Tuesday, July 23, 2019

National Vanilla Ice Cream Day!

JENN McKINLAY: Today is National Vanilla Ice Cream Day! Hurray! Yes, this means you can have ice cream for dinner. You're welcome! And, by the way, if vanilla ice cream is your favorite, it means you’re impulsive!

Of course it’s 100% true because I read it in a Reader's Digest online story! I know we have some unusual flavors out there thanks to Julia's Fast Five a few days ago but maybe you'll find yourself on this list. The breakdown: 

Vanilla = Impulsive
Strawberry = Introvert
Chocolate = Flirtatious
Mint Chocolate Chip = Argumentative
Rainbow Sherbert = Pessimistic
Rocky Road = Aggressive
Coffee = Dramatic
Chocolate Chip = Generous
Butter Pecan = Conscientious

Normally, I think these online lists are bogus, but this is where it gets a little crazy. In my house, we happen to have two strawberry ice cream lovers and both are introverts. There is also a mint chocolate chip lover, who from the time he could talk (at six months – very early with full sentences -- mostly, we believe, so he could yell at us) who is the poster child of a born debater. And, lastly, a coffee flavor lover who is just a little bit “extra” at times. Yes, that’s me, the (ahem) dramatic one.

So, what about you, Reds and Readers? What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream from this list and what does it say about you? If it’s not on the list, make something up. We’ll totally believe you!

Monday, July 22, 2019

Let's Play...Never Have I Ever

JENN McKINLAY: All right, I’ve been a Red for a little over two years now, and while I know quite a bit about my fellow Reds there are some holes in my information, so let’s lean in and do a deep dive. Yes? It won’t hurt. I promise. Take a look at the list and tell us which “Never Have I Evers” you haven’t done. I’ll go first.

The List: 1 Point for Each (lowest score wins)

I am lucky number seven! No to helicopters (maybe someday if the opportunity arises), being arrested (shocker, I know), bungee jumping (no thank you), falling asleep in the movies (not with how much they cost these days!), Disneyland (yes, I know, it's an oversight), skydiving (only if the plane decides to fall from the sky), and no tattoos. Most people are surprised that I don’t have a tattoo (I guess I’m the type?), but the truth is I have commitment issues. I could barely commit to the Hub never mind permanent ink! Plus, I have a friend who got a rose tattoo when she was young and as the years have rolled along and gravity has kicked in, it’s become a long stemmed rose. Placement is everything! 

All right, Reds, you’re up!

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Oooh. No missed a flight (I HATE saying that out loud), no arrests or piercings or tattoos, no births or handcuffs, no peeing (what does "in public" mean? Like, at a baseball game in a portapotty?), red light or bungee jumping. Well, maybe the red light, but not on purpose. It was yellow, it truly was.  NO skydiving, forget about it.. Does that make me a 10?  

HALLIE EPHRON: I’m an eleven… guessing that’s not a winner. I have never been pierced (not even my ears) or (surprise surprise) been bungee jumping or skydiving. Tattoos: I inadvertently gave myself one pricking my arm with the nib of a pen that had been dipped in India ink. I'm not counting it. I've missed connecting flights. Never arrested or rode in an ambulance. Peed in public? Does on the side of a hiking trail count? 

And weird coincidence: right now I'm reading Joshilyn Jackson's NEVER HAVE I EVER. It's riveting.

LUCY BURDETTE: See that's what really holds me back on tattoos...the drooping and the mind-changing. That puts me at six, including the dreaded peeing in public. You don't need to know all of the details, but it involved a terrible traffic jam on a bridge, too much coffee, and a coffee cup. Looking back, it was kind of amazing that I pulled it off. (TMI? Jenn did ask...)

I think I've told you I ran a red light on my bike, and that's been worked into the opening scene of the next book, THE KEY LIME CRIME. There was another before that (or was it a stop sign?) that resulted in the accident. Very scary--hope never to repeat that!

RHYS BOWEN: It's nine for me. I can see that mostly I've been a good child: no tattoo, no red light, no handcuffs, no arrests and never skipped school. I did go riding instead of studying for my big religious studies final (and managed to pass by one point). But I have narrowly escaped death, been in an accident and broken bones, and certainly peed it public if being halfway up a mountain with no cover of any sort counts (especially when I was squatting when the mountain train came by and forty pairs of eyes looked down at me!)

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Body piercing - does that include ears? I got mine double pierced back in the eighties, though I've let the second set of piercings grow in. I've never sky dived - as the daughter and wife of Air Force vets, I know the smart move is to stay on the inside of the plane. Never bungee jumped, either, as I'm pretty sure my stomach wouldn't stand for it. I've never fallen asleep in the cinema - that was Ross's thing. He loved his $11 naps. And I've never been in handcuffs. So I'm five? Four, if ears = body piercing. 

I have been arrested, I have a tattoo, I've peed in public and I've ran quite a few red lights in my day. I also missed TWO flights from London to the States AT Christmastime ON two consecutive days. Ladies, I think I may be the bad girl of the Jungle Reds. 

DEBORAH CROMBIE: I'm a seven. Ears pierced when I was fourteen, with a needle. Never regretted it. Broke my collar bone at two, falling off a chair. (Uncoordinated, anyone?) Broke my pelvis at fourteen, when hit by a car. (That brings in the near death thing.)

No bungee jumping, no helicopters, no skydiving. (Seeing a theme here?) No Disneyland (deprived child, parent of deprived child.) No cruises. No handcuffs. I'm still conflicted on the tattoo. I look at images of British-themed postage stamps, and try to image where I could put it that wouldn't stretch... Peeing in public? Too many side of the road episodes in Mexico as a kid. And on one traffic jam on the M4 in the UK, if I had had any sort of bottle or cup, I'd have used it. I've refused to drive on a UK motorway ever since.

Okay, Readers, your turn. What is your number of Never Have I Evers?

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Sunday Recipe: Making Durban Chicken with Celia Wakefield

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Are you ready for the debut (and maybe only, who knows, we'll see how it goes) of the Jungle Reds Cooking Show?!? Yes, you are! 

Today, we're in the expert hands of commenter and honorary Red Celia Wakefield, whose easy summer supper, lava cakes, and mock grilled ribs you've all enjoyed.  Celia has a knack for making elegant dishes simply and vice versa; you won't be surprised she was a professional caterer for many years.

I made a pig of myself eating Durban chicken at her house a few weeks ago, and when she volunteered to demonstrate how to make it for us al, I jumped at the chance. Durban chicken is an Indian dish from South Africa, spicy, but within British tastes, and SO moist and tender. Once you make this, you'll never roast a bird again. Celia's is a version of the classic recipe featured in Madhur Jaffrey's  From Curries to Kebabs.

1 chicken, skinned whole (don't fret, Celia will show you how!)

For the spice sauce:
4 T lemon or lime juice
2 inches fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1t salt
1 t cumin
1 t coriander
1 T Trader Joes Chili Lime Blend (Celia uses this in everything, you just need to give in and buy some now.) 
Pepper to taste. 
2 T olive oil.

Peel the garlic cloves and ginger. Mash the garlic with the side of your knife and cube the ginger. Put all the sauce ingredients together and pour into a blender, food processor or grinding mill (Celia uses a Prep Master.) Blend until it's well-integrated. Pour it back into a bowl so it's easy to scoop up and smear on the bird.

 Now, let's get to work peeling the chicken! First the breast:

....and then the rest. Snap or cut off the ends of the wings; you can save them for stock.

After you've denuded the chicken, make three deep cuts in each breast, and also in the meaty parts of the legs. Place the bird in a tinfoil-lined pan - you're going to wrap it, so make sure you have plenty of foil!  Rub generous amounts of the spice sauce into the cuts and surrounding meat, and pour anything left on the breast.

Set the oven on 425 F. (220 C) Roll and crimp the foil, first the long way across the breast, then on each end. You're making a tight packet for the chicken to cook in - just like when you made camping food in the Girl or Boy Scouts! Bake for 1 hour.

After an hour, open the foil and baste with the juices. Try not to faint from the heavenly smell. Test if the chicken is done with a meat thermometer; if necessary, return the bird for another 15 minutes or until the interior temperature reads 150 F (75 C).

It sounds like a lot of work, but really, it worked up very quickly. Celia served the chicken sliced off the bone atop a bed of coconut rice with some seasonal veggies on the side. So good. If it weren't for the fact I want to be invited back, I would have eaten it all.

What do you think, dear readers? Will you try it? Do you have a recipe to share? And how do you like our video presentation? Should we do it again some time?

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Fast Five for Mid-Summer

The winner of VICTORIA FALLS is Rick Robiinson! Rick, you can contact James Hornor on Gmail; he's jbhornor.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: This week is the midpoint of summer, half-way between Memorial day and Labor Day. Everyone is busy traveling, writing, visiting friends, and hopefully enjoying everything the season has to offer, so it's the  perfect moment for another Fast Five!

Favorite ice cream flavor?  Mint chocolate chip, especially Hood's Red Sox Green Monster Mint, where instead of chips you get tiny chocolate socks.

Roller coaster or Ferris wheel? Ferris wheel. Ross and I went on a roller coaster ONCE when our usual roller-coaster loving friend wasn't available and Youngest desperately wanted to ride. Greater love hath no parent than to induce nausea for his child.

Hat, sunglasses, or both? Both, and sunscreen. Mr. Sol is not your friend, people!

Beach house, lakeside cottage, or mountain retreat? I should say mountain retreat because it's more on-brand for my fiction, but I'm going to go with lake house. Preferable one that's also near a ski resort.

Best part of summer so far?  Working on time organization with Celia, July 4th on the eastern Prom in Portland, with fireworks and the PSO, Thrillerfest weekend in NYC!

Favorite ice cream flavor? Can I say root beer float? That's sweet cream ice cream and old fashioned root beer, yum...

Roller coaster or Ferris wheel? Ferris wheel--turns out a distant relative used to manufacture them, so how could I not?

Hat, sunglasses, or both? Ball cap and sunglasses

Beach house, lakeside cottage, or mountain retreat? We're doing double family reunions this summer. My side's took place beside lake Superior, which is incredibly beautiful. Next week beach side with 50 of John's family on Cape Cod. By then we'll need another vacation!

Best part of summer so far? Magical trip to Scotland with a dash of Ireland.

Favorite ice cream flavor? The rose and lychee flavored gelato I had in Tuscany.

Roller coaster or Ferris wheel? Pass. Because ten years ago it would have been roller coaster. LOVE roller coasters. But I've read too much about how your brain sloshes around in your skull when you ride one.

Hat, sunglasses, or both? Definitely both. I have a straw hat that started out red and blue and green and it's now bleached pastel.

Beach house, lakeside cottage, or mountain retreat? Beach house. I like to take flat walks.

Best part of summer so far? Of course, teaching in Tuscany for Minerva Education. I worked with the most fantastic writers, ate the best food, and got to bring my husband along. Alora... when are we going back?


Favorite ice cream flavor? Jamoca Almond Fudge. This is coffee ice cream with chocolate covered almonds. I ASK you--how great  is that?  Summer flavor, though--pineapple sorbet.

Roller coaster or Ferris wheel?  Roller coaster, theoretically, if don't actually have to ride it.  I think amusement park rides may be a thing of my past. Ferris wheels are, forgive me, boring.

Hat, sunglasses, or both? Both. Most def. Although my one regret in life (!) is that I look terrible in baseball caps. Sigh. But sunglasses are a gift from the heavens.

Beach house, lakeside cottage, or mountain retreat? Beach. No question. Because bugs.

Best part of summer so far?  I bought watermelon strawberry seltzer thinking it was pink grapefruit.  But! Mixed with vodka and ice and fresh lime? Winner. And..I dunno, happiness.

Favorite ice cream flavor? Haagen Daz Rum Raisin. And vanilla in a root beer float.

Roller coaster or Ferris wheel? Ferris wheel, if I must. Roller coasters are high on my "You couldn't pay me to..." list.

Hat, sunglasses, or both? Both. Love my big straw gardening hat.

Beach house, lakeside cottage, or mountain retreat? Hmm. Beach. I've never stayed in a beach house. Putting on my bucket list.

Best part of summer so far? My trip to visit my friend in Kansas City at the beginning of June. Lovely garden, lovely weather, lovely food, fun outings, and a homemade Cosmo or two.

Favorite ice cream flavor: Three Twins salted caramel

Roller coaster or Ferris wheel?  I hate anything that goes fast but  can tolerate a Ferris Wheel. Especially a giant one with a view over the city.

Hat. Sunglasses or both?  Both when I am out walking or sightseeing. Never leave home without my sunglasses all year after cataract surgery.

Beach house, lakeside cottage or mountain retreat?  Beach house. Definitely. Love beaches especially white sandy ones bordered by palm trees.

Best part of summer so far? That one's easy. Spending two weeks with my daughter's family in a house on the River Seine in France. Such a wonderful time, sitting late on the deck by the river, enjoying a meal and laughing a lot.

Now it's your turn, dear readers! Cut and paste the questions and give us a glimpse of your summer in the comments.

Favorite ice cream flavor?

Roller coaster or Ferris wheel?

Hat, sunglasses, or both?

Beach house, lakeside cottage, or mountain retreat?

Best part of summer so far?

Friday, July 19, 2019

Redefining Manhood in America - a guest blog by James Hornor

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Does the word "Theme" make you throw up your hands and run away? Does it conjure images of your junior English teacher droning on about Moby Dick or Nathaniel Hawthorne? Fear not, for I'm here to tell you "theme" is just something a writer wants to explore in his or her work. 

Debut novelist (and college professor) James Hornor started with a story of adventure, love and crime, set in Zimbabwe, Kenya and Bombay (now Mumbai.) But as he wrote VICTORIA FALLS, he discovered what he really wanted to explore was a particular strain of American masculinity - what forms it, what are its strengths and weaknesses, and how can a man change himself? In a time when "toxic masculinity" is popping up in news stories everywhere, Jim has some interesting things to say.

My sixteen year old daughter and my thirteen year old son go to a progressive, independent school in Portland, Maine, where they routinely discuss issues around diversity, gender fluidity, and respect for women—including #metoo and violence against women. I applaud their school for nurturing an egalitarian culture where all voices are heard and all points of view are considered.

As a college professor and a lifetime educator, I often remind my students that the model for our democracy and our democratic values emanate from Greek culture, specifically Athens. Athenians valued family and community, prized the intellect and related rhetorical skills, and were cognizant of an afterlife where their core values would live on. The concept of courage for a young male Athenian included physical prowess as well as an intrinsic appreciation for human justice and the rights of an individual. The arts thrived in ancient Athens as individual self-expression and an aesthetic awareness were both encouraged and rewarded.

  Young men in Athens were inculcated with those values, and the concept of manhood included assuming responsibility for family and for a just society. Becoming a skillful rhetorician (from the Greek word rhetorikos) was associated with becoming a complete human being. Rhetorical acumen in government discourse or a court of law was more highly prized than even military conquest. Mastering the art of rhetoric was a confirmation of an individual’s place in the body politic which included ongoing discussions on social justice and the moral responsibility of government. These markers of Athenian manhood were well defined and unlike Spartan culture, they were multi-dimensional eclipsing the monolithic Spartan ideal of bravery in battle as the primary affirmation of gender identity.

Our present cultural milieu defines gender identity as a spectrum, and indeed it recognizes that as human beings we are a mixture of both masculine and feminine qualities. As a society, we have labored to acknowledge the equality of individuals regardless of their gender identity. As factions of our American culture spiral towards a simplistic, monolithic understanding of what constitutes a successful human existence, the identity markers of what distinguishes adults as role models for a democratic society are now under siege.

For both my daughter and my son the absence of those societal markers that were integral to the fabric of ancient Athens have been replaced by the incessant distraction of social media. Our children are bombarded by the imagery and pablum of a societal model that dismisses intellectual inquiry as “fake news,” and where the underlying theme of “might makes right” has become synonymous with the mission statement of America. Civil and political discourse has been devalued, and teenagers begin to assume that gaining the expedient advantage is the way successful adults navigate the world.

In my recently published novel, Victoria Falls (Green Writers Press, January, 2019), I explore American male identity issues via the middle-aged crisis of an outwardly successful World Bank official. Mired in unsuccessful relationships with women, the male protagonist transitions from an egocentric womanizer to a human being capable of empathy and unconditional love. While it takes a prison sentence for the transformation to occur, the novel suggests that American men possess the innate capacity to redefine their own manhood in ways that reaffirm all of the highest ideals of humanity.

In our current political climate the idea of defining “true manhood” as including kindness and empathy suddenly seems countercultural. To champion those values is regarded by some as even un-American. What it means to be a man or a woman— what it means to be human—have been the touchstones of democratic societies since the fifth century B.C. Like the Athenians, we can choose to be role models of a personhood that values inclusion, social justice, and a respect for social and political discourse, or we can acquiesce to a distortion of that model where moral relativity and political expediency become the acceptable markers of our national character. 

JULIA: Dear readers, are there traits you associate with 'manhood', for good or ill? How would you define masculinity in the US? How would you like to see it changed? Join us in the comments, and you'll have a chance to win a copy of  VICTORIA FALLS!

James Hornor teaches English at Southern Maine Community College where he also directs the Mid-Coast SMCC Writing Center. His novel, Victoria Falls, (Green Writers Press) was published in January, 2019. You can read more on Jim and his work at his website, VictoriaFalls.com