Monthly Archives: December 2013

For New Year’s! A Dairy Free Appetizer and a Tummy Soothing Giveaway



Just in time for your New Year’s party, a post by my daughter Laura Allen:

Back in September, I made the decision to give up dairy. After a month of almost daily stomach aches, I figured life without cheese, yogurt, and butter was a small price to pay to feel normal again.

During the first few days, I had vivid dreams of cheese: buttery brie spread on thick crackers, bowls of pungent blue cheese crumbles, and sweet goat cheese cheesecakes.

But within a few weeks, the dreams and the cravings subsided, and my stomach felt great. I accepted my new dairy free life…until it was time to entertain.

I wanted to throw a big housewarming party with lots of delicious eats, but virtually all my go-to recipes contained dairy: pimento cheese spread, Mexican seven layer dip, warm goat cheese with pecans and chutney, and my mom’s trifle recipe.

Of course, I could serve veggies with hummus, but I know from experience that party guests aren’t as satisfied when the spread appears too healthy and dips just don’t taste as good with raw vegetables!

So, I give you avocado chicken salad on sweet potato rounds!

Boil around 1lb of skinless chicken breast and shred with fork.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees and slice two large sweet potatoes into discs. 

Season with olive oil and salt and cook on a baking sheet for 25-35 minutes, checking frequently.

Mash up two to three ripe avocados to make a good guacamole. Season to taste with lime, salt, and hot sauce, cumin, or chili pepper.

Mix guacamole with shredded chicken.

Top sweet potato rounds with chicken salad and finish with fresh cilantro.

By the way, my party was a huge success, and I still served pesto gouda and Danish blue for the cheese lovers.



21-Day Tummy:The Revolutionary Diet That Soothes and Shrinks Any Belly Fast
By Liz Vaccariello, author of the New York Times bestseller, The Digest Diet, with Kate Scarlata, RD
Published by Reader’s Digest


The 21-Day Tummy diet targets excess weight and belly fat while addressing the most common digestive disorders.

We love to eat but that doesn’t mean our stomachs always enjoy digesting what we put in them. Add to this the fact that our nation is heavier than it’s ever been, and it’s clear that our tummies don’t just need to function better, they need to be smaller. In general, smaller stomachs digest food more effectively, and that’s why dropping the pounds isn’t just a matter of vanity but of health.

Featuring carb-light, anti-inflammatory foods, the 21-Day Tummy eating plan slashes inches from your belly (up to 4 ½ inches!) while banishing gas and bloating, heartburn and acid reflux, constipation, diarrhea, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

In addition, 21-Day Tummy includes:

  • 50 scrumptious recipes such as Tomato-Ginger Flank Steak and Almost Pumpkin Mini Pies.
  • A Digestion Quiz to help you measure your overall digestive health
  • Tips on how to combat the Four S’s — Supersizing, Sitting, Stress, and Sleep Deprivation.
  • Inspirational stories and advice from our successful test panelists. Our top tester dropped 19 pounds in 21 days and completely stopped taking medications for acid reflux.
  • An optional equipment-free workout plan that helps to both sculpt and soothe your belly with a mix of core strengthening, walking, and yoga.
  • Guidelines on how to incorporate potentially problematic foods back into your life so you are never deprived of your favorite foods.

To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment by January  20 saying you’d like to win.

Publishers Weekly just gave the book a glowing review:  “With lively writing, inviting four-color format, pull-outs, sidebars, nine personal success stories (including the author’s), and enticing photography, this book is a winner.”


Saving Mr. Banks



We went into Baltimore City, to the Hippodrome Theater, and waited in a long line.


The year: 1965.

The movie?

Mary Poppins!

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My dad loved the film so much that he bought me the soundtrack, and it wasn’t even my birthday.

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Cliff confessed on our first date that he loved the movie, too.

So  thirty-seven years later, we stepped in time and got ourselves to Saving Mr. Banks.

The movie recounts the battle of words and wills between the author of the Mary Poppins books, P.L. Travers, and Walt Disney and his studio.

Great trailer. Really catches the flavor of the film.

Read this review by Mark KermodeI second his final lines “…as a diehard Thompsonite who considers Mary Poppins one of the best 10 movies ever made, they appear to have made Saving Mr. Banks for me. And I loved it.”

I loved it too and so did Cliff.

Loved the sixties stuff. Loved the acting. Loved the music. Loved the pull between Travers and Disney.

And I loved thinking about going to the Hippodrome Theater in 1965.


A Mary Poppins book from my childhood. This is the real Mary Poppins, the first one, a magical curmudgeon of the finest degree


The movie story, also from my childhood bookshelf

End Pages

The end pages of Mary Poppins in the Park. Note the merry-go-round, setting for the controversial animation scene in the movie. P.L Travels argued NOT to have any animation in the movie. To this day, the animation bothers me too. Just doesn’t fit!


The end pages of my movie version. I wrote my room number in it, meaning I must have take it to school for some reason or another

What about you?

Do you have Mary Poppins memories?

And let us know if you’ve seen Saving Mr. Banks!


For an insightful look at the real P.L. Travers, who has no doubt been done a disservice  in some respects by the Disney people, read this article by children’s literature expert Jerry Griswold.

A Can’t Miss Holiday Toast!




The best present

Of all this holiday

Is the presence

Of all of you!


This toast is easy to remember! Say it slowly with gusto.

If you use it, let me know how it goes…

Happy holidays and plenty of presents to one and all!

Thank you so much for your presence and for reading Friend for the Ride!


My toast will be included in an anthology compiled by June Cotner and Nancy Tupper Ling, to be published Fall 2014 by Viva Editions.

Photo: The pretty packages  above decorate Virtue Feed and Grain in Old Town, Alexandria, Virginia. When I was a little, I was shocked when my mom told me  packages like these were empty boxes covered with paper and ribbon. But alas, we can pretend!

Little Women: Christmas Won’t Be Christmas



Famous first line!  A Christmas line, spoken by a great character of literature, Jo March.

Opening to Little Women

In honor of that first line and the ambitious and opinionated Jo March, I present the Little Women collection of my friend Nancy Espersen.  Nancy’s lovely home was recently featured on the Hillsborough Candlelight Home Tour.

Little Women Room

The guest room, decorated as the Little Women Room for the tour










A Little Women bank and mementos from the movie starring June Allyson and Peter Lawford


A scarf from the June Allyson movie

Orchard House Crossstitch

A cross stitch of the Alcott home, Orchard House, in Concord, Massachusetts


Paper dolls!

Paper House

A paper dollhouse of the March home

First Day Cover

First day issue of the Little Women postage stamp

Christmas Reading

Christmas stories

little women - 1955 Whitlman Publishing Co

The cover of Nancy’s childhood copy of the book, Whitman Publishing, 1955.

Nancy's Book

The endpages with a Little Women sticker in the corner

I asked Nancy to tell us about her lifelong appreciation for Little Women:

My love of everything “Little Women” began as a child.  Perhaps it was the version of the book that began this journey. Whatever it was, the story of the March family captured my heart, especially the way they dealt with their trials and tribulations as well as their triumphs and joys. It is still a tradition to watch the movie at Christmas.  And even to this day, my husband is ready to hand me a tissue when Beth dies.