September 26, 2020

Chicken and Rice Soup


Willie's Chicken and Rice Soup

My husband had back surgery a few years ago and our wonderful next-door neighbor brought us a huge pot of this soup, along with a  batch of sugar cookies. It was the best "Get Well" gift for both of us! Of course, I requested the recipes and they both became our favorites. The soup is so easy to make and once the weather gets chilly, I make it a lot. Now that fall has arrived, it's back in my dinner rotation!


1 rotisserie chicken
1 onion, coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp. butter
1 package Spanish style Rice-A-Roni
Garnish with diced avocado or grated cheese (optional)

Remove cooked chicken from bones and shred/chop.

Place bones, skin, and juices in large pot and cover with water. Add chopped onion.

Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer 2-4 hours.

Strain broth into a separate saucepan. You will need at least 6 cups of liquid. If necessary, add water to equal 6 cups.

Melt butter in the first pot. Add the Rice-A-Roni (including the seasoning packet but not the water as called for on the package) and saute for 2 minutes.

Return broth to pot with Rice-A-Roni and add shredded chicken.

Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

Add more water if the soup is too thick.

My Notes:

If I have time, I like to prepare the broth the day before. This allows me to chill it in the refrigerator (in the cooking pot, once it's cooled down), so I can skim off some of the solidified fat. 

The seasoning for the Rice-A-Roni is fairly salty, so don't add any extra!

This freezes well, but you may need to add water to thin once you defrost it.

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Please visit The Intrepid Reader for Weekend Cooking.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend.

September 25, 2020

Looking Back - Marchlands

Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.

Marchlands by Karla Kuban
1999 Scribner (first published in 1998)
Read in December 1999
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)

Publisher's Blurb:

Fifteen-year-old Sophie Behr is carrying the child of a Mexican ranch hand on the thousand-acre sheep ranch where she lives with her tough, bitter, and unstable mother, Willy. When Willy reacts to the pregnancy with an act of astonishing cruelty, Sophie flees and embarks on a search for her long-absent father. Her encounter with him, however, proves to be another painful step in her journey from childhood to adulthood; his disturbing revelations about the family's past quickly drive her away. Finally, finding refuge with her grandmother, she gives birth to her baby and returns to her beloved ranch with a new found strength and determination.

My Original Thoughts (1999):

Fair. Wouldn't recommend. I didn't care for the author's writing style. The narrative jumped around a lot. Free association? I finished the book, so it wasn't terrible, just not worthwhile.

My Current Thoughts:

Nope. No memory of this book at all. I wonder what in the world possessed me to read it?

September 24, 2020

When My Time Comes


2020 Random House Audio
Read by the author and contributing guests
Finished on September 19, 2020
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

From Diane Rehm, renowned radio host - one of the most trusted voices in the nation - and best-selling author: an audiobook of candor and compassion, addressing the urgent, hotly contested cause of the Right-to-Die movement, of which she is one of our most inspiring champions. 

Soon to be a public television documentary of the same name, featuring the author.

Through interviews with terminally ill patients, and with physicians, ethicists, spouses, relatives, and representatives of those who vigorously oppose the movement, Rehm gives voice to a broad range of people who are personally linked to the realities of medical aid in dying. The audiobook presents the fervent arguments - both for and against - that are propelling the current debates across the nation about whether to adopt laws allowing those who are dying to put an end to their suffering. With characteristic even-handedness, Rehm skillfully shows both sides of the argument, providing the full context for this highly divisive issue.

With a highly personal foreword by John Grisham, When My Time Comes is a response to many misconceptions and misrepresentations of end-of-life care; it is a call to action - and to conscience - and it is an attempt to heal and soothe our hearts, reminding us that death, too, is an integral part of life.

I've been listening to NPR for almost 30 years and it was there that I first heard The Diane Rehm Show and quickly became a fan of this intelligent and charming woman. I've had my eye on a couple of her earlier books (Finding My Voice and On My Own), but it wasn't until I spotted her latest release of When My Time Comes that I decided it was time to finally read one of her books. I downloaded the audiobook and was quickly engrossed in the interviews. Rehm discusses the subject of death with dignity (also known as medical aid in dying) with two dozen individuals, handling the interviews with compassion and empathy, even with those with whom she disagrees. Her emotions are true and her kindness authentic as she speaks with family members who describe the intimate details of their loved ones' final days. She asks personal questions, yet doesn't probe gratuitously. She is one class act.

Five years ago, I read Being Mortal, Atul Gawande's eye-opening book on the elderly, nursing homes and death. His exploration of how we treat our aging parents was a valuable lesson and one that shaped not only my mother's future, but also mine and my husband's. We moved from Lincoln, Nebraska to the Oregon Coast in 2017 after my husband retired. With her blessing, we decided to move in with my mom (who was 84 at the time), thus allowing her to remain in her beautiful home, near her friends and community. Like Gawande's bestseller, Diane Rehm's book has given me a lot to think about with regard to aging and end of life choices. Rehm asks each interviewee what they believe is a good death and I would like to think that my father and stepfather (both of whom died of cancer) died the way they wished, surrounded by family, in their own homes, under the care of Hospice. That is my wish, as well.

As I listened to the book, I kept wanting to highlight specific passages to discuss with my husband, so a print copy is on order. However, I'm glad I listened to the audiobook, which reminded me of Rehm's radio show. I'm anxious to tune in to her podcast, On My Mind, as well as view the documentary based on this new book, which will be available for viewing in January 2021. When My Time Comes and Being Mortal would be great companion reads, leading to deep discussions on how we feel about the final chapters of our lives. Highly recommend!

Note to self: When asked which celebrity or famous person in history I would choose to have at a dinner party, don't forget to include Diane Rehm!

September 23, 2020



As of September 22, 2020 there have been over 200,000 deaths in the United States. That's equivalent to a 9/11 attack every day for 67 days.




September 21, 2020
Photo Credit: Time

Just four months earlier...

Photo Credit: New York Times and Marcel Dzama

Wear your mask.

Wash your hands.

Stay at least 6 feet apart.


September 22, 2020

Every Last Lie


2017 Park Row Books
Finished on September 16, 20
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)

Publisher's Blurb:

New York Times bestselling author of THE GOOD GIRL, Mary Kubica is back with another exhilarating thriller as a widow's pursuit of the truth leads her to the darkest corners of the psyche.

"The bad man, Daddy. The bad man is after us."

Clara Solberg's world shatters when her husband and their four-year-old daughter are in a car crash, killing Nick while Maisie is remarkably unharmed. The crash is ruled an accident…until the coming days, when Maisie starts having night terrors that make Clara question what really happened on that fateful afternoon.

Tormented by grief and her obsession that Nick's death was far more than just an accident, Clara is plunged into a desperate hunt for the truth. Who would have wanted Nick dead? And, more important, why? Clara will stop at nothing to find out—and the truth is only the beginning of this twisted tale of secrets and deceit.

Told in the alternating perspectives of Clara's investigation and Nick's last months leading up to the crash, master of suspense Mary Kubica weaves her most chilling thriller to date—one that explores the dark recesses of a mind plagued by grief and shows that some secrets might be better left buried.

Every Last Lie is another psychological thriller that's been on my shelf for a few years. I received the ARC from the publisher, probably through a giveaway on Goodreads, although I don't remember for certain. I added the book to my list for this year's RIP XV challenge and was excited to dive in as soon as I finished Behind Her Eyes

Every Last Lie does not have the annoying internal monologue device that Behind Her Eyes did, nor does the main character have a drinking problem, but Clara and Nick are both unlikeable characters and the narrative is drawn out far too long. I grew impatient with Clara and her paranoid suspicions (not to mention her lack of parenting skills) and felt the ending was weak with far too many loose ends. I'm sorry I wasted my time reading to the very end and I have no intention of reading more by this author.

I read Every Last Lie for the RIP XV Challenge.

September 20, 2020

Lemon Chicken Piccata Meatballs


Lemon Chicken Piccata Meatballs

I discovered this wonderful recipe on JoAnn's blog (Gulfside Musing) this past summer and finally got around to giving it a try a few weeks ago. My family loved the flavor of the meatballs, which I served alongside some lemony orzo and sauteed zucchini. They loved it so much, I made it again this week! I learned a few things with my second attempt, so be sure to read my notes for some helpful hints.

For the Meatballs:

1 lb. ground chicken
1 egg
3/4 cup breadcrumbs or Panko
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley 
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper

For the Sauce:

1 Tbsp. butter
2 garlic cloves (crushed or minced)
1 cup chicken stock (or 1/2 cup white wine and 1/2 cup stock)
2 Tbsp. capers (optional)
1 Tbsp. parsley (chopped)
1-2 tsp. lemon juice
Salt & pepper to taste

To make the meatballs, combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix well.

With wet hands, form meatballs into the size of golf balls.

Heat a large pan or skillet over high heat and add a few tablespoons of olive oil. Cook the meatballs until golden brown on all sides. Remove and set aside.

To make the sauce, melt butter in the pan and add the garlic. Cook for 30 seconds.

Add the stock (and wine, if using), capers, parsley and lemon juice. Allow to come to a simmer.

Add the meatballs and cook for another 7-10 minutes, coating the meatballs in the sauce until they are cooked through.

Season to taste and serve.

My Notes:

For the meatballs, I mixed all the dry ingredients together first in order to evenly distribute the seasonings before adding the wet ingredients (chicken & egg).

I baked the meatballs in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, rather than frying them in a skillet. The first time I made the recipe, I place the meatballs on a large cookie sheet and added enough chicken broth to coat the bottom of the pan. The second time, I omitted the broth and placed the meatballs on parchment paper. I prefer the first method, as the meatballs were a bit dry when I didn't include the broth. 

For our dinner, I made a meatball bowl with orzo and zucchini. I prepare the orzo (minus the shrimp) from my Shrimp Scampi & Orzo recipe. For the zucchini, I used Smitten Kitchen's Quick Zucchini Saute. The combined flavors are so good!

Click on the link in my sidebar for more of my favorite recipes.

Please visit The Intrepid Reader for Weekend Cooking.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend.

September 19, 2020

Ruth Bader Ginsburg


Rest in Power
November 18, 2020

September 18, 2020

Looking Back - East of the Mountains

Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.

1999 Harcourt Brace and Company
Read in December 1999
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

It is mid-October, 1997, harvest time in the Columbia Basin of central Washington state, a rich apple- and pear-growing region. Ben Givens, recently widowed, is a retired heart surgeon, once admired for his steadiness of hand, his precision, his endurance. He has terminal colon cancer. While Ben does not readily accept defeat, he is determined to avoid suffering rather than engage it. And so, accompanied by his two hunting dogs, he sets out through the mythic American West-sage deserts, yawning canyons, dusty ranches, vast orchards-on his last hunt. The main issues for Ben as a doctor had been tactical and so it would be with his death. But he hadn't considered the persuasiveness of memory-the promise he made to his wife Rachel, the love of his life, during World War II. Or life's mystery. On his journey he meets a young couple who are "forever," a drifter offering left-handed advice that might lessen the pain, a veterinarian with a touch only a heart surgeon would recognize, a rancher bent on destruction, a migrant worker who tests Ben's ability to understand. And just when he thinks there is no turning back, nothing to lose that wasn't lost, his power of intervention is called upon and his very identity tested. Full of humanity, passion, and moral honesty, East of the Mountains is a bold and beautiful novel of personal discovery.

My Original Thoughts (1999):

As I began reading this book, I thought it wasn't very good and it wasn't holding my interest. I continued reading and am glad I did. I thought it was pretty good. I was curious about Ben and what he would decide to do with his life. I found the dialogue a bit stiff, but enjoyed the flashbacks to when he met Rachel and his Army experiences. Lots of detail in some of those passages. Maybe a little overdone.

My Current Thoughts:

I loved Guterson's debut novel, Snow Falling on Cedars, which I've read a couple of times, so I was excited about this new novel. I enjoyed most of the writing, but remember that it was pretty slow at times and not nearly as good as his first book. 

September 15, 2020

Behind Her Eyes


Psychological Thriller
2017 Flatiron Books
Finished on September 10, 2020
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Why is everyone talking about the ending of Sarah Pinborough's Behind Her Eyes?

Louise is a single mom, a secretary, stuck in a modern-day rut. On a rare night out, she meets a man in a bar and sparks fly. Though he leaves after they kiss, she’s thrilled she finally connected with someone.

When Louise arrives at work on Monday, she meets her new boss, David. The man from the bar. The very married man from the bar…who says the kiss was a terrible mistake but who still can’t keep his eyes off Louise.

And then Louise bumps into Adele, who’s new to town and in need of a friend, but she also just happens to be married to David. David and Adele look like the picture-perfect husband and wife, but then why is David so controlling, and why is Adele so scared of him?

As Louise is drawn into David and Adele’s orbit, she uncovers more puzzling questions than answers. The only thing that is crystal clear is that something in this marriage is very, very wrong, but Louise can’t guess how wrong―and how far a person might go to protect their marriage’s secrets.

Reminiscent of Gone Girl and Girl on the Train, Pinborough's psychological thriller is a compelling and fast-paced novel. The short chapters, narrated in the alternating voices of Louise and Adele, maintain the tension between the main characters and I had a difficult time putting the book down. As noticed in similar domestic thrillers, Pinborough includes not only an unreliable narrator, but one who habitually escapes reality in a bottle of wine. I can overlook these tired tropes, but Louise's internal monologues just about had me throwing the book across the room. Without a literary device of a diary or a trusted best friend, I understand the author's need to communicate a character's thoughts and feelings with these private monologues. What irritates me is that this rapid conveyance of thoughts sounds fake and not at all the way in which we would normally speak to one another. It doesn't ring true and is a distraction to the flow of the story. That said, I wasn't as acutely aware of these monologues in later chapters; they were either less frequent or I became immune to them.

Did the ending live up to all the hype? Yes and no. I raced through the final chapters, unable to stop reading, but that finale. Geez. It's not quite a Sixth Sense or Shutter Island ending, but it definitely took me by surprise, in spite of the need to suspend disbelief on several levels.

Sarah Pinborough won't win any awards for lyrical prose, but she managed to keep me guessing and entertained, in spite of my quibbles. Have you read Behind Her Eyes? Will you watch the upcoming Netflix series? Without leaving spoilers, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

I read Behind Her Eyes for the RIP XV Challenge.

September 13, 2020

The New Normal?

Who knew that the pandemic would take a backseat to another serious threat to our safety, but apparently 2020 is not finished with scaring the crap out of us!

Where to begin? 

Monday, September 7th

It was a dark and stormy night. 

The forecast was for warmer weather with high wind gusts arriving late Monday night. We live in a forest with some very huge trees, but we've had strong winds before so I wasn't terribly worried. We went to bed, but once the wind picked up, it was impossible to sleep. The wind howled (actually, it sounded more like a growl) and debris was thrown on to the roof and against the windows. Pine cones, leaves, and what sounded like very large branches, fell on the house all night. I had visions of our huge tree, which is in the backyard by our deck, falling on the house or a branch breaking one of our large windows. I moved to the couch, hoping it was just a little bit safer than the upstairs bedroom. I couldn't sleep, so I went back upstairs and as dawn approached, the wind beast grew quiet.

Deathly quiet.

The house was pitch black. 

Our house is never pitch black. The glow from clocks, the weather radio, the microwave clock, the refrigerator panel, and the DVD player all light up the house even as we sleep. But not that morning.

Tuesday, September 8th 

The power was out.

The phones were dead. (We have terrible cell service and are dependent on a landline.)

No hum of the refrigerator or the separate freezer.

Deathly still and...

The house is barely visible in this picture.


this eerie sky, which was red from the smoke of a distant fire. But at the time, we didn't know this. For all we knew, the ridge to the east of us could be on fire. 

It felt like we were on Mars.

Without power and no way to find out what was going on, I put on a mask and headed outside. I didn't see any trees on the house, but the air was full of smoke. The driveway was covered with debris from all the surrounding trees. So much, that it had to be scooped with shovels before a leaf blower could make any headway.

I talked to a few neighbors and was able to gather information about the distant fire that was causing the smoky sky. We weren't in any imminent danger, so all we could do is wait for more updates. The sky grew darker and the red glow was replaced with darkness. It felt like 10 pm rather than 10 am. 

Eventually, it grew light and I was able to read by the window, but my mind wouldn't relax and I paced the house, wondering how long until the power would be out. Would we lose all the food in the refrigerator and freezers? Should we set up the generator? I decided to take another walk and see what the rest of the neighborhood looked like.

I spotted this tree leaning precariously across the road, 
hung up on a branch of another tree. Not good!

This is one of two paths behind our house. 
Several trees had fallen across the path and into the common area 
behind our yard. There were more, but none hit our house or the deck.

I walked up to the entrance of our community and looked north and south where traffic on Highway 101 was at a complete standstill. Just to the south, as the road makes a turn toward Whale Cove Inn, several large trees had fallen across the highway. Power lines were down and the road was impassable.  It would take hours before crews could get in, assess the situation and clear the road.

I returned to the house and wandered around aimlessly, feeling at loose ends. We used battery-powered lanterns to fix our meals and I tried to use one to work on a puzzle, but it was still too dark. I bounced texts back and forth with friends, hoping to hear some news about the situation with the power and the fires, but everyone was in the same situation. No news. 

This is another shot of the tree
 leaning across Walking Wood.

Two more trees lying across another interior path. 

It's difficult to tell what this is, but it's the root ball
of the large spruce that fell on the path. 
You can see the trunk of the tree
in the lower left hand corner.

This is the same tree, which fell perfectly straight down the path
 and missed the nearby home on the left. These are huge trees
 and the photos don't do them justice.

I walked out to the bluff and the sky was murky with smoke and ash. It felt like I was the last person on earth. 

Looking north toward Depoe Bay.

The sun was a ball of fire in the sky.

Looking south toward Whale Cove.

I was so thankful this beautiful tree of ours stood tall 
and didn't topple over onto our house (and our bedroom!).

The power finally came back on around 4 pm, so we were able to fix dinner and settled in to watch an episode of Bosch. 

Wednesday, September 9th

The sky was a little bit brighter than the previous day, but as the morning progressed, the sky turned a creepy yellow as the fire to the north of us gained intensity.

We were glued to our phones and computers (which were very sluggish), constantly refreshing sites, seeking any news about the dangerous fire situation. We didn't have to wait long. 

By mid-morning, we were informed of nearby evacuations. Our area wasn't included in any of the three levels, but we only live 8 miles from the green area (Level 1). We decided we would leave if we reached Level 2 since we knew the highway would be gridlocked. 

We started packing our Go Bags and gathering up some food supplies. Our plan was to drive to South Beach where our RV is stored. From there we would take it and the car and head south to a campground, hopefully out of harm's way. We had everything for the RV loaded in the car and had all the last minute items ready to load once we reached Level 2. The Internet and our cell phones were still very slow and spotty, but we had a friend (a former fire fighter) who planned to call us if he got word before we did. We felt fairly comfortable with our plan and after a very long and stressful day, managed to go to get a decent night's sleep.

Thursday, September 10

What a difference a day makes. We were so relieved that we didn't have to evacuate, especially in the middle of the night! The wind had shifted and was blowing in off the coast from the southwest. I went for a walk and could feel a light mist from the fog, which was such a welcome relief from the previous day's dense smoke. I could still smell smoke in the air, but it wasn't nearly as oppressive as the night before. 

Our grounds crew was busy clearing the pathways and there were a few more neighbors out and about, checking in on each other.

Saturday, September 12

Today, the sound of chainsaws echo through the air, but things are beginning to look up. The squirrels and birds have finally returned, including the hummingbirds, who seem to be guzzling the nectar in their feeder.

Evacuations have been lifted in some areas near the fire and we might get rain as soon as Monday. Highway 18 remains closed from Lincoln City east through the Van Duzer corridor to Grand Ronde (which is our route to Salem). The Echo Mountain Complex Fire has burned approximately 2,435 acres and, as of today, is 20% contained. Cooler temps have arrived and our air quality is down from 415 (yesterday) to 320, which is still considered hazardous. 

I continue to think about all those who have been affected by not only our local fire, but all the fires in the western part of our country. This was our first experience with the fear of losing our home and, quite possibly loved ones, but there are so many who have gone through this year after year, living under the threat of evacuation and unhealthy skies.

Something has to change.

Updated with corrections to all the dates. I had written August when I meant September. 2020 continue to mess with my awareness of the passage of time...

September 8, 2020

20 Books of Summer Reading Challenge Results


I actually selected 21 books for the 20 Books of Summer reading challenge, knowing full well that I would probably only read half, but wanting to give myself enough variety to suit my mood. There were several books that had been lurking on my shelves for far too long, as well as a few new titles and one that I had hoped to reread. 

Books Read

The Summer Guest by Justin Cronin (4/5)

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (4/5)

A Better Man by Louise Penny (4/5)

A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler (3/5)

Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny (4/5)

The Confession Club by Elizabeth Berg (2/5)

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (5/5)

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead (3/5)

Books Abandoned

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury - Loved this when I read it in junior high school, and have always wanted to read it again, but found it too wordy and dull. So disappointing, since it was one I remembered with great fondness.

About Grace by Anthony Doerr - Loved All the Light We Cannot See, but couldn't get interested in this one. 

The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams - Wasn't in the mood for this book.

Summer at the Garden Cafe by Felicity Hayes-McCoy - I didn't realize this is a sequel. Still, not really for me.

This was a fun challenge and it was nice to focus on some older books, particularly State of Wonder and The Summer Guest. Now on to the R.I.P. XV Challenge!