Cilka’s Journey

Like many others, I was fascinated by Heather Morris’ book, The Tattooist of Auschwitz about Lale Sokolov. During their time together, Mr. Sokolov told Heather Morris that Cilka Klein “was the bravest person” he ever met and said she was the person who saved his life. In their conversations Ms. Morris learned that Cilka, a very beautiful young girl of 16, was imprisoned at Auschwitz-Birkenau and only survived by allowing herself to be repeatedly raped by two senior SS officers. The first part of her story is mentioned in The Tattooist of Auschwitz. In the epilogue the author states she received many inquiries as to what happened to Cilka. This novel is the answer to that question. While one would not need to read The Tattooist of Auschwitz prior to reading this book, I think would be helpful.

This novel starts right after Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp is liberated by the Soviets. Cilka is immediately convicted, without a trial, of working with the enemy, as a prostitute and additionally as a spy . Her punishment is to be further imprisoned for fifteen years in the coldest place on earth, Vorkuta Gulag.

Cilka is a fascinating character. She is smart, loyal, and generous. She is befriended by a kind female physician, who allows Cilka to train as a nurse. Cilka is able to improve the condition of the nursery, and is a comfort to many people. She is brave and often entered dangerous situations as a member of the ambulance crew. Cilka was human too, often entering into dark periods because of the hopelessness she often found herself in. She lives with the guilt of her time at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Heather Morris has done a fantastic job of historical research to show us the horrendous conditions of the Vorkuta Gulag, where Trustees ruled in gangs, raped as many women prisoners as they pleased, and tormented the staff.

Thanks to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for the advanced reader copy of this book that will be released on October 1, 2019. 5 stars.

A Tropical Weekend

We have officially reached the boiling point in Texas. Actually, it came much later this summer than usual, so I’ll take that as a win. In order to get myself into a cooler, more tropical state of mind, I decided to try three new recipes, two cocktails and ice cream. These are not for anyone on a diet, but are definitely a fun way to cool off.

Thanks to Joe Parris for being my film maker on my first ever Video on how to make a Lava Flow cocktail.

For this week’s ice cream I made Coconut Rum.

I forgot to take a picture of the Pina Colada Mimosas I made for Sunday Brunch. They were a fun change instead of the regular OJ or Cranberry Mimosas.

Here are the recipes! Enjoy

Lava Flow

Serves 4

8 oz Coconut Rum
6 oz White Rum
12 oz Strawberries
8 oz pineapple juice
8 oz Cream of Coconut
1 banana
2 cups crushed ice
Pineapple chunks and strawberries for garnish.

Blend the rums and strawberries for 15 seconds. Pour mixture into four highball glasses.
Clean the blender. Then blend the pineapple juice, cream of coconut, banana, and crushed ice for 15 seconds. Pour evenly into the highball glasses, directly in the middle of the strawberry mixture. Watch the magic happen. Garnish with pineapple chunks and strawberries if desired.

Coconut Rum Ice Cream

Makes 1 quart

2 large eggs
¼ cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
⅔ cups half-and-half
1 (15 oz) can Coco Lopez
2 Tablespoons dark rum

Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Whisk in the sugar until completely blended. Pour in the cream and half-and-half, and whisk to blend. Gradually add the Coco Lopez and finish with rum until blended.

Follow your manufacturer’s instructions to make the ice cream

Pina Colada Mimosas

Serves 4

½ cup sugar
1 Pineapple wedge
4 Pineapple slices
4 maraschino cherries
1 cup pineapple juice
½ cup coconut rum
1 bottle champagne or prosecco

Use the pineapple wedge to rim champagne flutes, then dip in sugar. Combine the pineapple juice and coconut rum, then divide evenly into four flutes. Top with champagne. Garnish with a pineapple slice and cherry.

Dear Me! What Was I Thinking?

Dear Me! What was I thinking when I decided to read a book about a young boy who was the sole survivor on a plane crash? It’s not a pleasant topic, or a subject that I ordinarily read… but something just drew me to it. Whatever it was, I am very glad I read the book Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano. It’s good to be pushed outside one’s comfort zone every now and then.

Eddie is a 12 year old boy who boards a flight from Newark to Los Angeles with his mother, father, and 15 year old brother, Jordan. They are moving to LA where his mother has a new writing job. Eddie and Jordan have always been very close, and their math genius father has home schooled them. After the plane crashes, Eddie is the sole survivor, and the other 191 people aboard have died. He goes to live with his mother’s sister, Lacey, and her husband John. They tell the press and medical staff to call him Edward instead of Eddie.

The book treats Edward’s depression, confusion, and often fugue state of mind with compassion and reality. John and Lacey were already having marital difficulties due to infertility when Edward arrives at their home. They are totally ill-equipped to deal with their own lives, let alone him. But they try and try to love him and protect him from the media circus that surrounds him, as well as all the other strangers who feel they have the right to tell him how to live.

Throughout the story, Edward experiences considerable mournfulness over the loss of his brother. Edward is often reminded that he is “special” for having survived. However, he often lacks the social skills to deal with all the situations he faces. Edward befriends the next door neighbor, Shay, and she helps him deal with issues of school and grief. Their bond is very endearing.

The book divides into chapters dealing with Edward and his recovery, and other chapters regarding the flight before it crashes. The flight chapters spend a little too much time on back stories other several other people on the plane. There was a lot of story line about the first class flight attendant, but I don’t remember there being any meaningful post crash connection between any of her family members and Edward.

Towards the end of the book, we learn of letters that were written to “Dear Edward” after the crash. While sometimes disturbing, these letters help Edward in unexpected ways. Slowly he is able to learn to live with the memories of his past and possibilities of his future. Along the way he supported by his aunt and uncle, Shay and her mom, his therapist, a fantastic school principal, and a PE Coach.

I enjoyed this character driven book much more than I expected. It will be published on January 14, 2020. 4.5 stars. Be sure to put it on your To Read List.

Thanks to Netgalley and to Random House – The Dial Press for my advanced reader copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

Friends With Benefits

My co-worker, Colleen, is truly an amazing person. She is incredibly smart, funny, sincere, loyal, generous and an all around good colleague. But come summer time, there is definitely a big benefit to being her friend!

She and her equally awesome husband have a massive garden. And best of all, they love to share their bounty. This week, it was so wonderful to come home from work loaded with tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers. Fresh just tastes better! Knowing the love and care that was put into growing this produce makes it more delicious.

The cucumbers reminded me of an old, old recipe that I remember from church potlucks. As a child I thought it as an “exotic” combination. We rarely ate Asian food growing up, so this was special to me. It’s funny now to think it’s just cucumbers and peanuts grown in the South.

Thank you Colleen for bringing me fresh produce and bringing back fond memories!

Cucumber and Peanut Salad

½ cup rice wine vinegar
⅓ cup vegetable oil
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
3 medium cucumbers peeled and sliced
¼ cup chopped red onion
½ cup chopped, dry roasted peanuts

In a large bowl, combine vinegar, oil, sugar, ginger, salt and pepper. Add cucumbers and red onion. Marinate for 15 minutes in the refrigerator. Drain through a colander. Put in a serving dish. Add peanuts to cucumber mixture, and toss to combine.

I didn’t peel these cucumbers, and now wish that I had. Peeled is definitely better!

And The Winner Is!

Ruth Bowlin of Memphis, TN!

You probably didn’t realize I was having another give away, but I was. In my last post I asked readers to submit their favorite ice cream recipes. My sweet college friend, Ruth, was the only one who did….so by default she is the winner of this cute little Mudpie ice cream bowl set:

Ruth, look for an Amazon delivery between August 8 – 13th

Of course, I am a winner too, because today I am making Ruth’s Mother’s Ice Cream Recipe. I added the optional bananas.

I purchased a new Tovolo “Glide-A-Scoop ice cream freezer tub since the seal on my favorite Italian Frigoverre lid has warped a little. I like the unique shape of it. Hopefully it will be my new favorite. It holds 1.5 quarts, which is the perfect amount for my Cuisinart ice cream maker. I cut the recipe below in half, and it was perfect!

Mrs. Bowlin’s Ice Cream

1 large can of Pet milk
24 oz. Whipping cream
3-4 eggs
2 c. Sugar
1 t. Vanilla
1 can sweetened condensed milk
Mix all above ingredients together. Pour into gallon container and finish filling with while milk. Add ripe, mashed bananas, if you like.

  • will need to adjust measurements for smaller freezer

Look for another book give away in August! This one will be from a local Fort Worth author.

You Scream, I Scream

Steve Approves of This Post!

Does anyone else love homemade ice cream as much as I do? If so, please share your favorite recipe in the comments. I would love to try it.

I have used a Cuisinart Frozen Yogurt and Ice Cream Machine for at least 8 or 9 years. Mine is the smaller 1.5 quart size. The big advantage to this type of machine is there is no churning or need for rock salt. The big disadvantage of this type of machine is that it takes a long time to make. First, the bowl needs to be frozen for a good 24 hours before using it. I am lucky enough to have a second freezer, so I just keep my bowl in it year round. The ice cream base needs to refrigerate for at least 2 hours before churning. Once the ice cream has churned, it still needs to be frozen for 2 to 4 hours before it is firm enough to eat. Ice cream this good takes patience!

I have tried numerous recipes. My two favorites are the Simple Chocolate ice cream recipe from Cuisinart and Ben & Jerry’s Heath Bar Crunch from the official recipe book.

Today I am making Simple Chocolate. My secret for success with this is using a high fat Dutch Processed High Fat cocoa powder and a good quality vanilla extract. I get mine at Penzy’s.

Here is the Simple Chocolate Recipe

¾ cup cocoa powder, sifted (I use Dutch Processed High Fat)
½ cup granulated sugar
⅓ cup packed dark or light brown sugar
pinch sea or kosher salt
1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
½ tablespoon pure vanilla extract


  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cocoa, sugars and salt. Add the milk and, using a hand mixer on low speed or a whisk, beat to combine until the cocoa, sugars and salt are dissolved. Stir in the heavy cream and vanilla. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours, or overnight. Whisk mixture together again before pouring into the ice cream maker.
  2. Pour the mixture into the mixing bowl of the ice cream maker. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your machine. [Mine takes about 20 minutes to churn.] The ice cream will have a very soft, creamy texture. If a firmer consistency is desired, transfer to an airtight container and place in freezer for about 2 hours. Remove from freezer about 15 minutes before serving.

Again, if you have a favorite recipe, please share!

Sarah Jio’s love letter to Paris

Paris, to me, truly is a city of love and lights. My husband and I love to share a kiss on the Pont Alexandre III bridge with the Eiffel Tower glowing in the background. The city just seems to celebrate enlightment “la ville lumière” and vibrancy “la joie de vivre”.

It is almost unbearable to think of the time when the city of love and lights was occupied by Nazis, who were filled with hate and darkness. In Sarah Jio’s new novel, All the Flowers in Paris, we see this terrible time through the eyes of Celine. In 1943 Celine is a widow and single mother who lives with her father, the owner of a flower shop. Once her father’s partial Jewish ancestry is discovered, a yellow star is painted on the flower shop. The business is ruined when customers refuse to do business with them, neighbors become traitors, old friendships are lost, and the family is torn apart. Celine is then held hostage in the apartment of a high ranking German official, who lives at 18 Rue Cler.

Celine represents the strength, dignity and courage of French Jewish people and those in the Resistance movement during the war. She also shows the steadfastness of a mother’s love as she protects her young daughter, Cosi, from all the evil surrounding them. Celine’s boyfriend, Luc, is a policeman who leaves to fight for the resistance. His is mother is the owner of Bistro Jeanty, who tries to find favor with the Germans to keep her restaurant flourishing during the occupation. Celine’s childhood friend, Suzette, is one of the many who are seduced by the Germans, and end up conflicted and emotionally unstable.

The other main character in the book is Caroline, who is living in France in 2009. She suffers a head injury in a bicycle accident after leaving the Bistro Jeanty after an unpleasant encounter with an unnamed man. She wakes up five days after the accident with temporary memory loss. Upon discharge from the hospital, she returns to her apartment at 18 Rue Cler, to try to discover her true identity. She befriends the new owner of the Bistro Jeanty, Victor, as well as a college student who is studying the history of occupied Paris. We follow not only Caroline’s recovery, but learn of how the apartment connects the lives of Celine and Caroline. Like lotus flowers, they lead harrowing journeys, forging their ways through darkness, summon inter strength, and emerge and bloom triumphantly.

Thank you #NetGalley and #BallantineBooks for my advanced reader copy. This book will be published on August 13, 2019.

4 Stars.