Friday, October 14, 2011

Fall and books

We have started up our book club again for the fall. We weren't purposely trying to take the summer off but it ended up happening all on it's own!!!

Our first book of the fall was a rather gloomy tale with little bits of sunshine sprinkled sparsely throughout....The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards.
In 1965, Norah and Dr. David Henry have their first baby and it ends up being twins, Paul and Phoebe. When David, the father, who is delivering them, notices that the girl twin has Down syndrome, he tells the nurse to bring her to an institution and later tells his wife she was born dead.
He is positive the child will die of a heart defect and thinks to spare his wife the heartache of losing a child.
His one decision continues to affect the rest of their lives in very negative ways. The story keeps up with their family as well as the nurse who keeps Phoebe to raise as her own in secret.

It was definitely thought provoking and gives you some perspective into the time period. The resources available to mentally challenged individuals and the acceptance of them in society has come a long way thanks to people like Caroline the nurse who fought for changes in legislature.

What did you think?
Some of the questions we discussed:
Should the nurse have informed Norah of her child being alive?
Would Phoebe have had a better life with her mother or with the nurse who devoted her life to making sure she had the best education?
Should individuals with Downs marry and what if they have children of their own?

Our book for Oct/Nov is The Diplomats Wife by Pam Jenoff

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Food Crawl

I'm not sure if a food crawl is exactly what we are doing but something like it! We're making up our own rules! Joe and I have been into watching Diners Drive-ins and Dives on Food Network lately, where Guy Fieri features little hidden gems where fabulous food is made! There are a few in the nearby states that he has shot episodes in. So we decided to test them out for ourselves!

What we have discovered so far? The food has been amazing!

Last night we went to Hills Restaurant and Lounge where all their pasta is homemade! They take fresh to a new level by by growing their own vegetables and herbs up on the rooftop! They have a different special pasta dish every week and this week is was the shrimp pasta. That is what Joe ordered and I got a ribeye steak. All of that was amazing but besides the homemade bread, the kids mac n cheese made with homemade pasta was actually the best mac and cheese I have ever eaten!!! It was so good!! We finished the meal with a creamy lemon cheesecake.
My 20 month old son left his mark by coloring on their embarrassing! One of those moments where you think the waitress is secretly thinking, "these people don't watch their children!"

Tonight we went to Picabu Neighborhood Bistro (pronounced Peek-a-Boo) which is kind in a little strip mall adjoining a grocery store. It's not somewhere I would've searched out or thought would be spectacular but it was! We want to order things outside our comfort zone and try things we wouldn't normally think of trying. We started with an appetizer of Chicken Potstickers which are filled with chicken, corn, cilantro, ginger, scallions, garlic, and lime juice and then dipped in a delicious soy vinaigrette. Then Joe got the Spicy Cactus burger that is topped with their signature "goo" and a cup of the tuna chowder. He said it was good but he had to keep eating it to keep it from burning his mouth! I got a wonderful Chicken chop salad which had mixed greens, corn, black beans, onions, red peppers, chicken and homemade crispy tortilla strips topped with a blackened ranch dressing. It was really delicious and everything seemed so fresh and healthy. They have alot of vegan options as well. We shared the "fruit crisp" of the day which was mango and strawberry crisp topped with chocolate covered raisin ice-cream. It was different and I wasn't sure about it but it was the perfect mix of flavors. For our midnight snack we got a chocolate peanut butter pie to-go!

As soon as I can, I will try to post the pics that we took.

Can't wait to try the next place!!

Monday, May 16, 2011

I'm Back!

Hello anyone who is still reading this blog!!! I hope you are still out there. I have fallen down on my blogging duties mostly due to being a tax preparer and it was a busy tax season!!!

But the book club has been meeting and I have neglected to report!!! For March we read "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo". was a very intense book for me. I loved the mystery of it and that there were many unexpected twists. They addressed alot of real issues that unfortunately are in many families and kept secret for years. Sexual abuse is often happening to those and by those whom you least expect. It was a little difficult for me to read about in a very graphic form.
The thing that stuck out to me the most is that we need to make sure we know that signs of sexual abuse, know who our kids are around and make sure we ask the right questions to make sure nothing is happening to them. It's not easy but more important than anything!!

For April/May we read "The Help".  The book goes inside the lives of black maids and the women they work for at a time of the civil rights movement. "In Jackson, Mississippi, in 1962, there are lines that are not crossed. With the civil rights movement exploding all around them, three women start a movement of their own, forever changing a town and the way women--black and white, mothers and daughters--view one another."

I was appalled, entertained and proud as a read the powerful stories of the women of the south. I would highly recommend it as I could not put it down!! I will have more to report after our meeting on May 20th.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

New book for Feburary

Our new book for our next meeting is "She walks in Beauty" by Siri Mitchell. Here is a synopsis I found online at the authors website.

"For a young society woman seeking a favorable marriage, so much depends on her social season debut. Clara Carter has been given one goal: secure the affections of the city's most eligible bachelor. Debuting means plenty of work--there are corsets to be fitted, dances to master, manners to perfect. Her training soon pays off, however, as celebrity's spotlight turns Clara into a society-page darling.

Yet Clara soon wonders if this is the life she really wants. Especially when she learns her best friend has also set her sights on Franklin De Vries. When a man appears who seems to love her simply for who she is and gossip backlash turns ugly, Clara realizes it's not just her marriage at stake--the future of her family depends on how she plays the game."

I'm looking forward to reading it. It seems like there will be lots of different subjects for discussion! Hope you are reading it with us!

Thursday, January 27, 2011


I am very much obliged to you all for examining my writings as I am sure you could be otherwise engaged. We had a most enjoyable evening last discussing Emma at the book club meeting! Everyone was very amiable and in high spirits. 
All of us in our Regency inspired clothes
My very old version of all six of Jane's main novels.

I came across this joke which I found extremely diverting about what  Miss Bates answering machine message would be:

"It's so obliging of you to call, but then we have so many obliging friends that we are truly grateful, not that we wouldn't be grateful just for our health, but all these friends are so kind, and I know that you will forgive us for not being here when you called, except that my mother might be in but she can't answer the phone because she's deaf you know, not that she has anything else to disturb her, in fact she's remarkably healthy for her age, and she would answer but she probably hasn't heard the bell, so I'm sure you won't mind, and where was I? Oh yes, if you'd be so good as to leave your message just after the beep, that's the fourth long beep, not the first one, there are three short beeps and then a long one, that's the one to speak after, otherwise the machine won't record your message and we'd be ever so sad if we didn't receive it because I'm sure that it's very interesting, and I will call you just as soon as I get in ..."

There is nothing like reading it from an antique copy, it lends something special to the experience!
 The evening was so enjoyable with lots of lively discussion on the characters in Jane Austen's Emma. I felt like I was right at home talking about some of my very good friends. We started off talking about which Emma character we'd like to be and which was our favorite. Everyone agreed that Mr. Knightly was one of the favorite characters, however most would like to be Jane Fairfax and some Emma.
Which was your favorite?
A big topic of discussion was whether we actually liked Emma. She is very different than the main characters in Austen's other novels. About Emma, Jane Austen famously said, "I'm going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like. " I think in some ways, perhaps Jane wishes she could have had Emma's life. 

What do you think of Emma?

Emma is the character that grows on you throughout the book but can be hard to like at first. There were moments where I didn't love her her and hated how much she felt superior to those around her especially those not so fortunate as herself. However she is not above recognizing her flaws especially when they are pointed out by Mr. Knightly. We all agreed that when you see her feeling bad for mistakes she made and wanting to improve herself, we can't help but like her.

"Austen makes an unusual choice by selecting as her main character the most privileged woman in the book, the woman with "little to distress or vex her." The Jane Fairfax story line (which W.J. Harvey has called the "shadow novel-within-the-novel") has more traditional elements of tension and drama than Emma's story. Austen's own publisher traitorously said of Emma, "it wants incident and romance." "

Do you agree? Would you have rather read about Jane? 
A theme in every Austen story line is the classes of society and how they work.  In Emma, I thought it was very interesting how she talks about being single and never marrying, which seems quite opposite to the other stories where it was almost a necessary to marry. The difference is: Emma is rich. She will inherit 30,000 pounds a year! Emma states it very clearly to Harriet in chapter 10, "Never mind, Harriet, I shall not be a poor old maid; and it is poverty only which makes celibacy contemptible to a generous public! A single woman, with a very narrow income, must be a ridiculous, disagreeable, old maid! the proper sport of boys and girls; but a single woman, of good fortune, is always respectable, and may be as sensible and pleasant as any body else."
I thought it was interesting how she looked down upon Mr. Elton but then was upset that he thought himself above Harriet. 
"But—that he should talk of encouragement, should consider her as aware of his views, accepting his attentions, meaning (in short), to marry him!—should suppose himself her equal in connection or mind!—look down upon her friend, so well understanding the gradations of rank below him, and be so blind to what rose above, as to fancy himself shewing no presumption in addressing her!—It was most provoking."

My sister did all our hair and I thought it turned out very authentic!
This was supposed to the serious one but a few smiles crept in

I had so much fun dressing up, besides not being able to breathe!!

Ready for tea and stimulating conversation

I'd love to hear your thoughts and discussion on Emma!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Got my tea, got my popcorn, snuggling in my pajamas, ready to relax and watch.....the Food Network! This is what I've been doing the last few nights. One of my new favorites is Diners, Drive-ins and Dives and Giada at Home. It's really inspired me to explore more of my Italian heritage in some more specialty dishes. We do a lot of Italian but I want to try some new combination that I wouldn't normally think of!

I always make my own pasta sauce and every year at Christmas we make raviolis and have the leftover dough for noodles! Now I'm craving some homemade noodles, bruschetta and Stromboli...just a few things that caught my eye last night!

One of the things I've been really into lately is trying different toppings on slices of toasted bread One of my favorites is to drizzle with olive oil and top with fresh basil, salami, prosciutto, fresh mozzerella or provolone and top with balsamic, salt and pepper. (mouth watering!)

Once a week or so, I have my sister over and we make some yummy snacks and watch Jane Austen or period movies while enjoying tea and whatever creations we have. Last week we had hummus and chips, salsa with avacados and of course tea. Along with that we had a twist on bruschetta and cucumber sandwiches. We toasted Artisian bread, spread cream cheese on it and topped it with tomato and cucumbers. It was addicting!!

So tonight I am going to make Stromboli for dinner. It's kinda like a large pizza pocket that you slice. I have salami, sauce, mozzarella and I just need to make some pizza dough. I am making my own recipe by using the ingredients I have and referring to this Emeril Lagasse recipe for the times and tempuratures.

For the dough I am using my mom's pizza dough recipe. She makes some of the best pizza and her dough is the key. When I was younger, we used my to live near an Amish community and we would make pizza and sell it to all the Amish bachelors! They loved it!

The recipe is rather cryptic but here it is:

Flour-few cups
1 T yeast
1 1/2 c. hot water
Add flour
knead till it's not sticky, not stiff

I let it rise for an hour, punched it down and after filling it, let it rise another 10 min. I layered mozzarella cheese, sauce, minced green peppers, olives and hard salami.

After baking it for about 20 minutes at 375, I put some Parmesan cheese on top and let it get nice and melted. Really added another layer of flavor that was really good!

In addition to trying this new recipe, I decided to bake Peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, Oatmeal crasin and rice krispie treats!! With the help of my 5 year old of course!

For the chocolate chip cookies, I made the recipe on the back of the Toll House chocolate chip bag and just added about 1/2 cup of organic creamy peanut butter to the mixture before I added flour. I also cut down the the sugar and you can't tell the difference! I take them out of the oven when they are still gooey cause I like them soft and chewy.

 For the oatmeal Crasin cookies I used a recipe from a vintage Better Homes and Garden Jr. cookbook. I love the old cookbook because it's so simple for kids to follow and almost never uses a mix so most everything is made from scratch. Since my son was helping me, it was the perfect choice and a great recipe. I cut down on the sugar and added some ground flax seed to make them a little healthier.



I didn't think it was possible to mess up rice krispies but for some reason they turned out a little hard. Still good but just not as soft as I would like them. I think I melted the marshmallows too much first!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Book club

I'm so excited about our upcoming book club meeting on Jane Austen's Emma!! We are meeting on the 21st and we are going to have a themed dinner with tea, china and fancy sandwiches. We may even dress up if we can find the appropriate attire. I hope you are enjoying it as well and are ready with your comments and discussion!!

I thought I'd mention this new Emma movie that came out by BBC Masterpiece Theatre. It is full length and very accurate to the story unlike the Gweneth Paltrow version which cuts out alot of details. A must see for any Austen fan. As someone who has read all the Austen books and watched almost every version of the movies, this was one of my favorites. Of course the Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice is the all time best!