recognizable and predictable when traveling to unfamiliar cities.

Predictable is a wonderful thing when you need to be gluten-free.

Now, in addition to predictable and gluten-free, let's add something. Add delicious! Now we are getting somewhere. 

P. F. Chang's even has even one more feature to add.
P.F. Chang's China Bistro on Urbanspoon

P. F. Chang's 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Bakery On Main Gluten-Free Granola - Nutty Cranberry Maple

Granola or Cereal?

I recently visited my parents. They have always been extremely accommodating with my gluten-free needs. But they are a granola-loving household.

Canister on the counter, always at hand, ready to fuel that granola love at any time of day.

And normal granola is almost never gluten-free.

I wasn't about to be tempted to eat their granola, but I was bound to find it difficult if I didn't have something safe for a snack!

So, shortly after arriving, on my first trip to the store, I figured I had better pick up something gluten-free to snack on while visiting them.

It is hard enough to not eat things I know will make me sick, but it is far worse to have nothing similar that is safe!

I was pleased to find Bakery on Main products in their local store. I have heard about them and seen advertisements for their products, but I have never encountered any in my own local stores.

Time to find out about their gluten-free granola. Just what I needed to distract me from that canister on the counter.

Bakery on Main Gluten Free Granola - Nutty Cranberry Maple

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Book Review

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming. 

I think everyone has heard of this. I do not think everyone knows who wrote this.

I think most people don't even know there is a book with this title. I think most people only know about the movie by the same name.

Well, I didn't read the book because of the fame of the movie. But that movie certainly does register a neuron or two.

I read this book because of the author.

Do you know this author?

I'm willing to bet a root beer that you don't. But I'll also guess that you know or have heard of almost all of the movies that have been made from his other books.

Movies like Casino Royale,  or Live and Let Die, or Moonraker. Have you got it yet? How about Diamonds are Forever? Or From Russia with Love?

Surely you've got it by now. You don't need the whole list.

Ian Fleming created the famous Bond. James Bond. 007.

Never heard of Fleming, eh? Yet you know Bond?

Well, I've read all fifteen of Fleming's James Bond stories. Read them. All of them. Have you read any of them?

Probably not.

You know why I think you haven't read them? Because you can't find these books in libraries or book stores any more. I know. I tried.

I had to resort to finding them on ebay. That's right. I had to buy the books on ebay in order to actually read them. Which I did, a number of years ago.

And then a couple of years after that, I loaned several of these Fleming/Bond books to a friend. And she read them.

And she just returned them to me a couple of weeks ago. And with them, she gave me a new book. She gave me the unauthorized, not-quite-sequel to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Unofficial and non-sequel because Fleming is dead. But this not-quite-sequel will have to be for another blog post, another time.

This not-quite-sequel reminded me that there was still one of Fleming's books I had not read. Time to take care of that.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Monday, September 9, 2013

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

Run Forrest, Run!

Remember? Forrest Gump. The movie.

Haven't seen it? Guess what? You have homework. Go. Go do your homework. Then come back here.

This is a restaurant wholly centered on Forrest Gump, the movie. Slogans, trivia, merchandise, you name it.

It used to be Joe's Crabshack. That's what we were expecting to find. That's what we were looking for.

Instead, we got Gump. Bubba Gump.

Every which way, Gump.

And really, it wasn't bad. Not bad at all. And even somewhat entertaining.

But most of all, I found gluten-free Bubba Gump food!

Bubba Gump's Shrimp Company on Urbanspoon

Bubba Gump Shrimp Company

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Back to Nature Gluten-Free White Cheddar Crackers

Flavored-salt Crackers

I used to love crackers. Especially flavored crackers.

The ones with flavored salt covering them so heavily that they were furry.

Flavored salt. Not just plain salt. Cheese flavored salt. Bar-b-que flavored salt. Ranch flavored salt. Any kind of flavored salt.

And because I loved that flavored salt so much, I used to lick my salted-furry crackers clean.

Licked all that flavored salt off. Then I was just stuck with the plain cracker underneath.

Wow. My tastes have changed.

I don't crave crackers the way I used to and I don't crave the flavored salt the way I used to.

But sometimes, even when you need to be gluten-free, a flavored-salt cracker is nice. These fit the bill nicely.

Back to Nature White Cheddar Gluten-Free Rice Thin Crackers

Saturday, August 31, 2013

One Glorious Ambition

Book Review

One Glorious Ambition by Jane Kirkpatrick. 

I stumbled upon this quite by accident. Or chance.  Or happenstance. 

But I picked it up. And I sat down with it in the library. And I started to read while I waited for my other family members to be ready to leave. 

And before any of my family members showed up to announce their readiness to leave, I was already starting chapter three. 

I think I have found a new criteria for whether a book goes home with me from the library.  If I am still reading twenty pages in, then there's a pretty good chance I'll keep reading. 

No guarantees, but a good chance. 

This book passed that first test. 

One Glorious Ambition

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Eating Gluten-Free at Legal Sea Foods

Lunner or Linner?

It was rather late for lunch and still too early for dinner on our recent day of playing hooky.

Not quite lunch, not yet dinner. Lunner? Linner?

In any case, we were in the midst of some serious hooky. All four of us. Two kids. Two adults. Lots of hooky players.

Remember hooky? Ditch whatever it is you are supposed to be doing and go do something fun instead?

You used to have to be sneaky. Not tell anyone. No announcing it beforehand. Don't tell anyone afterwards.


Well, I guess hooky is still supposed to be sneaky and secret. Even now. Even today.

It is just a lot harder now to not post a picture of your whereabouts on Facebook. No secrets with fb. And once fb knows, everybody knows.

So much for sneaky. Or secret.

Well, it should be no secret that Legal Seafood in Washington, DC is a fantastic place to eat gluten-free! And it is conveniently located amongst several museums and Chinatown. What could be better?

Ah! The food!
Legal Sea Foods - Washington, DC - 7th Street on Urbanspoon

Legal Sea Foods 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Sonoma Gluten Free Wheat Free Wraps versus Rudi's Gluten-Free Plain Tortillas

Head-to-Head Wraps

Not head wraps.

A head-to-head comparison of gluten-free wraps and tortillas.

It is time. Tortillas and wraps have been slow to come to the gluten-free market. I know. I've looked. For years.

Not corn tortillas. They've always been here. They will always be here. Flour tortillas? That's another story.

For those several years, all I could find were rice flour tortillas. They were exciting at first, since I finally had some sort of tortilla other than corn that I could eat.

But they quickly disappointed. I wanted to make enchiladas for the family and that is easy enough with normal, wheat flour tortillas.

It was a whole other story with those rice tortillas. Spoon in some enchilada sauce, place all the fillings in the middle, and roll. And watch them crack and break. Every time. Crack and break my enchilada-loving heart.

Broken enchilada-filled rice tortillas. Every single rice tortilla broke every single time. And the flavor wasn't even worth it.

Fast forward a few years. The gluten-free companies of the world had been working on their tortillas. 

They are finally here. "Flour" tortillas, gluten-free. But they are not all created equal. Here are two options I have found in my local health-food store recently, Sonoma and Rudi's.

Sonoma Gluten Free Wheat Free Wraps

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Lover's Dictionary

Book Review

The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan.

This is a relatively new release.

And it is a bit of a different kind of read. Not your usual romance. Not your usual novel. Not your usual anything.

It is a quick read. But it is not a quick read.

It all depends on how you read it.

This summer has been the summer of rain. At least around here.

That might be good for reading this book. That might mean you don't want to spend any time outside in the rain. You might want to spend your time inside reading.

Then again, all this rain might be bad for reading this book. You might just want to stare out at the rain and not keep reading.

But read you will. Rain or no rain. Curiosity should guide you to reading this.

The Lover's Dictionary

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Eating Gluten-Free at Outback Steakhouse

Better is Good

I was with family. More than the usual few of us for an extended family dinner.

I didn't have input into our dinner location. Someone other than me chose Outback Steakhouse.

But that's fine. Really. I was with family and that matters more than what I can and can't eat.

Well, okay, sometimes. Matters more only sometimes.

It depends on which particular members of said extended family are present.

In any case, dinner was with family this night and the family (or some segment of it) had selected Outback.

I've been to Outback a few times over the years since I've needed to be gluten-free. Each time has been separated by a few years. Each time has produced a different gluten-free experience.

At least I can say with absolute clarity that each successive gluten-free experience at Outback has gotten better.

Better understanding from servers. Better information provided. Better confidence that I would eat safely.

Better is good.

So, I wasn't concerned about eating gluten-free this night with the family.

Little did I realize that this particular night at Outback held an even better surprise for me.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Bisquick Gluten-Free Pancake and Baking Mix and Gluten-Free Strawberry Shortcakes

Berry Time!

It was the Fourth of July and we had fresh strawberries and raspberries in the house.

We had to do something delicious and relatively quick with them. We had other food to make for all of us and we would not be delayed getting to our fireworks!

We threw around all kinds of ideas, starting from making a trifle (fantastically delicious, but three separate steps, plus assembly) to making strawberry pie (likewise, in all aspects) to just sugaring the berries and topping French vanilla ice cream with them.

None of these options hit the right spot with anyone. We were going to have to find something else to do with these beautiful berries.

Finally, it hit me. Strawberry (and raspberry) shortcakes!

That was it. We were off and running. And it just so happened that we had some speedy help in the cupboard: Gluten-Free Bisquick!

Gluten-Free Bisquick

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Captain Vorpatril's Alliance

Book Review

Captain Vorpatril's Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold.

This is the latest addition to the Vorkosigan Saga series. And as such I surely had to read it.

But the Vorkosigan Saga started many, many moons ago. And I read the majority of those books, all dozen-plus of them, many, many moons ago.

Okay, okay.  Almost twenty years ago, to be a bit more precise.

And then I had to move on to reading other things, since the author moved on to writing other series.

Now, she's back. Back to writing about the Vorkosigans and their clan.

So, of course, I have to keep up with her. There's no letting a Vor book slip past me.

Here we go on another Vor adventure!

Captain Vorpatril's Alliance

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Schär Gluten-Free Honeygrams

Camping and S'mores

What could be more perfect together than camping and s'mores?

How about camping and gluten-free s'mores?

That's right!

But would you believe that I didn't like s'mores until several years ago? That's right. I did not like s'mores. I hadn't found the secret yet. 

We were on a several-day camping trip with friends. Somehow, we had all forgotten to pack the necessary ingredients for s'mores. 

My husband disappeared to the nearest store for some other forgotten vital, but returned with the secret to s'mores. I would have never guessed the solution to my dislike of s'mores if I hadn't tasted it first. 

Dark chocolate. None of that soft, goopy, milk chocolate. Dark chocolate.

See, that milk chocolate that I had always had before was combined with the super sweetness of the marshmallow and graham crackers. Just too sweet. I just didn't like that super, sickeningly sweet s'more.

No s'more for me.

Then, darkness arrived. The darkness of dark chocolate.

That was it. That was all it took for me to suddenly see the s'mores light. Or darkness. Or whatever.

Now I understood. 

Going camping? You'll want some of these gluten-free graham-style crackers to go with your dark chocolate and marshmallows!

Schär Gluten-Free Honeygrams

Monday, July 8, 2013

Eating Gluten-Free at Cheeburger Cheeburger

Diners and Burgers

How many diners have you been to? No, not dinners.

Diners, people, diners.

Okay, now how many diners have you been while you have been eating gluten-free?

Ha! I'm quite confident those two numbers are quite different.

Now for the kicker:

How many diners have you been to that have gluten-free burgers with gluten-free buns?

Ha! Gotcha now!

I'm not talking about ordering a bunless burger. No. Wrong. Try again. I'm talking about a bunful burger, completely gluten-free.

I have now been to one such diner! Actually, I've been to this diner quite a few times before this. But this time was different.

This was my first! My very first diner experience with a gluten-free burger with a gluten-free bun.

See... there really is a first time for everything!
Cheeburger Cheeburger on Urbanspoon

Cheeburger Cheeburger

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Gone Girl

Book Review

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

This is a relatively new release that I kept stumbling upon.

On the library website. On the library shelf. On the library's large print shelf. In the Bookmarks magazine.

I could ignore it no longer.

And it is in large print!

I quickly put it on the treadmill and read it there. Twice.

And then I had to read it in the evening, not on the treadmill. And I left it on the coffee table. And I picked up more in the evening.

Darn! I've resorted to reading large print on the sofa! Say it ain't so! Say it ain't so!

Well, I admit it, but I also stand by my lack of need for large print on the sofa. Now, I just need something new for the treadmill.

All that sofa reading? That just means this book kept me reading more than if I had left it for the treadmill alone.

Does that mean I liked it? Well... let's examine that notion....

Gone Girl

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Eating Gluten-Free on United Airlines

Eating on Flights

Traveling used to be fun. Traveling used to be exciting. I'm talking about the process of actually traveling. Not the destination. The traveling to the destination.

I have turned the corner. Traveling is not fun anymore. It's not exciting.

Well, not exciting in the way it should be.

Now, the excitement consists of figuring out how and where and when I am going to be able to find safe gluten-free food while traveling.

Don't even get me started on security and the TSA.

On a not-so-recent-now trip from west coast to east coast, I had three flights in one day. Certainly not my first choice, but it was what I was able to get.

The first leg was from one end of California to the other. Small regional jet. Pseudo beverage service, no food.

Well, I guess it makes that flight gluten-free. Ahem.

My second flight was the big one. From one end of the country to the other. I had hoped that I would be able to find some gluten-free food before boarding this long flight.

My first flight landed at LAX, and while we taxied--seemingly from one side of LA county to the other--I used my phone to find my next departure gate.

Located in a separate terminal from that of my arrival. And with only a short amount of time to get there.

I pulled up a map of the terminals. I was going to have to hurry to get from my arrival gate to my departure gate. And look for gluten-free food along the way that I could grab and go. And hurry. And not get stuck waiting in line. And move quickly.

Good luck to me.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Gluten-Free Beer Can Chicken

Grilling Chicken Whole

Have you noticed that it is grilling time? Wait. Is it ever not grilling time?

Definitely grilling time.

There are plenty of things you can grill on the grill, and chicken should be one of them.

But chicken is tricky. Too hot and you burn the skin. Or the outside is just right, but the middle is still raw.

Grill chicken too cool and it ends up juiceless and tough. 

So how do you get it just right?

Here is one way. 

One whole chicken. One half can of gluten-free beer. Some Beer Can Chicken Rub. One and half hours of indirect grilling time.


All you need is the right ingredients, both food and method, and you will have magical gluten-free grilled chicken on your plates!

Beer Can Rub - Naturally Gluten-Free

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Book of Lost Fragrances

Book Review

The Book of Lost Fragrances by M. J. Rose.

I saw this book come up as a more recent release. 

It's about time I read something new. For a change.

Well, fairly new. This book came out only last year. That's very new compared to most of the other things I've been reading lately.

And then I cracked the front cover. 

Mysticism. Reincarnation. Egyptian myths. Tibetan struggles. 

This was certainly beginning to look like something outside of my normal reading genres.

Not that there is anything wrong with that. It's just that I got a certain impression from the front cover, which reads, "a novel of suspense".

Suspense and mysticism? In the same book? I guess it is possible, but that is not a connection I would have anticipated before opening the cover.

Yes, I may be a skeptic, but I'm also sufficiently curious. It was time to find out how all these ideas could come together under one cover.

The Book of Lost Fragrances

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Eating Gluten-Free at Lucille's Smokehouse Bar-B-Que

Gluten-Free Bar-B-Que?

Is it possible? Does gluten-free bar-b-que exist?

I've always wondered. I've always been wary.

Sauces. You never know what people put in their sauces. You never, ever, ever know what restaurants put in their sauces.

And bar-b-que sauce is no exception.

When my cousin invited me out for dinner at a bar-b-que restaurant, I was skeptical. Hesitant. Cautious.

But just a moment's worth of research on the internet put my fears to rest.

This bar-b-que looked safe. They even have a full-fledged, gluten-free menu! With gluten-free appetizers! With gluten-free salads! With gluten-free BBQ! With gluten-free sides! With gluten-free sandwiches and burgers!

There was no way I was going to turn down this invitation. Bar-q-que! For the gluten intolerant! Finally!

Never mind that we were in LA, and the traffic was typical, lousy, LA traffic and I had to drive forty-five minutes, each way, in it in order to get my gluten-free bar-b-que. Yeah, never mind. It was worth all that traffic-laden freeway time!
Lucille's Smokehouse BBQ on Urbanspoon

Lucille's Smokehouse Bar-B-Que

Monday, May 6, 2013

Urban Crave in Bush Intercontinental Airport, Houston (IAH)

Airport Eating - Gluten-Free

Airports are notoriously difficult places to find gluten-free food.

Between the fast food, fried food, bar food, and prepackaged food, you have no idea where that food has been, what else was in the fryer oil, what has been mixed with it, or what other ingredients are included.

Better to avoid it all.

But you can't.

You can't because domestic flights rarely (if ever?) offer special, gluten-free meals nowadays. You can't because you can't pack all of your own safe foods, with an ice pack, through security. You can't because no one can (or should) live off of gluten-free snack bars when they travel.

You need options. You need to know where you can find safe, gluten-free food while traveling.

I am always on the lookout for safe places to eat. I guess it helps that I often find myself stuck in airports and airplanes for ten, twelve, even fourteen hours in a single day. That is certainly enough time to get hungry.

Really hungry.

Really hungry for real food.

If you find yourself anywhere near Gate C33 in the Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), you now have another option for finding gluten-free food.

Urban Crave on Urbanspoon

Urban Crave

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Allegro Hickory Smoke Marinade and Homemade Grilled Vegetable Marinade

Allegro Hickory Smoke Marinade

Grilling is one of my favorite ways to cook. It imparts flavor to your meat that cannot be replicated by anything in a bottle.

And if you have a bottle of this marinade on hand, you have the opportunity to make that grilled meat great!

Several years ago I picked up a bottle of this marinade at my local store. I loved it immediately!

Of course, it being gluten-free might have had something to do with that!

See, most marinades have soy sauce in them, and most soy sauce has gluten. Most, but not all.

I went back for several months for a new bottle of Allegro each time I ran out. I didn't want to be without this in my kitchen.

And then suddenly, one of those trips to the store left me disappointed. Allegro wasn't there anymore. No spot on the shelf. No price label on the shelf. No sign of it anywhere. Nothing.

And the next trip to the store was just as disappointing. And the next. And the next. I think you get the picture. The store had stopped carrying Allegro.

Ultimate disappointment set in. Deeply. For years.

Fast forward to near present day. Last month, a new local grocery store opened near me. Allegro is something I went looking for.

And behold! There it was. Bliss once again!

This is, hands down, my favorite meat marinade ever. And it just so happens to be gluten-free!

We snagged some not-too-expensive slabs of beef and started marinating!

You don't want to put this on any very expensive cut of meat. You probably don't want to marinate an expensive piece of meat in the first place. No filet mignon here.

We chose some slabs that were quite thin, since we were short on time. Time is your bestest friend ever when it comes to marinating. The more time, the better.

On this particular afternoon, time was limited, so thin was better for us. We marinated our slabs for about a half hour.

No worries, though. The result was outstanding!

Our daughter boldly announced that this is her absolute favorite way of having beef. Marinated in Allegro and grilled.

What a fabulous combination!

But wait! There's more....

Grilled Vegetable Marinade

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Locked Rooms

Book Review

Locked Rooms by Laurie R. King.

My reading time and interest has been quite limited of late. Travels, distractions, focus elsewhere have kept me away.

Then there seemed to be an opening in my available time and I grabbed at it. Time to get some reading done.

With all the options out there, I was drawn back towards Laurie R. King. I like her writing.

Even though I have been away from this series for some months now, coming back to it feels like slipping on a old, familiar glove. It is nice to get back to it.

But this story is structured different than the others and delves into characters in ways I've not seen in the previous books in the series.

All in a good way. Different is good sometimes. Especially when it still feels familiar.

Locked Rooms

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Dagoba Organic Chocolate and Gluten-Free Grief Therapy

Gluten-Free Grief Therapy

Why isn't being old reason enough to make it easier to say goodbye? How about having had a full life? What about being ready to go?

My grandmother just passed away.  Well, it has been a couple of weeks already, but it feels like "just".

She was old. By her own standards, not mine. Ninety-two and a half. She had done it all. She was ready.

And yet, selfishly, I didn't want to let her go. No, that's not quite it. I didn't want to keep her here, but I wasn't ready to be without her.

She was done here. I'm glad she was headed peacefully on her way. No drama. No drawn out, extended debate. She knew what she wanted.


Always, it had to be just so. That's what made her so great.

Everything in her purse had its place, and she had everything in her purse. Everything in its place. She also dated every can and jar of food brought home from the store.

And after she passed away, when we were clearing out her things, I found a box of tissues with a date label on it. A label she had made and put on it.

And we all laughed.


Do tissues ever expire???

Never mind. I guess she wanted to know when they were purchased.

This attention to detail is what made her so great at so many things.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Shortbread Cookie Mix

Baking Up Some Friendly Love

My daughter was invited to a friend's house for a (post-)Valentine's Day party. Not so much a "party" per se, but a get together for a handful of teenage girls to giggle and eat and giggle and giggle some more.

She wanted to bring something. Or was asked to bring something. Or was supposed to bring something. Whatever. She needed to bring some sort of yummy food item that all the girls would love.

Well, who wouldn't love some little hearts at a Valentine's Day party?

Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Shortbread Cookie Mix

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Half Moon Bay Brewing Company

Brewery Food

It is nice to be surprised sometimes. Assuming the surprise is one that is likable.

I had assumed that brewery food was on the same scale as bar food. Maybe. Maybe not.

I knew I wanted to stop at the beach in Half Moon Bay. I needed to get my beach fix. I needed a sunset. If I was going to stay for a sunset, it only made sense to find dinner somewhere close to that sunset.

So I looked for gluten-free options in Half Moon Bay. That seemed like the logical thing to do.

But I was with a small group of colleagues. Colleagues who are beer connoisseurs. I don't have a problem skipping the beer, but places where they get their good beer aren't usually known for their gluten-free food options. If they have any at all.

So when I found this place as recommended for gluten-free food, I had to give it a try. And luckily for me, the beer connoisseurs didn't have any objections. It is a brewery, after all.

But would the food be gluten-free and good? I was about to find out.

Half Moon Bay Brewing Company on Urbanspoon

Half Moon Bay Brewing Company

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Bel Canto

Book Review

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett.

I have known about this book for some time now. For some long time.

But I held off getting it.

I had already heard that it was good. Probably a literary prize winner.

I had to bide my time. The time had to be right. I didn't want to use up all the good books in the world too quickly.

Okay, okay. So that's not very likely, but I think you get the idea.

Several not so great books in a row left me disappointed. And ready for something good.

I already knew that I liked this author, based on my experience reading State of Wonder.

And this copy is in large print. Perfect for the treadmill. A good book will keep me on the treadmill longer than a poor book.

Now was the time. Time for something others thought was good.

The question was, would I think this was good?

I was about to find out.

Bel Canto

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Omission Gluten-Free Beer

Gluten-Free, Barley Beer?

Is it possible to have a beer made of barley and it still be gluten-free?

And if it is possible, does it taste like real, glutenated beer?

I didn't know, but I would have to find out.

I tried another gluten-free beer months ago, but that one isn't made with barley. It is made with strawberries and you can tell. It is sweet.

If you make beer with no barley, wheat or rye, you don't have to take any gluten out of it. There won't be any in it.

But no barley means not real beer to many. That was state of things until Omission came along.

Omission Gluten-Free Beer - Lager and Pale Ale

Monday, February 11, 2013

Gluten-Free Natural Red Velvet Cake

Non-Traditional Color and Flour

I've never had an experience with Red Velvet Cake, only hearing about it as an adult. And what did I hear?

It is just chocolate cake with red food coloring.

That's what I heard. That's what stuck with me.

I don't know what exactly inspired me to try to make it gluten-free for Valentine's Day, but inspired I was.

I looked up The Pioneer Woman's version and found that she uses a full bottle and a half of food coloring to get that color. A bottle and a half?! Looks artificial enough, but you want me to eat that much food coloring? More importantly, you want me to feed that to my family?

I was having a hard time swallowing that.

Luckily for me, I stumbled upon a video for making a natural red velvet cake. Natural, as in natural food coloring. Natural, as in beets.

Beets. They really do have the most beautiful color.

Now, I was on a mission. A mission to find a recipe for a gluten-free red velvet cake that didn't use artificial food coloring.

So, I went looking for a recipe. Look, I did. Search, I did. Scan, I did. Read, I did.

In the end, I found recipes with natural coloring but little chocolate and wheat flour or artificial coloring with little chocolate and gluten-free flours, but nothing with natural color, lots of chocolate and gluten-free flours. I would just have to make my own recipe.

But all indications were pointing to either lots of color or lots of chocolate, but not both. Gluten-free it would be. I was sure about that.

Gluten-Free Natural Red Velvet Cake

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Mark of Zorro

Book Review

The Mark of Zorro by Johnston McCulley.

While at the library some time ago, I happened to pick up the 1940 remake of the original, but silent, movie The Mark of Zorro. We watched as a family and we enjoyed it for the most part. We had to do a bit of educating the kids about old movies and the way they used to be made, but that was fine.

The movie was good. So I started to think I should read the original book. That's not the order I usually do these things, but no harm done. Not yet.

I searched my local library catalog for the book. No luck.

Next, I tried interlibrary loan. Yep, I could get it, but there's no telling how long it would take to arrive at my local library. Request it, I did.

It only took a week or two. Not bad, compared to other requests I have made through the system. Finally, I could dive into the most original version of that infamous, sly "fox"!

And almost immediately I thought I understood why my local library did not have a copy of it.

The Mark of Zorro