Women in Sunlight by Frances Mayes

July 17th, 2018

When my friend Ina recommended this book, I went right to the library to borrow a copy. I loved the movie Under the Tuscan Sun (also a book) and knew I would find this book interesting. And I did.

Frances Mayes writes about four American women, one of whom is the narrator, Kit, in her early forties, already living in Tuscany, Italy, and I suspect is actually the author Frances Mayes. The other three women are between the ages of 60 and 70, checking out a senior living facility that they are considering moving to. Two are widowed and one is separated from her husband and I believe is in the process of divorce. (I read it two months ago and cannot remember what state of un-marriage she is in, probably because I was divorced and found the whole ordeal painful!)

The three women rent a villa in Tuscany and befriend Kit, who is the book’s narrator, and her husband.  As the story progresses we find the older women coming out of the shells of their previous lives in the US and blossoming into strong, yet sensitive women. Each woman finds her niche, either something she had started before she came to Italy and had abandoned, like one character who stopped painting when she married as a young girl, or breaking new ground with their talents and skills.

The book is believable, although I had difficulty accepting the fact that three strangers could get along so quickly and easily, but other than that, I found each women’s story delightfully enlightening and entertaining. When the younger woman discovers she is pregnant for the first time in her forties, she and her husband are thrilled, and the birth of the baby adds another delightful element to the story. This baby has four mothers, not one, since the three women are fully on board for the birth and babyhood!

The descriptions, the dialogue, and the story line are engaging, and as the women blossom, so does the story. While I first thought it would be an easy “beach book,” I soon realized that the book is actually not a beach book, but rather one that I found thought-provoking, as the women find their way through post-middle age through interesting work and equally interesting new relationships with the local residents as well as the older men they meet.

My feeling is that the narrator is the author Frances Mayes (in the book she is also a writer), and based on information about Mayes at the end of the book, is actually about real women friends that she met in the US or in Italy. Of course, Mayes has fictionalized the characters, so perhaps there is a little fairy dust sprinkled in the story. But I enjoyed it thoroughly and I may just add a villa in Tuscany to my bucket list!

Picnic Potato Salad (revisited)

July 13th, 2018

NOTE: Several years ago I posted a recipe for a potato salad with beets. Here’s the link: https://www.menupause.info/roasted-potato-beet-salad/. Today’s recipe that I made for our Fourth of July picnic last week is somewhat simpler, but still uses roasted potatoes and no mayonnaise. But feel free to add your own ingredients that you use for potato salad to make it more your recipe than mine! (My family really liked it without the mayo!) This dish can be made the day before and refrigerated til picnic time.



Utensils: Steamer basket and large pot, cutting board and knife, vegetable scrubber, cookie sheet, bowl for tossing/serving
Prep. Time: about 1/2 hour – 45 min.
Cooking Time: About 30 minutes: 10-15 for potatoes and green beans; 10-15 min. for oven
Categories: Vegan, gluten Free (GF), No Sugar Added (NSA)


3# Organic Fingerling Potatoes (Called Rainbow Gems) or New Potatoes, scrubbed, cut into chunks
2 cups organic green beans,washed, trimmed, cut into thirds to equal approx. 2 cups
1/4- 1/2 cup olive oil for salad + 1 -2 Tbl. for cookie sheet
salt & pepper to taste
Other herbs of your choice: dill, chives, za’atar
garnish with sesame seeds (optional)


  1. Pre-heat oven to 350-375 degrees F.
  2. Prepare potatoes as noted above and place in steamer inside large pot and steam for about 10 minutes. Potatoes should not be mushy. Allow to cool enough to handle. Keep water in steamer.
  3. Place par-cooked potatoes in bowl and toss with 1/4 cup olive oil. Place on cookie sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes, tossing at least once, then placing on low broil for about 5 minutes to brown.
  4. While potatoes are roasting, prepare green beans as noted above and steam for only about 5 minutes. remove and rinse under cold water to stop cooking process.
  5. When potatoes are browned to your liking (I like them crisp!), place them in the bowl and toss with additional olive oil, if necessary. Add green beans, salt, pepper, and herbs.
  6. Place in a serving bowl or same one used for tossing, top with sesame seeds, and serve warm or chilled.Yield: I made enough for 6 people and still there was enough salad to make “take home” containers.


These are the organic fingerling potatoes I used. Very colorful!