Source: A Life Informed by Fine China


We’re all snobs about something. Admit it. There are definitely things, foods, directors, restaurants, places– that we love and consider of the highest order and wouldn’t settle for less. I have high, unwavering standards about a lot of things, and I know I should be more flexible. One of them is china. I am a china snob.

In 1989, when my cousin Karen and I went to tea at the Plaza to see what Ivana Trump had done after she renovated the Palm Court, we were pleased to see the room still held its palm trees. the-plaza-palm-court_650

But when we were served, I picked up my cup and saucer and said in honest astonishment sprinkled with indignation, what has now become a family joke, “This is crockery!” How could the Plaza Palm Court have SWITCHED from bone china to crockery? I still can’t get over it, and I haven’t been back. In today’s New York Times there is an article about Trump’s ownership of the Plaza that mentions Ivana’s redecorating and quotes employee Barbara Res as saying, “Some of it came out great; some of it came out kind of chintzy.”

I have 3 sets of “special” china with settings of at least 12 of each: Aynsley’s Henley pattern, Portmeiron’s Twelve Days of Christmas pattern, and Royal Worcester’s Evesham. I use the Christmas china for Christmas of course, the Evesham for Thanksgiving and fall and winter parties and the pastel Henley for Passover, Easter and spring and summer parties, including my August birthday where I love serving the cake on them.

When I was a teenager I had several surgeries. After the first two my junior year in high school, one in November and one in December followed by the holidays in the hospital, my mother took me on a trip to St. Thomas and Puerto Rico. It had been a rough winter, and I begged her to take me somewhere warm and beautiful. After a few days in Puerto Rico, we landed in St. Thomas and I was smitten. It seemed like paradise to me. We went into a china shop and Mom told me that I could pick out some china and she would buy some starter pieces for the set I would have later on when I had my own hhenley1ome. At sixteen, following two frightening female surgeries, that offer was a loving lifeline to the future. Thank you, Mom. I chose Aynsley’s Henley pattern, with its pretty flourishes and flowers in pastel colors enhanced by gold trim. The pattern might be a wee bit rococo, but I count my youth as responsible for that. I still love its femininity, something I was holding on tight to when I chose it. I brought a teacup and saucer with me when I went away to college, a talisman.

The Evesham was on our wedding registry. During my single years I had collected some serving pieces that I loved, but I didn’t have any dishes. I received 15 sets and probably every other piece that they made. The fruit and the corn represent the harvest to me, and the glory of nature. Because we received most of it as wedding gifts, it also reminds me of the family and friends that gave us the pieces as they sent us on our way in our marriage, hoping for a family life that included many happy meals on them. I hope it is not too sentimental to say that their good wishes have come true. This set too has quiet gold trim. It looks lovely by candelight.Thanksgiving table 2014

I remember picking up the Twelve Days of Christmas set thinking that someday, maybe someday, I’d have a family and be able to use them. It has been my honor to put out the “Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house” plate holding chocolate chip cookies for Santa with portmeirion-christmas-story-dinner-plate-fine-china-dinnerware-scenes-of-twas-the-night-before-xmasmy son on Christmas eve when he was little.

When I set the holiday table, I put the plates around the table in order, each plate telling part of the verse.

I treasure them all. But when it comes to everyday dishes, I have not been so lucky. Except for the set of Epoch’s Oak Manor, which I came upon as odd pieces apparently moments after they were put on a shelf in a Marshall’s in Arlington, Mass. back in the 80s. I remember calling my mother over to “watch” them while I went and got a shopping cart for them. I haveoak manor one salad plate left. Since that purchase, I have bought nameless every day dishes in white only, and have mixed sets as they have gotten broken and tossed, which happens a lot. Currently I have 3 from one set and 3 from another. In our family with a teenager who snacks on quesadillas with guacamole and sour cream after school, 6 dishes is not enough. Last night I spent two hours online looking at potential additional dishes on the websites of Amazon, Macy’s, Nordstrom’s, Pottery Barn, Bloomingdales, JC Penney’s, Neiman Marcus, Kohl’s, Target, Bed, Bath and Beyond and Walmart. Except for Amazon, I looked at every single set of dishes, fine and every day, that they offered. I only found one set that I liked, Wedgwood’s Nantucket Basket, and it is too expensive to be used for every day dishes in a family that is hard on dishes. Melamine? I have a set of 20 in all different colors, started by a set that a dear friend gave me, that I use for summer barbecues. I just can’t see going to the trouble to cook a meal from scratch and then serving it on a plastic plate in the dining room.

This is my current every day white. yellow tomato salad plateIt’s okay, but, well, it’s crockery. And it doesn’t speak to me. I’m still looking for that perfect set of everyday whites that will warm my heart the way that my “special china” has.







I saw a shootout once, and will never use the New York City subway again.

I understand that some people want to own guns to hunt, or to protect themselves and their families. It is a second amendment right, and I accept that.

But let’s have some common sense and amend our laws so that gun owners have to have training before they can buy a gun, pass an ability and safety test like we do to obtain a driver’s license, and be screened so that people with a criminal record or mental illness cannot buy guns.

I don’t know anything about the politics of the issue, the relationship between the NRA lobby and members of Congress. I don’t care about all of that. For me, it’s simple.

As an American I want to have the right to walk down the street or on a subway platform or into a church, school, mall, movie theatre or college and not be shot at by a person who should never have been able to obtain a gun in the first place.

Apparently I don’t have that right. The crazed gunmen who have been shooting up our public places have more rights than I do in my simple desire to live my everyday life without being in danger of gun violence.

It’s not complicated, if you think about it. Don’t take away the second amendment. Enact strict gun control laws. Everybody wins.

Even though in the last few years her humor pushed the envelope too far for my taste, I have always admired Joan Rivers. She was the first woman to host the Tonight Show in Johnny’s absence. That was HUGE at the time. Whatever you thought about her humor and her plastic surgeries and her style, you had to admire her as a professional in a tough field that was dominated by men when she started.

This book is a warm, funny, loving tribute from daughter to mother, and it is full of delightful personal anecdotes that show that Melissa inherited some of her mother’s wit. I am surprised that she was able to write it so soon after Joan’s death, but she has done so with grace. The chapters are short. The one about Joan’s driving skills is hilarious. Melissa doesn’t go into dark territory about her father’s suicide and how her mother coped. Each chapter takes on another aspect of her mother’s personality and their life as a family —- their emphasis on education, support of Melissa as a sportswoman, Joan’s uber-cleanliness, dislike of poor customer service and grammar, her love of reading and needlepoint, their revered family dinners despite the fact that they were ordered from room service or takeout. I read it in one sitting, and laughed and cried. My favorite line is a quote from Joan, “The only thing better than finding a diamond ring in a box of Chinese takeout is a Sunday Law & Order marathon.”

Melissa Rivers was born in New York City and grew up in Los Angeles. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in European history. Melissa’s extensive television background includes working as a features reporter for CBS This Morning; being a regular contributor to MTV’s Hanging with MTV; serving as a television host and producer for the E! network and as a host for TV Guide Channel’s event programming; and, most recently, as a contestant on The Celebrity Apprentice. She lives in Los Angeles with her son, Cooper. I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

The Book of Joan
Crown Archetype | May 05, 2015 | 304 Pages | 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 | ISBN 9781101903827
Audiobook Download$15.00
CD $30.00

The Perfect Egg by Teri Lyn Fisher and Jenny Park

There is a lot of good information in this well-organized book. And Egg Clouds, Tea Eggs and Pavlova are the kind of unique recipes I was looking for, that is, eggs as the main interest in the recipe. Others, like Spaetzle with Swedish Meatballs, include eggs as an ingredient, but not the star of the recipe. I would have liked more of the former. What’s here is terrific, I just wish there was more, and that it didn’t seem padded with non-eggy recipes. I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

The 2015 Agatha Awards, from last night’s ceremony at Malice Domestic in Bethesda, Maryland. The winners are in bold. Congratulations to all of the winners and nominees!

The Good, The Bad and The Emus by Donna Andrews
A Demon Summer by G.M. Malliet
Truth Be Told by Hank Phillippi Ryan
The Long Way Home by Louise Penny
Designated Daughters by Margaret Maron

Hunting Shadows by Charles Todd
An Unwilling Accomplice by Charles Todd
Wouldn’t it Be Deadly by D.E. Ireland
Queen of Hearts by Rhys Bowen
Murder in Murray Hill by Victoria Thompson

Circle of Influence by Annette Dashofy
Tagged for Death by Sherry Harris
Finding Sky by Susan O’Brien
Well Read, Then Dead by Terrie Farley Moran
Murder Strikes a Pose by Tracy Weber

400 Things Cops Know: Street Smart Lessons from a Veteran Patrolman by Adam Plantinga
Writes of Passage: Adventures on the Writer’s Journey by Hank Phillippi Ryan, Editor
Death Dealer: How Cops and Cadaver Dogs Brought a Killer to Justice by Kate Flora
The Art of the English Murder by Lucy Worsley
The Poisoner: The Life and Crimes of Victorian England’s Most Notorious Doctor by Stephen Bates

“The Odds are Against Us” by Art Taylor, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Nov. 2014
“Premonition” by Art Taylor, Chesapeake Crimes Homicidal Holidays
“The Shadow Knows” by Barb Goffman, Chesapeake Crimes Homicidal Holidays
“Just Desserts for Johnny” by Edith Maxwell
“The Blessing Witch” by Kathy Lynn Emerson, Best New England Crime Stories 2015: Rogue Wave

Andi Under Pressure by Amanda Flower
Greenglass House by Kate Milford
Uncertain Glory by Lea Wait
The Code Buster’s Club, Case #4: The Mummy’s Curse by Penny Warner
Found by Harlen Coben


Thanks to Donna Andrews for posting the winners in real time on Facebook for those of us who couldn’t be at the ceremony.

I have spent very little time in the South, but I am a lover of Southern food, and am on a perpetual diet, so this book snagged me at the title. I am a huge fan of Pat Conroy’s cookbook of low country and related fare, so I was eager to see what this book contained. It hasn’t disappointed. From “Ten Tips for Lightening Things Up”—which has some surprises, to the sidebar notes, I gained a lot of good information. And Willis doesn’t talk down to the reader.

The Creamy Broccoli-Parmesan soup is terrific. The lightened turkey meatloaf is a winner—so often turkey meatloaf is dry as cardboard, this is not. I used Trader Joe’s broccoli slaw for the Broccoli Slaw with Buttermilk Dressing and it was delicious and just the right consistency—my earlier attempts have not been so successful. I can’t wait for corn to be in season to try the Georgia Shrimp and Corn Chowder even though I’ll be making them with imported free range shrimp from God knows where. Also on my “to-make-soon” list are Green Beans with New Potatoes and Candied Garlic (candied garlic?! That will be fun) and Slow-Cooked Barbecued Pulled Chicken.

There are really two things to recommend this book—the recipes are healthy and use real ingredients that you are likely to have on hand on a regular basis, and there are not too many ingredients! So often “diet” and “heathy” cookbooks include a lot of ingredients to bring in some flavor, and they don’t always deliver. Or they are ingredients the common kitchen doesn’t keep around. The flavor in these recipes comes from the combinations of the main ingredients. For that reason, the recipes don’t taste “light.” I don’t have enough experience of Southern food to compare these recipes to the heavier original versions, but I suspect that they stack up pretty high. I don’t care, this is a wonderful book with great recipes that I will turn to again and again.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

%d bloggers like this: