Category Archives: Our Pleasant Home Book Club

March Book Report

 

It’s almost the end of April, but I wanted to squeeze a February/March book report in before I write the April one. My reading really slowed down after my Hibernation January. Two of the books in the stack above are short story collections that I only read one selection from. Everything was a pretty quick read, except one, which sucked the life out of me for awhile…

The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley

This has been on my Goodreads list for years. For some reason I was having a hard time finding a copy and then all of a sudden, it was in the library system. It was such a fun read. Just charming. A little old fashioned mystery in a bookshop run by a delightful older couple. I really enjoyed it from beginning to end.

“A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner

This is a short story that I’ve apparently read before but I didn’t remember it until the very end. It’s great, and has really made me realize that all of my favorite short stories are pretty macabre.

Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa

I discovered this book because of Goodreads! Blog reader and pen pal Cath (Hi, Cath!) was reading Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa and it popped up on my Goodreads feed. I was intrigued since I’ve been trying to read more Japanese authors. It’s about a sweets shop worker who befriends an older woman who is disfigured from a childhood disease. She is an expert in making Japanese sweets and she helps him transform his mediocre sweet shop. It’s such a heart-warming and bittersweet story about multi-generational friendships and acceptance and the trauma of being an outcast.

Summer Will Show by Sylvia Townsend Warner

This book killed me last month. I probably should have given up on it but I really wanted to see it through because the premise is so good. It’s about an aristocratic British woman, Sophia, whose husband cheats on her so she decides to raise their 2 children alone. (Slight spoilers ahead!) When the children die unexpectedly, she goes to Paris to find her husband so she can get pregnant again because she feels motherhood is her only purpose in life. While she’s in Paris, she meets her husband’s lover, Minna, who is free-spirited Russian who gives dramatic readings and lives a very bohemian life in Paris, making little money with her talents. All of this is happening during the 1848 revolution in France. Sophia’s character develops from a “lady” to a more free-spirited resister who falls in love with Minna, but it’s all kind of bogged down in the details about the revolution. (I really think I spend two weeks on the middle hundred pages of the book…) The novel is a feminist tale and it is an early example of lesbian fiction. In the end, I’m glad I finished it because the ending was worth it but I would say, if you’re going to read Sylvia Townsend Warner, start with Lolly Willowes because it’s fantastic. (Lolly is the reason I read so many spinster novels.)

Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell 

We read this for March’s book club and it was brutal. It was so good, but his descriptions of restaurants and housing and the general living conditions of the “down and out” in the 1920s was so vivid that I couldn’t eat or drink while I was reading it. The book really consumes you, and even though Orwell wasn’t really poor, and he could have walked away at any point to go back and live his middle class life in London (making you question whether or not this is a true memoir,) he didn’t. It was a great book club discussion, too!

Trifles by Susan Glaspell 

This is a tiny, feminist, one-act play about a rural murder. (It’s also a short story, “A Jury of Her Peers.” If you don’t enjoy reading plays, you can read it in short story form.) Highly recommend…it’s less than twenty pages…I can’t say much else!

The Covenant by Beverly Lewis

One of my friends had an idea to start a bonnet-rippers book club. There was wine involved so I joined and I actually enjoyed the book…it’s definitely not a genre I would pick up on my own, but we had a really good feminist discussion about the book. The Covenant is the first in a series of five(?) books and there’s a bit of a cliffhanger at the end, but I don’t think we’re going to finish the series as a group. I haven’t decided if I am going to go on…

I’ve been in the middle of two books all month and I read my book club book, but I’m sort of slogging through the reading right now. I just started a new one to see if I can get my mojo back. This week I am preparing for a craft show and next week I’m traveling, so hopefully I can sneak in some good balcony and bedtime reading so I have something to talk about for April!

I’d love to hear what you’re reading!

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All I’ve Been Doing is Reading

The title is true. Other than work, a few custom card orders, writing letters, and watching my way through Schitt’s Creek and The Office, I’ve been doing a lot of reading. Our apartment is a mess, Naoto has been doing 95% of the cooking, and I’ve been neglecting my emails, but man, I’m really enjoying books lately.

What Diantha Did by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

We read this for book club in January. I picked it because we all loved “The Yellow Wallpaper” and it’s always fun revisiting authors we’ve enjoyed in the past. Diantha’s marriage to the man she loves keeps getting pushed back because he can not afford to provide for her and his mother and his unmarried sisters. So Diantha takes control and starts her own cleaning business which takes off like crazy until she rules over a cleaning empire. The book really makes you think about the value of women’s work and the roles of women at home during the 20s. Diantha’s fiancé has a very difficult time understanding why she works and can’t come to terms with her role as a provider. The ending felt a little rushed but in general, I liked it a lot.

The Odd Women by George Gissing

Have I mentioned here how much I love a good spinster novel? (I need to write a blog post about the book that started my infatuation with these books!) This one really fit the bill. The title comes from the fact that there were about one million more women than men in England at the end of the 19th century. The “odd women” were the unmarried women. The book explores five women: two “early feminists,” unmarried by choice, two by happenstance (their parents died and they had little family money,) and one woman who marries for financial security, which ends up being a terrible mistake. It shows the limited options for women back at the turn of the century, especially women without family money. I’ve never read Gissing before but now I’m curious about some of his other titles.

A Room with a View by E.M. Forster

I can’t believe I haven’t read this before. Lucy Honeychurch falls in love on vacation in Italy but ends up engaged to another man back in England. She has to decide between following her social class and the old rules of Victorian society or following her own heart. I loved the main story, but all of the supporting characters made this book such a fun read. (There were spinsters!) We read Forster’s A Passage to India in book club, and now I want to read Howard’s End and Maurice.

“Afterward” by Edith Wharton

This was recommended a few years ago during our book club Halloween reads and I never finished it. At Christmastime, I picked it up again and finally set out to read it last month. I’m annoyed that I waited because it’s so good, such a well-crafted short story. Pick it up at Halloween, or at Christmas, because apparently reading creepy books at Christmas is a thing?

The Folded Leaf by William Maxwell 

This was our book for February’s book club. We read Maxwell’s They Came Like Swallows a few summers ago and everyone loved it. Maxwell’s writing it so beautiful and there are a lot of autobiographical details in his books. The Folded Leaf is a coming of age story about two boys in Chicago: Spud, strong and confident, and Lymie, weak and thoughtful. The book follows the two friends from grade school to college and gives a wonderful glimpse into life in Chicago and Illinois in the 1920s. In book club, we had a good debate at book club about whether it’s a friendship novel, or a love story.

Asleep by Banana Yoshimoto

I read Yoshimoto’s Kitchen last fall after reading The Convenience Store Woman. I loved Kitchen, and its companion short story, “Moonlight Shadow” so much. Both just were so emotional and magical. I had high hopes for Asleep and it fell short for me. It was actually three separate stories, all having to do with sleep and death and mourning and ghosts…similar themes to Kitchen, but just not executed as well (to me.)

So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell 

Ugh…this one was killer. The narrator is looking back on a small town murder that happened fifty years earlier. The murder happened after an affair was discovered between two neighboring families. The story of the murder is slowly woven into the coming-of-age story of the narrator, who ends up moving away and seeing his old friend years later in Chicago. (Oh yes, it’s another Illinois story by Maxwell.) This book is only 135 pages, but again, like The Folded Leaf, Maxwell does such a masterful job getting you to feel his regret and sadness, all those years later.

Hardboiled & Hard Luck by Banana Yoshimoto

Again, nothing beats Kitchen…”Hardboiled” was interesting, about a women who is celebrating the anniversary of her ex-lover’s death. Again, there is a lot of sadness and a little bit of a mystical aspect happening… And “Hard Luck” is about a woman whose sister is dying and she’s falling in love with someone new. So, a little bit of loss and a little bit of promise…I’m taking a break from Banana Yoshimoto.

Unpunished by Charlotte Perkins Gilman 

This one wasn’t printed until well after Gilman’s death but it’s fantastic! It’s a detective story that had me thinking about The Thin Man movies. Of course, since it’s Gilman, there are a lot of feminist themes throughout the book. The detectives are a husband and wife team and the murder victim has been killed five times, five different ways (but you’re not sorry for him because he was a controlling, abusive jerk.) There are some great twists and some great symbolism but it’s still a light, fun read.

Since I started this post, I finished another book, but I’ll save that for my next book report. I’m starting a book by another Japanese author tonight (I think!) My reading is going to have to start slowing down though so I can get some projects done and get ready for my first craft show of the year next month. It’s been so nice though…I guess I just need to give up some other things so I have more time to read…

I’d love to hear what you’re reading!

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Summer Book Report, Part 2

summer reading, a good man is hard to find, we have always lived in a castle, a country doctor, consequences, convenience store womanI gave myself until the technical start of fall to finish my goal of reading ten books, and I’m going to call it complete. I finished my last book on Tuesday, and one of my choices is technically a short story, but…it’s all good. I’ve been reading up a storm, finishing all of these this month. (Don’t be too impressed…one book was a layover from August and the others are quite short!)

A Country Doctor by Sarah Orne Jewett (1884): This was for book group and it was kind of meh. The writing is really lovely, but many parts were too verbose and I didn’t feel the same connection to the characters that I have in other books. Oh, and it’s another single woman, finding her way in the world, struggling between career and marriage…I’m not complaining. I love those books. This just wasn’t my favorite.

“A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor (1953): It’s a short story that I can’t believe I’ve never read. I can’t tell you anything. Don’t read about it. Just get it and read it. It’s perfection.

Consequences by E.M. Delafield (1919): Another spinster novel…I loooooved this. It took me almost a month to read it and I had to take a break from reading it to read for book club. But, every time I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down. It is a tale of a misunderstood child turned single woman who makes many bad choices in life (a life constrained by society’s expectations and restrictions) and has to live with the consequences.

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata (2016): Oh look! It’s a book written this century! Naoto’s sister recommended this book to him a couple years ago and it was the book that got him back into reading. He read the Japanese version and I was a little bummed because it wasn’t available in English when he told me about it. Then, I was reading one of my favorite blogs, Work Over Easy, and I was reading this post thinking “huh, this book sounds like that one Naoto read!” and sure enough it was! I immediately ordered it from the library and read it in one day. I loved it so much, but it’s hard to explain why. Weirdly enough, it’s another book about a single woman who has made some “non-traditional” choices. I loved the main character and I loved how the author paints the perfect picture of life in a convenience store. (Sidenote: convenience stores are way better in Japan…perhaps I need to write a new Japan Does It Better post.)

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (1962): I haven’t read enough Shirley Jackson. “The Lottery” is one of my favorite short stories ever. This was the perfect introduction into my spooky October reading. The book was creepy and captivating and funny…and the first paragraph is one of the best ever written:

My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead.

For book club next month, we are reading Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and I just started Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto, another Japanese book that I read about in the New York Times review of Convenience Store Woman. Perhaps I’ll be back with a fall review soon! In the meantime, here are some of my favorite book club reads from October!

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Summer Book Report, Part 1

summer book report, summer reading, little women, o pioneers!, the precipice, classic literatureI’m only halfway to my goal of reading ten books for the summer. Of course, I consider September summer still…autumnal equinox isn’t until September 22 after all. I need to buckle down and put my phone down more often and pick up a book from my towering stack of library options. (I’ve also been reading some non-fiction–cookbooks, a book about tomatoes, and a book about cleaning–on and off while I watch TV. I suppose I should consider these in my ten summer books but they’re more for personal and garden improvement. I’ll probably do a separate post about those kinds of books.)

I know I’ve mentioned my book club before, but we only read books written before the 1950s. We’ve made some exceptions, but nothing we’ve read is contemporary by any means. I cannot express how much I love these books, which are sometimes tedious and slow but almost always rewarding. Our discussions are usually really good, even better when we disagree on how good the book is or have different interpretations about a character’s motive or something. Someone in the group always brings up something really profound about the book that no one else thought of. And usually by the end of the meetings, we all like the book more than when we initially finished. When I read things on my own, I find myself popping onto Goodreads to see what other people say about the book, just so I can try to learn more and see things I didn’t see during my reading.

So…a little synopsis of my reading thus far:

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868/69): We read this for book group in June and half of us had read it as children and the other half were experiencing it for the first time. I was in the latter group. It didn’t hold the same magic for me that people talk about when you mention Little Women. I found the little vignettes to be tedious and saccharine. I’ve since read some feminist perspectives about the book and Alcott that made me appreciate it more, but…I think I missed my chance to fall in love with Little Women. It probably would have been dreamy in fifth grade.

The Victorian Chaise Longue by Marghanita Laski (1953): Kathy recommended this one to me a long time ago and I finally had to just buy a used copy because no library could get it for me. It reminded me a lot of “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, which I’ve read too many times to count. Victorian Chaise Longue is terrifying and haunting. A modern woman who has tuberculosis falls asleep on a used chaise lounge and wakes up ninety years earlier (mid-1800s) in the body of another woman who also has tuberculosis. It’s a good feminist read, and sort of sticks around in your head after you’re done.

The Precipice by Elia Wilkinson Peattie (1914): We read this for book group last month and I flagged so many passages. The main character is a Chicago social worker at the turn of the century during the early years of Hull House. All different types of women are portrayed, from feminist progressive women, to women who held traditional roles as wives and mothers to women who were making compromises between the old and the new worlds and career versus family. It felt a little contrived at times…everyone fit into a box, but it was a nice perspective about life for women at that time and it’s always fun to read a Chicago book.

Death Takes Priority by Jean Flowers (2015): I talked about this one last week. If you like light reads and the post office, I recommend this book! (Mom, you would like it!)

O Pioneers! by Willa Cather (1913): We just finished this one in book group over the weekend. I just love Willa Cather. (The group read My Antonia before I joined, and we read Song of the Lark a few years ago, which is the opposite order that the books were written as the “Great Plains Trilogy.” We also read Lucy Gayheart, which is one of her later books, and another Chicago book.) Her prose is so lovely, and O Pioneers! was a peaceful read. Nothing happens for the first two-thirds of the book but you don’t mind because she’s painting a beautiful picture and setting up the “action.” (I use that term loosely.) Her story structure is so good…there’s a point in the book where there’s a perfect break, a tiny breath between acts. And her description of winter as a pause between the abundance of fall and the promiscuity of spring was nothing less than life-changing. (Mom, you would love this one, too!)summer book report, summer reading, little women, o pioneers!, the precipice, classic literature, Presley the cat

Next up for me is Consequences by E.M. Delafield. It came as a recommendation as a good post World War I spinster book during a podcast about Lolly Willowes (which probably deserves its own post…it was such a fun read and so different from the other spinster novels of the era! We read it for book club and it was a surprise pick that everyone loved!)

Presley and I would love to hear what’s on your nightstand.

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Red/Blue Pencils

caran d'ache and mitsubishi red and blue pencilsOk back to school supplies!

I’ve been using these red and blue editing pencils in my planner this summer. I got the Caran d’Ache from CW pencils last year and I just uncovered the Mitsubishi (similar) in my Japan drawer. (The Japan hoard is vast, guys!) caran d'ache and mitsubishi red and blue pencils, planner checklist, So…I know this is groundbreaking…I use my red/blue pencils to mark my to-do list. (As you can see above, last Thursday was a very productive day.) When I complete a task, I check it off in blue. When I don’t get to something, I draw a red arrow next to the task so I can move it to the next day. I know I could do all of this with a plain lead pencil, but where’s the fun in only having one pencil in your pencil cup?caran d'ache and mitsubishi red and blue pencils, RSVP listI hosted book club this month and I used the red/blue pencil to keep track of RSVPs. Blue checks for yes, red X’s for no. 
caran d'ache and mitsubishi red and blue pencils, color test, Hobonichi techoSo, which pencil is better? Honestly, I just reach into my pencil cup and grab the closest pencil. I’m not using them long enough to truly have a favorite. (Though I do tend to be biased towards all things from Japan!)

The Caran d’Ache is a bit softer, and apparently the lead is water soluble, though I’m not drawing or coloring in my planner, so it doesn’t really matter for my uses. The pencil is a hexagon, which can sometimes be more comfortable than the round Mitsubishi, but again, I’m just checking off to-do lists, so I’m not holding it for very long.

The Mitsubishi is a firmer lead and a round barrel. But the writing feel is similar to the Caran d’Ache. I love the way they both write in my Hobonichi planner, very smooth and easy. Even though the pencils look like the colored lead would be very different, the colors look pretty much the same to me. The Mitsubishi red is a bit more orange and the blue is a tiny bit darker (it says Vermillion and Prussian Blue on the barrel,) but the two pencils are very close in color.

I’d love to hear how you color code your checklists.

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A Moveable Feast & Hemingway’s Daiquiri 

For book club this month, we read A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway grew up in Oak Park and our book group originated in Oak Park. Would you believe we’ve never read him? I added A Moveable Feast to our list over a year ago and no one seemed into it. When the Paris attacks happened and all of Paris turned to the old Hemingway title for comfort, I suggested we finally read it.  I think (almost) everyone is glad we did.

I appreciate the book as a peek into an artist’s life in 1920s Paris. I love the interactions between the famous writers. I love the descriptions of the food and the cafes and the seasons in Paris. It is insane to imagine how much they were drinking at the time. And I know we have to take it all with a grain of salt, as the book is a memoir, written years later from Hemingway’s notebooks and published posthumously by his fourth wife, but that doesn’t change the enjoyment I got from the book as a piece of work.

Here are some of my favorite passages.

On eating and drinking (also longest sentence ever!) :

As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.

Regarding his writing process:

I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, “Do not worry, You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”

The seasons in Paris:

You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintry light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen.

Regarding Katherine Mansfield:

I had been told Katherine Mansfield was a good short-story writer, even a great short-story writer, but trying to read her after Chekhov was like hearing the carefully artificial tales of a young old-maid compared to those of an articulate and knowing physician who was a good and simple writer. Mansfield was like near-beer. It was better to drink water.

And, the saddest line of the book…about his first wife:

When I saw my wife again standing by the tracks as the train came in by the piled logs at the station, I wished I had died before I ever loved anyone but her.

After I read the book I celebrated with a Hemingway Daiquiri. I love this cocktail and the fact that it’s about as far away from the daiquiris I enjoyed in college that you could get.

Hemingway Daiquiri

2 oz light rum

1/2 oz freshly squeezed grapefruit juice

3/4 oz freshly squeezed lime juice

1/2 oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur

Add all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until fully chilled and pour into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.

Toast to all of those drunk writers, to Paris in the 1920s, and to Paris today.

 

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Book Club Christmas Tea 2015

book club christmas tea 2015One last thing about the holidays…

Last month, Peggy hosted our third annual Book Club Christmas Tea. As usual, it was a festive event with everyone contributing something tasty. I made this Japanese egg salad, which was delicious. (I take no credit…it’s just a good recipe!) I am not a fan of curry usually, but I really did love this egg salad.Book Club Christmas Tea 2015 3In addition to the egg salad, we had ham salad, cucumber sandwiches, and chicken salad served in little bread boats, lemon cranberry scones and English toffee scones served with lemon curd, cream and cranberry butter, grape salad, toffee pudding, plum cake, and Christmas cookies. (I think that’s everything!)Book Club Christmas Tea 2015 4, cranberry pepper shrub with proseccoI also made this shrub to serve with prosecco. I’d never made a shrub before, so I was a little bit worried, but it turned out really tasty. (Though next time I will crush the peppercorns a bit more because it was lacking the peppery bite.)Book Club Christmas Tea, placecards, Yellow Owl Workshop Placecard stampAnd, because I think every party needs a little paper element, I made these simple place cards out of some red cardstock, my Yellow Owl Workshop stamp embossed in white, and some Jolee’s holly stickersBook Club Christmas Tea 2015 2Peggy’s tables were delightfully decorated, as always. img_7308img_7304We read The Bird’s Christmas Carol by Kate Douglas Wiggin. It was a perfect read for December when everyone is busy. (Last year, we attempted an Austen novel and hardly anyone finished.) Most of us finished it in one relaxing afternoon while sitting by our trees. And though it was only eighty pages and maybe more of a tale for children, we found so much to talk about, even comparing it to The Dead. I recommend it if you’re looking for a sweet tale to read this December.

So much work goes into planning this thing–especially by Peggy since she decorates, sets the tables, and cleans up after we all leave!–but it is so worth it. We are already talking about things to add for next Christmas!

(And with that, I think I may be done talking about the holidays…for now!)

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Homemade Granola

trader joes, homemade granola, blueberry almondI hosted book club on Saturday morning. I knew, since we were going to get home late from the Blackhawks game Friday night, that I wouldn’t feel like getting up to bake muffins or something in the morning. So, I tried to think of something tasty that I could make a day in advance, that would still taste fresh and “homey” the next morning. Then the idea of a yogurt bar popped in my head and I decided that would be easy enough, even if I made homemade granola instead of serving store-bought.

This Martha Stewart recipe for Blueberry Almond Granola looked like a winner and -best part ever- I could buy all of the ingredients at Trader Joe’s!! (That’s always a bonus for me…I like my tiny Trader Joe’s and hate having to go to a second grocery store for one ingredient.)

On Friday afternoon, I whipped up a batch of granola and even though I followed the directions to the letter, the granola was over-toasted. It wasn’t really burnt. (I still liked it, but I also like my toast one step below blackened.) But the coconut was really toasty and it kind of affected the taste of everything else. I didn’t feel like I could serve it to guests. So, I gave it another go and so I’m sharing the recipe and method that worked best for me in hopes that no one else will burn their coconuts.

Blueberry Almond Granola

2 cups rolled old fashioned oats

1/2 cup sliced almonds

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons honey

1/2 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)

1 cup dried blueberries

Pre-heat oven to 350°

Place the oats and the almonds in a large bowl. Mix oil and honey in a small bowl and drizzle over the oats and almonds. Stir to coat evenly. Spread the oats and almonds on a large baking sheet and place in the oven for 15-20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so. (Mine was done at 15. Keep an eye on it.)

Place shredded coconut on baking sheet and put in oven to toast separately. I left my oven door open and stirred every minute or so for about 4 minutes. You can also toast the coconut on the stove using the method explained here.homemade granola, trader joes Once the coconut is toasted, add it to the oats and almonds and allow to cool. trader joes, homemade granolaStir in the dried blueberries and it’s ready to eat! I served mine with vanilla yogurt and fresh raspberries and blackberries. I think the book club enjoyed it, too…either that or they’re a bunch of good actors!

The granola is a lot less sticky sweet than store-bought granola but you don’t really miss the sugar because the toasty, oaty deliciousness is enough. And I have to say, even my coconut-hating husband liked it!

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A Simple Tool for Book Club Readers

notebook and book darts, book club toolsA long time ago, while reading Kathy’s blog, I learned about these neat little things called Book Darts. They are tiny, thin page markers made of metal that slide on and off the paper without leaving a mark. I know some people like to fold the edge of the page over or use little sticky note page flags. Those are fine options, too, but I usually get my books from the library so folding the edge is not an option and the sticky flags sometimes damage older paper. (Our book club reads so many old books that often, at least one of us is reading a crumbling copy from the library!) So far, I’ve never had a book dart hurt even the oldest books.

book dart, page point in actionThe most genius thing about them is that they can be used to point to the exact words on the page that you want. I often try to take notes while I am reading for book club so that I can remember what I want to talk about during our meetings. But sometimes, I’m so into a book that I don’t want to stop at take notes. Grabbing a dart and marking a passage is often enough for me to remember what I wanted to say.

(Of course, for longer notes or questions about the book, I keep a trusty notebook set aside for book club. This one was a gift from my pen pal, Cath.)

Do you have anything special you use for book club?

P.S. Sorry for the quiet this week. I am hosting book club tomorrow morning and I’ve been reading and rushing around cleaning up and finally putting Christmas away.

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Another Christmas Tea

Bookclub holiday tea table settings 3 2014Another book club holiday tea is in the books (hehe) and we’re onto a new year. December book club always falls around winter solstice, so it was rather dark all day at Peggy’s, but hopefully you can appreciate the beauty of the rooms and the table settings in spite of my dark pictures. Bookclub holiday tea table settings 2014We split into two tables, each seen above, and as always the place settings were festive and lovely. Peggy should seriously give lessons on how to set a table because I always feel like mine lack the layering that hers have. She has such a great mix of dishes to play around with, too. Bookclub holiday tea cocktail 2014, ginger sage proseccoWe started the morning with a cocktail–ginger sage prosecco. We found the recipe here and I made the syrup, which is easy and delicious and amazingly useful in other cocktails too. It’s warm and wintry, perfect for this time of the year. Bruising the sage leaf before you float it on top of your cocktail is also highly recommended.

Our menu was very similar to last year’s menu. I made ham salad tea sandwiches again, and they were served alongside pimento tea sandwiches and classic cucumber tea sandwiches. We had two kinds of scones, cherry almond and coconut, served with Devonshire cream, Meyer lemon curd, lime curd and lilikoi curd. And we had Christmas cookies and lemon squares and lots and lots of hot tea. peggys house, bookclub holiday tea 1, snowglobesFor our book this month, we read Emma–our first dip into Jane Austen. Sadly, only a few finished the book (which is rare for us!) so the book discussion was not as long and as deep as usual. But lesson learned, choosing a lighter book in December may be the way to go. After the book discussion, we lingered on in Peggy’s comfortable home and chatted about our Christmas plans, families and other books. peggys house, bookclub holiday tea 2, snowmen on the sideboardI’m looking forward to another year of book club, and more reading in general. I didn’t read as much as I should have in 2014, so it’s time for a fresh start. For January we are reading Ethan Frome. Edith Wharton is a favorite of mine, so I’m looking forward to it. We don’t have any other titles planned for the year, which is a preferred way to go. Last year we planned an entire year ahead and a few of us felt stuck with some of the titles. It’s nice to plan a little at a time, and leave some openings for interesting titles that pop up in the newspaper or recommendations from friends. If you’re in a book club, I’d love to hear how you choose your titles.

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