Grillo Center Labyrinth

Grillo Center Labyrinth
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Sunday, January 07, 2007

Saturday Morning Walkers - January 1, 2007

Happy New Year!

Wishing you all a very healthy and happy year ahead. Especially good wishes to Terri for a speedy recovery. I'd like to share some thoughts from Andrea about the support that we give to each other throughout the year. Of course, we are always right there for each other during the rough times, emotional or physical. Andrea has suggested that we focus our energy on supporting each others good health and wellness. Perhaps that involves supporting each other in taking care of ourselves by exercising, eating well, simplifying our lives, meditation, and of course taking time for a bit of pampering. Perhaps you would like to take the opportunity to ask this group to support you in doing something like that.

Well, the holidays have come and gone. The weather has certainly made our travels challenging but hopefully the worst of the weather is behind us. You would think that with all this "enforced" time indoors, I would have been doing a lot of reading but that has certainly not been the case. I do have a few book notes though:

Mary is reading a book called The Ride of Our Lives by Mike Leonard. Mike Leonard appears on The Today Show as a features correspondent. I've enjoyed his on-air stories.

From Publishers Weekly
Fans of NBC News correspondent Leonard's slice-of-life features for the Today show may enjoy this account of a month-long road trip he took with his parents, now in their 80s. (A DVD of the journey accompanies the book.) But what works on screen doesn't translate to the printed page, and Leonard's attempt to merge a tribute to his parents with greater issues of life and death hits a dead end. As he drives from Chicago through the Southwest, up the East Coast and back to Chicago, Leonard intertwines his reflections with biographical stories by and about his somewhat eccentric parents. Their tales offer the book's most entertaining moments: phlegmatic Jack, who's "conversational 'off' button got jammed," likes to sing old songs, while gregarious Marge likes to drink and repeatedly spices her conversation with profanity ("Toora loora, my ass!" she yells during one of Jack's songs). Although Marge's behavior begins to seem more unnerving than unusual, Leonard's account of her brave childhood with an abusive father is the book's highlight. But Leonard keeps putting himself at the center of the story, detailing how charmed his life has been from his college prep high school days to lucking into his TV career, which makes for dull reading. Photos. (Apr.)

Jexy started reading Wickett's Remedy by Myla Goldberg (The Bee Season) while she was here.

From Publishers Weekly
The author of the bestselling Bee Season returns with an accomplished but peculiarly tensionless historical novel that follows the shifting fortunes of a young Irish-American woman. Raised in tough turn-of-the-century South Boston, Lydia Kilkenny works as a shopgirl at a fancy downtown department store, where she meets shy, hypochondriacal medical student Henry Wickett. After a brief courtship, the two marry (Henry down, Lydia decidedly up) in 1914. Henry quits school to promote his eponymous remedy, whose putative healing powers have less to do with the tasty brew that Lydia concocts than with the personal letters that Henry pens to each buyer. After failing to pass the army physical as the U.S. enters WWI, Henry quickly, dramatically dies of influenza, and Lydia returns to Southie, where she watches friends, neighbors and her beloved brother die in the 1918 epidemic. A flu study that employs human subjects is being conducted on Boston Harbor's Gallups Island; lonely Lydia signs on as a nurse's assistant, and there finds a smidgen of hope and a chance at a happier future. A pastiche of other voices deepens her story: chapters close with snippets from contemporary newspapers, conversations among soldiers and documents revealing the surprising fate of Wickett's Remedy. And the dead offer margin commentary—by turns wistful, tender and corrective (and occasionally annoying). Yet as well-researched, polished and poignant as the book is, Goldberg never quite locks in her characters' mindsets, and sometimes seems adrift amid period detritus. While readers will admire Lydia, they may not feel they ever truly know her.

Libby was reading The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory (The Other Boleyn Girl) - she seemed disappointed in it but I think that Janet listened to this one on tape and enjoyed it. Sometimes books are better to listen to than to read.

From Publishers Weekly
As youngest daughter to the Spanish monarchs and crusaders King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, Catalina, princess of Wales and of Spain, was promised to the English Prince Arthur when she was three. She leaves Spain at 15 to fulfill her destiny as queen of England, where she finds true love with Arthur (after some initial sourness) as they plot the future of their kingdom together. Arthur dies young, however, leaving Catalina a widow and ineligible for the throne. Before his death, he extracts a promise from his wife to marry his younger brother Henry in order to become queen anyway, have children and rule as they had planned, a situation that can only be if Catalina denies that Arthur was ever her lover. Gregory's latest (after Earthly Joys) compellingly dramatizes how Catalina uses her faith, her cunning and her utter belief in destiny to reclaim her rightful title. By alternating tight third-person narration with Catalina's unguarded thoughts and gripping dialogue, the author presents a thorough, sympathetic portrait of her heroine and her transformation into Queen Katherine. Gregory's skill for creating suspense pulls the reader along despite the historical novel's foregone conclusion.

Susan: I actually have two children's books I want to tell you about - one is a classic that I gave as a gift to some children this year and the other is a book I just heard about that I ordered and sent to Jacob.

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

Amazon.comTo say that this particular apple tree is a "giving tree" is an understatement. In Shel Silverstein's popular tale of few words and simple line drawings, a tree starts out as a leafy playground, shade provider, and apple bearer for a rambunctious little boy. Making the boy happy makes the tree happy, but with time it becomes more challenging for the generous tree to meet his needs. When he asks for money, she suggests that he sell her apples. When he asks for a house, she offers her branches for lumber. When the boy is old, too old and sad to play in the tree, he asks the tree for a boat. She suggests that he cut her down to a stump so he can craft a boat out of her trunk. He unthinkingly does it. At this point in the story, the double-page spread shows a pathetic solitary stump, poignantly cut down to the heart the boy once carved into the tree as a child that said "M.E. + T." "And then the tree was happy... but not really." When there's nothing left of her, the boy returns again as an old man, needing a quiet place to sit and rest. The stump offers up her services, and he sits on it. "And the tree was happy." While the message of this book is unclear (Take and take and take? Give and give and give? Complete self-sacrifice is good? Complete self-sacrifice is infinitely sad?), Silverstein has perhaps deliberately left the book open to interpretation. (All ages) --Karin Snelson

Sayonara Mrs Kackleman by Maira Kalman:

From Publishers Weekly
While watching a performance of The Mikado , Alexander suggests to his older sister Lulu that perhaps they should visit Japan. Lulu, eager to avoid her piano lesson and her teacher, the dreaded Mrs. Kackleman, is only too happy to agree. The two arrive in Tokyo (without parents, you understand), and are bundled off in a red taxi driven by a gloved man with "sharp black hair." Images of houses and people, food and customs jumble together in a wild stream-of-consciousness travelogue that springs from the minds and lips of the irrepressible brother and sister. A man sitting on a park bench and a frog in a kimono reciting a haiku are as riveting as a visit to a Japanese school or communal bath house. The book is studded with many gems from the mouths of Lulu and Alexander, like the poem dedicated to their guide: "Hey Hiroko, are you loco? Would you like a cup of cocoa?" The unique and provocative illustrative style evidenced in Hey Willy, See the Pyramids flourishes in this new work, demonstrating a graphic brilliance that is fast becoming Kalman's hallmark. Her carefully orchestrated yet extravagantly kinetic paintings are crammed with details and characters ready to spill off each page. All ages.

Cooking and Food notes:

I received two wonderful cookbooks for Christmas:

From Jeff: The Barefoot Contessa at Home - I just made her recipe for Ribollita - a Tuscan bean, vegetable and bread soup that looks wonderful - tastings from the pot (my fabulous new Creuset dutch oven from Santa) seem promising.

From David: Food and Wine's The Best of the Best Volume 9 Best Recipes from the 25 Best Cookbooks of the Year - I'll be sharing some of these with you soon.

Book Description
Almost one million subscribers heartily agree: Food & Wine is the unrivaled leader in the field, and every year their editors search tirelessly for the most delectable dishes from the crème de la crème of cookbooks. Here are their selections, along with an extra treat: some special and previously unpublished recipes. It comes to more than 100 fully kitchen-tested, temptingly photographed dishes in all. And the food doesn’t come better than this: From Grilling for Life, Bobby Flay presents Smoky and Fiery Skirt Steak with Avocado-Oregano Relish. Paula Deen serves up some of her Southern-style Shrimp and Grits (Paula Deen & Friends), while Marc Meyer prepares Brunch (Baked Eggs Rancheros).

One night for dinner while Libby and David (and of course, new puppy Violet) were still here, we made Fettucine with Wild Mushrooms - pretty simple and elegant: - apparently this recipe originated at a restaurant in New York, Becco. We served with a salad of arugula, tomatoes, hearts of palm and pine nuts.

Ooops - almost forgot! Some of us did actually meet on Saturday for a walking tour of the new 29th Street Shopping Center and goodies at Panera. Barb did send out a pretty good description of that which I will quote here for those of you who did not see it:

"Six Brave Women dared the elements - and the unplowed side streets - and showed up right on time at Panera's this morning. Even Chris Rich made it - must have been the window shopping that got her out to actually walk. ;-) Susan, Chris, Mary, Jan, Jan's newly graduated daughter, Jill, and I ambled down 29th street, around the square that Staples anchors, and back up the other side of 29th. We peeked in the windows and, of course, passed judgment on all the new stores. Our cold noses appreciated the warmth and good aromas that greeted us as we came back into Panera's. Susan and I each had a fabulous soufflé "thing".

Here's a review of that souffle:

A helpful tidbit that we talked about - free on-line greeting card websites - if you have other suggestions, let us know:

Once again, wishes for a Happy New Year filled with family, friends, food and books. And don't forget Andrea's advice to support each other's well-being and good health!


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