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Category: book club

  1. Friday, April 18

    Show and Tell: So much to show, so much to tell!

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    Happy Friday! I’m brimming over with things to share with you today!

    wonder by r.j. palacio | review from @janemaynard

    First, I finally read Wonder by R.J. Palacio. This book should be required reading for ALL HUMANS. And once all the humans have read it, it should be required reading in every 4th grade class every year from here on out until the end of time. Plus, it’s really just so beautifully written and touching and uplifting and WONDERFUL. Please read it. Please.

    I have a fun announcement today about some added functionality to This Week for Dinner. You may have noticed there’s a new button called “Recipe Box” on my navigation. If you roll over “Recipe Box” you’ll see that you can click on two options: “Recipe Box” and “Shopping List.” When you click either of those you will be automatically connected to ZipList, a company I am now partnering with! Some of you may already be using ZipList, in which case you know what’s up and how cool it is! All of the recipes on my site are now set up to be saved to your recipe boxes and shopping lists. If you don’t know what ZipList is, it’s basically a shopping list that makes life easier! You can save recipes to your ZipList recipe box, add ingredients from recipes to your shopping list, save shopping lists, and access all of this on the web or through a mobile app. Bottom line, it’s super handy and cool and perfect for meal planners. If you have questions, let me know!

    wimsey club arm chair from dot & bo by @janemaynard

    As you know, I’m slowly working on furnishing and designing our living room. Well, I just bought a chair to add to the space and I am SO EXCITED about it. It’s the Wimsey Club Arm Chair from Dot & Bo. I kind of just want to show it off (isn’t it purrrrty?), but also I had such a fabulous shopping experience with Dot & Bo I felt like I should shout it out from the rooftops. So, I had my eye on this chair for a while, but was scared to pull the trigger. After two interior designers said that I should buy the chair THIS INSTANT, I finally went to do so but it was sold out. Well, when something is sold out on their site, there’s an “I want it” button, which brings you to a page which says something like “Let us know you want this chair via these various social media channels and we’ll see what we can do” so of course I immediately tweeted out my anguish over not getting this chair. Within hours I had an email from someone named Jessica, who was checking with their distributors to see if there were any more chairs available. When there were not, she was able to find out they would be getting it back in stock in about 2 months. THEN, as soon as it was available, I had an email from her letting me know. She was so nice and so helpful. Even after I bought the chair (and a lamp and some cute Swedish stuff), I received another email from another customer service person just checking in and letting me know she’d be tracking my order for me. AMAZING customer service, SUPER cute stuff. I am basically in love with Dot & Bo.

    Last but not least, here are my fun Cosmo food posts for the week!

    I think I’ve shared enough, now it’s your turn!

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  2. Sunday, April 21

    Week 326 Menu

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    One of the great things about moving back to San Diego is reuniting with my beloved book club. Originally there were 6 of us. Three of us moved away. And now 1 has moved back (me!). While we very much missed the 2 who were not there yesterday, reuniting with these women did my heart good. Despite planning our get-together with less than 24 hours notice, we were able to find a time to all meet AND put together an amazing spread of food. My body and soul were nourished yesterday. (And in case you are wondering, Unbroken was the book of choice this month. We all recommend it!)

    Surprisingly, I pretty much followed my menu last week. Which means I actually have to think of new things to cook this week. Bummer!

    MONDAY:
    – Quiche (it’s been ages!)

    TUESDAY:
    – Chicken Burritos with Aunt Kathy’s Sweet Black Beans

    WEDNESDAY:
    – Hamburgers
    – Carrot sticks and ranch dip, fresh fruit

    THURSDAY:
    – Leftovers

    FRIDAY:
    – I am heading to Big Traveling Potluck. I can’t wait!
    – Lasagna for the family!

    SATURDAY:
    – I’ll be at BTP
    – Nate will do leftover lasagna or takeout with the kids

    SUNDAY:
    – Waffles and fruit

    As usual, your menus from last week were wonderful inspiration. It’s so easy to get into a meal planning rut, but seeing your menus snaps me out of it every time! I am so grateful to all who post your menus! Can’t wait to see your plans for this week!

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  3. Wednesday, February 2

    ‘Books I’m Reading’ with Martha Stewart: Cutting for Stone

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    Book report time! The next book for the Martha Stewart Books I’m Reading book club is called Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. I was beyond delighted when I found out this month’s title because it is the same book that my in-real-life book club is reading right now. Woo-hoo! I could finally kill two birds with one book, so to speak, and I had been wanting to read this book after several recommendations from friends.

    The book is long and I’m actually not quite done with it…but I will be in the next few days and am really enjoying the novel. In fact, I just came to an exciting part of the story and all I want to do right now is sit down and read! The author Abraham Verghese is a doctor and professor at Stanford. One thing I really appreciate when reading Cutting for Stone is knowing that an actual physician wrote the book and that I can trust the medical descriptions in the novel. Of course, that also lends itself to some pretty graphic scenes, which in all honestly don’t phase me but might bother others.

    I really like the story and care about the characters, who are all unique and well-developed. There are many beautiful sentiments and lines in the story that cause me to pause and think, and throw a bookmark in for later discussion. I really enjoy that there is a strong sense of place in the novel. I feel transported to the places that Verghese describes – whether it is an airplane that nearly crashes or an African country experiencing a political coup. And there’s just a bit of mystery about the characters (one in particular) that drives you through the novel. I always love a little intrigue.

    All in all, I really like Cutting for Stone. I think it is a bit long, but even having said that, I never feel bored and always enjoy reading the book. I am really looking forward to my book club meeting on Tuesday night to chat about the book with my friends.

    Abraham Verghese will be on The Martha Stewart Show tomorrow 2/3/11 on the Hallmark channel. I’ve got my DVR all set!

    On a side note, as you know I’m participating in this book club through the Martha’s Circle of bloggers, sponsored by Sony. At the start of the book club, Sony sent me a Pocket Reader to read the books on. I haven’t really talked much about the reader because I wanted to use it and get a feel for it. I actually really like it. It’s super small, which is both a positive and a negative. Positive because it fits in a little pocket in my purse so it’s easy to carry around. Negative because the screen is pretty small so you have to flip the pages often. My favorite thing about the reader is that it’s so much easier to read in bed than a normal book. It’s great! Anyway, I’m really loving the whole ‘reader’ concept, which surprises me because I thought I could never leave a paper book behind. “I love technology…” ;)

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  4. Wednesday, January 12

    ‘Books I’m Reading’ with Martha Stewart: Cleopatra, A Life

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    It’s time for my “book report” on Cleopatra: A Life by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Stacy Schiff, the second book for Martha Stewart’s Books I’m Reading club that I’m participating in with Sony and the Martha’s Circle of bloggers. I enjoyed the book, despite the fact it’s non-fiction ;) and I had a lot of fun writing this post. It took me back to my beloved days in college. Yes, I’m exposing myself as a nerd who likes to read things and analyze them.

    Before I read Cleopatra: A Life, if you had asked me the first two words that come to mind when I hear “Cleopatra,” they probably would have been “Egyptian” and “seductress.” I hazard to guess that I’m not the only person who would think along those lines, and neither word is very accurate in describing who this woman really was. So much of what we know about Cleopatra comes from literature, movies and paintings that base their information more on fiction and myth than reality. Now that I have finished Stacy Schiff’s book, the words “powerful” and “strategic” are what come to mind when I think of the Greek queen of Egypt, Cleopatra.

    Stacy Schiff begins the Notes section of the book with the following: “The dead ends and missing pieces in Cleopatra’s story have worked a paradoxical effect: they have kept us relentlessly coming back for more.” I love this and think it defines beautifully why people have been intrigued by Cleopatra, from her time until now. There is so much we don’t know, and the information we do have is often jaw-dropping and scandalous. She was only married twice, both times to her teenage brothers. Incestuous marriages were common among the Ptolemies, Cleopatra’s family that ruled Egypt for nearly 300 years. In fact, Cleopatra had only four great-grandparents and six great-great-grandparents (normally people have 16!). She had all three of her siblings murdered. As far as we know, she only ever slept with two men, but those two men were Julius Caesar and Marc Antony, who both happened to be the most powerful men in Rome and married men at that. Alexandria, the city that was her home, was the Paris of the ancient world…perhaps even more decadent and lavish in riches than Paris ever was. Her world is one that is intriguing to imagine, filled with fascinating history as well as a good dose of gossip (look out for Cicero!). No wonder Cleopatra’s name was not soon forgotten.

    What struck me about Cleopatra is how witty, smart, powerful, and politically shrewd she was, despite her young age (she became queen at 18 and did not live to see 40). From the book we learn, “She was magistrate, high priest, queen and goddess. She was also – on a day-to-day basis and far more frequently – chief executive officer. She headed both the secular and the religious bureacracies. She was Egypt’s merchant in chief. The crust of state business consumed most of her day.” The image of her lying around eating grapes and being fanned by palm fronds while seducing great Roman rulers is pretty much blown out of the water. Not to say that being the richest person in the Mediterranean didn’t come with its fair share of luxury (it certainly did…the descriptions of the feasts she threw are stunning), but there was more to Cleopatra than that. For example, her relationships with Caesar and Antony were not a result of a young girl’s romantic whims. These relationships were strategic and crucial in securing her role as leader of Egypt, especially since both yielded children (including all-important sons).

    I found fascinating Schiff’s supposition that Cleopatra was most likely not classically beautiful. The only imagery we have of Cleopatra is from coins she had minted herself, images that do not depict her as necessarily beautiful, but certainly strong. Instead, it was her wit and charisma that were truly mesmerizing and, as Plutarch tells us, her irresistible charm and language of flattery gave her the ability to turn people to her will, which proved to be quite a powerful tool.

    True to the drama that was her life, Cleopatra’s death ended in suicide, of which we of course do not know the exact details. If you want to read more about it, you’ll have to pick up Schiff’s book yourself. (It’s good stuff. In fact, when Jon Stewart was talking with Stacy Schiff about Antony and Cleopatra’s deaths, I do believe he pointed at the book with a big grin and said something to the effect of, “It’s #*@%&$@ awesome.”)

    I was impressed with Schiff’s research and writing. I can’t imagine researching this book. It must have been fascinating but also frustrating. First hand accounts are not in abundance, and the historical records that do exist are often written by Romans, who had their own political agendas, often opposed to Cleopatra’s. The story is engaging, the research well-done, and I loved that Schiff is very clear in stating what is known fact and what can only be guessed at based on what we know of the era. I felt like I was in good hands.

    Be sure to catch Stacy Schiff on The Martha Stewart Show next week (date to come soon). I can’t wait to see her interview! There is also a great interview on NPR in addition to her Jon Stewart appearance. I’m glad Martha forced me to learn something new this month. It was good for me and fun at the same time!

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  5. Monday, December 13

    ‘Books I’m Reading’ with Martha Stewart: The Next Book!

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    Martha is keeping me on my toes. We’re already on to the next book for her Books I’m Reading book club! This month’s book is Cleoptra: A Life, written by Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Stacy Schiff.

    Confession: I’m a fiction person all the way. Two non-fiction books in a row is, well, not what I would choose. BUT…all this learning and stuff is good for me, right? ;) And, after doing a little research on the book and starting it this past weekend, I’m actually pretty excited about Cleoptra: A Life. I know very little about Cleopatra and what little I do know is ill-informed, I’m sure. Can’t wait to read an accurate history of her life and, I’ll be honest, get all the dirty details on the murders, affairs and intrigue! ;)Check back in a month or so for my “book report”. Should be a good one!

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  6. Monday, December 6

    ‘Books I’m Reading’ with Martha Stewart: Cold

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    This month, Martha Stewart chose the book Cold: Adventures in the World’s Frozen Places for her Books I’m Reading book club. The author Bill Streever will be on The Martha Stewart Show today at 10:00 am PT, which I can’t wait to watch! As one of the three bloggers from Martha’s Circle reading along with Martha, today I’m writing a post about the book. Considering it’s been what feels like the coldest winter we’ve had in California since we moved here nearly 10 years ago, this book did not help in making me feel warm and cozy! Of course, it did make me appreciate just how not cold my weather really is!

    Bill Streever is a biologist who lives in Alaska. His book talks about, well, cold! He touches on scientific history surrounding temperature and discoveries related to cold, cold places, animals that live in cold, and on and on. It’s an interesting read filled with all kinds of fun facts. I think Nate got sick of me interrupting his own reading with “Hey! Listen to this!” followed by yet another random, cold-related fact. I’m pretty sure there was one about squirrels. And I’m pretty sure he was dying to know it.

    When I first started reading the book, Madara (a food blogger in Fairbanks, Alaska, a place Bill visits in the book) emailed me a link to her blog for FoodPress, the food site I edit. She mentioned that food blogging was a necessity to keep her busy, given that it was currently -10 degrees F and she’d only had 4 hours of daylight that day. What the what?!?! I immediately hit Google maps to see where Fairbanks was and then dug around the Internet for information about her town. It was fascinating. I somehow stumbled on a YouTube video from Fairbanks…seriously, go search “Fairbanks Alaska” on YouTube. It’s kind of awesome. Especially videos showing the Northern Lights, the ice fog, and people throwing hot liquids into cold air (no, really, make sure you watch people throwing hot liquids into cold air). Reading Madara’s email was so fun. I was transported to her life for one brief moment, imagining what it must be like to live in such a COLD place. And marveling at how different her world is from mine, simply due to temperature. It really is amazing to me that people live in places like Fairbanks!

    Reading Cold was kind of like reading Madara’s email for two-hundred-some-odd pages. I felt transported to a different world. I finished the book with two main takeaways. First, complete wonder at early explorers of cold, imagining what it must have felt like to experience such life-threatening temperatures in the name of science and discovery. Second, amazement at how animals adapt to cold climates. I loved reading about different ways that animals hibernate and/or live through cold times. Most amazing to me was a caterpillar that freezes for the winter then thaws out in the spring and goes on its merry way. Its heart is literally stopped for the winter. Unreal.

    One of the discussion questions is whether the book has changed my outlook on cold. I don’t know that it’s changed my outlook, but it has increased my understanding and helped me explore a world I don’t think often about. And it solidified the fact that I’m a wimp. At the end of the book there’s a Q&A with Bill Streever. One of the questions alludes to the fact that readers may be inspired to visit a cold place after reading the book, and then Bill lists his 5 favorite cold destinations (2 of which are in Fairbanks, by the way). And, uh, yeah, I’m kind of thinking I might not be one of those readers. Yep, definitely a wimp. And proud of it.

    I stole all of the photos in this post from my mother-in-law Pat. She took them after an ice storm hit their hometown in New Hampshire a few winters ago. I love these shots and I’m so happy to finally have a reason to share them with you. I hope they make you feel all cold and chilly inside.

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  7. Wednesday, November 17

    ‘This Week for Dinner’ Cookbook Club: The Earthbound Cook

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    I’m starting something new. Because I’m kind of bored. There’s just not that much going on in my life. ;)

    Okay, seriously, here is my new thing. The ‘This Week for Dinner Cookbook Club.’ It goes something like this. I convince a publisher to give me a bunch of copies of a cookbook. Then I email the members of the Cookbook Club, they get copies of the book and we get together for a potluck where we all cook recipes from the book. I then write about our meeting here on the blog to share with all of you!

    I have a diverse and wonderful group of women who are members of the cookbook club. And they have been waiting very patiently for our first meeting. See, I put the club together months ago. And so far being a member hasn’t meant much.

    Thankfully my dear friend Linsey Krolik got the ball rolling! She has her own book club, From Left to Write, where the members are all over the country and they read all kinds of books. And she rustled up a bunch of copies of Myra Goodman’s new cookbook The Earthbound Cook. And, last Wednesday, the stars aligned and we had our first meeting – combined with Linsey’s lovely group, of course!

    What an evening! I encourage you all to start your own cookbook clubs. It was a BLAST all having the same cookbook, emailing and Facebooking about the recipes, planning what we were going to make. And then…then! Getting together and eating all the wonderful food and spending a few hours chatting.We all walked away that night feeling warm, happy, and full!

    It certainly didn’t hurt that we all loved Myra’s book. What a wonderful inaugural cookbook for our club! It is full of wonderful recipes as well as great stories and insight. And every single person agreed – there was not one dish at the potluck that wasn’t good! Everything was wonderful. Of course I had favorites, but everything tasted great.

    So now I am inspired. I can’t wait for our next cookbook club meeting!

    I have to share one of my favorite recipes from the night with you. Because I want to whet your appetite for the cookbook…and I think it would be a yummy Thanksgiving treat! It’s the squares you see pictured above. They were fabulous!

    Oatmeal, Carrot and Apple Breakfast Squares
    From The Earthbound Cook
    – Butter, for greasing baking dish
    – 1 3/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
    – 1 1/2 cups (5 ounces) whole wheat pastry flour
    – 1/4 cup ground flaxseeds
    – 1 tablespoon baking soda
    – 1 teaspoon baking powder
    – 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
    – 1/4 tsp salt
    – 1 1/4 cups (11 1/4 ounces) packed light brown sugar
    – 2/3 cup canola oil
    – 2 large eggs
    – 1 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
    – 1 1/2 cups grated peeled carrots
    – 1 cup grated peeled apples

    Topping:
    – 2 cups walnut pieces
    – 1/2 cup (2 ounces) unsweetened shredded coconut
    – 1/4 cup (scant 2 ounces) packed light brown sugar
    – 1 tsp ground cinnamon

    Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter the bottom of sides of 9×13 baking dish.

    Place the oats, flour, flaxseeds, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a medium-size mixing bowl and stir to combine.

    In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar and the oil. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the buttermilk.

    Add the oat mixture to the buttermilk mixture, and stir to combine. Add the carrots and apples, stir just til blended. Transfer the batter to the prepared baking dish.

    Place the walnuts, coconut, brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Stir to blend and sprinkle over the batter.

    Bake until the batter has set and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for 1 hour then cut into 12 pieces.

    Below is a list of the From Left to Write bloggers who have written about The Earthbound Cook today. Definitely a list of blogs posts worth checking out!

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  8. Tuesday, November 16

    ‘Books I’m Reading’ with Martha Stewart

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    Just wanted to let you know about something fun that I’m participating in that launched today. Martha Stewart has started a Books I’m Reading section on her blog. Three of the bloggers in her Martha’s Circle network will be reading along and writing about the books with her…and I get to be one of the bloggers, along with Black Eiffel and Oh Happy Day. I LOVE reading, so this is right up my alley. (Click here for the press release if you would like to read more details, and click here for Sony’s special Martha “Books I’m Reading” page.) Sony sent each of us a lovely Sony Reader Pocket Edition. I’ve been wanting to get my hands on a reader, any reader, for ages. I’m actually really liking it. The reader is so much easier to hold and read in bed than a book! {Insert choirs of angels singing from on high.}

    The first book is Cold: Adventures in the World’s Frozen Places by Bill Streever. As I awaited to hear which book Martha picked first, I must admit a book like this was the furthest thing from my mind. But after reading her first blog post today, it all makes sense now! I’m about 50 pages into the book and will wait to share my thoughts until I’ve completed it. I will say this…what were all those Arctic and Antarctic explorers in the 1800s thinking?!?!

    Off to the kitchen. I’m going to start cooking up some Thanksgiving food and will {hopefully} have a post and recipe for you later today!

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  9. Wednesday, May 13

    The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry by Kathleen Flinn

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    Last fall I received an email from Penguin publishers asking if I would like a copy of The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry, by Kathleen Flinn.  I love reading, so I jumped.  I read the book as soon as it arrived and really enjoyed it.

    Kathleen Flinn was going to be in San Francisco for part of her book tour…and then the date changed and I couldn’t go.  I was très disappointed!  Anyway…the point of this long rambling story is…I was going to write about the book after meeting Kathleen, but that never happened, then the holidays arrived and I lost all semblance of sanity, so I never told you about this little gem of a book.

    The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry (which refers to cutting onions, by the way) is an autobiographical account of Kathleen’s experience being laid off from her job and then pursuing her dream of attending Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris.  I loved the book for several reasons…it’s in Paris, the city that (after my trip last summer) is now my most favorite place on earth. I also ended up really enjoying the first-hand account of attending Le Cordon Bleu (which I wasn’t expecting to get so into).  Kathleen’s writing was engaging and genuine and there are recipes peppered throughout the book. It’s a very enjoyable read and would be a fun book club selection as well.

    You can get the book here. Or visit Kathleen’s blog here.  Bon Appetit!

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  10. Thursday, January 8

    Time for a little “lite” reading

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    For those of you who have made New Year’s resolutions to eat healthier…my apologies!  I can’t believe how many of my recent posts are centered around dessert.  It’s getting a bit ridiculous. So, today some “lite” reading for those of you on a diet! :)

    First off, Mark Bittman has a great article in the New York Time this week, “Fresh Start for a New Year? Let’s Begin in the Kitchen.” It’s great. Go read it.

    Santa brought this sweet little book to Cate this year.

    The Gift of Nothing by Patrick McDonnell is my current favorite children’s book…and it’s perfect for adults as well.  It’s simple, funny, with such a sweet message.  Everyone go buy it now. One for yourself and one for your best friend!

    I have another book that I can’t WAIT to share with you…but wait I must as I’ve lent it to a friend and can’t take a picture.  Stay tuned!

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