Guest Post: Author Erica Bauermeister offers a Recipe and a Giveaway!

51be1lrnnnl_sl500_aa240_Erica Bauermeister is the author of The School of Essential Ingredients, one of my favorite books so far this year! In my review I stated that my only complaint about this delectable book was the lack of recipes. Erica, taking me seriously, wrote a guest post for me and included a recipe for Tom’s Pasta Sauce. Thank you, Erica, for the guest post and the wonderful recipe.. I can’t wait to try it!! Maybe I’ll make it for the hub on Valentine’s Day.. hmmmm.

The idea for The School of Essential Ingredients came from a cooking class I took in Seattle, but the approach that Lillian, the chef/teacher in the novel, has toward food came from my experience of living in Italy for two years. While I was there I learned to see food as a conversation between ingredients rather than a lock-step set of rules I needed to follow. At first, that dialogue between ingredients felt as if it, too, was in a foreign language along with the Italian, but over time I learned to relax, to immerse myself in the flavors and textures of the ingredients, to worry less about using recipes. In short, I learned to play with my food.

droppedimageAnd what I learned is that cooking is a very forgiving activity. Switching out one ingredient for another is a creative act, not a destructive one. Coming out from behind the protective wall of a recipe allows us to come into closer contact with the food itself. Thinking of a recipe as an ice-breaker, a conversation starter, opens up endless possibilities.

So here’s a recipe to get you started, because in her review Lisa asked for one so very nicely. A bit of background: Tom is a bit of a mystery to the other characters in The School of Essential Ingredients, who know only that he carries with him a deep and personal sorrow. It is Lillian, the cooking teacher, who instinctively knows that participating in the creation of a pasta sauce from scratch will be one way to help him heal.

I offer this recipe with the hope that you will feel invited/directed/inspired to experiment. What would happen, for example, if you grated some orange peel into your sauce? Or used chicken sausage, or ground lamb with a bit of fresh rosemary? How might those bursts of creativity affect the life of someone you love?

Tom’s Pasta Sauce

Note: For best results, use Knorr’s extra-large soft chicken bouillon cubes.
Crush the whole tomatoes in a food processor, or chop them finely by hand.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 extra-large soft chicken bouillon cube (see note)
1 cup onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 pound ground Italian sausage
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup red wine
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained and crushed (see note)
1 cup tomato sauce (more if you want)
Salt and pepper
1 pound penne pasta
Grated parmesan cheese (optional)

1. In a large sauté pan, heat olive oil on medium-low heat until bubbles form. Crush the half bouillon cube into the oil and mix thoroughly. Add onion and sauté for 2 minutes. Add garlic and sauté until translucent.

2. Add ground sausage, increase heat to medium, and cook until meat is no longer pink. Add milk and simmer until absorbed. (Don’t worry if it looks strange at first; the milk will mellow the wine and make for a wonderful, lush sauce.) Add wine, reduce heat to low, and simmer until wine is absorbed. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil over high heat.

3. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1-3 hours, covered if you want a rich, but slightly thinner sauce, uncovered if you want a thicker sauce and the smell to roam through your house.

4. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook penne pasta according to package directions, until al dente. Drain pasta and place in a large serving bowl. Ladle sauce over pasta; top with grated parmesan cheese if desired, and serve immediately.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Do you play with your food? Erica would like to hear about it! She has generously offered three copies of The School of Essential Ingredients to help me celebrate my big 100K hit milestone! If you’d like a chance to win a copy of this wonderful book, all you need to do is send an email by Wednesday, Feb. 18th, to Erica at bookgiveaway@ericabauermeister.com telling her about your favorite dish. She will choose 3 winners from those entries. Please be sure to state in your email that you came from Books on the Brain. Good Luck!

<—–Oh! And please check out my left sidebar for other great 100K Celebration Giveaways!

Deeeeeeeeez are a Few of my Favorite Things

Trish had a fun post the other day about 10 things she loved that started with the letter O. It’s a meme and to play along, I had to leave a comment and wait for Trish to bestow me with my very own letter. She bestowed me with the letter D. At first I thought, could she have picked a harder letter?? Then I thought, yeah, I guess she could have given me X or Q or U and I’d be stuck talking about x-rays or Quantum Leap or underwear. So Trish, thanks for D. It’s not so bad.

Now I get to bestow others. I’m liking the word bestow.. it makes me feel royal and powerful. Bestow, bestow, bestow. Would you like me to bestow a letter on you, my dear? If so, leave a comment and I’ll bestow you with one (Oh, crap! My tiara just fell off!)

guy-fieri_med1. Diners, Drive-ins and Dives

I love this Food Network show and it’s host, Guy Fieri! He’s a blast! He’s a dude who loves good, real food and isn’t worried about calories and presentation so much as taste. Guy was the 2007 winner of The Next Food Network Star (kind of a foodie American Idol).

images-32. David Cook

Speaking of American Idol, I love last year’s winner, David Cook! I find his voice so raw and sexy- there, I said it! And I’m old enough to be his, er, um, older sister! Or aunt! (Yeah, that’s it!) Click HERE to watch his latest video for Light On, a song I’ve been enjoying a lot lately on my iPod (the embed feature is disabled or I’d show it here).

3. Diet Coke

I’ve been on and off the wagon many times over the years, but this magical elixir is what gets me moving in the morning and keeps me going all day. How many do I drink each day? Roughly a 6 pack. I know- it’s bad. I have read all the emails about how you can clean toilets with it and remove rust and etc. and yet, I still partake. My insides are probably all rotted- or perhaps iron-clad.

4. DUDE

This word has inserted itself into my everyday conversation. I blame her. And her. I realized it was bad when I caught myself oooing and ahhhing over a baby at my daughters’ school and found myself saying to his mother, “Aw, dude, he is so cute!” Last night I said to my daughter, “Dude, I can’t take anymore whining. Just finish your homework” and my daughter said, “Dude?” Ok, perhaps it’s time to remove this too-hip word from the vocabulary of my non-hip self. But dude, have you seen this T Mobile commercial? I love it.

images-15. Dunder Mifflin

I’m a HUGE fan of The Office!! HUGE! My husband is from Scranton, PA and we spend 3 weeks there every summer, so we chuckle over local references. But I watch because the writing is brilliant, and I find it hysterical. I have friends who don’t get it, but to them I say- Dude, don’t call me on Thursday nights! I completely clear my schedule to get my JimandPam fix!

6. Dawn

I like dawn- as in morning’s first light. It’s dark when I get up and I love to watch the sunrise. I do it almost every day from an east-facing upstairs window. It’s peaceful to spend that time alone before the rest of the family starts moving around. It calms me and makes me happy. I also like Dawn– as in awesome, well known book blogger.

Jasmine meets PorkChop the guineau pig

Jasmine meets PorkChop the guineau pig

7. Dogs

Ok, truth be told, I don’t love ALL dogs, but I do love MY dog. Jasmine is a sweet, loving golden retriever who sheds like crazy but wants nothing more out of life than to be near me. What’s not to love? Oh, and Sheri? I respect the leash laws!

8. Denim

I’m a girl who loves her jeans and can be found in them just about every day. They are so versatile. I wear them everywhere, and why not? You can dress them up or down. I’ve got my skinny jeans, my fat jeans, my baggy jeans, my dressy jeans. I’ve got jeans with a dark wash and jeans that are super faded. I’ve worn them all my life and will always and forever be on the search for the perfect pair.

9. Dark Chocolate

I have a bowl of Dove dark chocolate hearts sitting nearby, but not too close. I actually have to cross the room to get to them, otherwise they would be way too dangerous. I’d eat them all! I love all those studies that say dark chocolate is good for you. I’m sure they mean in very small doses, right? Not 10 or 12 pieces at a time?

images-210. Daisies

Of the Gerbera variety. They are my favorite.

Review: The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister

51be1lrnnnl_sl500_aa240_ The School of Essential Ingredients is a lovely new book by Erica Bauermeister. With intimate tables and soft lighting, heavy linens and crystal, glossy hardwood floors and fabulous aromas drifting out of the kitchen, Lillian’s is a place to celebrate, propose, and announce.  It’s the kind of restaurant that will surprise and delight, with personal attention from Lillian herself and creative meals that leave all of your senses satisfied. 

On Monday nights, Lillian teaches a cooking class at the restaurant.  Eight students make their way to class, coming through the side gate and following the golden glow to the kitchen in back, where they will learn to cook from a woman who knows how to inspire her students to create food from the heart and from their memories rather than from a recipe. 

Each chapter is told from the point of view of a different student, alternating between reflections of their past and what is happening in the present, how they found their way to the class and how they get to know the other students.  Lillian seems to know just what her students need to learn, and the lessons transform not only their culinary skills but also their lives. 

Reminiscent of Garden Spells and Like Water for Chocolate, there is a bit of magical realism to the book- but just a touch- not overdone at all.  Abuelita is the woman who helped a young Lillian get her mother’s attention through cooking, who taught her to understand what is essential in each situation and what is not.  She shows her how food can evoke memories in a person, how you can bring about certain moods, certain behaviors and certain feelings with different types of dishes.  Lillian learns well and is able to pass that particular brand of culinary magic on to her students.  When they make a white on white cake, it brings back remembrances of the early days of a marriage for two of her students, a spicy tomato sauce brings thoughts of an Italian childhood for another, and a decadent tiramisu acts as the catalyst for a new romance in two more. 

Bauermeister’s vividly detailed descriptions of food leave your mouth watering and put you right into Lillian’s kitchen.  The writing is richly textured, lush and sensual.  It is really quite beautiful.    This is a debut novel but felt like it was written by a wise old soul.    

To give you an idea of the gorgeous flavor of the writing, and the beautiful imagery, here are a couple of passages.  I read an uncorrected proof of The School of Essential Ingredients, so the finished book may differ slightly. 

From page 23:

 At home Lillian opened the bag and inhaled aromas of orange, cinnamon, bittersweet chocolate and something she couldn’t quite identify, deep and mysterious, like perfume lingering in the folds of a cashmere scarf. 

From page 35:

 Set between the straight lines of a bank and the local movie theater, the restaurant was oddly incongruous, a moment of lush colors and gently moving curves, like an affair in the midst of an otherwise orderly life.  Passersby often reached out to run their hands along the tops of the lavender bushes that stretched luxuriantly above the cast iron fence, the soft, dusty scent remaining on their fingers for hours after.

From page 158:

The air was beginning to fill with the sweet spiciness of roasting corn, the soft whispers of the tortillas flipping, then landing on the grill, the murmured conversation between Abuelita and Antonia, something about grandmothers, it sounded like.  Chloe placed the tomato on the chopping block.  She was surprised to find how much affection she had for its odd lumpiness.  She tested the point of the knife and the surface gave way quickly and cleanly, exposing the dense interior, juices dripping out onto the wooden board, along with a few seeds.  Grasping the knife firmly, she drew it in a smooth, consistent stroke across the arc of the tomato, a slice falling neatly to one side.

See what I mean?  The whole book is like that!  I just opened random pages and easily found wonderful examples.  My only complaint about this book is that there are no recipes, however that makes sense since Lillian is teaching her students to cook without using recipes.  Still, it would be nice to know how to make these dishes- or to know what essential secret ingredient to add to tonight’s dinner to make my children behave and my husband pay attention!  

If you like good fiction and good food, The School of Essential Ingredients, which will be released tomorrow, is the perfect combination of the two.  I realize I’m gushing here, but I loved the warm little world within these pages, and was sorry to leave it.  

The author’s website can be found HERE.

Tuesday Teasers

 
tuesday-tMiz B and Teaser Tuesdays asks you to:

Grab your current read.  Let the book fall open to a random page.  Share with us two (2) sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.

You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
26318352My teaser comes from The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted And Other Small Acts of Liberation, a book of 13 stories by Elizabeth Berg.  I know the rules say to share 2 sentences, but I’m going to share 4.  This comes from page 10 and is from the first story, The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted.

“In the afternoon I rented two moves, Big Night and Tortilla Soup.  Which made me starving again even though I wasn’t.  How many people went running out for Italian food after Big Night?  Hands?”

This makes me laugh because Big Night really DID make me hungry!  I never saw Tortilla Soup but now I’ll have to rent it.

What are you reading this week?

The Sunday Salon

We’ve made it to the last Sunday of 2008! I hope you are enjoying a relaxing holiday season with your families.

Sk8tr Grlz

Sk8tr Grlz

The last week has been a blur for us. Christmas was a wild rumpus of paper and squeals. Suffice it to say that the girls were very happy with their gifts! We’ve been eating too much and lazing around being slothful, then laughing at ourselves and vowing to do better as we discover our BMIs on the Wii Fit.

My kids got Wave Skateboards this year from their grandparents. They are different from regular skateboards in that they have 2 wheels rather than 4, and the board itself isn’t stationery- the two sides move independently of each other, so riding it requires a different motion than a normal skateboard. Watching my kids learn how to use them has been hysterical, but they’re already getting the hang of it.

Our family went to see Wicked at the Pantages Theater in LA the day after Christmas and it was spectacular! This was the “big” gift this year and the kids were so surprised. They were enthralled by the amazing singing, costumes, and sets, and by the splendor of the old art deco theater. We’ve been listening to the Wicked cd for a year so they knew all the songs. I even caught myself singing “I know about Pop uU lar” last night.

No one thought to get me a book for Christmas this year, which I found kind of shocking. Maybe they noticed the giant stack of unread books on the mantel, or the teetering pile on my nightstand. Ah, well.. I did receive two Borders giftcards though, and have already used them up!

A lot of us book bloggers are giving some thought to our favorite books of the year. I’m still working on that list, but I do have another list of books I’m most excited about reading in the coming year. Some are new and some have been out for quite a while, but here they are:

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

The Boy on the Bus by Deborah Schupack

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennet

Honolulu by Alan Brennert (March 2009)

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See (May 2009)

What do you most look forward to reading in the coming year? Is there anything I MUST add to my list?

I hope you’ve all had a wonderfully blessed year and are looking forward to bigger and better things in 2009. We are living in exciting times here in America and I can’t wait to see what the future holds. My wish for the world is peace and love, and lots of books- with plenty of time to read them!

Review: Chez Moi by Agnes Desarthe

9780143113232lChez Moi by Agnes Desarthe was written in the author’s native French and translated into English.  This meandering story is about Myriam, a 40 something woman with a haunted past who secures a bank loan based on a fictitious resume to open a restaurant.  Chez Moi (“my home”) is just that, both home and eatery, tucked into a small corner on a quiet Paris street without so much as a sign announcing it.  Myriam sleeps on a donated banquette in the dining room and bathes in a deep stainless steel sink in the kitchen.

 Myriam attempts to do everything by herself- shopping, cooking, cleaning, waiting tables, and bookkeeping.  She’s a talented cook but doesn’t have any business sense whatsoever.  Almost despite herself she begins to have regular customers but soon finds she cannot do it all alone.  Just when she needs him most, the best waiter in the world appears.  Ben has grown up in the neighborhood and knows everybody.  He’s savvy with money and knowledgeable about the internet and in the kitchen.  He helps Myriam’s business really take off, but more importantly plays a role in healing her fractured heart and helping her move on from her past.

 We learn about Myriam’s past as she ruminates over mistakes she has made in her life.  Her biggest heartache is her failing as a mother to her son, Hugo, who she never loved properly and to whom she has done something entirely repellant.  She doesn’t see how the situation can ever be repaired.   Fleeing her life some years ago, she has shut down emotionally.  Over the course of the book she starts rebuilding her relationships and begins to make new friends.  She learns to rely on herself and trust her abilities. I wanted Myriam to succeed and I rooted for her, although I thought she was a bit disturbed. 

There are a couple of interesting peripheral characters.  Vincent is a florist in the shop next door with a crush on Myriam and breath that could kill an elephant.  Little brother Charles is a successful businessman, and Ben the waiter is happily asexual. 

Food and friendship are at the heart of Chez Moi.  It’s a slim volume but a slow read.  The vivid description of food is a highlight and the writing is pleasant but there is virtually no action.  Some might find it boring, but I liked Myriam and I’m glad I got to know her.  I liked the book for it’s dreamlike quality, the interesting turn of phrase and use of language.  I’d recommend it to those who enjoy character driven stories and beautiful writing, but if you like a little more plot and a story that moves along quickly, this isn’t it. 

I heard about this book from author Jennie Shortridge, who recommended several books as alternative choices for book clubs in this post.  My own book club will discuss Chez Moi in January.  It will be interesting to see what everyone thinks, because it was definitely a different kind of read than what we’re used to.

Ho Ho HO

I swore I’d never be one of those bloggers who apologizes for their laziness and lack of blog posts- I’m not delusional enough (yet) to believe anybody truly cares that a week has gone by since my last post- but rather than apologize I’ll attempt to explain.  

Coupled with the usual holiday crazies and being a HO I’ve felt much more foggy than bloggy lately.  The time I normally spend reading or blogging (late night and early morning) I’ve spent sleeping, planning, worrying, or eating (oink).  We’re dealing with some big issues at my house and I’ve been turning to food as a crutch and a comfort from the stress, which doesn’t really matter if I stay in my bathrobe for the rest of my life but is a bit of a problem if I want to fit into my actual clothes.  I was talking to a friend about this last night at a neighborhood party- maybe friend is too strong a word- anyway, as she nibbled on a baby carrot she said, “When life gets difficult, I turn to exercise.  I always feel better after a run.”  I wanted to slap her, but instead I smiled, nodded, and excused myself to make a second trip to the chocolate fountain. 

Opening gifts OMG!  THAT"S SO CUTE!

Opening gifts OMG! THAT"S SO CUTE!

The last week has been a whirlwind of doctor appointments (4) and party preparations.  My youngest turned 10 Saturday and we had a slumber party with 7 giggly wiggly girls.  They screamed, played games, laughed, screamed, sang karaoke, went on a scavenger hunt, screamed, and ate tons of junk food.  Why do 10 year olds respond to everything with a scream?  It started the minute the girls began to arrive.  “I GOT A GUINEA PIG FOR MY BIRTHDAY.”  “NO WAY!!!”  “OMG THAT IS SUCH A CUTE SKIRT!”  “I LOVE YOUR MONKEY SLIPPERS!!!!”  “WHO WANTS TO PLAY A GAME?”  ME ME ME!!  SCREAM SCREAM SCREAM  The one thing I forgot to buy for the party was a set of earplugs for my husband and me! 

img_1626The picture is from a game my daughter invented-Pin the Lips on the Jonas Bros.  This game elicited more screams and peals of laughter than anything else they did all night.  I have to agree that the Joe Bros are pretty cute, even if Joe’s eyebrows look like they were drawn on with a black Sharpie.  The gaggle of girlies finally collapsed into sleep around 2 am.  

The next morning we took my daughter and two friends out for a round of golf.  It was a Southern California postcard kind of day- imagine palm trees against a brilliant sun, blue skies, puffy white clouds- we were very lucky as it was the only sunny day in an otherwise cold and rainy week. 

As for this week’s reading- I finished Chez Moi by Agnes Desarthe (review tomorrow) and was able to read about half of Swim to Me by Betsy Carter.  Next up- The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted and Other Small Acts of Liberation by Elizabeth Berg.  It just seems appropriate. 

What are you reading this week?

Sunday Salon- at night

Rockin' around the Christmas tree

Rockin' around the Christmas tree

Ok, I do realize that one should never drink and blog, but here I am, post-book club meeting, a tiny tad buzzed with no one in the house.  It seems like a good time to type up a Sunday Salon post.

Tonight our club discussed Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishi-something-or-other (my review can be found here).  The reviews were mixed but the discussion was terrific.  One thing I so enjoy about being in a book club (aside from the tremendous food!) is hearing other points of view about a book you thought you knew and were smart enough to understand- HA!  One club member brought something up that I never thought of and I’m so glad she made the point because I totally missed it.  The book is essentially about cloning and about a ‘school’ that treated one group of clones humanely- something like students but still less than human.  The point that I missed was how throughout history, groups of people were dehumanized as an attempt to justify the poor treatment they received- she cited slavery, the Holocaust, etc.  Seems obvious but I didn’t see it.  I viewed the book as a much more straightforward commentary on modern medical practices and politics and missed the bigger picture.  I have such a better appreciation of the book now.

I haven’t done much reading this week.  I’ve been dealing with some weighty family issues and that’s taken up a lot of my energy.  Plus the holidays are looming, and in my family I am the Christmas Holiday Organizer (aka the Christmas HO), which includes everything from decorating, planning, shopping, cleaning, baking, tree trimming, sending cards, etc. etc.  Ah, the responsibilities of a HO in December are endless.  I’m sure all you other HOs understand.

I did read about half of Chez Moi by Agnes Desarthe and am enjoying it.  It’s a short book and I’d love to sit and just polish it off, but I haven’t been able to devote a good chunk of time to it.  Maybe this coming week.  I’m not sure what I’ll read after that, but don’t worry about me- I have a huge stack of books to choose from.

What are you reading this week?

Book Club Wrap-Up: Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

Our book club met on Sunday to discuss Loving Frank by Nancy Horan, and we had the great pleasure to have Nancy visit with us by speaker phone!  It was such a treat to have her attend our meeting this way.  She was on her way to the airport to pick up her son but was still so gracious and kind.  She thoroughly answered every question we had with humor and wit, and gave us an incredible amount of insight into her characters, the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright and the married woman he had an affair with, Mamah Borthwick Cheney.  

In 1907, both Frank and Mamah publicly and scandalously left their spouses and children (8 children between them) to go overseas for two years to carry on their affair, and continued to be together after returning home to this country.  Frank built Mamah a home in Wisconsin called Taliesin, where they lived together out of wedlock until Mamah’s untimely death in 1914. 

Our group enjoyed the book, but most of us disliked the flawed characters and their unpopular choices.  I think we all agreed that we enjoyed the discussion it generated even more than the book, and isn’t that what a book club is for.. great discussion? 

Frank, so flamboyant and eccentric, was such an egomaniac.  None of us cared much for him, although we could see the attraction for Mamah.  He was creative and intellectual, and he was interested in her opinion on everything.  In the beginning of their relationship, Mamah mentioned her grandmother and Frank wanted to know more.  

He sat down again and looked at her.  “Tell me everything,” he said.  

Tell me everything.  He might as well have said, “Take off your dress.”

Yes, attention is a powerful aphrodisiac.  But the man was horrible with money, he didn’t pay his debts or give credit where credit was due to the people who worked for him.  He lived beyond his means and bought things because he “needed to be surrounded by beauty”. In one memorable scene he bought a houseful of furniture, including three (3!!) grand pianos, all without consulting Mamah, whom he was living with at the time.  Nevermind he couldn’t pay the people who were helping to build his house.  Mamah, infuriated, insisted he return the pianos.

We liked Mamah a bit more, but couldn’t understand why she left her kids for years to follow Frank to Europe.  Clearly she was in love with him, but her husband, Edwin Cheney, was a nice and tolerant man who allowed her to do whatever she wished.  She had money, servants, freedom, friends, hobbies, household help, a caring husband and two beautiful children.  She wasn’t escaping domestic hell so much as carrying on an illicit affair, and I have to say we judged her pretty harshly. 

The issues Loving Frank brought up are still relevant today.  We talked about feminism, a woman’s place (then and now), maternal love vs. romantic love, duty, obligation, motherhood, careers, etc.  We talked about public people who’ve left their spouses for others (Brad Pitt, for instance) and how they are treated in the media.  We discussed how women are treated differently from men in that regard (Britney Spears and how she’s been skewered for being a poor mother).  

Some of us felt Mamah was a terrible mother for leaving her children to have a ‘bigger’ life than the domestic confines she found herself in.  Others felt that her personal growth was important enough to justify leaving her kids.  Some of us felt that if she had left to go on to do something great with her life, we could have been more sympathetic, but in truth all she did was follow a man around.   

We had the well worn “stay at home” vs. “working” mother discussion.  Some of us felt it would be less horrible to leave children behind with family to go explore other options in this day and age, with telephones and email and air travel.  In Mamah’s day, it took a month to go overseas, and there was no such thing as text messaging, IM’s or digital pictures to keep us up to date and connected to our loved ones who are separated from us.  All they had at that time was the painstakingly slow pace of the postal service or telegrams- it took weeks just to receive a letter.  

SO..  Loving Frank is a good book- and a really good book for a book club.  Ms. Horan did extensive research and then convincingly fleshed out her characters through fictional dialogue and situations that seemed very true and believable.  It’s historical fiction at it’s best. If you want to spark a great discussion with your book group, I would highly recommend it . 

Oh, I almost forgot- we had some awesome food!  What’s a book club meeting without good eats??  We decided on a European theme (where the lovers spent 2 years), so we had Pasta e Fagioli soup, bruschetta, some kind of cheesy broccoli pasta casserole, chicken sausage, Boston Crème Pie (not European, but who cares), and (of course) Chardonnay.  Tasty. 

The Loving Frank website can be found HERE.  Discussion questions can be found HERE.  

If you’ve read Loving Frank, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.  If you’ve reviewed it, let me know and I’ll link it here.

Random Stuff

A couple of things:

Why do 10 year old girls feel the need to change their clothes 5 or 6 times a day??  And why does something worn for less than an hour need to go in the hamper??  And when can children be reasonably expected to do their own laundry?

Why do 9 year old girls HATE to brush their hair?  And is it a reflection of my parenting skills if I allow her to walk around looking like she was raised by wolves in order to avoid a battle?

Why is there a sudden interest in my review of Loose Girl, a review I wrote back in April?  Can anyone explain why I would have 40+ hits today on that almost 4 month old review??  The book came out June 3rd (not today, not this week).  Why the sudden interest?  Hmmmm.

What’s for dinner?  WHO CARES!!  I’m so sick of hearing this question!!  I’m sick of trying to dream up something new night after night!!  I have such a problem with this in the summer.  We end up eating grilled cheese or hot dogs for lack of inspiration.  So my question to you is, What’s for dinner? Bonus points if you include an easy recipe.

How often do you change the sheets on your bed?  Be honest.  Do real people, with children and multiple beds, really change all the sheets on all the beds every week?  I’m so sick of this chore.  How old do my kids have to be before they can be trained to do it themselves?  

Ok, I’ll stop bitching about stuff now.  Just a reminder- my Queen of the Road giveaway ends tonight.  The Safety of Secrets giveaway started today and goes through August 8th.  Good luck!