Books & Cookies!


Hey there– It’s reading weather around here– cooler, calling for mugs of tea and books on the couch.  I wonder if you’re in the middle of a good book these days.  What are you reading??!

“Let’s be reasonable and add an eighth day to the week that is devoted exclusively to reading.”
– Lena Dunham

If you’re a reader (and I think a lot of you are!), get read to be charmed by Anne Bogel’s new book, I’d Rather Be Reading, the Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life. You’ll see yourself on these pages in chapters like Confess Your Literary Sins or Bookworm Problems (so funny!).
Here’s a quote from Anne:
“It took me thirty-five years to find my twin… We’re no bound by blood or formal ties. We’ve never shared a last name or an address or Thanksgiving dinner. Our twinness is confined to our reading lives: she’s that remarkable reader whose taste bears an astonishing resemblance to my own.”
The good news is that Anne also has a well curated book blog at Modern Mrs. Darcy.  Check it out!!

I discovered Kate Morton this year and am starting to make my way though her engaging stories.  Mostly recently, The House at Riverton.  In this book, is the recounting of a 98 year old woman with the family who lived in the house and the tragic death that shaped their history.  It was written before Downton Abbey but feels very much the same in detail and characters (I wonder if Julian Fellowes read the book!).  The narrator tells the stories of Hannah and Emmeline, sisters, whom she served as a lady’s maid.  The story pulls you along right until the end when the mystery unfolds. Now I’m waiting for her newest book, The Clockmaker’s Daughter!

I have a special affinity for Fatiima MIrza’s book A Place for Us. Rafiq and Lyla are the parents of 3 grown children who were raised in their conservative Muslim family in the Bay Area.  When the oldest daughter marries, the prodigal son, Amar, returns to the family.  Different family members recount incidents in the the growing up years of the children with tenderness and sometimes sorrow.  I loved the parents hearts for their three children and the last section of the book, the father’s recounting of his interactions with his son, had tears streaming down my face.  Beautiful complicated characters and the beautiful telling of one family’s story.

Love and Ruin by Paula McLain describes of the tumultuous love affair and marriage of Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway.  Mostly told from the point of view of Martha, third of Hemingway’s four wives.  She is a writer and journalist and strong personality who comes to love Hemingway when they are both war correspondents, in war torn Madrid, as Franco captures the country.  They made their home together in a writer’s get away in Cuba and travel and write around the world.  Fascinating picture of their relationship– and of course, it sent me to Wikipedia to see home much of the story was actual.  MacLain also wrote The Paris Wife, the telling of Hemingway’s first marriage, also a worthwhile book.

Last month’s book for our was Lit group was Sing Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward.  This story was a difficult one, narrated by sturdy 13 year old Jojo and his drug using mother Leonie.  Living in southern Mississippi with Jojo’s grandparents, they set off on a road trip to collect Jojo’s father who is being released from prison.  The story is populated by Jojo’s younger sister, his steady grandfather, Pop, an ailing grandmother and a pair of ghosts from the past.  The book is at points disturbing and at others hopeful.  Not an easy book, but a worthwhile one.  Winner of the National Book Award.

I’ll end with a sweet story, Dear Mrs. Bird by A J Pearce.  Emmeline is a young woman, living with her best friend Bunty, in war torn London during WWII.  She spends her nights at the phone bank for the Auxilary Fire Services, which responds to nightly bombings.  And by day, she is the assistant to crotchety Mrs. Bird, an advice columnist for a women’s magazine.  When Mrs. Bird discards letters from people who truly need help, Emmy can’t help responding to them.  It’s a story of deep loss and firm loyalties, of the courage of two young women.  I’m not sure why, but this book reminds me of a 1940’s Katherine Hepburn movie– girls with spunk!  Very enjoyable

   To read more book notes (all my books from the the last 3 years)–
Click on Booklist

 

 

And to go with a good afternoon read on the couch, it’s pretty essential to include a mug of hot tea and perhaps a plate of cookies.  Here’s a chewy chocolaty cookie that came out of our kitchen this week.  You might like them along with a good book…

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE OATMEAL COOKIES
3/4 cup butter (1  1/2 stick), room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup water
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa*
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup whole oats (uncooked!)
2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

With an electric mixer, beat together the butter, brown sugar and white sugar to make a creamy paste.  Then beat in the egg, water and vanilla.  When that’s blended, mix in the flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder and oats.  And finally beat in the chocolate chips and nuts.

Drop the batter by large spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray (or has a silpat mat).  Bake them up at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes, until they feel firm.  Let them cool a couple minutes on the cookie sheet before you lift them onto a cooking rack.  So chocolaty good!

*I used Hershey’s dark chocolate cocoa

 

And here’s a couple other cookie recipes that could accompany your reading:


Chocolate Toffee Slice and Bake Cookies


Gingerbread Chocolate Chip Cookies


Lemon Nut Shortbread Cookies

 

And to finish up– a few of my favorite pictures of people reading:
     
The Lady in the Polka Dot Pants by Rae Andrews
Self Portrait by Michelle Ranta


Little Girl and her bedtime books– Claire Fletcher


Daniel Gerhartz

   
Yuri Petrovic Kugach
Young Clergyman Reading by Martinus Rorbye


Henry Loved Eating all sorts of books!  Oliver Jeffers

“Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.”
– Henry David Thoreau

The brilliant painting at the top of the post is by Karen Cooper.  thanks.

Recent Reading

Hi Reading Friends– I have one question for you —  What are you reading??    Do you have some recommendations?  I’d love to hear them!  Always looking for worthwhile books to track down and read.

And for you readers:

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”  ― C.S. Lewis
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Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.”  ― Lemony Snicket

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”  ― Dr. Seuss

I’ve been reading a piles of books lately.  Mostly reading snuggled up against a toddler, who has definite literary tastes. And also some a few books of my own that have been worthwhile.   Here’s a few of our favorites:

There’s been multiple readings of The Lady with the Alligator Purse every day around here.   It’s a sing-along book about a baby who drinks up all the bathwater and eats up all the soap, resulting in visits from the doctor, nurse and, or course, the Lady with the Alligator Purse, who saves the day!  Nadine Westcott has added her lively lovely illustrations to a whole string of children’s songs in books like Miss Mary Mack and Down By the Bay.  All books you’ll read/sing again and again.

Hug by Jez Alborough is also on high demand here.  A baby monkey sees an elephant mom & child giving hugs and it sets him on a search for his own big hug.  Along the way he finds other jungle animals hugging and is about to despair when his Mom appears with– you guessed it– an enormous hug!  Few words, just illustrations tell the story.  Was fun to talk though and the bonus was big hugs from my reading buddy!

Go Dog Go is a classic by P. D. Eastman (but in the Dr. Seuss collection).  It’s just a series of observations about dogs doing crazy things, in the simplest vocabulary and happy illustrations.  That’s why it’s great reading with a toddler and also a wonderful first book for a kindergartner to take on reading on his own.  It’s silly and whimsical and ends with a big dog party!!  Any kid who likes dogs, will like this book.

The Monster At The End of This Book by Jon Stone is the best!  Good old Grover notices from the title that there is a monster at the end of the book.  He spends that next several pages trying to stop you from turning pages so that you will not get to the monster at the end.  It’s funny and interactive and happily (spoiler alert!) the monster at the end is just him–lovable Grover.  I recommend this book be read with that grumbly Grover voice for best effect!!  Lois and I love it– with her stuffed Grover sitting on her lap!

Here’s my reading buddy Little Lois and I reading at the library after Toddler Story Time.

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And happily, I’ve had some time to read books that are not heavily illustrated, aimed at a little more mature audience.

One of those books that sticks with you long after you’ve turned the last page, Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover is a riveting story.  Westover grew up in a large survivalist family near he mountains of Idaho.  Her rigid father ran a junkyard on their land, her mother a mid-wife and herbal healer. Over the years family members suffered gashes, burns, concussions and were just treated at home, the medical world distrusted.  As well, the children did not attend schools and were cut off from the wide world.  Tara suffered from an abusive brother and parents who would not protect her.   When one of Westover’s brothers goes to college, he encourages her to do it as well.  She teaches herself enough to take the ACT and eventually goes/graduates from Brigham Young University–hearing for the first time of the Holocaust and the Civil Rights Movement.  She continues on to study at Harvard and to earn her PhD from Cambridge.  But through these years she constantly struggles over her relationship with her family, with loyalties and the fears of her childhood at play. A fascinating crazy true story about the ties of family and the power of education.

Eleanor Oliphant is a quirky socially awkward young woman whose days are filled with office work and nights and weekends are spent alone, consuming frozen pizza and vodka.  She makes the acquaintance of Raymond, the IT guy at her work and he gradually becomes the friend she needs.  As you read along, the story of Eleanor’s disturbing childhood becomes apparent.  Raymond’s dogged friendship see’s her through her darkest hours.  Enjoyed this story for the interesting characters that I fell in love with by the end of the book–faithful kind hearted Raymond and courageous Eleanor.

Kate Bowler is a professor Duke Divinity School.  At 35 she has a wonderful husband and a small new son– and is diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer.  She realizes how much she believed she could control her own life circumstances — that things did happen for a reason.  What results is her journey through involved treatments, surrounded by family and friends.  Her honest, vivid, sometimes funny account is Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved.  Her truths about how to live when death is a near possibility are heartening and ring true.”

And I’ve saved the best for last.  I have to admit to being a huge fan of Shannan Martin, first on her blog and now her Instagram posts that are sweet, funny, honest and open my eyes to the world of need around me.  So when there was an offer to receive an advance copy of her latest book, The Ministry of Ordinary Places, I jumped at the chance!  Shannan tells stories– of people in her neighborhood and how strangers became friends.  She writes about digging in deep with the people around us, about being intrepid in how we love people, about sticking around for the long haul.  My copy is dog eared right and left– and I’m ready to go in and read it for a second time to collect all the thoughts I need to remember for my own care taking of people I love. Loved every well crafted page of this amazing book.  You can find Shannan’s Instagram meditations/warm hearted stories at “Shannanwrites.”  And her book is due out October 9th.

Here’s an excerpt of her writing:
“I’m on a journey toward understanding that my highest calling is to be a woman who loves my neighbor more than I love myself. I’m not very awesome at this yet, but each day is a new opportunity for growth, for guts, for compassion, and for open hands.”

 

For more posts on books worth reading:
Halloween Books Kids Love
Best Thanksgiving Books
Two Books–Two Old Favorites
Three Books–Three Women
A Pair of Good Books
Two Favorite Books

“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”   — Jane Austen from Pride and Prejudice

P.S.  Painting at the top is “Great Chapter” by Nancy Chaboun (1954-)
Painitng at the bottom is “Girl Reading” by Edmund Tarbell (1862-1938)

 

Ten Blogging Years


Hello Blog Friends– This August marks my tenth year of typing away on this blog.  Really it’s more of a scrapbook of recipes and thoughts I want to hang on to.

I’ve been thinking for a while that I would use this anniversary to close the site down.  Life is full. And there are so many things I want to give more time to–people we love and projects we never seem to get done!

But when I then I thought about now much I would miss it–especially keeping in touch with old and new blog friends (that means you– Lacey, Mollie, Kat, Marcia, Daisy, Suzanne, Lisa, Mary, Carol, Lilly, Cindy, Brigid, Vero, Ursula and Susie!!)

So I’m cutting back to once a week– less recipes, more of life and faith and family.  I think that will fit just fine.

And to mark the happy event of Ten Blogging Years, I thought I’d link to my favorite posts (just click on the blue letters to link through):

 

FAVORITE RECIPES — DISHES FO FAMILY & FRIENDS


Chocolate Cream Cake with Ganache Frosting


Creamy Lemon Parmesan Chicken


Books & Breakfast– A Morning with Friends


Beef Barley Soup


Swedish Pancakes with Blueberry Sauce


Bacon Ranch Potato Salad


Moroccan Spiced Chicken with Apricot Couscous


Overnight Orange Rolls

 

 

FAVORITE THOUGHTS ON LIFE AND FAITH:


True Home


Waiting


My Notebook


Rethinking Christmas


Enough


Aging Well

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FAVORITE BLOG MEMORIES WITH THE FAMILY:


Christmas With the Crew 2015


Wonderful Woodsy Wisconsin Wedding Weekend


Good Times in Big Bear


Grammy Camp 2017


Cambria with Kids


Sweet Times in San Francisco


On Being A Mom

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FAVORITE BOOK POSTS OVER THE YEARS:

     
     
Booklist Page (Notations of books I’ve read the last 3 years)


Five Favorite Children’s Books!


At Home in the World (& Other Travel Books)

  
Books For A Special Baby

 
  
30 Years of Books (Lit Group favorites)

      
Favorite Books (October 2009)

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FAVORITE TRAVELS FROM HERE TO THERE:


Family Trek Through the Sequoias!


Beautiful Kyoto


Vancouver Days


Wet Market in Lijang China


Lunch in Paris


San Francisco with the Grand-Girls (or Fun in SF with kids!)


Wisconsin Part #2– Off to the North Woods!!

 

Whew! That’s a whole lot of posts.  It wasn’t easy narrowing down to very favorites!!  And if you, by chance, are still reading this overwrought posting– thank you!!  It’s been a joy to send out posts for the last ten years to dear people like you.  I remain thankful.

Two Books –Two Old Favorites

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Hey there– Have you put your feet up lately for a little summery reading??  Here’s a couple older books that I’ve gone back to this summer and thought you’d love them too.

 

Years ago vacationing in England, I saw the “84 Charing Cross Road” movie (starring Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins) and I’ve had that story on my mind every since.  The book contains a series of letters from a breezy quirky Brooklyn writer and a staid & proper employee of a traditional bookshop at 84 Charing Cross Road, London, starting in 1949.  The long distance friendship grows over many years as books are ordered and gifts and stories are mailed back and forth across the Atlantic.  Short and heart warming, perfect way to spend a summer afternoon.

The Hiding Place is an old favorite I read years ago, then promptly reread it again to my kids.  It’s the actual story of Corrie Ten Boom, who, along with her family, worked with the Dutch underground. During the WWII years hundreds of Jews were hidden in homes, such as the Ten Boom’s.  There are secret codes, late night arrivals, surreptitious radios, and the “Hiding Place” behind a secret wall at the top of the house.  Sadly, Corrie, her father and sister are discovered and the second half of the book tells the amazing stories of God’s care for them as they endure the Ravenbruk concentration camp.

 

P.S. Painting at the top is “Interior with a Woman” by Alexandru Ciucurencu

Two Wonderful Cookbooks

Hi Cooking Friends– I’m guessing that’s most of you.  For my birthday this week two friends gave me cookbooks– and they are the best!  I’ve already made the Moroccan Chicken from one of them and it was so good!  Thought you’d like to see them.

Checked this book out from the New Book shelf at the library.  I started to dog-ear pages (I know– in a library book??!!) of recipes I wanted to try and it was half the book!  So when Jenon dropped it off as a gift I was jumping up and down! Everything is so so beautiful and just unique enough.  Amazing photography and little garnishing touches.

 

And this book I browsed through at a store on vacation– but being the cheapskate (frugal??) person that I am, couldn’t bare to buy it on first acquaintance.  But after I described it to my friend Joy, she scooped it up for me!  Everything in the book is a big board or platter full of ingredients– S’mores Platter, Beach Board, Mediterranean Board…   And I have the Big Board from breakfast a few weeks back to fill up with all these yummy recipes!  Such fun ideas more than recipes!  I think you’d love it!

Books & Breakfast –Morning with Friends

Hi all– This isn’t really a recipe, but an idea that was so much fun, I thought you’d like to know about it.  Saturday morning a tableful of friends came in the door for breakfast and a favorite books “show and tell.”

We started off with a breakfast board down the middle of the table– sort of a help yourself to whatever looks good kind of meal.  Drank mugs of tea and laughed and talked over the week…

Then we all pulled out a short stack of what we’ve been reading lately to recommend to each other.  I typed up the list of books with small descriptions and emailed off the recommendations for everyone to use for future book possibilities.  So fun!  (we all had things to say about each other’s books–adding on movie and podcast ideas).

So here’s the Breakfast Board list –just in case you want to throw one together–
(sort of like a cheese board, but with breakfasty things thrown in!)
Brie
Smoked Gouda
Sliced ham
Rye bread
Baguette
Cranberry walnut bread
Mini blueberry muffins
Hard boiled eggs (salt & pepper)
Pears, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, cantaloupe
Berry jam & orange marmalade, honey
Yogurt
Granola
Almonds
Seedy mustard
(throw on a few flowers for the pretty part)

I got the long board (4′ by 12″) at Home Depot for $8.  Larry sanded and oiled it to make a breakfast worthy serving board.

       
And here’s a handful of the books we talked about:
Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown
My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl
Hearing God by Dallas Willard
Winter Garden by Kristen Hannah
A Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell

Here’s to friends who read and love noisy talks over breakfast!!  Can’t wait to do it again!

Kicking Back with a Couple Good Books

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Hello there Reading Friends–  Sometimes
you just want a good story, something to kick back and escape everything around you.  Sort of Netflix binging for readers.  I’m thinking these two books would fit nicely into that category.  Enjoyed them both.

Seven Days of Us — by Francesca Hornak
When Olivia Birch returns at Christmas from treating an epidemic abroad, the whole Birch family is quarantined for a week in their country house.  So many twists an turns as an unknown family member arrives, a mother guards her secret, sisters clash and a father sees things in a new light.  Couldn’t put it down– sad and endearing and heart warming all the way to the end.

How To Stop Time — by Matt Haig
Tom Hazard looks like an ordinary 41 year old, but actually he was born in the 1500’s.  He’s known, Shakespeare, Captain Cook, F. Scott Fitzgerald…  And he’s been recruited by the Albatross Society, made of people with his same rare condition–and whose motto is “Never Fall in Love” –hold people at arm’s length.   The book skips between the 1500’s and current London, amid Tom’s struggles to find the “normal” life he wants while stuck in fears from the past.  Strong characters and it all wraps up with an exciting ending.

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P.S. Graphic- La Lecture – from parfumdeviolette.centerblog.net

Some Favorite Books by Roald Dahl

Hi all- I love kid’s books– have a bookcase full, up to the ceiling, ready for grand-kids to chose from.  And reading with kids?? The Best!  So looking back at reading with my kids, reading to my school kids and reading with grand-kids, I’d have to say my favorite read aloud author has to be Roald Dahl– just for the pure sense of fun and adventure that fill the chapters of his books!  (Not to mention the expressive delightful illustration by Quentin Blake!)

So here is the short list of my favorite Dahl read-aloud books.  How many of them have you chuckled through??

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The BFG is the swashbuckling tale of The Big Friendly Giant, who along with little Sophie, sets off to save the children of England from being eaten by a band of blood curdling giants!!  The story involves some magical dreams, rollicking language and the Queen of England!  A favorite.

 

A favorite of readers, Matilda, tells the story of a prodigious little reader who comes up against the harshest headmistress of all time and with the of her beloved teacher, Miss Honey, she brings the ugly Miss Trunchbull to justice.  Matilda is bright, thoroughly lovable character.  Love the unexpected happy ending.

 

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In Fantastic Mr. Fox, the Fox, father of a family of foxes, protects his family by outwitting the 3 mean farmers who are after him– fat Boggis, squat Bunce and skinny Bean.  It will have you guessing how that fantastic fox will do it and you are rooting for him all the way!  Full of fun.

 

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Mr. Hoppy of the book Esio Trot, is in love with his neighbor, Mrs. Silver. But she only has eyes for her pet tortoise, Alfie.  So Mr. Hoppy schemes through a series of tortoises for a way to gain Mrs. Silver’s affection.  It’s a sweet lightheaded story and Mr. Hoppy gets his happy ending!

 

A remarkable Grandmother, warns here young grandson how to spot a witch in this page turner, The Witches.   When the boys encounters a room full of witches on holiday with his grandma, he is turned into a mouse!  But that does not stop him (or his grandmother) from bringing the witches to their just reward.  A tender tale of the young boy and his ever loving grandmother.

Finally, I would offer you, D is for Dahl, a comprehensive A to Z guide on all things Roald Dahl.  It is not a biography, but rather a dictionary of facts, trivia and way detail about Roald Dahl, his stories and his beloved Characters.  A lot of fun for any Roald Dahl fan!

 

“I have a passion for teaching kids to become readers, to become comfortable with a book, not daunted. Books shouldn’t be daunting, they should be funny, exciting and wonderful; and learning to be a reader gives a terrific advantage.”  –Roald Dahl (1916-1990, British, author, screenwriter, fighter pilot)

 

A Pair of Good Books

Hi Reading Friends– I pretty much like happy books– Ones that you know from the start will end well. But here are a pair of books that don’t fall into that camp.  The first is a riveting discussion of making the most of the end of life time, beyond medical solutions.  And the second is a dark and dramatic story filled with engaging characters and moral choices to be made.  Two truly worthwhile (if not thoroughly happy) books…

Dr. Atul Gawande, a surgeon and professor at Harvard, guides us through a series of real stories of people at the end of life and the choices they make.  The book is studded with research studies and reports of people who make the difference for aging patients.  The good news is that while it plumbs the deep questions of aging, it is imminently readable for everyone.  Early on, he describes his grandfather, who lived to well beyond 100 years, at home surveying his farm and supported by his large extended family.  And then there are stories of people at the end of life with fewer options and big choices to make about how to manage medical and living concerns in a way that offer the best quality of life.  Gawande complies lists of important questions we should be asking ourselves and offers options beyond the obvious.  For such a forbidding topic, it was a real page turner— I couldn’t put it down.  There is so much here that is truly helpful for a rich and fulfilling way to live when we come to difficult times at the end of a life.

Beartown — by Fredrik Backman (author of A Man Called Ove)
Set in a small Swedish town, where hockey is everything, this is the story of a fading town that imagines coming back to it’s own when their junior hockey team is headed for the national finals.  The strength of the complicated story lies in the well drawn characters– coaches, teenage players, families, prominent towns people and those that live down in the Hollow.  All of the them are drawn into the drama of the ensuing games.  So when a tragic incident involving the star of the team occurs, everything is thrown aside and lines are drawn.  It’s a dark story at times (not my normal genre), but there are themes of loyalty, hopes, parenting and integrity.  It is daunting and heartwarming all at once.  It’s one of those books, you want to sit and read start to finish in one sitting– you’ll be anxious to to see how it all ends…

P.S. Painting of woman reading by Daren Thompson

French Chocolate Cake and a Good Book!


Bonjour!  Just finished reading On Rue Tatin, Susan Loomis’ story of her family’s move to a town in Normandy, where they renovated a 12th century Convent to make their home and immersed themselves in the luxury of French cooking.  The book is studded with recipes.  Here is her favorite chocolate cake!  It’s sort of a cross between a brownie and a chocolate souffle!

FRENCH CHOCOLATE CAKE
(Originally known as “Gateau au Chocolate de Mamie Jacqueline”)

7 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped (a rounded cup full)
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), at room temperature
1 cup sugar
4 eggs, separated
pinch salt
3/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp. salt
powdered sugar for garnish

Melt the chocolate in a large microwave proof mixing bowl– about 90 seconds.  Stir until smooth.  If the chocolate still has lumps, microwave it 10 seconds more and stir again.  Then immediately stir in the butter so it will melt with the warm chocolate.

When that is all blended, whisk in 1 cup of sugar (minus 1 tablespoon of sugar saved for later).  Next mix in the flour and 1/4 teaspoon of  salt until it is all combined.

Separate the eggs, putting the yolks into the bowl with the chocolate mixture and the whites into another clean mixing bowl.  Stir in the egg yolks.  And then whisk the eggs white along with the tablespoon of sugar and pinch of salt– until the egg whites are glossy and soft peaks form.  (The whisk attachment on my hand mixer worked well, took a little over 4 minutes)

Fold he egg whites into the chocolate cake batter until it is thoroughly blended and then spoon it into a 9″ cake pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray.

Bake it up at 375 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes until the cake is firm to the touch and  sharp knife inserted comes out clean.

Let the cake cool to lukewarm and then shift powdered sugar over the top of the cake.  So good warm with a bit of ice cream!

Susan Loomis sort of has my dream life– She moved to Paris as a young woman and attended La Varenne École de Cuisine, a cooking school for Americans.  She found friends and small shops with tempting foods all over the city.  Later when she returned home she met, loved and married a sculptor, Michael Loomis and eventually the two found their way back to France where they purchased an ancient convent building in Louviers, a charming town in Normandy.  It took a long a grueling renovation to make the place a home for them and their small son.  But through the years they encountered a large circle of people, from the surly priest next door to warm shop keepers, farmers at the market, the florist sisters across the street and many others who became close friends. I was totally charmed by the book, wanted to write to Susan and ask if I could drop in and stay for the summer!  If you like glorious food, beautiful countryside, and wandering cobbled streets, I think you’d like this book as much as I have.

P.S. Each chapter includes recipes from the author, including a version of this cake!

Recent Reading

Hello Reading Friends–  Down with the flu the last couple weeks. Ugh!  So plenty of reading time– silver lining!  Here’s three books I would pass along, an old friend and a couple new ones…

Sourdough, written by Robin Sloan (author of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore) is another quirky, but endearing book.  Lois has moved to San Francisco to take a tech job, coding all day and in the evenings sitting home alone, ordering take out from the shop downstairs owned by two unusual brothers.  When the guys lose their visa status, they gift their exceptional sourdough starter to Lois before they leave the country.  Lois, not a baker, delves into the complexities of sourdough baking and discovers a close knit, mysterious association of food experts that draw her in to a gastronomic world of technology and food.  Sourdough is a quick, enjoyable book if you love to cook (or eat!).

This unlikely story about a research botanist reads more like fiction than actual memoir.  Lab Girl is the story of the author, Hope Jahren, from her girlhood days in Minnesota in her father’s science classroom through her various stops at university labs across the country.  Her sidekick is her eccentric lab manager Bill, who practically takes a vow of poverty to live this life of science and discovery and who also keeps life in the sciences a little crazy.  And laced through the books are tiny chapters describing the wonders of leaves and seeds and trees…  It’s an amazing book and a look into the science life that was all new to me.  A worthwhile look at an fascinating life.

I read The Joy Luck Club when it first came out many years ago, but eagerly picked it up recently for a reread.  It’s the story of 4 women, immigrated to San Francisco from China carrying with them incredible stories of loss and struggle.  They meet to eat and talk and play mahjong and call themselves The Joy Luck Club. The chapters alternate between their recounting of their amazing stories and the lives of their 4 American born daughters.  Mothers steeped in the traditions of China, daughters raised in a fast moving affluent culture make for clashes and tender moments as their lives unfold.   Loved it.  And it was more interesting to me now that we have Brian from Hong Kong and Jodi from Hunan province in our family and many of the settings are places I now know well.  And– P.S. I checked out the movie of the book from the library this week– It’s beautiful and fascinating as well.

P.S. Painting above by Henry Lamb (Australian, British 1883-1960) Portrait of his wife.

Five Favorite Children’s Books

Hi all– I’ve been tagged to post my 5 Top Children’s Books– by one of my favorite bloggers Marcia Strykowski, author, librarian and blogger who writes about books, travels, authors. Her posts are always interesting!!  Thanks Marcia!!

The Rules are:
1.  Thank whoever’s nominated you and and share their blog link.
2.  Let us know your Top 5 Children’s books!
3.  Nominate 5 people to do the same.
4.  Let your nominee’s know you’ve nominated them.

I’m going with Marcia and picking 5 picture books.  Even though I think I’ve mentioned these before, they are my Top 5:

Noah’s Ark by Peter Spier — The story of Noah told through finely detailed illustration. My favorite frame is Mrs. Noah weeping for joy when the dove returns with the olive twig, marking the end of the flood.  A Caldecott Medal winner, just beautiful.

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Brave Iene by William Steig — When Sophie’s dressmaking mother fall’s ill, Sophie sets off through stormy weather to deliver the gown to the Duchess for her ball.  Charming picture of a young girl’s courage and the sweetest happy ending.

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Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet & Allan Ahlberg — Through a series of “I spy” poems readers cross paths with many fairy tale characters until they all converge on a plum pie picnic!  Adorable lively illustration.

 

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Little Red Riding Hood by Trina Schart Hyman — The classic retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood story paired with the most beautiful detailed illustrations by my favorite illustrator.  Caldecot Medal Honor book.

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Wolf by Becky Bloom — a group of reading barnyard animals inspire a ferocious wolf to change his ways and learn to read– which is not as easy as he thought it would be!  Wonderful salute to reading with the most expressive whimsical illustration.

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My nominees to write their own post on favorite children’s books (if they chose to do so) are:
Antonia at http://zoale.com
Lacey at https://bigandpinkytoes.wordpress.com
Mary at https://heartandsoul974.wordpress.com
Lisa at https://booktime584.wordpress.com/

Please be sure to visit my nominator at  https://marciastrykowski.com

P.S. Illlustation at the top by Francesco Ghersina

Favorite Christmas Books

Hi friends–  When we drag out the Christmas decorations around here, I also climb up onto a chair reach the top bookshelf where we keep a beloved collection of Christmas books.  I pull down all the favorites and plop them on the corner of the coffee table, ready to read with grand-girls when they come in to stay.  It’s one of the best parts of Christmas!  Here are a few of our favorites.

B Is For Bethlehem — by Isabel Wilner, illustrated by Elisa Kleven.  This lively rhythmic telling of the Christmas story uses an ABC format and couldn’t be more beautiful.  The illustrations are a combination of collage and small paint details–exquisite.  And the message is glorious– honoring God and his gift to us at Christmas.

Christmas in Noisy Village — by Astrid Lindgren, illlustrated by Elon Wikland.  A band of village Swedish neighbor children spend their Christmas baking, gathering a tree from the forest, visiting a grandfather and feasting together at a Christmas party.  Couldn’t be more charming.

The Story of the Three Wise Kings — by Tomie DePaola.  Classic DePaola telling of the journey of the three wise men in search of the baby Jesus at the first Christmas.  He uses a slightly more formal take on his signature illustration and there is a interesting preface about the history of the telling the story of the wisemen.  A  wonderful addition to any Christmas book collection.

Santa’s Favorite Story — by Hisako Aoki, illustrated by Ivan Gantschev.  When the forest animals find Santa napping just before Christmas, they worry that Christmas won’t be ready! But Santa assures them that the real Christmas is more about the coming of a babe in a manger.  Lovely water color illustration and gentle text, make this a beautiful telling of Christmas.

Hope your Christmas is full of cozy reading and sweet times with family young and old.  Merry Christmas!

P.S. top illustration thanks to Holly Hobbie.

What I’ve Been Reading

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Hi Reading Friends–  It’s that time of year for our Book Club– We all send in recommendations from the books we’ve read and then weed through the list and narrow down to our next 6 books to read together Jan. to June!  Here’s the 4 books I recommended.  I think you might like them too.

And– what are your book recommendations??  I’d love to hear what you’ve been reading so I can take notes for my next trip to the library!!

When the Vicar in the small town of Chilbury disbands the church choir, after the men have all left with the advent of WWII, the women band together and revive the choir.  Written through the journals, diaries and letters of the various women, from an older nurse to a unscrupulous midwife, a young girl and her vivacious sister.  There is deception, romance, bravery and family ties stretched to the limits.  Sort of of a British Mitford-esque tale of colorful characters.

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter is yet another in the current crop of WWII books.  In this story the Jewish Kurc family of Radom, Poland finds themselves scattered during the course of the war– between Paris, ports in Africa, a labor camp in Siberia, the front in Italy, Rio De Janeiro and Warsaw.  The narrative follows their amazing stories of hardship, bravery and near escapes.  At the end of the book, the epilogue explains that the stories told were of an actual family, collected and written by a grand daughter, Addy Kurc.  Heartwarming and incredible.

I love the way Lisa See connects a riveting story with big doses of Chinese culture and custom.  In The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, Li-yan lives and works picking tea in a tradition bound village in southern China.  When she has a baby while unmarried, she takes her daughter to an orphanage where the baby is adopted by an American family.  Li-yan goes on the an education and builds a tea empire, always hoping to find the daughter she gave away.  A fascinating look at the prescribed life of a hill country young girl.

In Pachinko, Min Jim Lee weaves the story of a family over several decades, beginning in the early 1900’s when Sunja, a young Korean woman, pregnant and abandoned, marries a virtuous Korean pastor and immigrates with him to Japan.  The story continues with the lives of their children and the persecution of the Korean minority in Japan during WWII and beyond.  A poignant story of a family torn by circumstance, with characters that you really care about.  National Book Award Finalist.

P.S. Thanks for the reading graphic– illustrator Nicole Wong

Halloween Books Kids Love

Hello there– You know Halloween is already on it’s way if you’ve walked through Target lately.  My sis and I were there this week and scooped up a basket full of Halloween goodies to mail off to the grand-kids.

And that made me come home and pull down the little stack of Halloween kids books I keep for reading with kids this time of year.  Here’s some of our favorites:

We discovered this book on the aforementioned Target trip and stood there laughing in the aisle!  A group of goofy chickens are terrified of a number of strange things they see going on– a mouse of enormous size, a pumpkin with flickering eyes…  They work themselves into a state until it’s revealed that it’s just Halloween!

This is the Pumpkin uses rolling rhyme to take you through Halloween day into night with the buoyant Max and his family– from donning his costume, ghastly and green, through parties at school, past glowing pumpkins in the night, clear until he and his sis fall asleep amid their Halloween treats.  Bright happy illustrations make it fun!

Junie B. Jones at her best.  This time in Boo…and I Mean It!  Junie is too frightened to go out trick or treating.  There could be witches or monsters prowling, or pumpkins with sharp teeth!  But in the end with help from her mom, she manages to take it on.  This wacky first grader always makes me laugh out loud!

Our little protagonist in the Frankenstein mask steps up and knocks on the door of a haunted house to trick or treat on Halloween.  The occupants– a spider, some bats, a mummy, an owl… set off a startled chain reaction that a ends surprisingly.  Love the illustrations by the prolific Ted Arnold.

Two favorite Books

Hello Reading Buddies– It’s wonderful to have you– friends who also spend time reading.  Like Sally my reading twin– She called a few weeks ago– said, “I’m in the middle of the best book!”  and I answered, “Me too.”  Turns out it was the same book!  (The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane)  Or Janet who generously drops off books from shelves that she knows I will enjoy as much as she does.  Or my smart friend Jenni, who’s guided and nurtured our lit group for the last 33 years!  And there’s LeAnn who’s gifted me with the most beautiful books…

So in honor of all these ladies and reading all around! — here’s two favorite books, one new and one old that I read years ago…

Favorite book this summer was The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir.  When the Vicar in the small village in southern England (Chilbury) disbands the church choir near the beginning of WWII, the ladies in town determine to carry on singing on their own!  This is the wartime setting for a group of ladies you’ll love– the responsible nurse in town who’s just sent her only son off to war, the older daughter of a prominent family intent on wooing a new artist in town, her younger sister who wants to become a well known singer, a Czech refugee separated from her family and an unscrupulous scheming midwife up to no good.  Sort of a British style Mitford story– easy reading and characters you can root for.  I was charmed.

A few years back I crossed paths with Bo Caldwell’s The Distant Land of my Father.  The story begins with Anna, the young daughter of a wealthy expat couple living in Shanghai in their elegant home, cared for by servants.  But as the Japanese invade the city, Anna and her mother flee to live in California.  Her father left behind falls into dire circumstances of WWII and the story is woven between their two accounts– the riveting story of a father and daughter.  Loved this book for the settings, the depth of the characters, the unfolding of the story.  It’s one of my top ten favorite books, so I thought you might like to read it too.

 

P.S.  Painting at the top thanks to Jos Van den Niewenhof

Summer Reading

Hello reading friends– When it’s a hot summer day, I’m really just looking for a glass of cold fizzy water and a good story.  These two books fill the bill– an unbelievable tale of a 100 year old man gone awry and the story of a young girl from a different world rural China.  Here they are:

 

The title of this book, The Hundred Year Old Man who Climbed Out a Window and Disappeared, is an indication of the wacky flavor of this Swedish book.   To avoid his 100th birthday party at the old folks home, Allan Karlsson climbs out his window and seemingly disappears.  In actuality, he steals a suitcase stuffed with money, meets up with some colorful accomplices including at elephant,  and is pursued by bumbling criminals.  Alternating chapters go into Allans long life–as an explosives expert who eventually meets up with the likes of Stalin, Chairman Mao, Harry Truman and Winston Churchill, not to mention his trek across the Himalayas on a camel, his stint in an Iranian prison or his participation in the Manhattan Project!!  The whole book is so far-fetched as to be crazily entertaining.  Jonas Jonasson gives us a rollicking tale of sympathetic characters just right for a read on a hot summer’s day.

 

One of Lisa See’s book, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, is one of her best.  Li-yan grows up in a rural village of Yumman, China, harvesting tea with her family.  The village is ruled by prescribed mores and customs and when unwed Li-tan has a baby, the tradition is for that baby to be killed.  Instead, she takes it away to an orphanage and her daughter Haley is adopted by an American couple and grows up in a happy California home.  Li-yan goes on to an education and a vocation in the tea trade, but always longs for her daughter, while Haley hopes and searches for the mother of her homeland.  Fascinating look at a culture so far removed from our own and the two parallel lives that are connected by birth.

 

P.S. Illustration by Helen Oxenbury–love her children’s books.

 

 

Best Baby Books

Hi all–I know a lot of you like reading with kids.  Me too.  And the last few days I’ve been in reading heaven.  First, reading I Love You Stinkyface! at least 17 times, staying with grand-kids Mae & Eero– and now I’ve moved over to stay with baby Lois and Yum Yum! seems to be the favorite.

So for all you who love kid reading out there, here’s a few favorite early baby books, beloved for the pictures, rhythms and rhyme.

I pretty much adore any book illustrated by Stephen Cartwright.  And this super simple book of farmyard animals making their respective “animal noises” is a perfect early book.

 

Baby Babble by Kate Merritt is just right for babies– bright, simple and absolutely “chew proof.”  It says so on the cover (also is nontoxic & 100% washable!). Love the colorful friendly illustrations–part of a series of 20 similar  baby books made of plastic, not cardboard.

 

Featuring a series of hungry animals and their favorite foods, Yum Yum! by Yusuke Yonezu is a delight.  Each animal has a cut out mouth that “devours” a carrot, banana…  All her books are inventive and sweet.

 

And an old favorite–Brown Bear, Brown Bear (board book version) by Eric Carle, is the perfect chanting rhythm and rhyme book for early listeners.  Bold illustrations and repeated color words are a big plus.

 

P.S. top illustration thanks to biblioteques__UVEG

 

 

At Home in the World (& other travel books)

Hi Reading friends– Just finished At Home in the World by Tsh Oxenreider.  And I could happily pick it up and read it through all over again right now!  It made me think of other travel books I’ve loved.  If you’ve got the travel bug– maybe you’d love them too.

But be careful.  Now I’m itching to plan up a big trip.  (I did google “cheap flights to London!!”–$340 round trip from L.A. Air Canada!!)   Do you have summer travel plans??  Suggestions??!

Tsh and Kyle Oxenreider did something I secretly (or maybe not so secretly since I’m writing it here!), wish we could do.  They sold their house packed 5 backpacks for themselves and their three smallish kids and began a trek around the world that took 9 months.  Starting in China with jet lag and a language barrier, settling 6 weeks in Thailand, and moving on to sojourns in Australia, Kenya, Ethiopia, France, Kosovo, England and points in between.   They stayed with friends along the way and met a colorful new band of people as they traveled. Tsh is contemplative and practical.  She muses about the place called home and their place in the world.  Loved it!

In A Year of Living Danishly, Helen Russell and her husband find themselves transported from the bustle to London to small town Billund, Denmark when he takes a job working for Lego.  Having heard repeated statistics touting Denmark as the happiest country on earth, Helen spends 12 months uncovering the habits and preferences of Danish people with style and humor.  She interviews Danes around the country on the topics of education, work culture, taxes, health care, food, interior design in her attempt to find out why they could be so happy.  She immediately is taken with their pastries and slowly comes to understand the quirks of their culture.  Just a fun book, and a real look at fascinating country.

It’s been a while since I read The Geography of Bliss.  But it left an impression.  Eric Weiner wanted to find where the happiest people on earth were found– So he set out to The Netherlands, Switzerland, Bhutan, Qatar, Iceland, Moldova, Thailand, Great Britain, India and finally back to the U.S.A. , interviewing people from all walks of life and positions in the country to determine how much happiness could be found in these places.  He depended on psychology, science, history and humor in his search and the result is vastly entertaining and an enlightening look into the lives of people around the world.

A friend sent us a copy of Heidi’s Alp the years we lived in Spain, and would travel in our tired old van around the continent with 4 kids in tow.  This is the story of a family from Oxford who loaded their 4 daughters in a camper van and traveled through Europe tracking down the origins of well known fairy tales, from Cinderella in France and Pinocchio in Italy, to The Little Mermaid in Denmark and the tales of the Brothers Grimm in Germany.  Along the way they also were acquainted with new foods, cultural sights and curious customs.  She also includes a lot of just rollicking fun with the girls as they go– and subscribes to Hans Christian Andersen’s thought, “To travel is to live.”  (Used copies still available on Amazon)

This is another family off to see the world!  Author David Cohen, wife and three kids (2, 5 & 7) sell their house and set off.  They hike up a Costa Rican volcano, view Burgundy from a canal boat, meet lions on an African safari and trek across the desert lands of Australia.  The style is less reflective and more just an amazing travelogue of the high highs and low lows of traveling around the world as a family.  I especially liked his final chapter on what he would do differently, were he to start over again.  A satisfying armchair travel book!

Widely Read

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“Read and listen to one thinker and you become a clone; Read two and you become confused; Read ten and you get your own voice; Read a hundred and you start to become wise.”

― Timothy Keller

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Been reading lately– and taking to heart the call to read more widely.  Here’s a couple books that were so worthwhile…

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles rells the story of a Count Rostov who in 1922 is confined to the attic rooms of a  luxury Moscow hotel for house arrest.  He spends the next decades there, passing days with a fascinating cast of characters that pass through the doors.  There are gold coins, a pass key, a hidden room and a long term secret romance. But the star of the story is definitely the count himself, wry, witty and cultured to a T. The story concludes with riotous twists and turns and leads to a truly satisfying ending.  Loved this book– favorite this year…

Just finished Hillbilly elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance.  The author grew up in the Rust Belt of Ohio, into a tumultuous troubled family and made his way to graduate from Yale Law School.  Vance’s grandparents moved up to Ohio from the Appalachians of Kentucky in pursuit of a middle class life.  But the legacy of abuse, addiction and poverty followed them.  Vance tells his own personal story of a chaotic childhood and the support he received along the way that made him able to move up in the world.  At the same time he is candid about the effects of his family that followed him into adulthood.  As well as a personal story, the book is a worthwhile analysis of class and and the struggle to break out of the bounds of poverty and addiction.  Loved the author’s openness and very real view into a segment of America not well known to me.

P.S. The photo above is from the movie The Painted Veil– which is one of my favorites, along with the original excellent book The Painted Veil by Somerset Maugham.