Book Review: Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende

12 02 2015

Daughter of FortuneDaughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Historical fiction is my favorite genre, and Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende did not disappoint. For me good historical fiction is an engaging story with great complexity that contains characters, events, and places based on history that sparks my interest enough to do further research. In other words good historical fiction brings history alive.

Broadly speaking Daughter of Fortune is about people immigrating to North America in search of a better life. The great appeal for many was “Wiping the slate clean” and inventing a new life based on hard work and innovation without the societal shackles of the old worlds.

More particularly the story is of one woman’s journey, from Chile to America during the time of the California gold rush in the mid 1800s. Paralleling her physical journey is her emotional and spiritual journey, her journey from childhood to womanhood, and her journey to becoming an American (culturally if not legally). As a resident and lover of California this time in history is of high interest to me. The story made me think about the melange of people that came from around the world and the circumstances of the time that greatly influenced the foundation and development of California that persists to this day. Feminism is also a very important theme in this story, but I will say no more so as to not create spoilers.

The author gave an account of the California gold rush from a different point of view than what I learned in school (here in California): the non-white point of view. For example, it mentions how many gold rushers from Central and South America arrived before east coast Americans, because traveling by ship was faster than the overland route. Once the east coast Americans arrived and saw that some of the Mexican and South Americans were successful at finding gold new laws were created that were pointedly racist, and made it more difficult for non-white people. What little research I did after reading this makes me think this and other things mentioned in the story (like the infamous outlaw Joaquin Murrieta, and the “Spanish Dancer,” Lola Montez) are plausible, but because of conflicting stories and shady and sensationalized news reporting who can know for sure. It definitely calls into question history as taught in schools, and I will be very interested to read anything I find on the subjects. I’m basing this on when I was in high school in the 80s I’m not sure how they teach this part of California history today in California. It would be interesting to know!

View all my reviews

Just Setting Up My Houzz Account

12 08 2014

Fuji Apple Mac N Cheese with Apple & Gouda Cheese Sausage

1 12 2013

I made up this dish as I was making it. I had an opened package of sausages in my fridge that needed to be used as well as some apples. I was inspired by some mac & cheese with apples that I ate in 1988 in Switzerland. Yes, I still was thinking of it 25 years later…. Being the first of December it was feeling firmly mid-autumn on the California Central Coast, and this seemed like a seasonally appropriate dish. The organic Fuji apples were grown at Bellvue’s See Canyon Farms 1-1/2 miles down the road from our house; you can barely get any more local than that!


This recipe is for 4 servings, and is hearty enough to eat on its own.

From Trader Joe’s:

  • 16 oz. package of organic brown rice penne pasta
  • 1/2 lb. block of English cheddar with caramelized onions

From New Frontiers:

  • 4 sausages with apples & gouda cheese
  • 3 Bellevue’s See Canyon Farms organic Fuji apples, chopped in 1/3″ cubes
  • 2 cups 2% or whole milk, depending on how rich you want the sauce to  be. You could even use cream.
  • 4 T. unsalted organic butter

From my pantry:

  • garlic powder (you can use fresh garlic, which could be sauteed with the roux)
  • sea salt
  • ground cinnamon

1. Fill a large non-stick pot with water, add about 2 tsp. salt, and bring to a rolling boil.

2. While you’re waiting for the water to boil preheat a cast iron skillet on medium high.

3. Wash, dry, and chop the apples.

4. Add 2 T. butter to the cast iron skillet, and just as it melts add the apples and stir immediately to coat the apples with the butter.

5. By now the water should be coming to a rolling boil. Add the pasta, and set a timer for 7 minutes (for perfect al dente texture). Stir the pasta immediately a few times, and then stir it before you drain it. This is so it doesn’t stick to the pot or clump together.

6. Stir the apples frequently so they don’t burn, and that they start to lightly caramelize evenly. Don’t let them get past medium caramel. Remove the apples and put them in a bowl. Actually, I did this, because our daughter is a vegetarian, so I needed to keep the apples and sausage separate. If no one minds the apples and sausage mixing, add the sausage to the apples just when they barely start browning, and finish browning them together in the cast iron skillet.

7. In a large glass measuring cup measure 2 cups milk and microwave for 3 minutes.

8. Right when the 7 minute timer for the pasta rings drain the pasta in a colander and immediately rinse with cold water to arrest the cooking.

9. In the same non-stick pot used to cook the pasta place on medium high heat and add 2 T. butter and 2 T. flour to form a roux. Stir while cooking for a few minutes just until the roux turns very pale straw/brown.

10. Add the hot milk 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well between additions and smashing any clumps with the back of the spoon to form a smooth sauce. Before adding each addition 1/2 cup of milk let the sauce heat up again when it just starts to bubble (this happens quickly).

11. Add cinnamon, garlic powder, and salt to taste. I used about 2 tsps. cinnamon, 1 tsp. garlic powder, and 1 tsp. salt.

12. Once all the milk is incorporated to the roux let it simmer for a few minutes, then add the grated cheese and stir continuously.

13. Once all the cheese is melted, and the sauce is smooth add the caramelized apples and pasta and stir well.

14. Serve in pasta bowls, and top with the browned sausage (if it isn’t already mixed into the pasta with the apples).

15. Add freshly ground pepper if desired.



Pinnacles in Autumn

1 11 2013

Eriogonum fasciculatum (California Buckwheat)Pinnacles National Park in AutumnEriogonum fasciculatum (California Buckwheat)Eriogonum fasciculatum (California Buckwheat)Eriogonum fasciculatum (California Buckwheat)Azolla filiculoides (Mosquito or Water Fern)
Azolla filiculoides (Mosquito or Water Fern)Azolla filiculoides (Mosquito or Water Fern)Azolla filiculoides (Mosquito or Water Fern)View of High PeaksColorful Lichen at Pinnacles National ParkColorful Lichen at Pinnacles National Park
Condor Gulch ViewsCondor Gulch ViewsLeaning PineTrailside Manzanita (Arctostaphylos)Trailside Manzanita (Arctostaphylos)Trailside Manzanita (Arctostaphylos)
Condor Gulch Trail & High PeaksRJ and MeSpontaneous Trail DocentSpontaneous Trail DocentLower High Peaks TrailColorful Lichen at Pinnacles National Park

Pinnacles in Autumn, a set on Flickr.

We hiked a 6 mile loop from the Peaks View parking over dry streambed and then through a riparian area to the Bear Gulch day use area. From there we hiked up Condor Gulch, which had spectacular views of the High Peaks area. At the intersection with the High Peaks trail we turned right (east) and descended toward the Old Pinnacles trail, where we made a right turn (southeast) and hiked about a mile back to the Peaks View parking lot to close our loop.

Things Are Not What They Seem

22 04 2013

Things Are Not What They Seem

At an airport – going nowhere soon
Airplane – no crew
American Eagle aircraft – operated by SkyWest Airlines

Dinner at Robin’s

12 04 2013

Harmony Headlands State ParkGarden at Robin's RestaurantGarden at Robin's RestaurantGarden at Robin's RestaurantGarden at Robin's RestaurantGarden at Robin's Restaurant
Garden at Robin's RestaurantIn the Alcoveuntitled shoot-April 12, 2013-16Amuse BoucheSesame Crusted Oyster Mushroom "Calamari"Robin's Chow with Jumbo Prawns
Tofu CrostiniPan-fried Blue Corn Crusted AvocadoStrawberry-Rhubarb NapoleonGarden at Robin's RestaurantGarden at Robin's Restaurant

Dinner at Robin’s, a set on Flickr.

For my 46th birthday my husband took me on a date on the northern coast of San Luis Obispo county. After an easy hike at Harmony Headlands State Park we dined at one of my very favorite restaurants, Robin’s in Cambria. I ordered the special spring vegan prix fixe menu and he ordered Robin’s famous incredible salmon bisque and Robin’s chow with jumbo prawns. We shared everything ~ delicious!

The Getty Center Garden

2 03 2013

The Getty Center Garden, originally uploaded by flygrl67.

Lovely day at The Getty Center


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