Spatchcocked Turkey

Not a long post today; I usually post my Thanksgiving write up after the big day, I thought I’d share with you ahead of time what I plan on cooking in case you are looking for inspiration.

As you may remember I’m not a huge turkey fan and I have gone through many iterations of turkey cooking over the years. Follow this link for a summary.

In fact, for a while I considered cooking a brisket instead. Then I looked at the work involved from the delicious braised brisket with mushrooms and decided that turkey would be less work on a crazy busy cooking day. Then I re-read my post from last year and it jogged my memory that I made a very tasty turkey by spatchcocking (butterflying) and dry brining.

So, if you’re feeling uninspired by turkey cooking try this roast turkey from Serious Eats. Go to the 2016 posting for a detailed summary with recipe links.

Turkey ready for carving

Turkey ready for carving

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Late Summer Road Trip – Sequoia National Park

Travel Dates: September 11 & 12, 2017

After our stop at the awesome La Posada Hotel in Winslow, Arizona, we headed over to visit my uncle and aunt in Cottonwood. We love visiting them; Uncle Jake is the last remaining relative of that generation on either side. They never had kids and I know he thinks of me and my sisters as the children they never had. So, it’s always touching to visit them.

After a few days with them we started our trip toward home. After breakfast and visiting on Sunday September 10, Carla and I hopped into our car and headed west. We stopped off in at the Sno-Cap in Seligman for ice cream cones (a must stop on Route 66) and drove the Mother Road into Kingman then joined the freeway for the drive to Needles, California on the Colorado River. We debated whether to stop here for the night or head on over to Barstow, It was another 150 miles so we decided to stop in Needles for the night. If you’ve followed my blog for long you’ll recognize many of these places. Use the little search box on the upper right hand side of the page to look for them if you’d like.

The next morning we woke up early and hit the road. We had a 370 mile drive ahead of us across the top of the Mojave Desert into Bakersfield – where we stopped for burgers at In-N-Out – and up I5 toward Visalia to catch state Highway 198 to Sequoia National Park. We gassed up at the last gas station before entering the park. It was still mid afternoon so we had time to enjoy the drive up into the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Granite Formation - Sequoia National Park

Granite Formation – Sequoia National Park

Wow; it’s a long – but beautiful – drive from the south entrance to the lodge at General Grant Village. It would be well over an hour regardless; but since this was the brief window for road construction between the summer rush and the Winter snows, we had a 30 minute stop at one spot to let some road building take place. On our way to General Grant Village we stopped by the General Sherman Tree hiking path.

It’s a relatively short hike from the parking lot down to the General Sherman Tree which is the the largest living stem tree on the planet. Take a look at the man in the red shirt to get a sense of scale.

General Grant Redwood - Sequoia National Park

General Grant Redwood – Sequoia National Park

It wasn’t much more than a 1/4 mile hike down to the grove but notice, I said “down”. Sequoia National Park is high up in the mountains and we took our time going back up the hill to the car. We paused at the starting point to catch our breath and did some people watching. I got a kick out of a couple who were obviously enjoying their day.

Sequoia National Park - Fellow visitors

Sequoia National Park – Fellow visitors

His partner was a bit skeptical of my taking their picture.

Sequoia National Park - Fellow visitors

Sequoia National Park – Fellow visitors

We then drove the rest of the way to our lodging at the General Grant Village. We picked up some maps at the visitors’ center then checked into the lodge before heading over for a delicious dinner (it’s taken me two months to write the blog post so I forgot what I ate but I do remember it was good).

Back in our room we looked at the maps to plan our full day of hiking and seeing.  We got an early start with a hike through a redwood grove for some sightseeing. Like the day before, the hike starts downhill which is great – but what goes down must come up and we were a bit winded after the hike. That didn’t deter us. Next stop was the General Grant Tree – another huge sequoia – not quite as large as General Sherman but huge nonetheless.

Back in the day some men cut down an enormous sequoia to take a cross section to the Chicago World’s Fair. People thought it was a hoax – no way could a tree be that huge. Here is an interesting perspective – a downed tree that has turned into a tunnel.

Toppled redwood tree tunnel - Sequoia National Park

Toppled redwood tree tunnel – Sequoia National Park

Now it was time to get back on the road and cross over from Sequoia National Park to King’s Canyon National Park. We stopped at every wide spot in the road to take  in the view.

View from the road driving from Sequoia National Park into King's Canyon National Park

View from the road driving from Sequoia National Park into King’s Canyon National Park

Highway 180 heads along a mountain range then down an enormous canyon carved out by the King’s River. We stopped along the way to grab some pictures. Carla remembers hiking here as a kid and dipping a Sierra cup into these streams and drinking that cold fresh water.

Kings River - California

Kings River – California

We stopped for lunch at a restaurant next to a camping area along the way. Highway 180 ends deep in the canyon; there aren’t many highways that go all the way through the Sierra Nevada range. Looking at the map the southernmost crossing is way up at Yosemite which looks to me to be about 200 miles north of the southend of the National Forest. When I drove home to Southern California from near Boise, Idaho we’d drive down the east side of the mountains in Nevada, through Hawthorne, then cut over to Bishop on Highway 395 where the road hugs the eastern slopes until the mountains shrink.

That long, 2+ hour drive down King’s Canyon would be worth it for the views alone. But the real treat was the hike to Zumwalt Meadow at the end of the road. The hike is a loop through granite boulders on one side then along the King River on the way back. Carla was in her element – she loves the Sierra granite.

Stones in our pass way - King's Canyon National Park, California

Stones in our pass way – King’s Canyon National Park, California

In some spots we walked up some stairs carved into the granite; then walked through makeshift granite tunnels in others. The hike in is beautiful and the meadow is breathtaking

Meadow and mountains - King's Canyon National Park, California

Meadow and mountains – King’s Canyon National Park, California

What a great combination of water, mountains, and meadows.

Beautiful granite mountains - King's Canyon National Park, California

Beautiful granite mountains – King’s Canyon National Park, California

On the way back we walked along the King River

King's River - King's Canyon National Park, California

King’s River – King’s Canyon National Park, California

We agreed – this is our all time favorite hike. Just beautiful. Go there!

We headed back to Grant Village for another delicious drinks and dinner followed by a sound sleep.

IF YOU GO

We started planning this trip in late summer figuring we’d have to trouble finding lodging since we were traveling during the school year. But there were no rooms at the lodge. We made alternate arrangements outside of the national forest, but Carla kept on it, calling every week to see if there were any cancellations. Thank goodness she did; an opening was available and we snatched it up. It made it possible to see so much more than if we had an extra 2 hour drive into the national park from the nearest town. If you are a camper, you’ll have to check the status. There seem to be many more camping sites than lodge.

The next day we had a 550 mile drive from the Park up to Ashland Oregon. We stopped at every viewpoint on the way out. I was ready to keep going but stopped for Carla one last time where she caught what I think is the best picture of the trip – on her iPhone.

Leaving King's Canyon National Park

Leaving King’s Canyon National Park

We stayed in Ashland for two nights taking in a play and enjoying the lovely city. We had seen so many beautiful things in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks that I left the camera in the hotel and don’t have much to report from that part of the trip.

 

 

 

Posted in Foliage and Landscape, National Parks, Travel | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Late Summer Road Trip – La Posada Hotel

Trip Date: September 9, 2017

I’m getting so behind on my blogging: working, traveling and having fun result in a back log of posts. Today, I’m going back to our late summer road trip to the Southwest and California. When we last left our intrepid travelers they had just left the awe-inspiring Mesa Verde National Park in southwest Colorado.

As I’ve probably said before: if we are within 200 miles of Winslow, Arizona we will go spend the night at the La Posada Hotel. WAIT! Don’t tune out yet – I can hear you thinking “what? trains AGAIN?” – no not this time. Stick with me a moment.

We headed south through the Navajo reservation in far northwest New Mexico until we turn west on to the super slab (I40) in Gallup for the quick journey to my mom’s hometown of Winslow. Very nearly always when I blog about Winslow I provide lots of train photos. Not today; instead, I want to try to provide an insight into this beautiful hotel. It was designed by Mary Colter – who also designed a hotel and other buildings at the Grand Canyon – and built in 1930. She wanted to make the hotel feel like a Spanish land owner’s hacienda. It is built of thick adobe with wide hallways and multiple gathering rooms. It was also designed to maximize air flow to keep the building cool in pre-air conditioning days. The building has been restored beautifully by the artist Tina Mion and her husband Allan Affeldt.

Here are a couple of photos of the front of the hotel from earlier trips.

La Posada Hotel - Winslow, Arizona

La Posada Hotel – Winslow, Arizona

La Posada Hotel - Winslow, Arizona

La Posada Hotel – Winslow, Arizona

And here is one of the back lawn.

La Posada Hotel - Winslow, Arizona

La Posada Hotel – Winslow, Arizona

Yes, I did go out to watch trains while Carla strolled the hallways. She took some panoramas. In the top image you can see some of Tina Mion’s artwork. She has painted many of the president’s and first ladies with each holding a playing card. You can wee on on the left side of the picture.

Interior: La Posada Hotel - Winslow, Arizona

Interior: La Posada Hotel – Winslow, Arizona

Part of the hallways and open spaces inside the building

Interior: La Posada Hotel - Winslow, Arizona

Interior: La Posada Hotel – Winslow, Arizona

Outside there are various patios with cool seating.

Patio: La Posada Hotel - Winslow, Arizona

Patio: La Posada Hotel – Winslow, Arizona

The rooms are well appointed and comfortable. And there isn’t a lot of train noise to keep you awake at night. Trains headed west are coasting to the crew change point on the west end of Winslow. Trains heading east are gathering speed but horns are silent (for the most part – sometimes a playful engineer will give a quick toot if a person trackside gives a wave)

And the cherry on top of the hotel sundae is The Turquoise Room – the hotel restaurant. In 2009 Condé Nast awarded it the second highest food rating for hotel restaurants. It is far and away the best restaurant I’ve eaten at in Arizona. If you go, make sure – make absolutely positive – you have a bowl of the black bean and sweet corn soup. The two thick soups are side-by-side in the bowl topped with a glorious “T” by some sort of sauce. Three words: DE LISH US!

The remodel is ongoing; there is something new to look at each visit. Currently they are working on remodeling the adjacent ATSF depot which is immediately east of the hotel.A few miles west of town – outside of Holbrook – you’ll find the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest.  If you find yourself in the southwest – maybe visiting The Grand Canyon – I urge you to add a night at the La Posada Hotel in Winslow, Arizona.

For more of my posts on this beautiful landmark click this link which will take you to the search results on my blog.

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Late Summer Road Trip: Mesa Verde

September 6-7, 2-17

[NOTE: Click on the photos to get much bigger versions with detail I discuss in the post]

When last we talked (September 5)  we had arrived in Mesa Verde, hiked a bit and saw some sites. We had a morning tour set up for September 6 so we walked from our room over to breakfast a few hundred yards away. We had a nice view on the walk over.20170906 0143 FE 24-240mm F3.5-6.3 OSS Mesa Verde National Park

Aramark has the concessions contract at Mesa Verde National Park so we were a little dubious about the quality of our tour. It wasn’t Aramark specifically we doubted – we had though the tour was by the National Park Service.  Regardless, we figured we’d learn something about the history, geography, archeology, and anthropology of the place. Not to worry, our tour guide was a retired principal who had taught in Indian Schools in southern Colorado. I figured we were in good hands. One of my aunts, Barbara, taught on the reservation near Window Rock, Arizona. And my uncle, who was an assistant superintendent in the Verde Valley School District, gave tours at some of the ancient Puebloan sites in Arizona – Montezuma’s Well and Montezuma’s Castle as well as Tuzigoot. So, retired educators? Bring on the knowledge!

As the morning progressed, our tour moved through time from the oldest to the most recent dwellings. It’s impossible to have direct knowledge of the people who lived here because after farming for hundreds of years, they exited en masse around 1200 AD – hundreds of years before Europeans came to North America. Nevertheless, we have learned much about the people through Anthropological studies of the old living spaces. The experts have divided the time span into three eras.  The first era had very primitive architecture with buildings made of adobe walls and thatched roofs. The most distinctive feature was the Kiva – a round building with a fire pit in the middle and air flow through a vent leading  outside. When a family or group would leave the area they would dismantle the building before leaving.

Eventually a second era developed where the Puebloans built new home sites where the old bricks were. This second era of Kivas were more detailed with additional features. The air vent would allow the air to come rushing into the home and kill the fire, so they learned to build deflectors. Here are the remains of a second generation Kiva.

Detail of a Kiva in Mesa Verde. Note the small interior wall to deflect the air around the fire pit in the middle of the floor

Detail of a Kiva in Mesa Verde. Note the small interior wall to deflect the air around the fire pit in the middle of the floor

You can see the additional architecture features of the wood rails along the inside. It is thought that religious ceremonies were held in the Kivas and the people lived in the nearby buildings that had connecting tunnels.

You may have noticed that I’m calling these people the Ancient Puebloans rather than the older, more common term Anasazi. Anasazi is a Navajo term for the old people, but if it is pronounced incorrectly it can be an insult. In addition, the Puebloans were ancestors of the Hopi and Zuni peoples rather than the Navajo. The Forest Service had a project asking for suggestions for a new name. Every tribe had different suggestions – most of which were opposed by other groups. So, the Forest Service and anthropologists settled on the accurate – but not nearly as romantic – term Ancient Puebloans.

These people lived a difficult life; their primary diet was corn and squash. At it’s best corn isn’t really that great of a grain for humans. But it was even harder for the Puebloans. They used big flat stones called metates to grind the corn into powder. It takes hours to grind corn like this. Imagine sitting eight hours a day holding a large stone and pushing it back and forth over some dried corn on another stone. I’d be exhausted in five minutes. To make matters worse, the grinding process resulted in lots of pebbles in the finished product. As a result their teeth were in horrible shape – broken and worn down.

The third architectural era featured the famous cliff dwellings. Considering these people were essentially in the stone age, didn’t know about the wheel, and had no known written language, it is astounding that they developed these elaborate structures that are still standing over 800 years later. No wheels means no pulleys everything had to be brought up by brute force.

In this photo you can get an appreciation for how difficult it must have been to live – not to mention build – these villages.

Cliff Palace and Mesa Verde

Cliff Palace and Mesa Verde

Because it is so soft, the sandstone is not suitable for tool making. If a family wanted some good stones for their grinding or for blades to scrape hides or cut apart the animals they ate, they had to go get it. The best stones are down at the bottom of the canyon in the riverbeds. It is thought the men would travel down, get some rocks and place them in a basket that they held in place with a yucca rope around their forehead. With this in place they’d climb back up the hundreds of feet of cliff wall to begin the tool making process.

As we drew closer to the site we stopped for more pictures.

Cliff Palace and Mesa Verde

Cliff Palace and Mesa Verde

Eventually we were directly across the canyon. This was a highly populated area. It is calculated that there were more people living in southwest Colorado then than there is now.

Closer up view of Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde

Closer view of Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde

If you look closely you can see a tour group in the middle of the village. That was our next destination. Groups gather on the ledge over the buildings – you can see a group on the far left side of the photo. Tour groups join a National Park Service Ranger who tells you not to touch ANYTHING other than the ground you walk on. After descending on down a series of steep rock steps you get down to the main level.

"Street Level" view of Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde, Colorado

“Street Level” view of Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde, Colorado

This dwelling space is just breathtaking; it’s hard to do it justice in just a photo or two. Look in the foreground on the right side and you’ll see two or three Kivas – the round spaces – which carried through all three archeological eras. If you look closely at the lower opening on the tower at the far right you’ll see some black smudges. This is the result of people over the years walking up, putting their hands on the building to look inside – one of the few places it is allowed. The oils on our hands discolor and ruin the adobe as the years go by.

We were allowed to touch the wall here in order to lean inside the opening and look up to view a beautiful pictograph that looks like a Navajo or Hopi geometric patterned rug.

Our tour guide is part Native American from this area and he feels a real connection to the sites. He is a multi-talented person who carved his own flute. Just before leaving we paused to hear him play a beautiful melody that fit the place perfectly.

Our National Parks tour guide playing a homemade flute at Cliff Palace

Our National Parks tour guide playing a homemade flute at Cliff Palace

We climbed down to get to the site and as a corollary to the old rule, what goes down must go back up. There were a series of three log ladders bolted into the stone we had to take to get back to our bus. I’m not a ladder fan at all so I was not looking forward to this. But it was fine – they are stout ladders with big rungs and going up was a cinch. I was struck by how tiring it was just walking around here – then we realized that we were over 7,000 feet in elevation. Not much oxygen up there.

Travelers’ tip: if you are a woman (or a guy for that matter) don’t wear a skirt; everyone gets a great view of your backside as you climb the ladders.

We piled back on the bus to go back to Far View Lodge where we had some lunch and a rest before heading out for more exploration.

We found a place (Far View site I think) where we could walk among some of the old second era structures. We discovered a few bricks with designs on them. I have no idea of the meaning or importance.

Close up of art work on a brick in Mesa Verde building

Close up of art work on a brick in Mesa Verde building

Maybe they are house numbers 🙂

Close up of art work on a brick in Mesa Verde building

Close up of art work on a brick in Mesa Verde building

After all that hiking and exploring we headed back to our room, had a nice dinner with a couple of drinks and slept soundly.

The next day, September 7, was a travel day but we couldn’t bear to part without just another view. The Ancient Puebloans may not have had the wheel or much technology, but they were very smart. They built a series of reservoirs to hold water for their crops. We first hiked down a small canyon where a series of reservoirs once existed. We saw a few ruins and got an appreciation of the work these people put into living.

Then we went back to the Far View site to go on another hike to see a reservoir that was still in recognizable shape.

Ancient Puebloan reservoir at Mesa Verde, Colorado

Ancient Puebloan reservoir at Mesa Verde, Colorado

Everyone I know who has visited here has been moved. And I now know why. To look back at this ancient people is to see just what a tough life they had. The human spirit is indomitable – we will scrabble and scrape to make a living wherever we can. Eventually, though the water just dried up and the people had to move. It is thought they worked their way down the mountain and into the Rio Grande Valley.

Mesa Verde has been on our travel list for years. I’m so glad we finally got there. It is spectacular. If you go I recommend the tour so you can learn about the people. But leave some time for personal exploring as well.

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Late Summer Roadtrip: Mesa Verde, CO

September 5, 2017

Before I write about Mesa Verde I want to go back and mention a delicious lunch we had the day before in Moab, Utah. We’ve been through Moab a few times, most recently two years ago when we visited Arches National Park and Canyonlands. On this trip we stopped at the Moab Diner and had some green chili for lunch. It was some of the best green chili I’ve had. If you find yourself in Moab, hit up the Moab Diner and have a bowl of green chili.

And now on with our travels. After a quick breakfast of Carla’s homemade granola we hit the road for the 175 mile drive south through eastern Utah into south western Colorado, past Cortez and into Mesa Verde National Park. The park entrance is near highway 160, but we had another 30 minute to an hour drive up a mountain and into trails and views. It was too early to check into our accommodations at Far View Lodge so we continued driving down the road to a mile long loop hiking trail where we were treated to some beautiful vistas of the mesas.

Along the trail at Mesa Verde National Park

Along the trail at Mesa Verde National Park

I had to work on the photos to “dehaze” them. We encountered a lot of smoke from wildfires all the way down Utah and Colorad.

Carla was in her happy place.

Carla hiking a trail at Mesa Verde National Park

Carla hiking a trail at Mesa Verde National Park

We learned later these aren’t mesas -even though they are flat – but I forget the official name. Sorry. We found another viewpoint showing a deep canyon that was breathtaking.

Mesas of Mesa Verde

Mesas of Mesa Verde

At this point it was hard to believe people lived here over a thousand years ago. But, if you look closely… Look just under the top of the ridge on the right side of photo above. Carla pointed it out to me.

I was glad I had my 24-240 zoom lens so I could get closer and closer to what we saw. Click on the photo below to get a bigger version.

Quadruple take of Mesa Verde Cliff Dwelling

Quadruple take of Mesa Verde Cliff Dwelling

The sun was heading to the west so we got back in the car and drove the half hour back to our lodging at Far View Lodge where we had a couple of drinks and some fish tacos.

We had a tour scheduled for the next day where we could learn more about the people who lived here before Columbus “discovered” America. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Posted in Foliage and Landscape, National Parks, Travel | 2 Comments

Late Summer Road Trip: Green River, Utah

September 4, 2017

Once Labor Day came and the kids were back in school, it is a perfect travel time for retired folk. We wanted to go down and visit my uncle and aunt and made a trip of it. In addition to the rel squad we spent time in Mesa Verde, Colorado and Sequoia National Park / Kings Canyon National Forest.

But to visit these places means you have to drive to these places. There is a lot of wide open country out here. We had smoke from wild fires both near and far. We also had some dramatic skies.

Storm clouds in Southwest Utah

Storm clouds in Southwest Utah

Last year on our drive back from New York and Chicago we stopped for lunch at the Tamarisk restaurant in Green River, Utah. It struck us a nice stopping point and would provide us with a short drive to Mesa Verde the following day. The restaurant is perched over the river and we watched a heron fishing in the shallows on an island but I couldn’t get a picture.

We got in just in time to have dinner then go outside and enjoy the sunset. Green River is a small town and we could wander across the sparsely travelled highway and go up on the bridge and down next to the river to get our pictures. It’s interesting to me to see the colors change as the sun sinks.

Sunset in Green River, Utah

Sunset in Green River, Utah

Sunset in Green River, Utah

Sunset in Green River, Utah

 

I especially like this photograph showing the silhouette of the mesa out to the west.

Sunset in Green River, Utah

Sunset in Green River, Utah

As the sun was going down we noticed a contrasting show on the opposite horizon. The moon was huge as it rose. I remember my first college reading assignment was for a Psychology class – we had to read an article from a science journal each week and report. My first reading was why the moon appears so much larger on the horizon. Too bad I don’t remember the reason 🙂

Moon rise over Green River, Utah

Moon rise over Green River, Utah

As it got darker the moon becomes brighter but smaller.

Moon rise over Green River, Utah

Moon rise over Green River, Utah

As I work my way through the 1,000+ photos I took I’ll post about the later parts of our trip.

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Reading: The Code of the Woosters by PG Woodhouse

The Code of the WoostersThe Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The one word review of this book is “Hilarious”. It’s my third or fourth time I’ve read it and it pleases

It is the classic Jeeves and Wooster story. Bertie has to steal a sliver cow creamer from Pop Basset without getting his spine pulled out by Roderick Spode – all the while trying to patch up the tiff between Madeline Basset and Gussie Finknottle. If the Finknottle/Basset marriage is off then Bertie will have to marry Madeline – because that is what a gentleman does. “…after being blackmailed by an aunt at breakfast, I was now being blackmailed by a female crony before dinner. Pretty good going, even for this lax post-war world.” [p 86]

Thank goodness for Jeeves.

But, it’s not really about the plot – hilarious as it is – the plot is only there to set up the dialogue between Bertie and the rest of the cast. Here Bertie is describing Gussie trying to get away from Spode who wants to beat Gussie into a jelly. “… confronted with Spode in the flesh, he now retreated to the wall and seemed, as far as I could gather, to be trying to get through it. Foiled in this endeavour, he stood looking as if he had been stuffed by some good taxidermist.” [p 123]

And when Bertie helps Gussie escape out a second floor window through the use of a sheet: “I don’t think I have ever assisted at a ceremony which gave such universal pleasure to all concerned. The sheet didn’t split, which pleased Gussie. Nobody came to interrupt us, which pleased me. And when I dropped the suitcase, it hit Gussie on the head, which delighted Aunt Dahlia. As for Jeeves, one could see that the faithful fellow was tickled pink at having been able to cluster round and save the young master in his hour of peril. His motto is ‘Service'”.[p 217] But of course there are plenty of pages left and the hour of Bertie’s peril has only just started.

This book is full of my favorite sayings of Bertie’s
– I don’t mind people talking rot in my presences, but it must no be utter rot.
[p 162]
– He was more to be pitied than censured. [p 185]
– I would have preferred to get oustide a curried egg or two. [p 186] [What a great way to say you want to eat something!]
– …like a Scottish elder rebuking sin from the pulpit [p 139]

and of course my favorite of all time
– What I want from you is less of the ‘Well, really sir’ and more of the buckling-to spirit. Think feudally Jeeves.

I can’t think of a better summer read. We still have a week or two of summer left – pick it up and have a laugh.

View all my reviews

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