Pages & Paws

Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie

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5 Easy Recipes + 1 Good Book for Your Super Bowl Sunday

There’s this football thingy going on this Sunday. Apparently it’s a BIG football thingy. Dad’s working on “game day food.” I’m not sure what that means. But if “Game Day” makes the kitchen smell this good, then we should do Game Day every day.


Here are five of Dad’s and my favorite snacks and recipes for Super Bowl Sunday. (I don’t really care who’s playing. As long as I get bacon.)




(Makes 2 dozen cocktail-sized meatballs)



2 lbs. ground beef round

1 cup packed cornflake crumbs

2 eggs

2 Tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/3 cup catsup

½ cup finely minced onion



I can ( 16 oz.) jellied cranberry sauce

1 bottle (12 oz.) chile sauce

1 Tbsp. brown sugar

1 Tbsp. lemon juice


Mix meatball ingredients together in a large bowl. Form into walnut-sized balls. Place in a large square baking pan.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a saucepan mix together the sauce ingredients; Stir and simmer until the cranberry sauce melts. Pour over the meatballs and bake, uncovered for 30 minutes.


Adapted from Four Midwestern Sisters’ Christmas Book, 1991.





1 lb. ground beef

1 medium onion, chopped

1/2 cup chopped green pepper

1/2 lb. frankfurters, sliced

1 8-ounce can tomato sauce

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. chili powder


In a skillet, lightly cook beef, onion and green pepper.  Drain fat.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Simmer 5 minutes.  Serve open-faced on kaiser or sour dough rolls, or hamburger style.




1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 cup chopped onions

1 cup chopped celery

½ cup carrot

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup mild salsa

1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce

3 teaspoons chili powder

½ teaspoon cumin

1 (15 oz.) can garbanzo beans

1 green bell pepper, chopped


Spray large nonstick saucepan with nonstick cooking spray. Heat over medium high heat until hot. Add chicken, onions, celery, carrot and garlic. Cook and stir until chicken is no longer pink.


Stir in salsa, tomatoes, tomato sauce, chili powder and cumin.


Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Cover. Simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in garbanzo beans and bell pepper. Simmer until thoroughly heated.  6 (1.5 cups) servings.


Adapted from Classic Pillsbury Cookbooks, Heart Healthy Recipes



1.5 cups dairy sour cream

2 Tbsp. dry onion soup mix

½ cup crumbled blue cheese (2 oz.)

Assorted vegetable dippers (celery, carrots, cauliflower or broccoli florets, bell pepper, baby carrots, radishes, cherry tomatoes, etc.)


In a medium bowl stir together sour cream and dry onion soup mix. Stir in blue cheese. Cover and chill for at least 4 hours or up to 48 hours. If desired, sprinkle with snipped parsley just before serving. Serve with veggie dippers. Makes 1.75 cups.


Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Best Loved Recipes 2006




1 lb. bulk hot sausage, browned and cooled

1 lb. sharp cheddar, grated

3 cups Bisquick

¾ cup water


Combine, shape into 1-inch balls. Bake until lightly browned, about 20 minutes, at 350 degrees. Reheats well. Freeze separate, then put into bags. Makes 80 -100.


Adapted from Seasoned with Love: A Book of Favorite Recipes compiled by the Joint Heirs Sunday school class of Whittier Hills Baptist Church, April 1984.


Mom’s contribution:

Not being a football fan, there’s just one “football book” I can recommend for today: I Am Third, by Gale Sayers.


Movies featuring football worth seeing again and again? The Blind Side and Facing the Giants. Two thumbs up for both!


What would you add?



Mom and Kimber

(And Dad, too)



33 Post Ideas to Ignite Your Book Blog & Keep Readers Reading!

“I’m outta blogging gas” says Mom the other day. She rolls her eyes. Sighs.


Why does Mom do this? I don’t know. Maybe she needs me to lick her face?

Mom says she’s tired of trying to come up with interesting, original blog posts. “I think I’m about book-blogged-out.”

Ever feel that way? Like, if you write one more book review, you’re going to have to chase the neighbor’s cat? Or wear one of those stupid doggie sweaters?

Well. You know me. How I like to help. I’m a helper, see? To start the new year off right, I came up with 33 Rocking Post Ideas For Your Book Blog That’ll Keep Your Readers Reading!

Pretty good, huh? Here they are:

1. Top book club picks

This depends on the kind of book club. Dickens’s Bleak House or Austen’s Sense and Sensibility may not do so hot in a science fiction book club. But you can blog about titles you’d like to read with your club this year and why.


2. Seasonal or holiday books

Not just Christmas-themed stories! How ‘bout Valentine’s Day? President’s Day or Independence Day? The first day of spring? Don’t forget my favorite, National Dog Day!

3. Author lists

Great idea for highlighting prolific authors like Gary Paulsen. Richard Paul Evans. Will Hobbs. Or Mom. Readers don’t always know about other books a good author has written. Share!


  1. Theme lists

Best outdoors books? Love stories? Science fiction? Mystery or dystopian? Make a list and check it twice. Then blog about it.


  1. Does listening to audio books count as “reading”?

There’s quite a debate about this in the book community. What say you? Why?


  1. Tell the Librarian!

You’ve been invited to a one-on-one lunch with the head librarian. What do you want to tell him or her? Should the library be open longer? Hire more staff? Increase its collection? What electronic resources would you like to see available? What special programs would you like to see for children, young adults, adults or seniors? Blog it!


  1. Buying books on-line or brick and mortar?

Ohhh boy! Plenty of blogging fodder here!


  1. Best-Loved Children’s Classics That Never Grow Old

Think Easy. Picture Books. Or the Juvenile Section of your library. Share your childhood faves and your kids’s faves.


  1. Top Read-Alouds Your Kids Will Love

Related to the above. Not every read-to-myself book makes for a good read aloud. What titles can you recommend that will have the kiddos asking for “one more chapter”?


  1. Best (and Worst) Book Titles

List the _______ book titles you’ve ever seen. *Most clever? Most intriguing or surprising? Catchiest? Longest? Shortest? Dumbest? Most obscure or off-target? Blog away!


  1. 10 Books You DO NOT Want To Start Before Bedtime (or you’ll be up all night finishing)

What books can you recommend that were so compelling and engaging, you couldn’t put them down until The End?


  1. Five Books I’ll Rescue First If My House Catches Fire

Which books could you not live without, and why?


  1. Best Book Pairings

Food and books go together like peanut butter and jelly. Wine and cheese. Chocolate and more chocolate. Share a recipe of two that ties into your latest book review.

Clock’s running!

  1. Take It or Toss it? How Long I Give a Book To Prove Itself

How long does it take you to make a decision as to whether or not you’ll continue reading a book? A few chapters? 100 pages? The end of the first paragraph? Tell us and explain why.

15. What’s on Your TBR List?

We’re book lovers and writers. We usually have piles of To Be Read books. Share what’s in yours.


16. Create a Bookish Award

Did you discover an under-rated but excellent read? Give it some love by creating an award! What about a new book blog that rocked your socks off? Or a new author who catapulted to the top of your Favorites list?

17. Biggest Book Turn-Offs

There are no right or wrong answers here. So rant away!

18. 5 Literary Characters I’d Die To Have Lunch With

As long as they’re not serving oysters. Ugh!

19. Favorite Author Birthdays

Make a list of some fave authors. Do a bit of biographical research. Find out their birthday. Sprinkle in a few “Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss” or “Happy Birthday Laura Ingalls Wilder” posts in this year’s calendar. Be sure to highlight favorites by these authors.

20. Books Every Teenager Should Read (or skip)

To the horror of high school English teachers everywhere, my list would start with two mega duds: Catcher in the Rye and The Sound and the Fury. It can only get better from there.

21. A Book That Surprised Me

You thought it was going to be about A, but it turned out being about B. Good or bad? Recommend or pass?


22. Most Inspiring Books I’ve Read in the Last 12 Months

What books touched you in a powerful or poignant way, and why?

23. Pros & Cons of Book Clubs

Some readers swear by book clubs. Others detest them. What do you think?


24. 10 Books I Bought or Read Just For Their Covers (C’mon. ‘Fess up. We all do it!)


25. The Worst (or funniest) Book Typos Ever?

Ay! Yi! Yi! This requires a sharp eye and a keen wit. But you can do it!


26. Glitz or Glum? Do Book Awards Mean Anything Anymore?

Have you ever chosen a book based on “Best Seller” status? Or do you just ignore it? What about other literary awards? Meaningless or helpful?


27. A Book Series I Didn’t Want to End

Chronicles of Narnia? The Hunger Games? The Wizard of Oz? Little House books?


28. Bookish Gifts I’d Like to Give or Receive

Okay, so a hot new title, a steaming mug of cocoa and a snuggly blanket top this list. But think outside the box. What bookish gift would bring a smile to your face?


29. A Field Trip to My Library

Think of this as a virtual “show and tell.” Pictures! Pictures! Pictures!


30. Write a How-To Post

The blogosphere loves how-to posts. Whip up a reading and writing related posts. Tips: How to Overcome Writer’s Block. How to Read More in 10 Easy Steps! How to Get the Most out of Your Next Library Visit.

31. Share Your Version of The Perfect Reading Room (even if you have to make one up)

What would you include in this room? Book shelves? A fridge? Floor-to-ceiling windows? A fireplace? A lock and key? Would it overlook a lake? Be a snug log cabin perched on a mountain peak, or a fancy French chateau with an inexhaustible wine cellar?


  1. Books I Thought I’d Hate But Wound Up Loving (or vice-versa)

Books can surprise us. Sometimes they just need a chance.

32. 10 of My Favorite Literary Hero(in)es & Villains!

Lord Voldemort? Iago? Captain Hook? How about Elizabeth Bennet? Martin Chuzzlewit? Katniss Everdeen? Blog it!


  1. List Hyped-Up Books That Tasted Like Toe Lint

Ever dive into a “5 star review” book and wonder, “What were they thinking?! This is awful”? Make a list.


There! See? A whole bunch of  post ideas to rock your book blog and start the new year off right!


Wait. Do I smell bacon?



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Is ‘The Porpoise’ This Bad On PURPOSE?

The Porpoise

By Mark Haddon

Doubleday, 2019


If you don’t have anything better to do – like watch paint peel – check out a Catcher in the Rye Meets Flipper & Faulkner Wannbee. It’s called The Porpoise.

Plot Summary

The sole survivor of a plane crash that killed her mother, Angelica is raised by her insanely rich, overprotective father, Philippe. More of a nutcase with “issues” than he a grieving widower, the guy’s a first class Creepazoid.


Angelica grows up in about 40 pages.  Rumors swirl around the isolated daughter of breathtaking beauty. When a potential suitor, Darius, arrives, he guesses more than he should. He winds up hightailing it out of Daddy’s swank digs fast, with an assassin on his tail. Darius runs for his life aboard a boat, The Porpoise.


“Darius”? Seriously?


Says one breathless reviewer: “And then, over several extraordinary pages, he sails out of contemporary Britain and into ancient mythology, shedding his old self and becoming Pericles in the process.”


Snooze Alert

Great. A modern-day Don Juan wannbee who thinks he’s Pericles fleeing an abusive dad while trying to navigate into a Greek legend.

Yep. It’s that bad. A fact that does not go unnoticed by the Encyclopedia Britannica:


Pericles, play in five acts by William Shakespeare, written about 1606–08 and published in a quarto edition in 1609, a defective and at times nearly unintelligible text that shows signs of having been memorially reconstructed. …The play was based on the Classical tale of Apollonius of Tyre.



“Defective” and “nearly unintelligible text” is right.


Gag Me

The Porpoise is supposedly based on Shakespeare’s play which is based on the legend of Apollonius. The brittle, overwrought and often unintelligible Porpoise also seems to be in the running for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Part II. As do George Wilkins’s clogged arteries.


It’s almost as if the author is so desperate to impress, he dumps every literary dust mote ever dashed onto papyrus and swashes them onto the page in one fell swoop. (If I want Shakespeare I’ll get the original, thank you very much.)


Then it’s back to Angelica, silent again. Oh, and she stops eating, too. By this time, however, she’s pretty much a footnote to a story that lurches onward focusing on Darius/Pericles.


Land, ho! Naw. Just kiddin’.


Limping Along & Anchorless

Anchor-less, the author can’t seem to decide who his protagonist is or which end is up. So he just wanders around aimlessly, spilling out endlessly descriptive passages like bread crumbs to voracious sea gulls for no discernible reason. Cuz lemme tell ya, baby. That habit neither propels nor rescues the stilted and largely incoherent story that’s already limping along on legs as wobbly as a newborn colt’s.

Pexels Stock Photo

The result is a prattling, incoherent sop that makes Benjy Compson look eloquent. (To the horror of high school English teachers everywhere, I’m not a big Faulkner fan. But Porpoise isn’t even a good knock-off of Faulkner or The Bard. That’s why I’m not linking to it. On porpoise. That’s not a typo.)


Sure, the back cover is peppered with effusive praise. But so was Proust.


Hopelessy Obtuse

With a hopelessly obtuse plot that just tries too hard, this load of horse hooey ranks right up there with a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing.


Indeed, it’s been years since I slogged through a book this bad. Don’t waste your time. I already did. With apologies to Flipper.




For more on our Rating System, click here.

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A Rich Read to Warm Your Winter

Finding Katarina M, by Elizabeth Elo

Harrowing and haunting, Finding Katarina M is an unusual story. The writing is top-notch. The characters are dynamic. The plot is lithe and engaging, with pitch-perfect pacing and enough intrigue to grab the reader like a colt with a new bit racing toward the wire in the Kentucky Derby.

But I just couldn’t shake the feeling that it was a little too far-fetched.

A successful Washington, D.C. surgeon on a mission to Northern Nowheresville, Russia to find her grandmother who supposedly died in a Siberian gulag is recruited by the CIA to spy on black market WMD sellers after her teenage cousin and aunt, also recruited by the CIA, disappear?

Then Dr. Natalie March is accused of a double murder, refuses to leave the country, discovers a horrible secret at an abandoned gulag site, winds up in a Russian prison, escapes, and miraculously locates her long-lost aunt in an unmapped village, second star to the right and straight on to Nowhere? And snow. Lots and lots of snow.

And NYPD Detective Ruggeri, CIA spymaster Meredith Viles and her unsavory sidekick, Oleg? Straight out of central casting. And what’s up with that last minute fling with Dimitri?

Even so, the story works.

Dr. Natalie March is a respected American surgeon at the top of her game. Single and closing on 40, Natalie doesn’t have time for anything or anyone outside of a hectic work schedule, her medical journals, and her beloved mom, Vera. A Russian immigrant, Vera has multiple sclerosis and is confined to a care facility. Natalie visits her every Sunday morning.

Vera was ripped from her mother’s arms as an infant when her mother, Katarina Melnikova, was sent to one of Stalin’s notorious gulags. Natalie always presumed that her grandmother Katarina was among the millions of Russians who perished in the notorious labor camps. Until a young woman, Saldana Tarasova, shows up at her office claiming to be her cousin.

A Russian ballerina in the U.S. on a cultural exchange, Saldana insists that Katarina is still alive. She also indicates that her mother and brother, Natalie’s aunt and Cousin Mikhail “Misha”, are in grave danger in Russia.

Saldana is desperate to defect. She tries to enlist Natalie’s help. Reluctant to break the law, Natalie waffles. But when Saldana is murdered, Natalie journeys to Siberia to uncover the truth about her young cousin’s death. In the process, she’s drawn into a tangled web of deceit, double-crosses, and family secrets that pit her against the CIA and the dreaded Russian FSB.

Accused of two murders she didn’t commit, Natalie winds up in Female Prison #22 in the frozen hinterlands of Nowheresville, Siberia. There, her medical expertise comes in handy during a daring escape reminiscent of her grandmother’s run from the gulag.

And snow. Lots and lots of snow. Think Doctor Zhivago.

For the most part, Finding Katarina M. moves with the rapidity of a runaway freight train. It’s high voltage. But at times Natalie’s misadventures seem a bit contrived. We almost lose sight of her search for her grandmother as Natalie wanders through rundown Russian hotels, Siberian reindeer camps, museums, Sakha villages, and Vodka.

We later discover that Natalie’s 19 year-old cousin, Misha, also recruited by the CIA and recently disappeared, was hot on the trail of evidence exposing atrocities at the infamous Gulag Butugychag.

Finding Katarina M. is a prodigious blend of history, travelogue, family ties, and whodunit murder mystery. Skillfully knit into its 322 pages are courage, resilience, and exquisite descriptions of Siberia’s feral wilderness. In the end, Natalie discovers far more than she ever thought she’d find.

Overall, Finding Katarina M. is an engaging, rich read if you’re able to willing to suspend your disbelief and enjoy some good historical fiction. Best paired with a steaming mug of hot cocoa and a roaring fire. I’d grab an extra blanket ‘fize you.


THIS Book Kept Me Up All Night – Here’s Why

Every once in a while you come across a book that’s so engaging, so fresh and fierce, you can’t put it down until the last elegiac sentence tiptoes across the final page.

Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens, is one of those books.

I heard Crawdads has been on the NYT Bestseller List for over a year. A natural cynic, I don’t put much stock in “best seller” anything.

So I checked this book out from my library to see what all the buzz is about. Brought it home yesterday afternoon.

I read it cover-to-cover in one sitting. Finished at 1:44 a.m.

Set in rural North Carolina over a span of about 20 years, Where the Crawdads Sing is a wistful, bittersweet story about Catherine Danielle Clark, aka “Kya.” Also known as the Marsh Girl. The story centers on Kya’s young life as she navigates the wilds of North Carolina alone. It’s a masterful tale of love and loss. Abandonment and rejection. Loneliness. Hope and longing.

Powerful and poignant, Crawdads rolled around in my head all night. And most of today.

Crawdads clusters around two time frames, the 1950s and the late 1960s/1970. The chronology could easily come unglued in the hands of a lesser talent. But Owens’s story glides between one epoch and the next as naturally and seamlessly as the channels and lagoons of Kya’s marsh and the wild lands that bookend her life.

The story opens with six year-old Kya watching her Ma trudge away from the family’s marsh shack. Clutching a cardboard suitcase, Ma walks out of Kya’s life without a backward glance.

And so begins a lifetime of loss and loneliness for Kya.

Her siblings all leave the marsh too, including her closest brother, Jodie. We later learn that Kya’s father is abusive, to put it mildly, and Ma and the other children just couldn’t take it anymore. They walk out of Kya’s life one by one, leaving the six year-old alone with her father, who’s absent more than he’s home. When he’s home, he’s usually drunk. When he’s drunk, he’s mean. And violent.

What’s a six year old to do?

Kya does plenty.

Left to fend for herself, the little girl scratches out a subsistence by harvesting and selling mussels and smoked fish to her only real friend, “Jumper.” She learns how to keep a wood stove going, cook grits, steer Pa’s boat. She sleeps on a mattress on the shack’s front porch. Learns how to read the water, tides, birds, grasses and the native flora and fauna of her marsh.

Her only friends are the sea gulls.

Shy and remote, Kya is regarded as strange and odd by the townspeople during her occasional boat trips into town for supplies. She becomes adept at hiding, especially from the truant officer.

Kya raises herself, making do with second-hand clothing and other items collected by Jumper and his kindly wife, Mabel.

With only one day of schooling, Kya finally learns how to read with the help of her friend Tate. She also learns how to count past 29. Paint and collect feathers, shells, and mushrooms.

As a young adult, Kya is still regarded as wild and strange. She’s fiercely independent and private. Shy and retiring. More at home with the creatures of the sea and the marsh than with other people. She understands nature better than people. Humans bewilder, overwhelm, and disappoint.

They also walk out.

In fact, most of the townsfolk shun and ridicule “the Marsh Girl.” Except for her childhood friend Tate, who seems to understand her.

But he abandons her, too.

Longing for companionship but afraid to risk more heartbreak, Kya keeps mostly to herself, hoping against hope that Ma will some day walk down the lane and back into her life.

A voracious reader with a quick mind, Kya becomes a self-educated expert on marsh life. Her prodigious powers of observation, analytical skills and extensive specimen collections result in the publication of several books under her byline.

But she’s still alone. Solitary. Her self-imposed solitude is both a blessing and a curse.

Later, when the dead body of the town’s star quarterback and All American jerk, Chase Andrews, is found beneath a fire tower near the marsh, foul play is suspected. Kya is arrested and tried for murder. A handful of friends stand by her.

Marinaded in hauntingly beautiful, lyrical prose, Where the Crawdads Sing is a remarkable achievement. With its keen observations of nature and wildlife, Crawdads tells us as much about marsh life, ecology, and marine biology as it does human nature.

Lithe as a great blue heron and as luminescent as a Carolina sunset, Where the Crawdads Sing is a riveting tale of the human heart and its need for love, belonging, and connections. You can almost hear the gulls cawing. Taste the salt spray. And see the fireflies glow.

Two thumbs up.

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Why 2020 Is NOT a “New Decade” & Other Strokes of Brilliance

Everybody’s been saying “Happy New Year” or “Happy New Decade.” “Best of the Decade” lists pop up like dog biscuits after I do something  really, really clever. Like every nano-second.

But did January 1, 2020 actually mark the beginning of a new decade, or the last year of an old one? Mom and I looked into this. Sort of.

Here’s what some people have to say, via NBC15:

According to the U.S. Naval Observatory, the agency that maintains the country’s master clock, the new millennium began on Jan. 1, 2001.

Astronomical data also takes a similar course, beginning in 2001, 2011, and this time around, 2021.

But to others, that doesn’t change the fact that as a society we seemingly talk about decades starting with zeros and ending with nines. For instance, the 1990s seemed to last from 1990 until 1999.

Also see: When Does the New Decade Being: This Week, Or a Year From Now?


Julian dates and Merriam Webster and the Farmer’s Almanac? Why do humans have to make stuff so complicated? How ‘bout we all settle for a nice long walk and a milk bone?

Well. You know humans.


Here’s what Mom and I think:

1. A “decade” is 10 years, right?

2. So if a “decade” starts on zero, then it ends on zero, ten years later.

3. Which means the “zero” year is the final year of the decade.

4. Not the first year of a new one.

5. So save the “new decade” thing for 2021.


By the way. Did you notice our new look?

Mom and I spruced up our web site over the holidays. These are days when I get extra good stuff to eat and more treats! People laugh and dance a lot, too. They smile more. Why do they do this? Why don’t they laugh and dance and smile more every day instead of once a year? Well. You know humans.


Now lemme see. Where was I?

Oh yeah. Our new web site. Did you notice we added a new banner? New theme and layout? New style and approach?

We even got a custom domain. We’re now officially Pages and Paws. (I’ve been bugging Mom about this since the 12th of Never. But you know Moms.)


We’re still making some changes. Updates. Revisions. Well, it’s mostly me. Mom helps a little. I mean, someone’s gotta keep track of meal times.


Anyway. We have lots of good stuff in the pipeline.

Like 13 Ways To ROCK Your 2020 Reading Challenge. Easy Super Bowl recipes. Delicious Valentine Pairings (books and food! Yum!). 16 Unforgettable Love Stories. 10 Most Romantic Movies of All Time. Ways to celebrate Read Across America day!


Oh yeah! I’m so excited!


So don’t be a stranger. C’mon in. Pull up a chair. Put your feet up and set a spell. Share a good book. Don’t forget to comment. (We love comments. But not as much as bacon.)


By the way again, can you eat “decades”? Askin’ for a friend!


Stay tuned!