Tuesday, April 22, 2014


What a joy The Bloomsbury cookbook is to read and to return to again and again.  Relooking at the book is not only for copying the incomparable recipes but to be reminded of the wit and wisdom of the Bloomsbury Group.  It is to hear their voices once more and be reminded of their unique personalities whether it be E. M. Forster, Virginia Woolf, Roger Fry, John Maynard Keynes, Lytton Strachey, T. S. Eliot or one of many others.  These were important personages in the worlds of art, literature, politics who turned over the traces of the repressive Victorian era and encouraged others to do the same.  They invited open communication, debate, argumentation, laughter and love.  Thanks to the skill of Jane Ondaatje Rolls we are privy to their thoughts, letters and jottings accompanied by photographs and paintings - what a gift!

While much as been written about the Bloomsbury Group to my knowledge no one save Rolls has presented them at table where they conversed, solidified friendships, pondered and disagreed at length.  We learn their favorite foods, which illuminates a side of their personalities hitherto unexplored.  For instance, Lytton Strachey’s favorite dish was rice pudding which he ate every day and was prepared by Dora Carrington who was a self taught cook all the better to care for him.  Frances Partridge prepared “Tipsy Chicken” (the meat was marinated in gin).  The group lingered long at table and like many of us had a fondness for chocolate cake.  Further, we learn whose table was bountiful and whose a bit on the lighter side.

Readers may vicariously enjoy sharing ideas and  breakfast with the Group at Monk’s House, picnics (sometimes washed down with champagne), evening parties at Gordon Square and summer parties in Charleston.  The glimpses we find of the Group in The Bloomsbury Cookbook are so apropos, so intimate that it is as if we had become a part of their circle.  Such is the skill, artfulness, and prodigious research that Rolls brought to her writing.  This is a book to treasure.


- Gail Cooke

Friday, April 18, 2014

YOUNGER by Harold Lancer, MD

“Younger” - what an inviting title!  In truth, wouldn’t all of us want to look and feel somewhat younger?  Admittedly, I opened this book with a bias of mistrust as I’ve read far too many tomes promising to rejuvenate skin.  I was in for a happy surprise because after a month of following Dr. Lancer’s advice I cannot claim to look younger but I do look decidedly better according to friends, family and mirror.

The good doctor’s suggestions made sense to me - all of them for this is a comprehensive highly readable volume covering not only skin but exercise, sleep, diet, and stress all of which will affect our skin.  I soon found myself crimping page corners to remind myself to do or try something, so “Younger” is a now a staple in our house.

In the event that you’ve not heard of Dr. Lancer he is a dermatologist with an office on Rodeo Drive IN Beverly Hills.  He’s the go-to guy for Hollywood elite with Oprah and Ellen Degeneres being among his major boosters.

A major focus for him is his “3-step Method” (Polish, Cleanse and Nourish), which he tells us will keep skin fresh, protected and hydrated.  He notes that a common mistake is to treat the dermis or layer beneath the surface of the skin.  He turns this mode of treatment around.

Yes,  Dr. Lancer does include a list of recommended skin care products for every budget.  That should be in caps because he is one of the few who recommends not only his line but others as well.  His recommendations allow us to provide outstanding home care rather than going to a pricey salon.  Another plus for him.

There’s much to be gleaned from the pages of “Younger,” and you don’t have to go to Beverly Hills to benefit from the results.

- Gail Cooke

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


My, that lucky old sun looks wonderful in a bright blue sky after the cold, dreary winter we’ve just experienced.  Yes, spring is here and summer is fast on the way.  We welcome beautiful sunny days but must also be wary of them.  Now’s the time to prepare for sunning, swimming, sailing and all the fun that warm weather brings by protecting ourselves from sunburn and premature skin aging.  Glytone is at the ready with two super protective sunscreens - Glytone Spray Mist Sunscreen and Glytone Sunscreen Lotion.

A broad spectrum SPF 50 Glytone Spray Mist is composed of an oil and paraben free formula plus it is water resistant (ideal for swimmers).   It is presented in an easy to use continuous spray that allows you to spray wherever, especially hard to reach places such as your back.   Youngsters can happily splash as there is maximum water resistance for up to 80 minutes - then simply reapply.  And, glad to say it is fragrance free and doesn’t whiten skin.

With a lightweight formula that is water resistant for up to 40 minutes Glytone Sunscreen Lotion is ideal for applying to your face as well as your body.  I love the unique combination of micronized transparent Zinc Oxide in this formula for I well remember the days of white noses and faces to assure sun protection.  No more zombie-like appearances when out in the sun!

Find these must-have Glytone sun protectors at www.dermstore.com and enjoy summer!


Admittedly I really enjoy Pinot Noir - with almost anything but especially steak (barbecued out of doors), all of my favorite Italian cheeses and, yes, pizza!  However, this is a very special Pinot Noir that enhances flavors with its dark fruit aromatics and lush texture, a silkiness on the tongue.

From Cambria, a family-owned estate winery set in the well known Santa Maria bench in Santa Barbara County, this Pinot Noir is the delightful offspring of several decades of notable winemaking and vineyard experience.  We have heard it said that “great Pinot Noir can only reach its most eloquent expression with a good amount of vine age.”  This bottling is anchored by one of the oldest commercial plantings of Pinot Noir in Santa Barbara County.  What a recommendation!

We understand that in the spring and summer of 2012 fruit quality was sound and the flavors and characters of the grapes exceptional all resulting in this outstanding dark purple Pinot Noir - a pleasure for the eye, tempting for the nose, and deeply satisfying for the palate.



Monday, April 14, 2014


                                      "The April shower

                                        That brings a May flower

                                         Also succeeds

                                         In bringing weeds." - GC

ALL I HAVE IN THIS WORLD by Michael Parker

The latest from award winning author Michael Parker (The Watery Part of the World) may initially be a bit of a puzzler for some as the main character is a car.  Albeit not just any car but “a 1984 Buick Electra....It was a sweet low block of a ride, light blue with a strip of black vinyl along the bottom of the doors, perfect for rumbling around town with the windows open.”
It has somehow wound up in a used car lot in the unremarkable town of Pinto Canyon, Texas.  How and why it came to this place we learn by the magical pen of Parker who weaves in the Electra’s travels during the past 20 years.  Who owned it and what did it mean to them?

In the present day we meet two surprising protagonists, both down on their luck, both seeking forgiveness.  Marcus Banks is a young man who had a dream - he wanted to build a farm and educational center on his family’s land in North Carolina.  Not such a great idea as the property is foreclosed on by the bank.  He has not only lost his inheritance but his sister’s as well.  Running is all he knows to do so he hops into his pickup and heads for Mexico with a stopover in Pinto Canyon.  Once there impressed by the beauty of the land he decides to take a hike and explore some of it.  While he’s communing with nature his pickup is stolen.

Maria is nervous about seeing her mother who is waiting for her in the El Paso airport’s Baggage Claim.  It has been ten years since Maria has been in Texas - a decade since she ran away from Pinto Canyon after her boyfriend, Randy, killed himself.  Now, for reasons that she may not be able to articulate she is returning home, taking a leave of absence from her job as a chef in Oregon to help her mother run a motel.  Both are chary of the other, careful of what is said or unsaid.

Eventually Maria decides that she needs her own car and as fate and Parker would have it she meets Marcus at the local used car lot.  Both of them are eying the Electra and as Maria knows nothing about cars she asks Marcus to do a test drive for her.  He’s a bit taken aback wondering, “What sort of place is this, anyway?  A lithe and lovely woman, blown up from nowhere, had just asked him to test drive a car for her.”  As it happens that is the car he wants.  Since both are somewhat strapped for cash they come up with an unusual solution - they will buy the car together and share its use.

It is through this relationship that the pair overcome their reticence and initial suspicions to become friends.  In the doing of this readers are treated to descriptions of the heartbreak and hopelessness each has suffered.  Parker has an eye, an awareness of human hearts and finds perfect words to describe their condition.

At times funny, sometimes sad, always gentle All I Have In This World holds something for those who have experienced the pain of being lost and the grateful joy of being found.

- Gail Cooke

Thursday, April 10, 2014

MIMI MALLOY AT LAST by Julia MacDonnell

Perhaps being 68-years-old and forced into retirement isn’t exactly a bed of roses.  Neither is living on a fixed income or as Mimi Malloy puts it “fixed just above the poverty line - enough so you can survive, but not enough to have much fun.”  Nonetheless, Mimi’s making the best of it.  She’d be content to smoke her True Blues, listen to Frank Sinatra records and sip a Martini.  Oh, if only she could do this in peace and quiet.

Mimi, the third of seven daughters once known as the glorious Sheehan sisters, is alone now.  Some 15 years ago her husband divorced her and ran off with his bookkeeper.  But she does have six daughters, one especially determined one - Cassandra who wants to see Mimi in an assisted living facility.  No way as far as Mimi is concerned, although her financial situation is certainly precarious.   And then there are those strange black spots on her brain that showed up on a recent MRI.

She does hear quite often from her four surviving sisters or as she calls them the Yik Yak Club.  They love to talk about the past, remembering their youth.  But Mimi has no desire to do this; she’d much rather forget about her impoverished childhood.  However, it soon seems she has no choice.

Mimi’s grandnephew wants her help in making a genealogical chart.  All are in favor of this and pester Mimi to contribute.  Then she accidently comes upon her mother’s blue pendant whhich she had not seen in years.  Her dear mother had died in childbirth, and was soon replaced by a stepmother, the beautiful Flanna who is the epitome of every evil stepmother seen or imagined.

As Mimi’s thoughts begin to coalesce she thinks of her younger sister, Fagan, who was only five when their mother died.  Despite tongue lashings and slaps Fagan refuses to kowtow to Flanna.  The other sisters were told she had been sent to live with a family in Ireland but would return to them....or would she?

Mimi Malloy At Last is a sad, funny story of life and family as well as a reminder that it’s never too late to love.

- Gail Cooke