Tuesday, November 19, 2019

So, You're Into Books and Your Sweetie Isn't?

Woman, Studying, Learning, Books, Reading, Adult, Bed

If you are a bookworm-- a bibliophile-- someone who loves reading books-- then you likely enjoy being around other book-ish folks. I am going on my own thoughts and experiences here. I grew up in a book-loving home, was read to as a child, and was reading the same serial books as my mother by the time I was twelve. I married an English major. He reads, he writes. If I need some time to finish a chapter at night, he understands.

If you are dating-- or married-- someone who doesn't read, there is likely some cognitive dissonance in your relationship. Maybe that is an unfair judgement. But I'm guessing that if you are a big time reader-- maybe a teacher or someone who belongs to a Book Club- you enjoy discussions about books you love. And maybe you get those needs met by having friends who you can talk to. But on the off-chance that you would like your partner to start reading, you might be interested in the Reading List for "He's Just Not That Into Literacy-- Turning Your Lover Into a Reader" supplied in the book  Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks: A Librarian's Love Letters and Breakup Notes to the Books in Her Life by writer-librarian, Annie Spence. (Read a little more about the book on my blog post here) You'll have to get hold of the book yourself (you'll love it) to read all the clever paragraphs around the books she recommends, but I provide you with the actual list of books:

Annie Spence says that librarians "turn people onto reading every day" and librarians fervently believe that there is a "book for everyone".

After a casual conversation on the topic, if you decide your beloved liked reading something like "The Hunger Games" or "Fifty Shades" or "Twilight", it is possible they like the "momentum and deluge effect" of a series. She recommends:

The Lunar Chronicles Boxed Set: Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Fairest, Winter by Marissa Meyer


Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer (a little more sophisticated than the young-adult genre of "The Lunar")

For people who like the snark they find in The Onion, but don't actually read a full-blown book, they actually might enjoy Fraud by David Rakoff, or Amy Sedaris's "I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence".

For foodies who actually read cookbooks like novels (a small population), there are a few novels with foodie themes/metaphors:

Vegan Soul Kitchen: Fresh, Healthy, and Creative African-American Cuisine by Bryant Terry
Momofuku Milk Bar: A Cookbook by Christina Tosi
Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivavel
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

Books about Musicians and Music

The Dirt (The Anniversary Edition): Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band by Motley Crue and Neil Strauss
Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco, and Destiny by Nile Rodgers
Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl: A Memoir
by Carrie Brownstein

JOCK Books

**An autobiography of your love's fave player or a historical account of the year their team won/almost won the World Series**

Shoeless Joe by W. P. Kinsella  (the book that the movie "Field of Dreams" was based on)

The Art of Fielding: A Novel by Chad Harbach

Have a gal friend who hasn't read anything in a while?

I Think I Love You by Alison Pearson

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

If none of the above works to get them into reading, drag them to the library and get them a card.  Then introduce them to the librarian and let them ask all the right questions to find a book they will love.  Promise.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

A Librarian's List of Books about Librarians

Go ahead and catch the Introduction.  Get a sense of the humor and sparkle in this book written for other bibliophiles like Spence herself.  Spence writes book reviews in various unusual formats: as love letters and Dear John letters (when having to "weed" the old books from the library's shelves).  In the final chapters she has a number of lists of books that I have begun to request from my own library-- not all of them, because I actually have read some of the books she reviews. 

As I read books from the following lists, I will probably review them myself on Good Reads.  Please join me there where I review under my name, Cynthia Zirkwitz.  If you have read any of the books on the following lists, please let me know what you thought of them in the Comments section below.  I'd appreciate that!
In the Stacks


The Uncommon Reader by Allen Bennett

In the Stacks: Short Stories about Libraries and Librarians by Michael Cart

Jade Dragon Mountain: A Mystery (Li Du Novels Book 1) by Elsa Hart

In One Person by John Irving

Love and the Art of War by Dinah Lee Küng

When Tito Loved Clara: A Novel by Jon Michaud

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

The Book of Speculation: A Novel by Elrika Swyler

Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness by Jennifer Tseng

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami

Here is a group of Books that were formative for Annie Spence in growing her love of books in general (remember: she advises that we read from a wide range of book genres and subjects)

The Fledgling by Jane Langton

Just Kids by Patti Smith

Follow the author-librarian Annie Spence on Twitter at https://twitter.com/annieaupence 

Monday, October 28, 2019


So, when I signed up for Amazon PRIME it was purportedly so I could have my shipping costs covered for books and such.  I did not know that there was an opportunity to watch Prime Movies and TV as part of the deal.

Now, I'm not a big movie buff.  Quite a while back we opted out of the most common movie feed-- I just didn't feel like it was necessary to watch three or four movies a month.  I like to read.  The movies got in the way of my concentration with my expanding my reading to include new novels and new Canadian literature, in general.  This is the part of my life where I want to be catch up on the reading I missed when I was immersed in other endeavors in the years before.  So, goodbye Netflix and GEM and whatever other movie purveyors I was involved with.  And I didn't miss them.

However, when I found out that signing up with PRIME meant that I got to watch some of the TV movies and shows that looked like upgrades to some of the old movies of the past (i.e., Goodbye Girl, Love Story, Four Seasons, and that ilk) I was suddenly attracted.  First I spent a few days watching "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisell" that seemed like something my mother would have enjoyed, bless her soul.  When I caught up to the gap between the last and the next season, I took a break and got back into my reading.

Then, lo and behold, I stumbled across "Modern Love," this sweet and charming 8-part series of little movies-- movie-lettes?-- of 30 minutes of diverse experiences of love in New York City.  I loved the first couple of shows and then forced myself to wait a few days, finish a book I was reading, and watch the rest.

I surveyed what others have said in their reviews and see that my take is very likely naive and superficial because phrases like "fail" and "don't live up to" and similar words meaning "disappointing" are descriptors of many of the reviewers I saw.  Maybe because I have not been satiated with online movies I find something entertaining where others clearly do not?  Perhaps the scripts were written for women in their late sixties and there are few women reviewers in their 60s and 70s who share my appreciation for those Old New York romances and stage-y dialogue?

In any case, if you are my age range (I'm 68), I can promise you the sort of uneven emotional exchanges of 'real life' along side the slightly schmaltzy romance, heartbreak, awkwardness, urban anonymity and alienation, and a refreshing (I think) step back from all kinds of over-the-top sexual acting out, or if it does occur, it is commented on in an old-fashioned 'judgey' way that seems somewhat reassuring (although I know that that might make this sound like it is self-righteous twaddle, which it is not.)  I guess what I see throughout the various vignettes is a sweet kindness thread-- characters don't engage in meaningless adultery, or not without awkward but sincere confessions.  Not every relationship glitch leads to the end of the relationship. And isn't it nice to see that?  People doing "the hard work" or the realistic stuff of recognizing that they can make their way through life with an okay marriage vs. launching out into the Big Unknown to 'find' themselves.  Not always necessary, right?

There is a lot of kindness and quite a heavy dose of familial love to balance the romantic carousing.

It is the kind of peace and love we people in our 60s and 70s preached about in our youth and have finally come to practice and appreciate in our sundown years.  If you are there, I think you will enjoy this series.

You can sign up for a free trial for a month of viewing and decide if PRIME is really worth the cost.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

5 Vegan Butternut Squash Recipes - Healthy, Wholesome, Delicious

Butternut Squash is a creamy, orange-fleshed, neutral-tasting squash that is very dynamic for cooking and baking.  When you look at the recipes in this collection, you can see that butternut squash can stand in for both desserts and main courses in a meal, even as a main ingredient in a yummy cheese sauce to be poured over macaroni.  Enjoy trying out these delicious vegan recipes!

Garlicky Butternut Squash Soup via Whirled Soup
It's hard to be a 'regular' vegan without having the odd craving for the days of garlic sausage or whatever was your fave garlic-infused meat.  This butternut soup that is warming and filling has everything you missed about garlic. You don't have to miss it anymore--go HERE via Whirled Soup

Individual Pot Pies  images via Jennifer Wong on Pinterest

These little individual potpies above contain a combination of delectable butternut squash cubes and brown lentils.  Satisfying to those with rosy cheeks who have just come in from outside, or anyone really!  Find the easy recipe HERE via Veggie Cooking School Recipes.

Steamed Nut and Fruit Pudding with maple syrup and coconut whipped cream
This luscious butternut squash steamed pudding with pecans, dates, raisins, and currents is bound to give pumpkin pie a run for its money at the holiday meal!  via Veggie Cooking School


Butternut Squash Mac 'n' Cheese via Healthy Liv
Doesn't this look tantalizing?  When you are vegan, dairy cheese is often the biggest last struggle.  This butternut squash cheese has the flavour and a lovely texture, and NO cholesterol or the toxins that reside in dairy these days.  Try it out HERE via Healthy Liv

Smoky Butternut Squash Soup via Whirled Soup
Beginning and ending with a wonderful butternut squash soup recipe-- this one is smoky (for those who sometimes fondly lapse into daydreams about smoked recipes of the past).  The fragrance will have you at the table before the soup is finished cooking.  Yummy and healthy!

And. maybe you are interested in reading about the ultimate way to cook up a spaghetti squash?  Go here.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Garlicky Maple Walnut Vegan Cookies

So, summer is almost over.  I have hardly used my solar oven because of gardening, writing, what-have-you.  

I love the idea of the Sun Oven: not heating up the house, not having an electric bill that includes cooking (or other things like dehydrating or baking), and just being outside in my backyard a little more often than I have been.  

So, today, another warm day with a blue sky and direct sunlight, seemed like the time to do some sun oven baking of this intriguing garlic cookie recipe.  I have browsed the internet and considered various garlic cookie recipes, but none of them really appealed to me.  Then I thought of the super healthy Maple Walnut cookies that Dr. Neil Nedley recommended in the cookbook that went with his Depression-- The Way Out program that my husband and I helped to facilitate in our community a few years ago.


  The walnuts and flaxseed in the vegan cookies are high in omega-3 polyunsaturated fats and fibre.   In  a study looking at Metabolic syndrome, now a large threat in China, requiring lifestyle counseling and nutritional intervention. The group assigned to eat a substitute bread containing walnuts and flax seed lost weight, although the nuts and seeds were fairly high in calories and one would think that weight gain would result.  Metabolic syndrome refers to a group of risk factors that include mid-body obesity, high readings of cholesterol and triglycerides, high blood pressure and hyperglycemia.  These symptoms speak of an increased risk for  heart disease and Type II diabetes.  So, this Chinese study would appear to validate what we learned about walnuts and flax seed in the Depression-- the Way Out program with the video lectures by Dr. Nedley.  He referred to walnuts as "the brain" nut.  It even looks like a brain when you crack it open.

Walnut courtesy of Ulrike Leone from Pixabay


  So, here is the recipe for both regular ovens in your home, and for the Sun Oven, solar wonder that I carry out and set up in my back yard when I want to cook without heating up my house or running up an unnecessary electric bill in the summer (I also hang my laundry out when the sun shines on our We(s)t Coast home.

  1. Crank the regular oven up to 350F/175C or 
  2. Set up the Sun Oven pointing in the direction of the sun, and adjust every half hour.  Start the wait for the 90 minutes of heating in the sun so the thermometer on the Sun Oven reads 350F/175C.  (Adjust the oven to have the sun coming in directly.  This recipe is not too wet so I had no problem with condensation-- should the glass on the Sun Oven mist up, just wipe it off.  WARNING: Always wear oven mitts when doing anything regarding the innards of the Sun Oven-- like putting the food in there or taking it out)

Process 2 1/2 C. of Walnut pieces into a fine crumble in a food processor.
Combine the following with the walnuts above, and mix well:
1/3 C. Flaxseed Meal (I grind my own fresh in a coffee bean grinder)
2/3 C. Wholewheat Pastry Flour
1    tsp. Salt (I skipped the salt, and you could use "to taste" or "a pinch" as you desire)
1/2 C.   Maple Syrup
3+        Cloves of Garlic, chopped (Reserve a little of the shreds for topping the cookies)
2 tsp.    Vanilla Essence/Extract (optional)

1/2 C.   Chocolate Chips (I use the Mini-Chips that are vegan, gluten-free and non-GMO (optional)


  1. Have food processor and measured ingredients ready to go.  DO NOT PUT Chocolate chips in the food processor.  Put all other ingredients in the food processor
  2. After mixing the above ingredients together well,  mix in the chocolate chips if using.  
  3. Place 12 same size balls of dough on a parchment-covered cookie sheet (parchment means you don't need to use grease on the sheet), and press the cookies down. (You can put the cookies for the Sun Oven right on parchment paper on the shelves for the oven and carry the shelves out to the oven-- no pan or lid required.)
  4.  For the Regular Oven: Put in to bake for approximately 10 minutes (depending on your stove temperature-- they vary! Check frequently to make sure they are not scorching or burning-- yeah, they are rather labour-intense-- but sooo worth it!  Cool on a rack.  Keep in an airtight container in the fridge.
  5.  Put it in the Sun Oven for about 20 - 30 minutes at a temp that might fluctuate between 300F and 350F-- if the temperature is hotter than that, bake for about 10 minutes as in the oven recipe.) The cookies tend to look NOT done because they don't brown as much in the sun oven, but they are best removed a little early since they harden up as they cool (the Maple Syrup?) Cool on a rack in the pan (what I do).  Keep in an airtight container in the fridge.
Here is a sort of goofy photo of the cookies in the Sun Oven: (gives you an idea of all the reflection that goes on with the sun to bake these cookies)

Another Garlicky Recipe celebrating the diversity of the Stinking Rose!

Find more Garlicky Vegan Recipes here:

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Garlic Mushrooms - Vegan, GlutenFree

The other day a fellow commented that "a day without garlic is not much of a day at all!"

I happen to agree with this statement and rejoiced when my husband brought home some mushrooms, because then we could have GARLIC Mushrooms!  Pity, my husband went for a long bikeride and missed the small batch that I cooked up today (I'm not all that mean-- there are still some fresh ones in the fridge for him to cook up for himself if he so chooses.)  You can find a photo of some browner mushrooms below-- yours are more apt to turn out like these.

I think the mushrooms he brought home were Baby Bellas, a smaller take on Portobellas.  Did you know that Crimini are an even smaller version of Portobellas?

In any case, they slice up rather raggedy and don't have that cute picture appeal when cooked that little white mushrooms do.

But they taste very delicious... tender and with that umami taste-- "umami" is gourmet for "je ne sais quoi".  It's that lovely 6th flavour that reminds you that some mushroom genes are not far off from human genes.... although you can eat mushrooms as a vegan.  Happy about that!
Image by Photos for You from Pixabay

So, with little more ado, here is the recipe for Garlic Mushrooms:

INGREDIENTS: (FOR 1 - 2 people)

6 (medium-large) -10 (medium-small) Mushrooms

1/4 cup Olive Oil if vegan -- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil + 2 Tablespoons Butter if not vegan                

(or 1/4 C. water or broth, if you don't consume oils)

4 fine-minced Garlic Cloves

1/4 cup of Parsley, Thyme or Celery leaves, minced (leave some for garnish)

Lemon Juice (only a squeeze)  **Watch video below for more lemon zest-y mushrooms

Sea Salt


  1. Clean up and slice the mushrooms Wipe or brush the mushrooms with a dry cloth or mushroom brush-- the less water on/in the mushroom, the better they cook
  2. Heat the saute pan (or use saute setting on your Instant Pot) 
  3. Add 2 T. Olive Oil or broth/water and add in mushrooms,  (with lemon zest as per video, if desired) and saute-ing  and stirring the them until golden
  4. Add in remaining ingredients: minced garlic,  parsley (or thyme, etc.) and squeeze of lemon.  Stir for a few minutes and plate.  Sprinkle with sea salt to taste.
  5. Garnish
  6. Enjoy!
Here is the video that shows you the how-to details--- ENJOY! 

Some other garlicky vegan recipes located at Hubpages: <-- click here and when you get there, just scroll down to find the 2 recipes.  Or you can click on the following images for the recipes (and remember to scroll down to find them)

Monday, August 19, 2019

Vegan Carrot Burgers

I checked to see what I had in the fridge.  Lots of greens (chard, etc.), a couple of zucchinis and 2 large carrots that seem to be coming to the end of their days (a little spongy shall we say?)

I am all for NO FOOD WASTE-- use it or compost it, and we were hungry.

So, I googled CARROT BURGERS and actually came across a delicious recipe that also uses 1/4 C. of walnuts (meaning you don't have to go and buy a large bag-- you can buy yourself a small quantity from the health store bulk bin) and 1/2 C. Panko-- something I have never bought, but I did have some finely grated soda crackers sitting in a container in the fridge that I used in lieu of panko in some other recipe-- they work well for us.  I didn't have fresh cilantro, but I did have some basil-- yes, I know they are not too similar-- not at all-- but it was a taste of herb we were after, right?  And I had everything else right here available.

I stuck it all into the food processor, and presto, it was easy to make 4 good sized patties as called for in the recipe.

But I don't use oil to fry, and I prefer just sticking stuff in my toaster oven, if possible, so that is what I did.

And they turned out fine.

Go HERE to find this recipe.  You can make some swaps for things that they call for that you like better or things that you have available, for things that you don't.  Otherwise, the recipe is perfect, I think.  Thanks to the people over at connoisseurusveg.com for this recipe! You might have time and energy to make up their spicy maple ketchup as well-- looks delish!

Chickpeas with Penne, Greens, Walnuts and Raisins

I am cooking up and submitting this recipe because I have a library book that has this recipe in it and I want to remember it.  The book is One-Dish Vegan Revised and Expanded Edition: 175 Soul-Satisfying Recipes for Easy and Delicious One-Pan and One-Plate Dinnersand I highly recommend it.

I do a number of subs for things I don't have in the house/fridge (example, I don't have baby spinach, I would never buy pine nuts, and I don't really like red pepper all that much).

I do find, however, that many recipe-makers tend to have a very tasty outcome and that is what I go for!


  • 8 - 12 oz of Penne pasta, uncooked (I am using brown rice penne- gluten-free)
  • 1/4 C. water
  • 5 Garlic cloves, minced
  • 12 oz Baby Kale(or other greens on-hand, such as chard or spinach), chopped coarsely
  • 1/4 tsp Chipotle Pepper powder (or 1/2 tsp Red Pepper Flakes)
  • 1/2 C. Vegetable Broth (such as Golden Bouillon)
  • 1 15-oz can of Chickpeas or 1 1/2 C. cooked Chickpeas
  • 1/2 C. Raisins
  • 1/2 tsp. dried Basil (or 1 tsp. Fresh Basil, minced)
  • Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
  • 1/4 C. toasted Walnuts 
  1. Toast the Walnuts: https://www.thespruceeats.com/how-to-toast-walnuts-2216935
  2. Cook the Penne in a large pasta pot in salted boiling water, occasionally stirring until just tender.
  3. While the pasta cooks, add water to a large skillet over medium heat and add in the garlic, greens, and Chipotle pepper.  Cook, stirring, until the greens are limp and wilty (2 minutes).
  4. Add in the broth, chickpeas, raisins, basil and salt and pepper.  Cook a minute or two longer to blend flavors.  Keep warm over very low heat.
  5. Drain the cooked pasta well and return it to the pot.  Add the other mixture and the walnuts.  Toss to combine.
  6. Serve hot.