Thursday, January 27, 2022

Book Review, Jazz Age Cocktails

 Jazz Age Cocktails: History, Lore, and Recipes from America’s Roaring Twenties by Cecelia Tichi.

As the title of this book suggests, this history-cum-recipe book is a jazz of Prohibition, flappers, and cocktails. In the book, Tichi details, through sociological narrative, how literature, music, “politricks,” and cocktails intersected to give birth to the Jazz Age.

To top it off, Tichi includes authentic cocktail recipes from the Jazz Age. While I’m familiar with several of them, there are others I can’t wait to try, including the Clover Club Cocktail, Live Wire, and Lipstick.

Bottom line: This book is a Champagne Cocktail—a sugar cube of recipes, music bitters, and lots of bubbling history. Serve in an iced flute and enjoy while reading “Bernice Bobs Her Hair” or A Moveable Feast. Five Stars.

I received this book from NetGalley to review

Friday, January 7, 2022

North to Paradise Book Review


North to Paradise by Ousman Umar, translated by Kevin Gerry Dunn

This memoir is the harrowing story of a boy’s trek from Ghana to Spain in search of an education and a better life.

At the age of 12, Ousman sets out on a five-year journey to Paradise. Along the way, he travels with smugglers, crosses much of the Sahara on foot, and struggles against racism, abuse, and loneliness. Yet, he finds compassion and help—in the most unlikely of places.

The book does an excellent job of balancing the horrors Umar endured with the hope that allowed him to persevere. The one caveat is the memoir could have been longer, giving Umar’s experiences more depth and texture. That said, it is an engrossing and timely book, perfect for anyone who wants a better understanding of the harsh realities experienced by migrants traveling through Africa. Truly eye-opening.

Monday, January 3, 2022

DIY Kitchen Reno, Part 2

 We completed step three of our kitchen reno! I know it's Monday, but here's a Friday Five of step three.

Calvin stripping with Citristrip.
1. Use a stripper. (Not that kind.) We chose a low-voc paint stripper because the odor of chemically suspicious oranges is much better than the kill-you-in-your-sleep fumes of acetone, methanol, and toluene.

Painting with a dark-ish primer.

 2. Have your husband do all the hard work—scraping and stripping off decades of paint and then sanding. When that’s done, you can paint at a restful, cathartic pace. Or, you can listen to “Girls Just Wanna to Have Fun” and try to finish the work before Christmas. (I finished in time.)

3. Shelves! When you buy an old home, you discover people didn’t have pantries. They had a broom closet, which we turned into a pantry. But my spice collection took up more than two shelves of broom-closet-cum-pantry. So, Calvin put up shelves. (Brackets from Amazon, wood and stain from Home Depot.) I told him, “Two shelves should be more than enough.” I didn’t realize I have 70 different spices, including sumac, nigella seed, and multiple varieties of za’atar. (Some folks collect tchotchkes, I collect spices.) Sadly, not all my spices fit on the shelves…

4. New refrigerator! This was not our plan. Especially not when appliance prices are obscene. But when the old refrigerator compressor dies… I love the new fridge. Its more compact size means I can put a desk next to the window—it’s good to have writing nooks and laptop space.

5. Finally, don’t forget to take dance breaks—even if you know your ruptured discs, inflamed nerves, and fusions will slap you later because, like I said earlier, girls just wanna have fun. (Clearly, I’ve listened to too much Pandora 80s radio.)

 Now that the kitchen reno is half-finished, we’re taking a break till spring. Then, we’ll paint the upper cabinets light gray and the walls white. And I hope to talk Calvin into a new light fixture instead of the 80s ceiling fan, which is coated with grime that even bleach won’t budge.

 The lower cabinets are painted with Behr paint, satin finish, in "Calligraphy."

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Book Review, Box 88


Box 88 is an espionage thriller by Charles Cumming (New York Times bestselling author of The Trinity Six).

Lachlan Kite is a member of Box 88, a black ops group so secret few people know of its existence. But rumors persist... When terrorists kidnap Kite, they also take his pregnant wife as leverage, forcing Kite to reveal information about his recruitment and first mission. As Kite tells the truth in bits and pieces to buy time to escape, he relives those events, remembering the friends he betrayed and the horrors that followed.

The novel’s structure, which flashes between present and past, brilliantly reflects the cat-and-mouse game of espionage and propels the reader through the story. The characters are complex and nuanced, and the relationship between Kite and his wife is poignant, though I would have liked this developed more (but that’s what sequels are for). Finally, the reveal at the novel’s climax slakes the reader’s thirst for a smooth, sharp finish—a perfect martini, shaken not stirred.

Final evaluation: Five stars. Box 88 is perfect for fans of Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon series. Buy it here.

Juicy tidbit: What makes this story even more gripping is the author was an MI6 agent.