Wining Wife®

Because housework goes better with Malbec...

Book Blitz: Darkstorm

Banner for Darkstorm.jpg

Blitz~ Darkstorm
Author: M.L. Spencer
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Dates: 24th of March
Hosted by: Ultimate Fantasy Book Tours

Darkstorm High Res Cover.jpg

Blurb:

Faced with an imminent cataclysm that will destroy the magical heritage of their people, a conspiracy of darkmages resolves to open the gateway to Hell. The only mages who stand a chance of opposing them are Sephana Clemley and her acolyte, Merris Bryar, along with their protectors, Braden and Quin Reis: two brothers with a turbulent past and a caustic relationship.

Will Braden and Quin be able to protect Sephana and Merris long enough to prevent the unsealing of the Well of Tears? Or will they fall victim to manipulation and become darkmages themselves?

313a6-addtogoodreads

↓Buy Links↓
https://www.amazon.com/Darkstorm-Rhenwars-Saga-Book-1-ebook/dp/B01MT77SK9

Author Bio:

M.L. SPENCER
M.L. Spencer grew up on the works of Steven R. Donaldson, Stephen King and Frank Herbert. She wrote her first novel-length manuscript at thirteen. Her debut novel Darkmage won the 2012 IndieReader Discovery Award for Fantasy. She was also awarded 1st Place Prose in in the San Bernardino County Writing Celebration.

Ms. Spencer lives in Southern California. By day she works as a biology teacher; by night she sweats over a beaten-up keyboard. She is now in the process of expanding the Rhenwars Saga into a trilogy.
Visit her at:

download (3)download (1)imagesdownload (6)

ufb-banner-2017

Book Review: All the News I Need by Joan Frank

My favorite thing about reading is when an author weaves his or her words together to create a movie in my mind. Joan Frank does this exact thing in All the News I Need. Even within the first few pages of this novel, the verisimilitude she creates with her words woven together is quite poetic:

Opens his eyes. Eucalyptus branches. Pearl mist evaporating as he watches, apertures of baby blue. Brine-breath from the beach. Medicine tang of leaves, acorns.

Rubs his cold hands. Should’ve used more lotion this morning. (p.4)

The language in All The News I Need isn’t the only reason that one should pick up a copy of this novel. The tight-knit story delves into the emotions of loss and loneliness while one is surrounded by people. We all have had those times where we’re in a city full of people but still feel like the only ones there. (Or at least, I have had times when I feel like I’m the only person in a room full of talkative people. I just assume others have too!) 

In the midst of their pain, the main characters Frances Ferguson, a snarky widow, and Oliver Gaffney, a seriously introverted gay guy, decide to head to Paris together. This results in a crazy adventure that challenges both of them at their core – especially since they are each so dedicated to their own lives and rituals. 

If you’re looking for a beautifully written novel that gets to the core of some of the deeper questions we experience as people living in a world filled with other people, this book comes highly recommended. Get inside the heads of her characters, enjoy the beautiful word-music, and indulge yourself in this literary work. 

About All the News I Need

• Paperback: 210 pages
• Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press (January 17, 2017)

All The News I Need probes the modern American response to inevitable, ancient riddles—of love and sex and mortality.

Frances Ferguson is a lonely, sharp-tongued widow who lives in the wine country. Oliver Gaffney is a painfully shy gay man who guards a secret and lives out equally lonely days in San Francisco. Friends by default, Fran and Ollie nurse the deep anomie of loss and the creeping, animal betrayal of aging. Each loves routine but is anxious that life might be passing by. To crack open this stalemate, Fran insists the two travel together to Paris. The aftermath of their funny, bittersweet journey suggests those small changes, within our reach, that may help us save ourselves—somewhere toward the end.

Praise

“Joan Frank has gifted us with two unforgettable characters in a novel filled to bursting with hard truths and shimmering beauty.” —Bob Wake, Cambridge Book Review

Joan Frank is a human insight machine.” —Carolyn Cooke

“I will be quoting her ‘rules for aging’ at many dinner parties!” —Natalie Serber

Purchase Links

University of Massachusetts Press | Amazon*

Joan FrankAbout Joan Frank

Joan Frank is the author of five books of fiction and a collection of essays on the writing life. She lives in Northern California with her husband, playwright Bob Duxbury. Visit her at www.joanfrank.org.

*This is an affiliate link; making a purchase using this link will give me a small commission at no additional cost to yourself. Such purchases help me to support my family and keep this blog running. 

Eat More Pie! Ideas for a Spectacular Pi Day

National Pi Day PiesIt’s National Pi Day y’all, and if you sit around and talk to my husband enough about pie, he is likely to tell you about the time he tried to teach a Furby to say “Eat more pie.” Today is a great day to follow that suggestion. Whole Foods is offering $3.14 off the costs of pies from their bakery and their take and bake pizzas. We’ll be picking up one of their pies…and taking advantage of a local Italian restaurant’s $3.14 Pi Day special. 

Meanwhile, there are lots of good pie recipes out there for those who want to make their own pie (something I’d totally be doing if I didn’t know in advance today was going to be crazy busy). Here are some of my favorite recipes – for National Pi Day – or any day.

Cooking Light’s Peanut Butter Pie

Peanut Butter Pie

Image courtesy of Cooking Light

I made this pie for the first time this past Thanksgiving. Cooking Light’s Peanut Butter Pie recipe was, I think, my second-favorite pie that I’d made. This pie was light, fluffy, and delivered that peanut-butter flavor that we all love to find in the middle of chocolate-peanut butter cups.

I did make some adjustments when making this pie. Every ingredient was organic, including the whipped topping substitute (they have a really tasty coconut-based whipped topping.) 

This pie is really quick to make – and the recipe makes two – so you can have one today for Pi Day and another in a few days (if your pie makes it that long). 

Coconut Cream Pie 

Coconut Cream Pie

Image courtesy of Cooking Light

Anyone who knows me knows that coconut cream is my absolute favorite pie. Why not make a coconut cream pie, like this one from Cooking Light, for your Pi Day enjoyment? I LOVE this recipe – especially since it uses a vanilla bean rather than vanilla extract.

You can leave off the meringue, if desired I did because I’m pregnant and in addition to avoiding wine, I should be avoiding meringue (and, well, puddings and custards if we’re honest – BUT – I figured the meringue was pushing it more.) 

Because many of the commercial brands of coconut have added preservatives, I chose to use an unsweetened brand that I soaked in a simple syrup before toasting. Let me tell you, that was delicious!

Yogurt Pie with Grape and Black-Pepper Compote

Yogurt Pie with Grape and Black Pepper Compote

Image courtesy of Bon Appetite

Before you write this off, stay with me for a moment. This pie was delicious. In fact, I’ll be so bold as to say this is a great ending for a meal that is delicate – like a whitefish main dish. It also would be great paired with a Riesling or even a Gewurztraminer or Ice Wine.

This yogurt pie from Bon Appetite is both unique and delicious. It comes highly recommended. I used Mi-Del’s organic ginger snaps for the crust, and they worked really well!

Strawberry Pie

Strawberry Pie

Image courtesy of Inspired Taste

I haven’t tried this pie yet, but it looks amazing and I saw that organic strawberries are coming into the store now. I have some strawberries. I also have pre-made pie crusts and some of that coconut whipped topping I mentioned. This just may get made today. 

While Inspired Taste’s strawberry pie uses a homemade pie crust, I don’t see why you can’t use a pre-made one if you have one available. That way, you can focus only on making the inside of the pie – and that looks delicious!

What’s Your Favorite Pie for National Pi Day?

Please share your favorite National Pi Day pie recipes in the comments. I’m always looking for pies to pin to my Pinterest boards!

 

Book Tour: Evanthia’s Gift & Waiting for Aegina

My Big Fat Greek Wedding is one of my favorite classic films. I love the story that is woven in the movie, and I think the family saga is really fascinating. It’s a peek inside Greek-American culture, and it’s a tale that weaves together the tension between tradition and modernity. In light of this, when I had the opportunity to review Effie Kammenou’s first two books in The Gift Saga, I was happy to do so. Both books deal with that same Greek-American look at life, and the interplay of family members.

Unlike My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Evanthia’s Gift & Waiting for Aegina are family sagas that take place over the course of several decades. Whereas we get a piece of Toula Portokalos’s life in the film, we get to know the Fotopolous family in-depth. This epic look at the lives of these people is riveting. In the vein of Barbara Taylor Bradford, Kammenou weaves together the stories of family in a way where it’s hard to stop reading. Kammenou grabs you from page on, where she begins the story in the middle – and at the beginning of all stories – with an unplanned pregnancy. 

While many stories lose their luster and movement come a sequel, Waiting for Aegina avoids this problem. The power of friendship and the depth of love that true friends offer is a highlight of this novel. Both of these novels will stick with you long after reading them – they deal with the deep stuff – teen pregnancies, suicide, alcoholism, and more Kammenou doesn’t shy away from the tough stuff. 

Evanthia’s Gift  

Date Published: August 7, 2015   

In the year 1956, Anastacia Fotopoulos finds herself pregnant and betrayed, fleeing from a bad marriage. With the love and support of her dear friends Stavros and Soula Papadakis, Ana is able to face the challenges of single motherhood. Left with emotional wounds, she resists her growing affection for Alexandros Giannakos, an old acquaintance. But his persistence and unconditional love for Ana and her child is eventually rewarded and his love is returned. In a misguided, but well-intentioned effort to protect the ones they love, both Ana and Alex keep secrets – ones that could threaten the delicate balance of their family.

The story continues in the 1970’s as Dean and Demi Papadakis, and Sophia Giannakos attempt to negotiate between two cultures. Now Greek-American teenagers, Sophia and Dean, who have shared a special connection since childhood, become lovers. Sophia is shattered when Dean rebels against the pressure his father places on him to uphold his Greek heritage and hides his feelings for her. When he pulls away from his family, culture and ultimately his love for her, Sophia is left with no choice but to find a life different from the one she’d hoped for.

EVANTHIA’S GIFT is a multigenerational love story spanning fifty years and crossing two continents, chronicling the lives that unify two families.

 

Waiting for Aegina

Date Published – January 7, 2016

Book Two in The Gift Saga: The continuation of Evanthia’s Gift…

In 1961, five little girls moved into a suburban neighborhood and became inseparable, lifelong friends. They called themselves the ‘Honey Hill Girls,’ named after the street on which they lived. As teenagers they shared one another’s ambitions and dreams, secrets and heartaches. Now, more than thirty years later, they remain devoted and loyal, supporting each other through triumphs and sorrows.

Evanthia’s Gift follows the life of Sophia Giannakos. In Waiting for Aegina the saga continues from the perspectives of Sophia and her friends as the story drifts back and forth in time, filling in the gaps as the women grow to adulthood.

Naive teenage ideals are later challenged by harsh realities, as each of their lives takes unexpected turns. Now nearing their fiftieth year, Sophia, Demi, Amy, Mindy and Donna stand together through life-altering obstacles while they try to regain the lighthearted optimism of their youth.

About the Author, Effie Kammenou

Effie Kammenou is a believer that it is never too late to chase your dreams, follow your heart or change your career. She is proof of that. At one time, long ago, she’d thought that, by her age, she would have had an Oscar in her hand after a successful career as an actor. Instead, she worked in the optical field for 40 years and is the proud mother of two accomplished young women.

Her debut novel, Evanthia’s Gift, is a women’s fiction multigenerational love story and family saga, influenced by her Greek heritage, and the many real life accounts that have been passed down. She continues to pick her father’s brain for stories of his family’s life in Lesvos, Greece, and their journey to America. Her interview with him was published in a nationally circulated magazine.

Evanthia’s Gift: Book One in The Gift Saga was a 2016 award finalist in the Readers Favorite Awards in the Women’s Fiction category.  Waiting for Aegina: Book Two in The Gift Saga is Kammenou’s latest release.

Effie Kammenou is a first generation Greek-American who lives on Long Island with her husband and two daughters. When she’s not writing, or posting recipes on her food blog, cheffieskitchen.wordpress.com, you can find her cooking for her family and friends.

As an avid cook and baker, a skill she learned from watching her Athenian mother, she incorporated traditional Greek family recipes throughout the books. 

She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theater Arts from Hofstra University.

Author Contact Information

Website: (food blog)

Facebook 

Twitter

Pinterest

Goodreads

Purchase Links*

Amazon: Evanthia’s Gift

Amazon: Waiting For Aegina 

Landing page for both books –

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Be sure to check these books out! If you have read them, please post your thoughts in the comments section. 

*Affiliate links – should you choose to make a purchase, I will receive a small commission that goes toward supporting my family and the administrative costs of running this blog.

GUEST POST: 6 Ways to Add Style to Your Kitchen in One Weekend

This guest post comes from Emma Lawson, an Aussie lifestyle blogger, health enthusiast, mum to two boys and lover of all little things that make our lives enjoyable.

The kitchen is the heart of every home, but however tidy and lovely, your household’s heart will inevitably develop a tedious, worn look over time. Still, a floor-to-ceiling kitchen remodel can be a costly and time-consuming affair, which is why a quick stylistic fix will be a better option if you want to doll up the cooking area without extensive makeovers or extra costs in the mix. Short on renovating inspiration? Here, help yourself to these simple touch-up ideas and create a kitchen fit for a maître chef within a single weekend.

1. Dress Cabinets in a Fresh Paint Coat

Source

 

If your kitchen cabinets have seen better days, a fresh paint job may be just what your culinary haven needs to brighten up within hours. To take kitchen storage from to drab to suave over the weekend, sand off peeling paint and dress up cabinets in a new color coat, or use contact paper to dial up the visual game in your cooking nest. If you’re an artist at heart, you can experiment with colors and come up with custom stencils to transplant to the storage units: that way, you’ll get to express your creativity while at the same time upgrading kitchen aesthetics.

2. Mirror, Mirror all over the Wall

Source: 1 , 2 & 3

Although you wouldn’t expect to see a huge mirror in the kitchen, such an aesthetic addition can help revamp your cooking area and make it look more spacious than it is. A wall-to-wall mirror is a smart trick you can use to make a powerful stylistic statement and improve lighting conditions sans extensive fixture updates or replacements. For an extra dose of style, you can update your backsplash with a reflective coat and display a set of modernist stainless steel or antique-looking silver mirrored wine glasses along the shelves.

3. A Wall to Impress – and Express

Source: 1 , 2 & 3

In case your kitchen is short on storage, now is the perfect moment to upgrade it. A cabinetry update or an extra stack of open-back, bracketed, or floating shelves will boost the functionality of your culinary nest while at the same time infusing the space with fresh feel and interest. Or, if you’re a wine lover, you can display your treasured collection in your cooking area with the help of a lovely wine rack. You can find first-rate wine racks at Peter’s of Kensington, and if you want to play the storage game safer, you can move your beloved bottled beverage to a cooler, closet, or even a cellar.

4. Shed Light on Culinary Sessions

Source

 

If you want to dial up kitchen functionality and aesthetics, you may want to do something about the lighting. A cleverly chosen lighting upgrade can render a new dimension to your kitchen and enhance its style and workability. To shed a more powerful light on your culinary endeavors, you can swap standard fluorescents for CFL or LED lighting, and top the ambient with task lighting at strategic spots around the kitchen.

5. A Quick Backsplash Fix

Source: 1 , 2 & 3

The backsplash may well be a necessity in the kitchen, but if adorned with the right materials, it can also double as the focal point in the room. If you want to add a stylish touch to your kitchen, you don’t have to overhaul the entire segment of the wall. Simply cover it with a temporary coat such as stamped tin, glass, pegboard, or plywood and voila: your kitchen is looking a lot lovelier, and the upgrade didn’t set you back a small fortune.

6. Flooring in a New Groove

Source: 1 , 2 & 3

Most kitchen floors are shod in either tile or vinyl which allow for hassle-free maintenance, but it still doesn’t mean the flooring will look its best if left exposed. For a dose of kitchen elegance, coat the floors with area rugs or non-slip floor covers: inexpensive yet effective, the update will add a dose of warmth and style to your cooking area, and it’ll also serve as an additional layer of underfoot insulation during cold months.

As elegant and well-maintained as it may be, your kitchen won’t stay shipshape and stylish on its own. To keep your cooking area as suave as you want it to be, you’ll need to update it now and again – and if you’re carrying out the partial remodel on a budget or when pressed for time, the ideas listed above may just come in handy, and you can throw in a few plants as a charming finishing touch. Life’s too short to spend your cooking hours in anything short of a pitch-perfect backdrop, so don’t let the kitchen aesthetics go amiss because you can help it.

 

Book Excerpt: Worthy of This Great City

I’m excited to have had the opportunity to read Worthy of This Great City by Mike Miller, and share this excerpt from the book with my readers. As you may know, I was a philosophy major in college, and my MA degree and Ph.D. work are both in philosophy – particularly social and political theory. When I had the call for tour participants come across my email, I was happy to sign up to participate. This book has philosophical undertones, and it’s quite an amusing read – especially in light of our contemporary political climate. If you’ve been waiting for a light-hearted look at politics, ethics, and “the end of virtue,” you won’t want to miss Mike Miller’s Worthy of This Great City.

About the Novel
Literary / Satire

Date Published: October 2016

Publisher: JAM Publishing

Ruth Askew, a minor celebrity, is spouting some highly incompetent philosophy about the end of virtue. Con Manos, a journalist, is attempting to uncover a political scandal or two. Add some undistinguished members of City Council, an easy listening radio station, a disorganized charity, a prestigious Philadelphia newspaper, and any number of lawyers and other professional criminals. In Worthy Of This Great City the compelling stories of two stubborn individualists intertwine in a brisk, scathing satire that invites you to question everything you think you think about today’s most discussed issues: populism and elitism, the possibility of truth, the reach of profound stupidity, and the limits of personal responsibility in these post-truth, morally uncertain times.

About the Author

If you know my website and Twitter addresses (asmikemiller.com and asmikemiller, respectively), you must realize Mike Miller is only an author name. It’s not a matter of privacy 
or secrecy; anybody can find me with minimal effort. It’s about keeping things separate. My writing is about what appears on the page. It’s not about my personal politics or religion or history. 
 
Worthy Of This Great City is a B-game book. I’m ambiguous about this, being interested in money like most people, but I don’t want to compete with a slick professional cover or smooth editing so I’ve stuck to a sort of reasonable, human middle ground. I value those things for what they are, of course, but I see them as artifacts, part of a system of publishing that fought like hell for a week’s worth of shelf space, that fought to catch the eye, not the mind or heart. 
 
As my character Con Manos says: “It’s a revolution, isn’t it?” I say: Why fight on the side of the enemy? Why imitate and thus perpetuate a business model that stifles originality? Just to show you can? Unless, of course, you’re fighting to attract the eye, not the mind or heart.
 
I’ve played a joke with this novel – my first, incidentally. Played with the idea of narration and who can be speaking after all. It’s all very literary.
 

Worthy of This Great City 

CHAPTER ONE

Worthy of This Great City Mike MillerEarlier that day, I lay in the shade with only my bare toes exposed to the vicious sun, part of a modest audience similarly disposed beneath the modest fringe of trees surrounding the field. Light fell down through the foliage, thick victorious beams that described powerful angles in their descent inside the usual breathtaking green cathedral. Around me the grass was withered and compressed into a flattened mat over ground still saturated from the previous night’s thunderstorms; everything smelled of baking wet earth, sunscreen, and greasy event food. I don’t remember any intrusive insects or even visible birds except for a couple of extremely distant hawks, dull specks in the otherwise empty sky.

Another respectable scattering of spectators occupied the baking field, most sprawled directly in front of the small Camp Stage, true fans eagerly upright despite the merciless heat. So just as expected, one of those perfectly innocent afternoons you buy with the ticket, monotonous while deeply nourishing, readily absorbed through the whole skin like childhood summers.

 didn’t know about the witches yet, but they were out in force. Yeah, it’s a silly description but I don’t know how else to capture the awful effect of those damn women. So they were witches who’d been summoned by a highly demanding assembly of affluent suburbanites, people accustomed to commanding natural forces. And while arguably these were all benevolent females who only meant well, with witches you never know how it’s going to turn out.

Every August for more than a decade I’ve headed out to Schwenksville for this dependable throwback party. And not precisely to enjoy the music, because although it commands my absolute respect I find it too intense for everyday entertainment. It’s a kind of church music, an unashamed church of humanity: pure sound, plaintive and honest, twanging and rambunctious, dulcimer gentle. Fitting, then, for this late-summer pagan rite in honor of righteousness, and I immerse myself in it to perform a spiritual cleansing of sorts, processing across the fields from one rustic venue to another, affirming a succession of bluegrass pickers and ballad wailers and theatrical tellers of old tales. And it’s a mildly uncomfortable ritual in another sense, but that’s because of the mostly undamaged people, the one’s who wholeheartedly enjoy everything and applaud too often.

As with anything religious, there are incredibly subversive undercurrents longing to manifest, easy to exploit by those portending witches. Two of them performed that day, one with such tragic skill and clarity it unintentionally aroused huge amounts of self-loathing and subsequently resentment, at least in me. The second inspired a joy vigorous enough to move the plot. And the third exerted an indirect but equally damning influence courtesy of her own celebrity, her mere idea inciting a shaming nostalgia. In fact it was dangerously stupid to speak her name aloud. All three arrived wearing absolute certainty.

This current festival setting, the Old Pool Farm, is perfectly suited to the occasion. There are wide fields to accommodate the generous crowds, a nicely crisp and sparkly creek, and the requisite gates and groves, all at a situation remote enough to evoke a wholly separate culture despite easy proximity to the city. Although that’s not difficult, because even today you only have to poke your nose outside the nearer suburbs to spot a rusty silo on some decrepit farm with another of those filthy black-and-white, diarrhea-spewing dairy cows leaning against a sagging wire fence, its pelvis practically poking through its muddy hide. Peeling paint and hay bales directly across the road from another mushrooming pretentious development, a slum of dull, identical cheapjack townhouses. So despite the fervent country claptrap the festival is essentially a metropolitan scene, drawing a sophisticated crowd, and therefore in one sense condescending, an insult.

Murmurs of anticipation brought me up on my elbows to discover Hannah Lynch already onstage, a typically modest entrance. I sat up and paid attention, catching sight of her inside an amiable circle of probable musicians, a glimpse of her face and one thin shoulder between competent-looking backs in cowboy or cotton work shirts, all of them endlessly conversing there in surprisingly gentle voices.

Until finally they broke apart and here she came gliding towards the front of the tiny platform, moving within a reputation so illustrious it made her physical presence unlikely and you had to struggle for it. A tiny bird of a woman, an elderly, fragile sparrow with fine gray hair and hazel eyes and translucent skin, nodding to us and smiling nicely with small unremarkable teeth while seating herself on a wooden folding chair. She was dressed like good people, like a decent Christian farmwife in a faded print skirt and cotton blouse of mixed pastels, pink and beige and blue. Only with dangling silver jewelry to be noticed, since after all she was a major star.

With this one unshakable article of faith: that her famously quavering soprano was entirely unrelated to her own ordinary self, more of an imposition or a trust, an undeserved gift from God that in no way merited personal praise. So she has stated. And accordingly she exuded genuine empathy with all of us waiting out there for her, straining forward to better capture the spirit and stamina investing each word. A curve of laughter lit her face, and there was grief there too, but nothing to diminish that serene spirit.

Beside me Crystal, blatantly artificial trendoid in that audience of cosmopolitan pseudo-naturals, for once had the good sense to keep her mouth shut. Crystal, please note, was present only because she suspected this event mattered to me and meant to chain herself to it in my memory. She was an unashamed criminal, and really sweet, and I admired her.

Lynch sat there looking at us and hugging her guitar, once giving it a surreptitious pat like a favorite pet before launching into one of those unexpectedly piercing old songs, a rather shocking rush of raw bitterness and despair – nothing silvered there – railing rather than mourning yet cleanly tragic because without any confusion of entitlement or excuse, in fact totally untainted by melodrama, an expression of rightful fury to upend your sensibilities and make you cringe inside your pampered, complacent soul.

And onward, commanding that summer hour with a repertoire of futile longing, black misery, true love, unalloyed injustice, and journeying away as only the truly dispossessed can journey. How inadequate we were by comparison, what undeserved good fortune to be sitting there vicariously sharing the infinite human endurance of those former generations, thus beatified now. Sharing a deep pride in our good taste and our faultless fundamental values.

And that’s how this festival always goes for me: a fusion of rapture and fleeting realization, of purging and rebirth I suppose. We avid celebrants being served by true vicars, unassuming conduits of grace because essentially craftspeople evincing the unquestioning self-respect of their kind, therefore automatically accepting us as equals and worthy of their respect, refusing to cater. That’s how Lynch and her ilk deliver their deadly blows, how they incite our reckless, self-destructive impulses.

Because the problem is, nothing is enough and never can be, not in any case. And in addition to that, this particular event carries an impossible burden of triumphant civil rights baggage. A weight of expectation, purest gold and just as heavy, presses down on those fields like an approaching storm, flattening the trees, placing an unbearable strain on our moral muscles, making even the most authentic and engaged participant stagger for reasons most often never identified.

You see there’s no battle here anymore, a situation as frustrating as it is pathetic. I mean, what’s so pitiable as striving mightily to wage a war already won, or achieve a moral victory already popularly embraced? Like you’re on some lone and dangerous crusade instead of enjoying a mere reenactment, an amusement park ride. As if any real social hazard or physical extremity ever threatened most of these initiates. As if they could face the real front line today. Come to that, what in the world ever sprang from this placid piece of Pennsylvania countryside anyway, or even its nearby metropolis, so far from the bloody front lines of decades past? What justifies this hallowed ambience? Everyone knows the real struggle was over in another state, in the deep South or New York or California, all that televised passion and pain. Yet here’s a similar legacy, an undeserved renown.

Seriously, you have to consider this heritage of the sixties, that era of righteousness and innocence and victory, you have to ponder the connection to the contemporary lives and events I’m describing here. Resurrect that intoxicating scent of possibility. Realize how strong it is, what it can do. Watch any old news film and it’s literally like viewing creatures from another planet, those young people are so alien, their gestures and expressions so certain and strident, an entire new world in their angry, accusatory eyes. What can any of that mean in this age of spent possibility?

So today the Folk Fest is largely a masturbatory farce of self-congratulation, courtesy of this pushy, upscale audience basking in its accustomed sunshine, displaying that forceful amiability that means money, smiling too brightly over bare freckled shoulders. Uniformly pale people displaying their ease on this bucolic faux battlefield, all aggressively self-aware. And meanwhile a barely perceptible, slightly demented energy flutters along at grass level, an intrepid narcissism bent on having a significant experience and more than a little desperate to measure up to itself.

I’m as progressive as anyone, I secretly gloat over my superiority, so for me all this underlying energy eventually manifests as low-grade irritation, and the fact that bad temper is implicitly verboten at this event only makes it that much worse. And then here comes Lynch to further emphasize everyone’s obvious unworthiness and what can you do but silently seethe with frustrated moral ambition. This is the one Folk Fest constant I always dismiss until it’s too late and I’m climbing aboard one of the yellow school buses that shuttle people in from the parking fields, listening to all the boisterous but balanced chatter. Probably a deliberate amnesia, because as I say, for me it’s a religious event.

So by later that Saturday afternoon I was largely disgusted with myself and as you can imagine, wonderful company. Once again stretched out on my back but this time my whole body obstinately exposed to the brutal heat, and while I had a bucket hat shielding my face I’d raised my knees to better facilitate the burn penetrating my jeans. I reached my left hand out past the edge of Crystal’s spongy blue blanket, feeling for the heart of the earth deep underneath the dispirited vegetation, Edna Millay style.

There we greeted the second witch, and for an interlude of spontaneous revelry the whole phony carnival dissolved, wiping away our precious fictions to reveal the one face behind the infinitely varied masks. Rather commonplace moments to underline the supertext, a brief but blessed release from introspective angst, an intoxicated dance that anyway began wholeheartedly but inevitably dwindled into posturing before ultimately discarding us back into isolated, shattered pieces of humanity scattered over a sunlit field.

We were in front of the main stage, the Martin Guitar Stage, a venue that backs into some tame leftover woods. The smaller Tank Stage was to my right, with behind it a private area for performers, and to my left the equally small Craft Stage. Further left was all the familiar festival retail, folkie variety, striped tents selling hippie throwback goods like handcrafted ceramics, carved wooden bowls, tie-dye skirts, hand-strung glass beads, and bad art. In between the main and Craft Stages a tiny dirt path paralleled a shallow creek of sparkling mica and soft mud; both disappeared into the dim coolness of the Dulcimer Grove, a rather precious habitat of jugglers and magicians and others of that Renaissance Faire ilk, a determinedly magical place more or less reserved to scantily clad or frankly naked children, their cheeks painted with stars and moons in indigo and crimson. Either they’re truly mesmerized by these archaic amusements or they’re convinced they should be by the adults and the daycare atmosphere, because they all sit there expending fierce concentration on colored sand and sparkly fairy dust, their little pink tongues extended in effort. I mean, all the world is fake, even the kids. Around them circles a protective hillside of slender trees roped together by string hammocks in bright primary colors, a haphazard effect of beggars’ rags pegged out to dry.

If you follow that same path straight on you come out on field with more dry grass, more distant trees, and another vacant horizon. On the right is the Camp Stage, site of Lynch’s morning concert; on the left an unremarkable gate gives onto the campers’ settlement, one of those ephemeral constructions of funky tent-and-RV fantasies, castles and pyramids and suburban estates complete with lawn furniture and barbeques and anything else you need for rustic comfort. The affable professional performers come here after the regular shows to sit and drink and play their music well into the summer nights, just for these special stalwarts. Notice how everyone’s personal effects are carefully positioned to define private family spaces but without absolutely excluding the requisite hobnobbing community, because that would repudiate the spirit of the thing.

And anywhere you care to look there are all these exceptionally pleasant people, a seasonal confluence of the enlightened: middle-aged, nattily-bearded men with thick hairy ankles showing beneath those long gauzy skirts; visibly well-educated younger couples falling all over each other in reassuring mutual recognition; friendly teens aglow with their own laudable social spirit or familiarity with meaningful music or both; and grimy toddlers in T-shirts and shimmering plastic haloes with their baby curls shining and their fingers to their mouths and their tiny feet covered with dirt. Skimpy tank tops and glittery backpacks, idiosyncratic witches cones and sombreros and straw cowboy hats covered in button collections, pale muscled calves and freckled backs red with sun and damp with perspiration.

All these regulation types navigate cordially across the fields, buying and eating and exercising their approval, until later in the afternoon when the heat is truly intolerable and it’s a matter of claiming a place for the folding chairs and coolers and settling in for the afternoon concert. When for a couple of hours all these enervated devotees create for themselves an enormous patchwork quilt of blankets and tarps, an American prayer rug rolled out beneath the glare.

I among them, hiding under my hat, squinting up from under the brim, intending not so much to watch the performances as to absorb them from a neutral distance. Meanwhile I was relishing the sense of Crystal beside me, resentful at having to endure all this legitimate music.

When here came a second celebrated woman into this extraordinary and disorganized day, an ineffably cosmopolitan presence in a white silk shirt that billowed out over notably slim hips and tight black jeans tucked into cowboy boots. The costume only emphasized the unmistakable sophistication in the sharp angle of her jaw and the sleek black bob swinging at her shoulder. That taut body edged itself onto the stage and into our attention, anticipation suffusing her narrow face, her whole person radiating the intrinsically cool self-content of a magician about to pull off the big illusion and astonish us all.

Lifting fiddle and bow, lowering them to call a comment offstage, bringing them back up to her pointed chin experimentally while a guitarist, drummer, and another violinist fooled with getting into position, and around me an expectant rustle shook off the afternoon lethargy, and once again I sat up and wiped the sweat and sunscreen from my forehead.

She leaned forward a fraction to acknowledge us.

“Hello all you very special people.” Now decisively raising her instrument. “Three jigs.”

Well, you know that kind of tritely manipulative music, but then her exceptional skill, that energy climbing into a frenzy, the first notes reaching us with the adolescent enthusiasm of uncurling spring leaves. Music so familiar and yet astonishingly fresh, something behind the insistence of it transcending its own rather sentimental imagining. Passages as fleet but powerful as pure energy, and you’d actually have to defend against the physical impact but why would you bother to fight off such delirious joy?

They have a reserved seating section in front of the main stage, a modest pen containing rows of wooden folding chairs surrounded by a fence of deliberately rickety palings. It was largely unpopulated for the afternoon performance. A dirt lane about ten feet wide separated this area from the field of common folk. Crystal and I were up front, right near the dusty edge of this path, and close to us, in the lane itself and with one tiny hand firmly grasping the enclosure fence, stood a fairy-slim blonde girl of five or six. Just as I fully noticed her she launched into the familiar steps of an Irish jig, lifting first one exquisite bare foot and then the other into tentative arcs, curving each arm alternately above her head. From her shoulders a pastel summer dress floated out in the shape of a loose triangle, and her movements caused her hair to caress her perfect little back.

With the increasing confidence of the music her delicate feet, fragile pale-pink petals, rose and crossed each other in an assured sequence that bespoke formal lessons, and meanwhile her eyes never lifted from her toes and her pallid face was tense in concentration. Only once did she manage a quick glance up to a middle-aged scholarly type, probably her father, who nodded mild encouragement but displayed, I thought, some slight annoyance.

Now complex annotations around the tune turned tight elegant spirals; it was all self-interest now, you understand, nothing to do with us but instead its own internal voyage. In the path the child reworked her steps, her frown expressing frustration with her own limited expertise.

When suddenly appeared two barefoot, competent-looking women in their early thirties skipping down the lane, then widely twirling, then skipping again, their hands clasped and arms outstretched to form a traveling arrow. Both flaunting gauzy pastel skirts and silvery tank tops that exposed perspiring firm flesh, both draped with multiple glittering strands of Mardi Gras beads flashing purple and green and mauve. They acknowledged the blond child with an upward swing of their joined hands high over her head, a bridal arch speeding by on either side. It made her giggle but move closer to the fence.

The fiddler was bending practically in half over her bow and the second fiddler not being any slouch either, their hands and arms pushing towards the absolute limits of muscular possibility, straining against themselves to maintain their momentum.

Then four ethereally lithe teenage girls forming two pairs, and they were in regulation T-shirts and shorts except all bore silvery translucent wings that flapped at their slim shoulders; they went whirling around and around each other and simultaneously forward, delightful gyroscopes with their feet stomping hard on the infectious strain yet for all that maintaining the ludicrously disinterested expressions of runway models.

Promptly followed by a young couple charging along in an outright polka, aggressive but a tiny bit shamefaced, too: he was slim and wore a neatly-trimmed dark beard; she was sturdy and short with a pixie haircut and a refined air, like an educator. The little dancer flattened herself against the fence but continued a rhythmic bopping, presenting no less enchanting an image. And she was proved wise, because here came the same young couple back again, being the kind of people who need to underline the obvious.

Passing midway an approaching male pair, seeming now a little more obliged than inspired, their muscular calves flashing below their khaki kilts: one was broad in the shoulders and chest with a thin ass and spindly legs; his partner was entirely slim, remarkably tall, and balding. Presenting the impression although little of the force of a strong wind, they nevertheless managed to turn the little dancer halfway round, her moist mouth open in wonder. She paused there, staring after them.

Now the dancing was everywhere. I stood up to confirm a modest sea of erratically bobbing heads at every side but especially to the right, past the Tank Stage: enlightened middlebrows and emotionally stranded hippies and likeable healthy teens and self-disciplined mandolin players and confident cultural elitists and miscellaneous commonsensical types engaged in a nearly impromptu production number, for one bright second emerged from behind the mask of individualism, openly expressing one joyously creative soul.

Well, we were dancing out in the field as well, all of us to some extent, the more exhibitionist characters gyrating on their bright blue tarps and lifting their hands in the air, and some efficient types illegally occupying the marked-off aisles, prancing with impudent liberty up and back. Patrons excessively enthusiastic or self-consciously hesitant but almost everyone involving themselves in the music. I was dancing too, not to make a spectacle of myself or anything but feeling myself a part of the gala. And about then I realized it was already ending because that’s how these things always go.

Frenzied vibrations, faster than you could believe, and we listeners attended first with our ears and then with our bodies, stilling them now, desperate to capture every last second until inevitably all of it was swiftly and immaculately recalled into one compact point of silence and we found ourselves abandoned to our accustomed exile, returned to the pretense of our separate selves.

She played two more sets, we in her audience dutifully imitating our initial enthusiasm, grateful for the continuing reprieve. I’ve said it before: reality moves so fast anymore, we’ve all become experts at polite deceit.

Folk Fest protocol is to kick everyone out around six, sweep the grounds, then ticket everyone back in for the evening concert. You wait in a cattle shoot, at least if you’re fairly close to the gate, or anywhere nearby if you’re not, until finally the loudspeakers blare a Sousa march and you grab your chairs and blankets and coolers and run like hell to beat the other folkies to a premium patch of grass. Therefore it’s prudent to leave early enough to ensure you’re at the front of the return pack, and that afternoon, as usual, the knowledgeable attendees ignored the high, unrelenting sun, ignored even the name performer just introducing himself, and started unobtrusively filtering out.

I was making my own preliminary moves when I recognized Ruth off to the right, by herself and slightly beyond the audience proper. She was rather elaborately brushing grass off her shirt, and her hair was drifting into her face as usual; her entire aspect projected excruciating self-consciousness. It was the intricate performance of a woman uncoordinated at life yet used to being watched. She was in a lacy peasant blouse that didn’t suit her big-boned frame – it was lavender, too, which didn’t help – and loose black jeans over black cowboy boots. Her attention shifted to getting the blouse centered correctly; when finally she noticed me, that man standing perfectly still and staring at her, I waved a hand over my head in greeting. I have no idea why I didn’t just avoid her.

She assumed an automatic grin but then recognized me back and her smile turned beaming, and with it she transformed herself into a reasonably attractive woman, an odd but intriguing combination of big straight white teeth, thick dirty-blond hair, low forehead, pale freckles, and a long, arched nose that enlivened her profile with an aquiline swiftness.

Behind me Crystal was standing with our blanket gathered up in a big, baby blue synthetic wad; we watched Ruth maneuver through the half-seated, half-moving spectators, visibly enduring our inspection. When she got closer you noticed the deep frown lines between her brows and realized how much older she was than you’d assumed from the juvenile posturing.

A forthright greeting to Crystal and a frankly offered hand, all fraught with the deep disdain of the intelligent, accomplished woman encountering the undeserved self-esteem of the merely lovely. To which assault Crystal responded with her typical flaccid grip and a near shrug, an implied refusal to expend any more of her precious personal energy on uninteresting shit. Ruth turned away from us, towards the stage, where an athletic-looking but otherwise unassuming man of about forty in a tired cowboy hat was inaudibly explaining a song. That duty done, she faced us again.

“This is all new to me. It’s wonderful! That dancing.” She opened her arms wide to encompass the stage, the field, and the discreetly dispersing audience. “Very Caucasian.”

Well. The cowboy strummed an acoustic guitar, meanwhile calmly examining his surroundings for concealed gunslingers. And naturally I remembered our lunch but that was months ago, so surely whatever she was babbling about then was probably old news and anyway too vague to reference or be embarrassed over now.

She was brushing at her jeans for no discernable reason. “Did I tell you about Leticia Rowan?”

Just typical. What about Leticia Rowan? How aggravating when I hadn’t seen Ruth for months! I knew Rowan was the night’s closing act. Meanwhile my brain was automatically playing familiar media images backed by the old uplifting refrains: that bold soprano keening from the Capitol steps, debunking the myth of American justice; the slim, avid girl of the famous photograph where she’s perched on a stool in a Greenwich Village coffee house, radiant with the novel excitement of causing real change. Set on living a validated life, perfectly exemplifying those decisive, glorious years, that age of energy and faith. Today still socially engaged, as you would expect, and while no longer that wondrous sylph just as lovely in the clean bone beneath the motherly padding. But most often appearing during those public broadcasting fund-raisers, programs aimed at prosperous boomers eager to relive a spurious past.

“I’m introducing her tonight.”

“The hell you are.” It was such a stupid lie, not even remotely sustainable. Especially outrageous when you considered Ruth’s musical identity: her morning drive-time show featured one of those feel-good formats: generic soft rock interspersed with headlines, traffic, celebrity gossip, and a few carefully screened listener calls. Media hypocrisy providing a safe harbor for the harried immature listener, carefully friendly and slick and sympathetic and definitely never politically or socially oriented when that might mean causing offense. Also never mind that Gene Shay, comfortably stout folkie radio program host from a very different station, legendary teller of truly horrendous jokes, always introduced the performers here, world without end, amen. Come on.

“Right, you know everything. I forgot. And you’re never wrong.” I suppose that was an ostensibly genial poke at my renowned erudition. I happen to think if someone asks you a question they should have the courtesy to listen to the answer.

“I’m speaking after Gene.” Gene! And she was looking repulsively self-satisfied. “I asked Leticia Rowan if I could say a few words and she agreed, for some strange reason.” Now slipping into her professional mode, that rather arch blend of certainty and faux intimacy delivered with an indelible Lina Lamont slur: cay-unt um-an-jin. Fingering the silver holy medals at her throat, a crucifix and two others piled up together on a single delicate silver chain: Jude of the impossible and the Virgin Mary.

And she laughed at my horrified expression and launched into what I assume was a fairly mendacious account of a reception for Women in the Media at the lovely old Bellevue, where at that sort of event there’s a rigid social hierarchy: the unfed proletariat leaning forward from chairs up on the mezzanine to watch on monitors, and the elite dining at tables down on the ballroom floor. Ruth skipped over who was speaking on what and cut straight to dessert for the privileged few, she naturally among them being her gracious public self, wandering around being affable and networking with vibrant women in suits too bright for an office and intelligent men with refined, open faces, clearly expensive slacks and jackets, and beautifully cut hair.

And there was Leticia Rowan already in town and seated comfortably in a corner behind a tortured centerpiece of bamboo and tiny orange orchids, casually chatting with a couple of intimates. So Ruth went up and offered another of those frank handshakes. “I’m truly awed.” Basically insinuating herself into the party, making it clear who was honoring whom.

Then went prattling on in her practiced glib fashion about youthful idealism and her own fictitious activist past, seasoning it with ingenuous regret over her current disengaged state to smooth along the manipulation. Although this with a woman surely inured to dubious approaches? There’s something unconvincing about this I haven’t the time to investigate but the result must hinge on Ruth’s accumulating nervous tension, the months if not years behind the coming explosion. That kind of stress sets you performing impulsive actions, forcing unaccountable outcomes.

In retrospect I think Ruth once again mistook a fortuitous encounter for the hand of destiny and just barged ahead. Either that, or else she fell victim to that common desire to cleave to what one professes to despise.

I was dumbfounded. “Why?”

“Oh, envy I guess. I wanted to be part of it.” Charmingly stated, her forehead furrowed in recollection. And what was I supposed to say to any of it?

Behind us the cowboy mooed through a mild dirge, disrupting nothing; around us the field was nearly empty, abandoned to the insistent sun. And Ruth was standing before me explaining too much and nothing at all, once again too intense, setting off all sorts of warning bells.

Crystal lifted a pastel spaghetti strap from a pink shoulder and raised her impudent big gray eyes, looking at Ruth with that innocent expression women use to express contempt. Her private opinion of Ruth: “Nobody has to be seen looking like that.”

Crystal was another communications major and model manqué hoping to become, of all things, a personality. That ubiquitous blond hair, the pleasant features of no special distinction just slightly out of proportion: another responsibly raised, college-educated harpy bereft of individuality because nature abhors individuality. Instead she emanates sex, it’s in her bones and baby face, her short upper lip and outrageous ambition. Don’t expect her to evolve, because she’ll never be other than she is right now. Fortunately she’s immune to jealous criticism, not being that kind of stupid nor shy to succeed. She held some kind of entry-level management job at the Center City Holiday Inn Express, an occupation that never seemed to seriously impact her real life. Crystal is her birth name.

“Thom here?” I asked.

Ruth’s husband, a frequent guest on her program as either political insider or amiable comic foil, was a local celebrity in his own right, a Philadelphia familiar, a compendium of agreeable ugliness, frightening intelligence, crooked teeth in a moist marshmallow grin, Ivy League polish, loud patterned shirts, genuine charm, horrible posture, an unrepentant gift for outrageous flattery, and an impudent, cutting wit. Outsiders considered him the epitome of Main Line class.

“He’s in Harrisburg.” Acknowledging my disquiet, looking amused for my benefit, but her eyes were shading into wariness. She pushed that uncontrollable hair from her damp forehead. “I’m running around loose today.”

And she gave me a minor, tight smile, raised a few fingers in a little goodbye salute, and strode purposefully towards the gate.

“Hunh!” Crystal said for both of us.

Festival security is handled by costumed volunteers: polite, energetic young people impersonating funky pirates or medieval wizards or just nameless creatures of purely idiosyncratic design. This clean-cut constabulary was now shepherding we stragglers to the main gate with cordial efficiency, their intricate hats, adorned with oversized badges of authority, visibly bobbing over the heads of the crowd. The cowboy singer had vanished.

I stood there in the empty afternoon glare, again hunting around for a rational line of thought but failing to find one. Finally, today, I have an insight: my being there that afternoon helped determine the event.

I navigated us out of the grounds and smuggled us under the rope to a decent spot not too far back in the queue; none of the polite people already there objected. Crystal was perking up now she could catch the scent of approaching evening, her posture opening up to opportunity, her eyes brightly observant. I ducked back under the ropes to get a couple of Cokes from a vending machine and together we waited out the forced restorative lull, letting the afternoon settle down around us, watching the families in lawn chairs eating their dinners, relaxing in public. At length the loudspeakers sounded and we all pushed forward through the gates and launched into the usual painfully hilarious sprint. I got us fairly far up front on the center aisle and bent over gratefully, hands to knees, while from the corner of my blurred vision I saw Crystal plop herself down with her mildly victimized face.

Faint applause, which had to be for the traditional bagpipe welcome; a moment later I could hear the piper myself, and then came Gene Shay with his terrible jokes. By twilight we were enduring a young bluegrass quartet of some nascent merit but an unfortunate air of artsy superiority. Then an enjoyable mambo interlude evoking romantic images out of fifties movies, and by full darkness the Jumbotron screens displayed a close-up of a frail, dedicated Canadian singer-songwriter, another of those admirable females. Insidious damp was seeping through my jeans and sweatshirt, chilling my ass. Disembodied light-sticks moved at random, children giggled, and the kindly scent of marijuana wafted by in sporadic gusts.

Crystal and I outlasted the Canadian over strawberry smoothies doctored with vodka while around us the night coalesced into a blackness that seemed physical and bulky, something you could push aside like drapes. Then there was that huge yellowed moon illuminating the speeding brown clouds, making the entire universe feel unusually sentient.

Gene Shay was back with even more of those horrendous jokes, to be replaced by a middle-aged dignitary in a blazer over jeans, quietly defiant.

“We are the light of truth, the truth the capitalists and the banks and the conglomerates want forgotten. But we’re still here, still burning bright through the darkness.” He actually said that, sure of the personal politics of these many music lovers, all these people who could afford to share his opinion. Declaiming thus in an understated but confident bass, Main Line meets simple country boy to produce unfaltering self-respect. Positions shuffled onstage and there was Gene Shay back, leaning sideways into the standing mike to signal brevity.

“And now let’s talk about one particular brilliant candle shining through the darkness, brighter than almost any other, one of the iconic voices of an era of civil renaissance: the inimitable Leticia Rowan.” Grinning back offstage as if to a good friend, as maybe she was. “And just to underline how special this really is, we have an additional guest, because Philly’s very own Ruth Askew is going to provide us a more personal introduction.”

There was a kind of group shrug but nothing worrisome.

A further positional dance, the screens displaying indistinct blobs and random emptiness, and finally there was Ruth behind the microphone. We observed her taking us in: waving lights skittering over dull shapes, anticipatory shifting and murmurs, a few people in motion pausing on their way somewhere to see if it was worth the wait. Magnified, she looked brutally plain, with noticeable lines around her mouth and those disproportionately large, disturbingly vulnerable blue eyes.

And she just stood there, absolutely rigid, until we all paid complete attention. I think she was overwhelmed by pure contempt, that it confounded her ability to speak, so instead she spat at us

When everyone instinctively recoiled, as you can imagine, but now she was past her initial paralysis. More, she was beyond pretense, out in the wild ether, and you could almost see the crazy. We instinctively coalesced into a tight defensive silence.

“That’s for all you virtue thieves.” She’d struck this theatrical posture of aggressive confidence, all very square and speaking directly down to us.

“But unfortunately for you, we’ve reached the end of righteousness. Not in this electronic age. No more fleeing consequences and calling yourself good. Time itself is nothing but our continual separating away from the primordial dead nothingness of absolute truth and rightness.”

It’s almost over, but I hope you see how excruciating it was. I’m sorry to have to assault your sensibilities with this shit but we were all squirming in unforgivable embarrassment and you should understand.

And to be fair, is your religion less silly? Isn’t every great religion or even philosophy as impossibly childish? And here’s something else: she was handing us a diagram of her own psyche and circumstances, issuing a perfectly clear warning that went ignored simply because it was way too obvious. Because this is, after all, a story about stupidity where everything is fucking clear if you just pay attention.

Ruth put a hand to the mike, still keeping that confident posture.

“This is the next great evolutionary leap. We will claim the future responsibly, and we will become more like God.”

Just at that moment, the words flown, the energy abating, I could sense her dawning comprehension of the enormity of her situation. She looked to her side – for something, someone? And then she sent a little nod out to us, to the compact, alert darkness.

“Then to the elements be free, and fare thou well!”

That’s Prospero, retiring his magic and releasing the slave-spirit Ariel at the end of The Tempest.

But Ruth stayed out there, holding that same strong, taut pose until a calm Gene Shay was suddenly present and gently thanking her from the stage, sending us a tolerant nod while herding her aside. And there at last was the great Leticia Rowan herself, that vast, benign goddess in a golden caftan, smiling an unrestrained country smile, exuding inexhaustible strength and kindness. Clearly decent people, both of them.

Ruth was barely visible now, but I saw her turn to take a final glance back at us, her face for one moment revealed to the giant screens, then as abruptly absent. Terrified of course, because terror is her resting state, and still insolent, and definitely smug. 

Contact Information

Website: asmikemiller.com

Twitter: @asmikemiller

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16051629.Mike_Miller

Purchase Links

Amazon*

 

*If you make a purchase from this site, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to yourself. Offering links that give me a commission from purchases helps to support my family and keep this blog running.

Creating a Monthly Meal Plan

MyGreatRecipes Monthly Meal Plan
*This post on creating a monthly meal plan is sponsored by my friends at MyGreatRecipes.com.

For the last couple of months, I’ve been working on a solution to the “what are we eating tonight?” problem. For a long time, I was putting together my family’s meal plans week-by-week. When we just had one fairly self-sufficient teenage kiddo, that worked well, but as soon as life would happen (and we all know life happens), I’d skip planning for that week. Sometimes, I’d skip planning for a couple weeks. Before we’d know it, we would be eating takeout too much, buying things we didn’t make at the grocery store, and turned out pantry into a hot mess. After our 2015 baby arrived on the scene, things were even more chaotic! Enter the idea for the monthly meal plan.

Every Problem Needs a Solution

I needed a solution, and for that solution, I decided that I would come up with a menu plan (and put together the shopping lists) a month in advance. I also streamlined the way I looked at the week, making it much easier to plan each day in the month:

  • Mondays are Meatless
  • Tuesdays are for Tacos (and other Southwestern/Mexican foods)
  • Wednesdays are for Wraps, Burgers, and Sammies
  • Thursdays are for Italian Food
  • Fridays/Saturdays are “Fabulous” (Asian foods, Indian foods, African foods, Mediterranean foods)
  • Sundays are traditional American fare

I look through the month ahead and note any holidays I’d like to cook for (i.e. Mardi Gras, Pi Day, St. Patrick’s Day, etc.) that require a special menu. 

But Where Do You Find Meal Ideas?

Some of my meal plan items are family favorites, some come from my extensive cookbook collection, and some come from blogs I follow. This is all well and good, but it’s not easy to search all of those places for recipes when I’m trying to get the menu planning task done. 

Recently, I became aware of the MyGreatRecipes app.  This is a visual app that allows you to search for different types of foods, pull up recipes, and share your favorite recipes. For example, if I want to plan a special St. Patty’s Day meal, I can search for such dishes, and get a list:
I like how the format is like Pinterest, since I’m a visual person. When you select a recipe and click on it, you can view the person’s rating of the recipe as well as related recipes. 

This makes it super-easy to find recipes for my meal plan.

Putting My Monthly Meal Plan Together

In addition to scheduling out meals, I also try to schedule out our month – that way, when it comes time to put recipes with days, I know whether there is a class for one of the small people, whether it’s a late-work day for my husband, or whether I’ll have a tight deadline for a client. I try to plan accordingly – simple or slow cooker meals when we’re going to need to eat later in the evening, meals with recipes my husband can follow easily, or planned take-out meals when things are going to be hectic for all of the cooking adults in the family. 

I have a special tab in my Outlook calendar for the menu plans. Here’s an example of how a month’s spread looks. The week of takeout had to do with us going on a short trip to tour a college for the teenager. 

I paste the link to the recipe in the comments section of the “event” on my Outlook calendar so the information is there and ready to go. 

Creating a Grocery List in Advance

It’s going to sound crazy, but the next step I take after creating my month of meals is to break down the month into weeks and create a shopping list for each week. This way, all I have to do is double check my pantry and print the list when we are ready for our weekly big shop. MyGreatRecipes makes it really easy to compile a grocery list in the app. 

How Do You Do Your Meal Planning?

Do you plan meals on the fly, by the week, or by the month? Share your thoughts in the comments section, and be sure you check out the cool new app at MyGreatRecipes

Book Review: Unbound by Steph Jagger

Sometimes, you work really, really hard for a really long time, and then you hit a wall. That wall may be one created due to burnout; it may be one that is created from trying to keep up with others; it may be one created when you realize you no longer care to live up to the expectations everyone else puts on you. 

That’s what happened to Steph Jagger, and she writes about it in Unbound. I can relate to her a lot. For a long time, in a male-dominated field (philosophy), I worked really hard to keep up with the guys around me. I was doing a great job! But, I wasn’t happy. Something was missing. Long hours, jumping through academic hoops, and the pressure to be “the best” and compete with others added up. Moreover, I was a single mom doing it all, and I felt like I was missing out on a TON when it came to my kid. So, I sought something else out. And now, here I am, 9 years after leaving grad school living a totally different life than I thought I’d be living right now (and that’s a good thing). 

Steph decided to head out and leave her job and her security and stability. Then, she decided to go and ski a bunch – four million vertical feet, in fact. 

“Who are you?” he asked, “and what kind of woman do you want to become?”

No one had ever asked me questions like that. I’d never thought about the who, what, and why questions. There hadn’t been room fort hose, not when I was so busy answering the where, when, and hows with my growing collection of shiny blue ribbons. (p. 151)

That’s the thing about chasing “success.” It becomes hard to know who you are when the spotlight isn’t on you. It becomes hard to know who you are or who you want to be. Instead, you get stuck in the mire of chasing one resume bullet point after another – without thinking much about why you’re doing it. And that’s why books like this are so important. It’s really easy to lose yourself when you think you’re on the path you’re “supposed to be on.” What’s harder is finding yourself on that same path and figuring out who it is you’re actually supposed to be. 

I think a lot of women go through this. I might be wrong. Especially those of us who grew up with the “girls can do anything” motto. It sometimes starts to feel like, “women should do everything” as opposed to an invitation to determine what course our lives should take. Add in entheusiastic mentors who push us and challenge us to fit into the success mold and lean in – and it can be easy to lose our way while on a paved road. So easy. 

I know I related a lot to Steph throughout the book. I think a lot of other women will as well. If you enjoyed Wild or Eat, Pray, Love, I can guarantee you’ll enjoy this book. If you’re like me, and haven’t read them yet, you’ll enjoy this book. I think the most important takeaway from Unbound is that sometimes you have to get out there and get away from what’s comfortable. Sometimes, you really do have to start over again. And you know what? That’s okay.

About Unbound

• Hardcover: 304 pages
• Publisher: Harper Wave (January 24, 2017)

A young woman follows winter across five continents on a physical and spiritual journey that tests her body and soul, in this transformative memoir, full of heart and courage, that speaks to the adventurousness in all of us.

Steph Jagger had always been a force of nature. Dissatisfied with the passive, limited roles she saw for women growing up, she emulated the men in her life—chasing success, climbing the corporate ladder, ticking the boxes, playing by the rules of a masculine ideal. She was accomplished. She was living “The Dream.” But it wasn’t her dream.

Then the universe caught her attention with a sign: Raise Restraining Device. Steph had seen this ski lift sign on countless occasions in the past, but the familiar words suddenly became a personal call to shake off the life she had built in a search for something different, something more.

Steph soon decided to walk away from the success and security she had worked long and hard to obtain. She quit her job, took a second mortgage on her house, sold everything except her ski equipment and her laptop, and bought a bundle of plane tickets. For the next year, she followed winter across North and South America, Asia, Europe, and New Zealand—and up and down the mountains of nine countries—on a mission to ski four million vertical feet in a year.

What hiking was for Cheryl Strayed, skiing became for Steph: a crucible in which to crack open her life and get to the very center of herself. But she would have to break herself down—first physically, then emotionally—before she could start to rebuild. And it was through this journey that she came to understand how to be a woman, how to love, and how to live authentically.

Electrifying, heartfelt, and full of humor, Unbound is Steph’s story—an odyssey of courage and self-discovery that, like Wild and Eat, Pray, Love, will inspire readers to remove their own restraining devices and pursue the life they are meant to lead.

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Steph Jagger

Steph Jagger splits her time between Southern California and British Columbia where she dreams big dreams, writes her heart out, and runs an executive & life coaching practice. She holds a CEC (certified Executive Coach) degree from Royal Roads University and she believes courageous living doesn’t happen with one toe dangling in, but that we jump in, fully submerge, and sit in the juice. Think pickle, not cucumber.

You can find her at www.stephjagger.com or on Instagram @stephjagger.

GUEST POST: 2017 Wines on a Budget

Budget Wines 2017

This guest post comes from Annabelle, who writes for Wunderlabel. She’s sharing her tips on finding the best bang for your buck when it comes to 2017 wines. (This post contains affiliate links. Clicking on a link and making a purchase helps to support what I do here at Wining Wife®.

Do you tend to drink a little more wine through the winter? I know I do. I have to keep an eye on my budget with all the meals to prepare. This includes my wine budget. I enjoy really nice wines, especially the ones that are gifted to me. But, I do need to plan for when my wallet feels slimmer. 

I look for good deals on wines that oenophiles and merchants report will be trending in 2017. I try to get my hands on a few bottles while the prices are still decent. Let’s take a look at some of the predictably good wine values you can stock up on for next year.

Hearty Red Wines

Cool winter nights are a perfect time to sink into the couch by the fire with a glass of rich, deep flavored wine. I am thinking chocolate and berries. Zinfandel is a wine that pairs well with comforting meals and desserts.

Ravenswood Vintners Blend Zinfandel is a bold, berry forward wine that has been aged in oak for one year. It is produced in Sonoma County, California. The 2008 and 2014 varieties are both available now. The 2008 can be found for around $10.00, while the 2014 is a couple of dollars more.

Dry, Fruity White Wine

In spring the air is damp and the grass is starting to grow. Everything smells a little fresher this time of year. I get that antsy feeling of wanting to be outside without a coat on. But, we aren’t quite there. This is the time of year you want to start bringing out the white wines that pair well with lighter meals that have plenty of spring vegetables. Chardonnay is what comes to mind.

Alamos Chardonnay, from Argentina, has crisp citrus notes and a buttery vanilla finish. The 2015 is available for $9.00 to $10.00 per bottle. It goes well with fish, chicken, and most vegetables. 

Dry Rosé Wine

I am a fan of dry pink wines in the summer that are blends of white and red grapes. They have enough body to hold up to barbecue fare, and are also fine for an afternoon backyard get-together with friends accompanied by a large bowl of fresh fruit. My favorites are from the south of France.

Bieler Pere et Fils Rosé is a complex wine from the Provence region of France. It has the flavors of summer berries and melons, and the lavender that is grown all over the region. It is a blend of Syrah, Grenache, Cinsaut and Cabernet grapes. The 2015 sells for between $11.00 and $12.00.

Medium Bodied Red Wine

As autumn approaches we see varieties of winter squashes, heirloom tomatoes, and plenty of apples at the farmers markets. This is a great time for platters of cheese, fruit, aged meats, and vegetables. It is also when you might be inclined to fill the house with the smell of spiced baked goods. This calls for a lighter red wine to share with friends. Pinot Noirs are perfect for this time of year.

HobNob Pinot Noir is a French variety that has softer tannins than some of the others. It smells faintly of violets and tastes of cherries laced with spices. It plays well with fennel, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. The 2013 can be found for between $9.00 and $11.00.

December is a good time of year to look for holiday wine specials. Many merchants are willing to offer case discounts, even if the case includes a mix of wine varieties. You just need to ask. Stock up and enjoy.

 

Author Bio: Annabelle is a wine collector and appreciates handmade crafts. Apart from that she loves to write. In fact, she writes for Wunderlabel’s Italian site and their US website.

Book Blast: New Year – New Novels (AND GIVEAWAY!)

WELCOME TO THE NEW YEAR – NEW NOVELS BLAST! 
 
Click on any of the below book covers to be taken to the page that has more information on the novel as well as the Buy Links!
 
 
Novels Available for Pre-Order!
 
RABT Book Tours - As You Lay Sleeping  RABT Book Tours - Crashing Into Me  RABT Book Tours - No Second Chances  RABT Book Tours - Sheik's Rule
 
 
 
Novels Currently Available!
 
 
RABT Book Tours - Jigsaw Hearts   RABT Book Tours - And Then Mine Enemy  RABT Book Tours - Grey Cloudy Lies
RABT Book Tours - The Grizzly's Tale  RABT Book Tours - Making Bad Choices  RABT Book Tours - Unbreakable Heart  RABT Book Tours - The Knight
 
 
Enter the Giveaway
 
 
Want to learn more about RABT Book Tours? 
 
Reading Addiction Virtual Book Tours
« Older posts

© 2017 Wining Wife®

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

%d bloggers like this: