Thursday, January 28, 2010

"Our Mutual Friend" by Charles Dickens

I know I have said it before, but I think we do our children a disservice by introducing Charles Dickens’ work to them in “Great Expectations” and “A Tale of Two Cities”.

I agree that these are both great books but, I still think his greatest book is “David Copperfield” and it is much more fun to read than either of the first two books mentioned. Dickens is the best at creating characters that you can “see” through his amazing descriptions of them in his tales, although at times he can be a bit “wordy”.

With that said, (again), I just finished what I think may be my favorite book of his and that is “Our Mutual Friend”. Not that the story is better than “David Copperfield”, but that I simply loved THIS story more. More romance is guess would be the reason. Also because I just loved the 2 main female characters, Bella Wilfer and Lizzie Hexam.

Lizzie Hexam protrayed by Keeley Haws and Bella Wilfer protrayed Anna Friel

As with most of Dickens’ work, there are multiply story lines introduced but they are all neatly tied together by the end of the book. So it is with this story. You have the Wilfer household and family, and the Hexam family. The Wilfer’s, a lower middle-class family, that barely makes it on their fathers salary, a wife who reminds him of it regularly and 2 spoiled daughters.

While the Hexam family, very poor, but Lizzie is able to save enough to help get her brother educated so he won’t have to “work the river” for his wages like her father. She loves her father dearly and is devoted to him but is ashamed that he scours the Thames River each night to find treasures that may have been lost that day. Occasionally he finds a body, and then claims what is available on the body for his pay, to drag the body to the coroner. Next to the all suffering Anne Elliot in Jane Austen’s “Persuasion”, I love Lizzie Hexam! She is all things that are good, and is a great example of what a woman should be.

Lizzie and Bella’s lives are inadvertently connected by John Harmon, whose body is found by Gaffer Hexam in the river one night as Lizzie is rowing for him, and it is to whom Bella Wilfer is engaged to, although she has never met him before in her life. The engagement had been arranged previously by Harmon’s father, because he was struck by Bella’s beauty and manner in meeting her and wanted his son, John, who was out of the country to marry her. That is just the beginning of the story.

There are numerous twists and turn along to the happy conclusion. The most memorable couple is the Boffins’, who had worked for the elder Mr. Harmon before his death, and now at the death of John Harmon, are in receipt of the large inheritance. I can’t explain what a sweet, devoted and wonderful couple they are without giving away too much of the story.

There are also the usual villains, Silas Wegg, Mr. and Mrs. Lammle, Rogue Riderhood, and then the confusing Bradley Headstone. All these villains are artfully created throughout the story.

Same movie-different covers

It is always sad to get to the end of a great book. You want it to continue further in the lives of these “friends” whose experiences you feel you have become part of. But all good things have to come to an end. That is what is great about books. You can put it back on the self and in a few years, pull it down again and rediscover the story all over again.

I recommend this book to everyone who loves a great story!

***note: the best adaptation of this into a movie is, of course, BBC's 1998 version.  It is GREAT!!!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Lemons, Oranges, Grapefruit, and More!!!!

It's that time of year again!!!

I love January-April in Arizona.  We have so much citrus on our trees you could live out in the back yard eating it all day!   So if you are in the area and you need some citrus...

Come On Over!!!

As wonderful as it is to have so much citrus to pick off of the trees, it is also hard because other than juicing the fruit and freezing the juice, there is no way to preserve it and put it on your pantry shelves for future use, like you can other fruit like peaches or pears, etc. 

I did learn one new thing last season and it worked.  Instead of juicing lemons and freezing the juice, I learned you can just stick the whole lemon in the freezer in a freezer bag.  Then when you need lemon juice, get one out and let it thaw and it juices beautifully!  Easy Peasy!!!

Here is my favorite citrus recipe for a dinner meal that uses Citrus.  I did put it up last year but I haven't found one that I like better than this so I am sharing it again. 

Halibut with Grapefruit and Rosemary

2 ruby red grapefruit

1 sprig plus 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

1 T sugar

Coarse sand and pepper

1 T olive oil

Four 6-ounce skinless halibut or other firm white fish fillets

1-Pre-heat broiler with rack 4 inches from the heat. Using a vegetable peeler, remove 4 large strips of zest from one grapefruit, avoiding the bitter white pith. Cut into slivers; set aside.

2-Slice the top and bottom of both grapefruits with a paring knife. Set one of the flat sides on your work surface. From top to bottom, following the curve of the fruit, cut away peel and white pith. Trim off any remaining pith. Holding the grapefruit over a bowl, cut along both side of each segment, staying close to the membrane, to release. Squeeze membranes over a small saucepan and add any juices that have accumulated in the bowl. Add rosemary sprig, sugar, grapefruit zest, ½ c water, and ¼ t coarse salt. Place saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Cook until syrupy, 8-10 minutes.

3- Meanwhile, rub fresh fillets with oil; season with salt and pepper. Place on a broiler-proof rimmed baking sheet. Broil until opaque throughout, 7-10 minutes.

4- When syrup is done, discard rosemary sprig. Add syrup and chopped rosemary to bowl with grapefruit segments. Toss gently, place on top of the fish fillets, and serve.

Serve 4

If you have any other recipes that use citrus, email them to me at:  , so I can try them. 

Friday, January 15, 2010

Are the East Coast Sports Fans Snobs? (Maybe Not!) Part 2

As I was watching the local (Phoenix) morning news show for the weather report, our newscaster gave his pridictions about the games this weekend and guess what????  He picked every game to be won by the WEST COAST (or more western, in Indiana's case) teams to WIN!!!  SO hilarious!!!

SO, I guess the lesson we learn from this is that YES, maybe the East Coast are snobs when it comes to sport teams but SO IS THE WEST!!!! 
****This is not a scientific poll, just my rambles....and we are suppose to have rain for 5 straight days starting on Monday!  This is unheard of in the Valley of the Sun!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Are the East Coast Sports Fans Snobs?

OK, I admit I am not a football expert…I mean I am not even a fan. I don’t remember when I watched more that 5 minutes of a game and that is usually when one of my Son-in-laws are over and watching a game. Not being a fan though, I have heard a lot about the East Coast bias about sports, and today I witnessed 2 examples of this that were so blatant that I couldn’t ignore it.

Both shows, one a national morning news show and one a national morning talk show, (both taped in New York), had their “picks” for the teams that would win this weekend’s playoff games. I was amazed that they only picked East coast teams! Even the game between Indianapolis and Baltimore, they pick the team further East geographically, and isn’t one of the Manning boys the quarterback of the Colts? Aren’t they supposed to be pretty good? Besides, I saw their mom making some Gumbo this morning and she seems very classy!

Now as I said I am not a football fan but, I do like the Arizona teams to do well.
If I remember correctly, wasn’t Arizona in last year’s Super Bowl? Yet they still picked New Orleans to beat Arizona. Is there a reason for this or is it just because the Arizona Cardinals are in the most beautiful western state?

So to all you football fans out there, is there a bias or, yes, I will say it, a bit of snobbery when it comes to fans in the East that they think they are that much better than the Western teams or is it true? Are the east coast teams better than the west coast teams?

I am just wondering, so I throw it out to those of you who really know about football.
(PS- to my son's future wife, whoever you may be, you can thank me for not raising him to be a football fanatic!)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Natural or Artificial...The Choice Is Up To You!

I did something recently that I have never done before. Since the day we got married, we have taken the local newspaper, sometimes 2 of them, because my husband is a news junkie. In the past year, I have noticed that the newspapers go directly from the driveway to the recycle bin and so last month I cancelled the newspaper for good (my husband still hasn't noticed so "mum's" the word!!!).

Then something mysterious started happening. I began running out of rubber bands. For a solid week I could not find one anywhere in the house and it was driving me crazy. I finally realized that getting rid of the newspaper meant losing FREE rubber bands.

For some reason, this picture makes me crave something to eat?!?!?!

So I headed to the store to even see if they had rubber bands for sale to the general public. I was amazed at the variety of rubber bands on the market. They had one size per package and 3 different size options, there were assorted size packages, and even assorted colors.

I even found a very creative rubber band ball! I was so impressed. Who knew that this is where rubber bands came from!!!! I always thought they came from the newspapers and multiplied overnight on the kitchen doorknob!

I never dared put them on the bedroom doorknobs…who knew how many would be created that way!!! Anyway, it is a relief to know that there is a substitution for natural rubber band production. This artificial method will have to do for me until we start reading newspapers again, or the internet news sites figure out a way to sent us rubber bands electronically, whichever comes first.