Grillo Center Labyrinth

Grillo Center Labyrinth
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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Saturday Morning Walkers - February 5, 2007

Good Morning Everyone!

Sorry to be a bit delayed this week! Saturday morning found some of us - Barb, Mary, Jan, Andrea and me - staying warm around the table at Caffe Sole. Still a bit too risky to be walking on snow covered ice patches so we chatted over coffee and planned February's upcoming "walks" - weather permitting!

Book Report:
Barb - she read a book that was mentioned a few months ago called So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell. This book was recommended by Stewart O'Nan at the Steamboat Literary Sojourn and Barb's book group chose that for this month's selection. From what Barb said, it looks like a good book for discussion. Check out the review on the October 16 edition of my blog.

Susan - is in the middle of a "can't put it down" first novel called Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum. It is a fictionalized account of Nazi Germany and its aftermath, emphasizing the impact that time had on non- Jewish Germans, particularly women.

From Publishers Weekly
Blum, who worked for Steven Spielberg's Shoah Foundation, takes a direct, unsentimental look at the Holocaust in her first novel. The narrative alternates between the present-day story of Trudy, a history professor at a Minneapolis university collecting oral histories of WWII survivors (both German and Jewish), and that of her aged but once beautiful German mother, Anna, who left her country when she married an American soldier. Interspersed with Trudy's interviews with German immigrants, many of whom reveal unabashed anti-Semitism, Anna's story flashes back to her hometown of Weimar. As Nazi anti-Jewish edicts intensify in the 1930s, Anna hides her love affair with a Jewish doctor, Max Stern. When Max is interned at nearby Buchenwald and Anna's father dies, Anna, carrying Max's child, goes to live with a baker who smuggles bread to prisoners at the camp. Anna assists with the smuggling after Trudy's birth until the baker is caught and executed. Then Anna catches the eye of the Obersturmf├╝hrer, a high-ranking Nazi officer at Buchenwald, who suspects her of also supplying the inmates with bread. He coerces her into a torrid, abusive affair, in which she remains complicit to ensure her survival and that of her baby daughter. Blum paints a subtle, nuanced portrait of the Obersturmf├╝hrer, complicating his sordid cruelty with more delicate facets of his personality. Ultimately, present and past overlap with a shocking yet believable coincidence. Blum's spare imagery is nightmarish and intimate, imbuing familiar panoramas of Nazi atrocity with stark new power. This is a poised, hair-raising debut.

Mandy - has a few books to share with us.

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffeneger - also a first novel which is one of my personal favorites - it actually has some elements of science fiction but it is really a love story - very cleverly written.
From Publishers Weekly
This highly original first novel won the largest advance San Francisco-based MacAdam/Cage had ever paid, and it was money well spent. Niffenegger has written a soaring love story illuminated by dozens of finely observed details and scenes, and one that skates nimbly around a huge conundrum at the heart of the book: Henry De Tamble, a rather dashing librarian at the famous Newberry Library in Chicago, finds himself unavoidably whisked around in time. He disappears from a scene in, say, 1998 to find himself suddenly, usually without his clothes, which mysteriously disappear in transit, at an entirely different place 10 years earlier-or later. During one of these migrations, he drops in on beautiful teenage Clare Abshire, an heiress in a large house on the nearby Michigan peninsula, and a lifelong passion is born. The problem is that while Henry's age darts back and forth according to his location in time, Clare's moves forward in the normal manner, so the pair are often out of sync. But such is the author's tenderness with the characters, and the determinedly ungimmicky way in which she writes of their predicament (only once do they make use of Henry's foreknowledge of events to make money, and then it seems to Clare like cheating) that the book is much more love story than fantasy. It also has a splendidly drawn cast, from Henry's violinist father, ruined by the loss of his wife in an accident from which Henry time-traveled as a child, to Clare's odd family and a multitude of Chicago bohemian friends. The couple's daughter, Alba, inherits her father's strange abilities, but this is again handled with a light touch; there's no Disney cuteness here. Henry's foreordained end is agonizing, but Niffenegger has another card up her sleeve, and plays it with poignant grace. It is a fair tribute to her skill and sensibility to say that the book leaves a reader with an impression of life's riches and strangeness rather than of easy thrills.

Echo Park by Michael Connelly - Mandy's book group chose this as their next selection. It is detective fiction which has gotten great reviews. Apparently it is the most recent in a series of novels - not sure if it is necessary to start with the first - Mandy, what do you think?

From Publishers Weekly
Bestseller Connelly's compelling 12th Harry Bosch novel (after 2005's The Closers) offers some new wrinkles on a familiar theme—the aging detective haunted by the one who got away. In Bosch's case, the elusive quarry is the man who abducted a 22-year-old equestrian, Marie Gesto, in 1993. Having returned to active duty as a member of the LAPD Open-Unsolved Unit, Bosch repeatedly pulls the file to see if he can discover something new and give some small solace to the victim's parents. When a chance police stop of a suspicious vehicle nets serial killer Raynard Waits, who's carrying body parts in his van, Bosch assesses the murderer's claim that he was responsible for killing Gesto, too. The weary and cynical detective soon suspects that Waits is trying to barter information for a reduced sentence of life imprisonment. Political motivations connected with the upcoming DA election also cloud the investigation. Smooth prose and plausible characters—even the secondary figures—elevate this several notches above the standard cop vs. serial-killer thriller. Author tour. (Oct.)

Mandy also recommends books/essays by Sarah Vowell - here's what she says - "She's on NPR and her stories are wonderfully funny--about U.S. history, about family. Not as sophomoric as David Sedaris (who I LOVE), but very, very funny. I finished "The Partly Cloudy Patriot" and just started "Assassination Vacation." They're quick reads and I recommend them."

Check out this link to Wikipedia for more on Sarah Vowell -

Cooking and Food Report

Jack's Birthday Dinner Menu:

Lacinato Kale and Ricotta Salato - - The ricotta salato is a hard style ricotta cheese that can be grated. I used purple kale

Spaghetti with Brooklyn Red Clam Sauce - - a family favorite!

Profiteroles -,1977,FOOD_9936_30401,00.html - thanks to Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa - first time I've ever made these pastries, very intimidating but they turned out so well and the chocolate sauce was amazing and so easy! I actually made the pastry puffs a couple of days ahead and followed these directions for freezing and reheating - Freeze the baked unfilled puffs for up to 3 months (best at one month). Keep in an airtight container. No need to cut them open before freezing. Thaw at room temperature. To crisp, unwrap and place in a 325 degree F. oven until warm. Let cool and fill as desired. It is best to freeze them rather than refrigerating.

Here's another great dish we tried this week - it is based on Giada De Laurentiis' recipe for Seared Rib-Eye Steak with Arugula and Roasted Pepper Salad - I used a Buffalo London Broil, thinly sliced and it was delicious.,,FOOD_9936_22317,00.html?rsrc=search

Oh! Here are some "cheap" wine tips I heard on one of my podcasts this week:

How Low Can You Go?February 4, 2006

When it comes to cheap wine, Josh Wesson advises avoiding bottles more than three years old. "Age is not a virtue with cheap wine," he says. So just how low can you go? You won't go wrong with these picks from Josh priced well under $10.

Chuck Shaw's Shiraz from Trader Joe's for about $3 a bottle. Skip the Merlot, Cabernet and Chardonnay.
La Boca Chardonnay from Argentina is fresh, yummy, and also about $3 at Trader Joe's.
Casa Solar Tempranillo from Spain for about $6. Get the youngest possible (2003 should be available).
Viumanent, a wonderful Malbec from Argentina.
Willow Glen non-vintage tawny port from Australia. About $6
Barefoot Bubbly, a non-vintage sparkling wine from California, is one happy glass of fizz.
I've got a busy travel month ahead but I do hope to keep up with my weekly blog e-mail. This coming weekend, we'll be in NYC - should have some great food reports from there! The following weekend we'll be in LA and the last weekend in February, I'll be at my Post-Partum Doula Workshop in Denver. I'll miss the next few Saturday mornings - keep me posted on any books you're reading!

Have a great week!

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