Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Sharing Our Stories. And Omelets

Late-breaking (ie, from last week) news: Kathy Reel is the winner of E.J. Copperman's WITNESS FOR THE PERSECUTION! Kathy, contact E.J. at Jeff at Jeff Cohen Books dot com for your prize.

 

DEBORAH CROMBIE: For Christmas, my daughter shared with me a subscription to an app called Storyworth. Every week the recipient of the gift is emailed a question. Some are stock, as in "Who were your grandparents?" Some are asked by the giver, like "Where did you go on vacations as a child?" 

You answer the questions in as much detail as you want, and you can add photos, too. Then you hit SEND and your little post goes to the giver. (You can go back and edit, too, thank goodness.) At the end of the year, Storyworth compiles all your stories into a book. Isn't that a terrific idea? 

Of course I am cringing to admit that I've hardly answered any of the questions! They trigger a flood of memories and stories, but I am so under the gun on my book and all my time and energy is going into getting those last pages done. Huge apologies to Kayti! But I promise, as soon as I send off my manuscript, I'm going to have a great time filling in those blanks. (The questions make terrific journaling prompts, too.)

This week's question was "What are your favorite recipes to cook, or to eat?" and my first thought was of big meals, which I've never been very good at, dinner party and holiday sort of stuff.

And then I thought about omelets. Prompted, in part, by the one I made for dinner last night. Sauteed mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, sharp cheddar cheese. And butter, as that is the only proper way to make an omelet.  Fabulous.  It is the best dinner I can think of.


That led me to think about my mom, who loved omelets, too, and about our trips to France. My mom's favorite Paris meal was an omelet with a green salad and a glass of wine, in a brasserie. That was the height of sophistication as far as she was concerned! I have to say I agree.


And that led me to Julia Child. Is anyone else watching JULIA, the new HBO Max series about Julia's early days on public television? 




(I hate that we can't all watch the same things!) The British actress Sarah Lancashire from Happy Valley plays Julia--is that bizarrely unexpected? (She's really good, though.) I don't remember my mom owning a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but surely she watched The French Chef, because it was the sixties and that's what you did. And how else did she learn about French omelets?

Those are questions I would ask now, if I could, and I think it's a lovely idea to share  these stories, rambling as they may be.

How about you, REDs and readers, are you sharing stories--or asking the questions? 

69 comments:

  1. What a clever idea, Debs . . . Storyworth sounds pretty amazing . . . .

    I believe I’m firmly in the sharing stories camp . . . I’m guessing that it’s almost as much fun to look back and recall special memories as it is to share those rambling [or not] stories . . . .

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    1. Exactly, Joan. I'm loving remembering things I wouldn't otherwise have thought of.

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  2. We are loving the Julia series, Debs!

    That story idea is a great one, and the resulting book will be a treasure for Wren as time goes on - but I can see how answering the questions could get burdensome.

    My adult sons are asking more and more questions about my life, so I am the one telling stories these days, which is probably as it should be.

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    1. You should check out Storyworth, Edith. You could do it with your sons. It really a fun collaborative project.

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    2. Storyworth is a lovely, gentle way to ask the question so many of us are afraid to ask and so never do: "what do you want me to know before you die, loved one?"
      I wish I had taken the time to ask my Mother. (Feeling a bit melancholy.)

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  3. DEBS: Storyworth sounds like a cool app...I will check it out. And yes, please focus on your new book (deadline)!

    Being food-obsessed, I loved watching reruns of Julia Child on PBS, as an adult.
    And (for once), I will be able to watch JULIA since it is on the Crave streaming service in Canada.

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    1. Oh, good, Grace. I had to twist my husband's arm to get him to watch the first episode with me, but now he's really enjoying it.

      I don't remember watching The French Chef when it first aired, as I was only in grade school, but of course the episodes were aired for years on public television here and I think they were sort of absorbed into my consciousness. But I've been fascinated to learn more about Julia and how the show came to be made. It was groundbreaking in so many ways.

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    2. Yes, this show is making me want to watch the original ones. I don’t think I ever did, either. It feels like I did, but I don’t think in reality I did. It would be so much fun now!

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    3. I have to say that I liked Stanley Tucci much better as Paul, in Julie & Julia. In fact, I'd like to watch that again.

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  4. Storyworth is a great idea and I will check it out.

    I am definitely asking questions of my 93-year-old mother, and she is (finally) writing the story of how she met my dad. We all know the story from Dad's point of view, as he loved to tell it, but we've never heard it from Mum's point of view. She got going when taking a "spark your writing" course that I co-facilitated in March; the sparks worked, because she's written several thousand words already!

    And, Debs: We love omelettes as dinner in this house. Cheese, with a salad and maybe potatoes, too.

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    1. It sounds like your mother might like Storyworth, Amanda. It's amazing what those prompts will spark, things you would never otherwise remember.

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  5. Omelets for dinner work at our house, too, with good bread and some jam, sometimes salad, sometimes fruit.

    Rachel gave Storyworth to Irwin for Father's Day last year. I think we have a book coming soon. They send him a question every Monday and if he doesn't like their question, he chooses his own topic. She was very excited to give it to him! He hasn't missed a week, as far as I know. I just think about how terrific it would be to have a book from my grandmother or mother or aunts. Wow. Sigh.

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    1. Judy, that is so great! And yay to Irwin for answering so diligently. (I promise I will!!!) Won't that be terrific for your kids and grandkids?

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  6. The Hubby has an omelet every day for lunch. He is on the quest for the perfect omelet pan.

    Like Edith, the older my kids get the more questions they ask, so I'm the one telling the stories.

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    1. I just use a really good quality (mine's All-clad) 8 in. non-stick pan.

      I very seldom order omelets in US restaurants because they are inevitably overcooked. I'll say, "Tell the chef I want a SOFT omelet." So funny because I just realized my mom did the same thing.

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  7. A bit of both: I noticed in the videos of my grandson that he's fascinated by how things work--a cardboard book, a wheel--and yesterday, I found him an age-appropriate set of gears. I reminded my son that once upon a time, he could dismantle a toaster in five minutes.

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    1. Margaret, do you know about KiwiCo? https://www.kiwico.com/ It's science and art projects. You can subscribe for you grandson. They send an age appropriate project every month, the "Kiwi Box". My granddaughter LOVES them!

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  8. The older I get, the more questions I have and there's no one left to answer them. Luckily they aren't big important questions, but smaller more curiosity than anything else so i think it is important for us when we tell our own stories, to put in smaller details, exactly like you are doing by talking about the kind of food and the meals you ate. The meals I make are nothing like the meals our family ate when I was a kid. My mother, who grew up on a farm, was a good cook and she always planned balanced meals. Every dinner included dessert!

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    1. I have so many questions now! When I was writing about my grandmother for the Storyworth prompt, I realized there was so much I didn't know. She was living in California before I was born, teaching, and then she came back to Texas to live with us. But why was she in California? And where? And what was she teaching? Of course you don't ask these things as a child, and now, as you said, there is no one left to ask.

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  9. About every ten days, my brain goes on strike and won't come up with any creative ideas for dinner, which is when I make my husband and me a big omelet to split. Lots of your same ingredients, Debs--mushrooms, cheese (usually Gruyère), sometimes chives. But I confess that mine usually have about a quarter cup of bacon cubes, sautéed crisp with the mushrooms. So delicious! I always think that with bacon, garlic, parmesan, and butter, you have the four ingredients that will make ANYTHING tasty.

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    1. Kim, that sounds fabulous. But I was too lazy to cook bacon!

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    2. Yum, yum - and Deb, me, too as to too lazy to cook the bacon. I keep Kirkland bacon crumbles on hand for such emergencies. They really are good, and no splatter to clean up :)

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    3. We cook bacon in the microwave. On a plate, between two pieces of paper towel, 1-1 1/2 minutes per slice. Easy!

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    4. That’s how we cook bacon to, microwave! And I agree, those crumbles are amazing.

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    5. Thanks for the tip, Kait! Those are going on my next Costco list!

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    6. The only way I cook bacon these days is in the oven. I load up a baking pan full of bacon strips, usually can do a whole package. It cooks the bacon wonderfully, takes about 18 minutes at either 400 or 425 (I'll have to check temp). Oh, and I put aluminum foil under the bacon strips for easier clean-up. Pretty easy all the way around.

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  10. There is no one left of my dad's siblings and my mom's sibs are dwindling. The remaining narrators are sometimes unreliable--one aunt in particular seems to be making up the past to suit her fantasies. But she's 92, so if it makes her happy.... I have my older sister to turn to for questions, but it's odd to see how differently we can each view our shared past. Mostly, though, I'm the storyteller these days. My great-nephew came to us when he was three years' old and he is hungry for family. The stories I tell weave a sense of history around him, tying him to us, grounding him, including him in family.

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    1. Flora, you should do Storyworth for your nephews and grandnephew. It would be wonderful to have those stories of yours written down. And it's so interesting how the act of writing, rather than just telling, will bring things to the surface.

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    2. Deborah, I'll definitely be checking it out.

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  11. I wish I had asked more questions when I had the opportunity. What a wonderful gift Kayti gave you, and through her, the grandchildren.

    My mom did have Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I remember seeing on her bookshelf. As for omelets, mom used to turn them out with great success. I could never do that until I caught an episode of The French Chef - there was Julia stirring the eggs in the middle while the edges cooked themselves. I followed her example and haven't had a failure since!

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    1. What? I did not know that. I just left the edges and let the uncooked eggs slide underneath. That works.
      But I did love how she flipped it. I am too timid for that!

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    2. That's how I do mine, too, Hank. It works a treat.

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  12. Love the Storyworth idea, thanks, Debs. We might have to do this, too. I started a memoir a few years ago, but only got up to my late 30s in age. We know quite a bit about my mom's family, but I sure wish I had stories from my dad's. Alas, there is no one left but a couple cousins I have no way of connecting with because their last name is so common.

    Love, love omelets! One of my favorite lunches, and occasional dinners, too. Everything is fair game as filling: mushrooms, shallots, onions, bacon, cheese, avocado, spinach, kale, chard, hummus, tomatoes, you name it. Whatever there's a little bit of in the fridge, etc. Last weekend we had friends over for dinner and I made a baked hummus and harrisa appetizer from the Washington Post. (SO good.) I added a couple tablespoons to my omelet the other day. I'll be adding harissa on its own, too.

    I struggled with making omelets until I watched Julia Child make them once. Such an easy meal.

    Sarah Lancashire plays a lesbian schoolmistress in Last Tango in Halifax, too. She is a brilliant actress.

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    1. We loved her in Last Tango!

      I haven't stocked harissa in a while, but learned to love it when we lived in Grenoble, which has a a sizeable population of people with roots in North Africa. Must go find some!

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    2. Edith: Grenoble! I lived there 1977/78, as an au pair (nanny). So many memories!

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    3. We were there fall of 1986 with our first newborn!

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    4. The WaPo recipe called for harissa, and I had a dickens of a time finding it, Edith. We have a HUGE food specialty store in this area called Jungle Jim's. They have simply everything, and I knew if it was available locally it would be there. Half the store is arranged by geographical area, but I wasn't sure what part of the world it was from, so it was like a treasure hunt to locate it on the shelves. Sure, I could have asked someone, but where's the fun in that?

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    5. Karen, do you have a link for the recipe?

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    6. Oh, I forgot that Sarah Lancashire was in Tango. She's so good!

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    7. Here's the link, Debs. It was a big hit, even pronounced "addictive" by our guests.

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/food/2022/03/27/baked-hummus-recipe/

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  13. I gave my dad Storyworth as a father's day gift to him and me and ultimately his grandchildren. It definitely connected us more - but not in the expected way. He found the questions less than ideal (and I had trouble tweaking them) and was deeply frustrated by the difficulty in uploading files and images in the way that he wished. If nothing else - we bonded over tech frustrations. He eventually stopped answering the questions and just sent in stories he thought worth sharing (MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!) The final book has my very favorite photograph of him on the cover and is a treasure of family history in an accessible format.

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    1. Oh, that is great! I'm so glad to hear that the finished book was a success. I haven't tried uploading any files yet. (Ack, when will I find time to scan photos??? That is on my permanent to-do list...)

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    2. What a great story! Thanks, Lysa!!

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  14. Storyworth sounds like a great way to write and learn stories. What a wonderful gift.

    Ah, omelets. I learned the proper way to make a French omelet from a Thomas Keller Masterclass about 2 years ago. I had been making them all wrong for 30 years but never one to mind being a heretic, I have to disagree with the master...I like a bit of colour on my omelet. My Mother loved Julia Child but, I think, it was more the performance and less the cooking that attracted her. She would set up the ironing board and watch Child on PBS. Her favourite was the scene where Child was about to butcher a side of meat. My Mother, mimicking Child, would hold up the iron like an imaginary cleaver and cry in her best Boston accent, "Do not be afraid!" and then dissolve into giggles.

    I've always been the storyteller in the family. I don't ask questions, I snoop. An inveterate eavesdropper, I was always the kid hiding in the corner picking up tidbits I wasn't supposed to hear. My father's family history was, uhm, revised and carefully curated in its telling while my mother's family history wasn't told much at all. We do have letters and photos. We, my sisters and I, are the oldest generation now. Our separate perception of our lives growing up are kinda' fascinating both as the stuff for stories, but also as a study of perspective.

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    1. I would love to have known my brother's perceptions of our family as he was growing up, as he was ten years older than me. But he's gone now, and I can't ask him.

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  15. I must get this for John. We’ve been trying to make him write his memoir with limited success

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    1. Oh, that would be so fascinating!

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    2. That is a great idea, Rhys! It's hard to dredge up those memories and stories without prompts, but then once you get started they really flow. I'm sure John has some terrific stories, and what a treasure that would be for your kids and grands.

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    3. Rhys, perhaps your grandchildren can interview John for a video documentary?

      Diana

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  16. So funny! I have been thinking and thinking about omelettes. I love them, too, and ever since watching that episode of Julia, i’ve been trying to figure out how it could be so super delicious. And of course, the answer is butter, since I don’t use butter when I make omelettes.
    And the one thing that I did not like about that show, although we are still watching it, is that young woman producer who supposedly was the force behind the show. When I saw the scenes with her, I thought – – no, that’s impossible. That could not have happened.
    And then, coincidentally there was an article in the paper today saying that young woman, Alice, was a complete fiction. So odd, you know? Why not just tell the story the way it really happened?

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    1. Ooh, now I'm so curious. I've hated the way that character has been treated. Now I want to know the real story! Which paper was that article in, Hank?

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    2. Hank, butter is the secret. It doesn't take much. A little butter in the pan, when the butter is starting to foam, you pour your eggs into it and they don't stick. Then, when your omelet is cooked and folded, you take a tiny bit of butter on the tip of a knife and glaze the omelet with it before you tip it out of the pan. Bon apetite!

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  17. Oh, and that story thing is so wonderful… But I agree, I would never do it.

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  18. On another note, omelet or omelette? "Omelet" is the preferred American spelling, "omelette" the British. I love that you used the British version, Hank.

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  19. I love the scene in The Hundred Foot Journey where the young Indian chef is told by the French restaurateur that the ultimate test of cooking is a perfect omelette. She trashes his first one, and later there's a scene where she eats one with obvious pleasure. Omelettes perfectly represent the fundamental rule of good cooking - it starts with simple things prepared well.

    Also, for those who are enjoying Julia, do take a look at the 2009 movie, Julie and Julia, with Meryl Streep as the iconic chef and Stanley Tucci as her husband. Honestly, you can fast forward through all the modern parts and just watch the scenes featuring the Childs.

    Also also, I'm really enjoying typing out Julia all over the place. It's making up for those times I could never find my name on those miniature license plates as a kid.

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    1. In a meta connection to yesterday's blog, I just looked up Julie and Julia and found out the movie was written by Hallie and Delia's sister, Nora. It's a very small world, at least when you have an Ephron in it. :-)

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    2. Oh, yes! So meta small world! And I had just looked that up, too! I agree about the modern parts of the movie, but the Childs were wonderful. Of course, I'd watch Stanley Tucci in anything.

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    4. I loved Julie and Julia - and didn't realize it was written by Nora!

      Guess what, Julia - there will NEVER be a mini license plate with Edith on it. But I DID find a bowl with Edith painted on it for sale in Brittany decades ago, and you can believe I bought it and still use it.

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  20. What a fabulous gift idea! I think I'll send it to my mom, we were just talking about where her love of travel came from. I could live on omelettes so i agree with your mom. Also, Julia is in my queue but deadlines first!

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  21. What a fabulous gift idea. I have been thinking of sending it to some of my relatives. I always enjoy hearing stories. I was reminded of a story about Winston Churchill. He was telling a story to a young woman who was a family friend. His friends said they had heard the story many times before. Winston said Yes, but Barbara has not heard the story before.

    Diana

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  22. This post got me remembering the omelettes I had in France on our first trip. We were traveling on the cheap... seriously cheap... and eating where students eat. Omellettes were cheap and made to order. But the way the French make them so simple and extraoardinary. I learned the term *herbes fines* and had my first taste of fresh tarragon. I wish I could tell you that I can duplicate what we had there but sadly I cannot. I learned the hard way that a little too much tarragon makes an egg taste like perfume. Feh.

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  23. I’m now the oldest member of my family, and they ask me the questions!

    What Hallie says about French omelets is true. The reason we can’t duplicate them is that we don’t have French eggs!

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  24. Actually, your omelet, although looking exactly how I'd want mine, is too browned for a traditional French omelet. Theirs are very blond.
    My family gave me The Art of French Cooking as a wedding present. My parents had cooked recipes in it for years and inscribed mine :"For your more affluent days."

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    1. That was a stock photo. I didn't think to take a pic of mine, which was very messy (and delicious) with the mushrooms and cherry tomatoes oozing out!

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  25. First today, I have to say I'm thrilled to have won Jeff's book and will contact him with my address. Second, I meant to comment on yesterday's blog about your sister, Hallie. Delia must have really felt sucker-punched when she'd been through so much bad, had found the good again in love, and then gotten the AML diagnosis. I think her writing her memoir about this period is important to so many others struggling or seeing loved ones struggle.

    Now, to today. Debs, that is such a wonderfully thoughtful gift from Kayti. I am going to look up more about Storyworth. My kids are in the same position I was (and most of us are) when an adult dealing with children and jobs and making your way. You don't really think a lot about your parents' or grandparents' life before you. And, then when you do start wondering about it, it's often too late to ask anyone about it. There are so many things I wish I could ask my mother now about her life as a young adult, as a teenager who was so close to her mother but left for college to become a teacher, who had a love story before my father that abruptly ended for some reason. And, to ask my father about his riding horses as a young boy/man in races with other young men across the fields, about the Native American in our family who was never discussed. And, my grandparents, who were all dead by the time I was born, my mother's mother who was said to be one of the kindest, sweetest people and my mother's father who drove (horse and wagon) the Star postal route and sometimes let my mother go with him. My father's father and mother who are my Boone grandparents and all that entails with the connection to Daniel.

    I haven't watched Julia, but I'll stop by it to take a look. Omelets are delicious done well, but I've never tried one. It's simpler to make a faux omelet, scrambled eggs with cheese and maybe mushrooms. Your omelet does look delicious though, Debs.

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    1. Oh, and Debs, please do give your full attention to the new book. You know we are all waiting for the next great tale of Gemma and Duncan.

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  26. Late to the party today. Yes I am a storyteller. The site looks very interesting. More importantly I am on my second year for training for Ordination, so another Retreat begins in one hour. I will be off until late Sunday afternoon. I hope all of you who celebrate holidays at this time will find love and joy connecting with friends and family.

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  27. I love this idea! I like to think I ask more questions but I probably tell more stories.

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