Grillo Center Labyrinth

Grillo Center Labyrinth
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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Saturday Morning Walkers - November 18, 2007

Hi all,

Mary took Jan, Christie, Andrea, Laila and me on an "oldie but goodie" walk heading east off of Marshall Road; then we headed over to Caffe Sole. Nice way to start the weekend!
Some of us are headed out of town for Thanksgiving and some of us are hosting the big event - check below for some of our recipes and tips to make preparation easier.

Book Report:

I finished Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen and would certainly recommend it - it is a poignant story that is sometimes emotionally tough to read. I was completely engaged with the characters and circus life in the early part of the 20th century. It is also a revealing look at aging in our culture. (see last week's blog for a professional review)

I'm still plodding through Jane Hamilton's When Madeline Was Young - jury's still out on that one. (see last week's blog for a professional review)

Jexy and her book group recently read Atonement by Ian McEwan.

From Publishers Weekly
This haunting novel, which just failed to win the Booker this year, is at once McEwan at his most closely observed and psychologically penetrating, and his most sweeping and expansive. It is in effect two, or even three, books in one, all masterfully crafted. The first part ushers us into a domestic crisis that becomes a crime story centered around an event that changes the lives of half a dozen people in an upper-middle-class country home on a hot English summer's day in 1935. Young Briony Tallis, a hyperimaginative 13-year-old who sees her older sister, Cecilia, mysteriously involved with their neighbor Robbie Turner, a fellow Cambridge student subsidized by the Tallis family, points a finger at Robbie when her young cousin is assaulted in the grounds that night; on her testimony alone, Robbie is jailed. The second part of the book moves forward five years to focus on Robbie, now freed and part of the British Army that was cornered and eventually evacuated by a fleet of small boats at Dunkirk during the early days of WWII. This is an astonishingly imagined fresco that bares the full anguish of what Britain in later years came to see as a kind of victory. In the third part, Briony becomes a nurse amid wonderfully observed scenes of London as the nation mobilizes. No, she doesn't have Robbie as a patient, but she begins to come to terms with what she has done and offers to make amends to him and Cecilia, now together as lovers. In an ironic epilogue that is yet another coup de the tre, McEwan offers Briony as an elderly novelist today, revisiting her past in fact and fancy and contributing a moving windup to the sustained flight of a deeply novelistic imagination. With each book McEwan ranges wider, and his powers have never been more fully in evidence than here. Author tour. (Mar. 19)Forecast: McEwan's work has been building a strong literary readership, and the brilliantly evoked prewar and wartime scenes here should extend that; expect strong results from handselling to the faithful. The cover photo of a stately English home nicely establishes the novel's atmosphere.

Website of the Week: Reading Glasses: The Wine Club for Book Clubs - now this is something I could get excited about! "Women & Wine knows that part of the fun of getting together with your book group is connecting with friends and sharing a glass of wine. That's why Women & Wine created Reading Glasses Wine Club for Book Clubs. For only $12-15 per person (including tax and shipping), you'll receive wine that is paired to suit the setting or theme of the book that your group is discussing. We'll also enclose tasting notes and suggestions of what food or cheese to serve to make the experience complete."

Podcast of the Week: WGBH's Morning Stories

Vocabulary Word of the Week: Akimbo - this word appeared in Water for Elephants and it really appealed to me!
Akimbo is a human body position in which the hands are on the hips and the elbows are bowed outward, or bent/bowed in a more general sense [citation needed] (e.g. "the sailor sat with his legs akimbo").
A person with arms akimbo

Cooking and Dining Report:

For those of you who like mussels, here's a great recipe - Jack and I had this the other night: Spaghetti with Mussels, Tomatoes and Oregano

Here are two yummy vegetarian recipes from Terri:

Peruvian Quinoa Stew
½ cup quinoa
1 cup summer squash (I used zucchini)
2 cup onion (I used 1 cup chopped)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 carrot
1 stalk celery
1 bell pepper (I used red)
28 oz tomato (chopped tomatoes)
1 cup vegetable broth
2 clove garlic
½ tsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano

Cook quinoa in one cup water, set aside.
Chop all veggies.
Sauté onion and garlic for five mins, add carrot and celery, cook for another five mins. Add remaining ingredients and cook covered for 15-20 mins until veggies are tender.
Stir in quinoa and serve.
Can be topped off with cheese (cheddar or jack) and fresh cilantro.
4 HUGE servings.

Roquefort Pear Salad
1 head leaf lettuce torn into bite size pieces
3 pears -- peeled, cored and chopped
5 oz Roquefort cheese, crumbled (I used feta)
1 avocado -- peeled, pitted and diced
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup pecans

1/3 cup olive oil
3 TBSP red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tsp white sugar
1/1/2 tsp prepared mustard
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
Fresh ground pepper to taste

In a skillet over medium heat, stir 1/4 cup of sugar together with the pecans. Continue stirring gently until sugar has melted and caramelized the pecans. Carefully transfer nuts onto waxed paper. Allow to cool and break into pieces.

For the dressing, blend oil, vinegar, 1 1/2 tsp sugar, mustard, chopped garlic, salt and pepper.

In a large serving bowl, layer lettuce, pears, cheese, avocado, and green onions. Pour dressing over salad, sprinkle with pecans and serve.
Are you responsible for an appetizer or side dish on "Turkey Day"? Here are a few suggestions:

Mary's Artichoke Dip
Blend 8 ounces of cream cheese with 1 cup sour cream. Add 1/3 cup finely chopped onion, 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, 1 can quartered artichoke hearts, chopped fine. Mix thoroughly. Add 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce. Bake @ 350 degrees for 35 - 40 minutes until top starts to brown.

Mary's recipe for steamed carrots:
Combine a bag of mini-carrots, 1/3 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 cup white wine. Steam over low heat for about 45 minutes in a tightly sealed pan.

Susan's Herbed Summer Squash (you could use yellow squash or zucchini) and Potato Torte With Parmesan from Bon Appetit - - this is great to make ahead and then just zap in the microwave at the last minute.

Susan's Sauteed Mushrooms with Oregano from Romeo Salta - a great old restaurant in NY - this recipe serves 4 but it is easily doubled. The mushrooms do cook down quite a bit so always make more than you think you need - they won't go to waste. This is a must have at all of our holiday dinners.

1 1/2 pounds mushrooms (not too large), leave whole
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1. Wash and dry the mushrooms. Heat the oil in a skillet; mix in the mushrooms, garlic, salt, pepper and oregano.
2. Cook over low heat about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

A few Turkey Day tips:
Use kitchen string or folded cheesecloth to create a sling for your turkey before you put it in the oven - makes lifting it out of the pan so much easier.
Use cheesecloth to create a bag for your stuffing - makes removing it from the cavity so much easier.
Consider a brine to turn out a really moist, flavorful turkey -
Try a ricer to make your mashed potatoes -
If you need a place to go for a great meal and good company on Thanksgiving, go to Mary's house!

We're off to Louisville, Kentucky to join Libby and David, Cora and David and their family for Thanksgiving and then a wedding celebration with friends and family in Louisville. We'll be back next Saturday and I'm sure I'll have lots to tell you about the trip.

Wishing all of you a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday - I am so grateful to have all of you in my life.



Saturday Morning Walkers - November 11, 2007

Hi everyone!

What a glorious and warm weekend it has been - we did enjoy a great walk yesterday morning - led by Jan, we walked the beautiful CU campus and had coffee and carrot cake (thanks to Christie!). After coffee, Jan, Laila, Barb and Christie headed to a lecture at CU while Mary and I headed back to our cars. Andrea did meet us for coffee also. I've enjoyed a pretty relaxing weekend - reading, movies, cooking! No events to get ready for!
I am sorry I missed last week's "field trip" to the Chapungu Sculpure Exhibit at the Denver Botanic Gardens .

Here is Jackie's report:
"It was spectacular. The day was warm with a stunningly sunny sky, just right for experiencing the sculpture. They are enormous, emotional, sometimes sad, sometimes funny (especially the leap-frogging children!), and deeply moving. Being the artsy women we are, we cruised, appreciated, chatted, then ATE.
Lunch at the Botanic Gardens was surprisingly good. Our selections included: spicy (as in make your eyeballs fall out on the table) chicken soup, quesadilla with lots of peppers, big chunks of chicken and plentiful cups of sour cream and salsa, turkey wrap, and grilled tortilla with chicken, salsa and sour cream. Everything was yummy. Laila summed it up perfectly: "The food in this little one person stall was very good."
Not ones to cut an outing too short, we stopped at COSTCO on the way back to Boulder to do some party shopping for Barb . More food, of course. Consensus was that retailers change things just to make us see red when we're in a hurry. !#*$&!
Good friends, good sculpture, good food, and a good time was had by all."

Book Report:

Jan is reading/listening to 2 books right now - she's reading an interesting non-fiction book by Oliver Sacks called Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain.
From Publishers Weekly
Sacks is an unparalleled chronicler of modern medicine, and fans of his work will find much to enjoy when he turns his prodigious talent for observation to music and its relationship to the brain. The subtitle aptly frames the book as a series of medical case studies-some in-depth, some abruptly short. The tales themselves range from the relatively mundane (a song that gets stuck on a continuing loop in one's mind) through the uncommon (Tourette's or Parkinson's patients whose symptoms are calmed by particular kinds of music) to the outright startling (a man struck by lightning subsequently developed a newfound passion and talent for the concert piano). In this latest collection, Sacks introduces new and fascinating characters, while also touching on the role of music in some of his classic cases (the man who mistook his wife for a hat makes a brief appearance). Though at times the narrative meanders, drawing connections through juxtaposition while leaving broader theories to be inferred by the reader, the result is greater than the sum of its parts. This book leaves one a little more attuned to the remarkable complexity of human beings, and a bit more conscious of the role of music in our lives

Jan is listening to Elie Wiesel's Night - a powerful memoir about his experience as a survivor of the Holocaust.
In Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel's memoir Night, a scholarly, pious teenager is wracked with guilt at having survived the horror of the Holocaust and the genocidal campaign that consumed his family. His memories of the nightmare world of the death camps present him with an intolerable question: how can the God he once so fervently believed in have allowed these monstrous events to occur? There are no easy answers in this harrowing book, which probes life's essential riddles with the lucid anguish only great literature achieves. It marks the crucial first step in Wiesel's lifelong project to bear witness for those who died.

Andrea recently read Alice Sebold's new novel, The Almost Moon. Sebold's last novel was The Lovely Bones - a huge success!

From Publishers Weekly
Sebold's disappointing second novel (after much-lauded The Lovely Bones) opens with the narrator's statement that she has killed her mother. Helen Knightly, herself the mother of two daughters and an art class model old enough to be the mother of the students who sketch her nude figure, is the dutiful but resentful caretaker for her senile 88-year-old mother, Clair. One day, traumatized by the stink of Clair's voided bowels and determined to bathe her, Helen succumbs to a life-long dream and smothers Clair, who had sucked the life out of [Helen] day by day, year by year. After dragging Clair's corpse into the cellar and phoning her ex-husband to confess her crime, Helen has sex with her best friend's 30-year-old blond-god doofus son. Jumping between past and present, Sebold reveals the family's fractured past (insane, agoraphobic mother; tormented father, dead by suicide) and creates a portrait of Clair that resembles Sebold's own mother as portrayed in her memoir, Lucky. While Helen has clearly suffered at her mother's hands, the matricide is woefully contrived, and Helen's handling of the body and her subsequent actions seem almost slapstick. Sebold can write, that's clear, but her sophomore effort is not in line with her talent

Susan is juggling two books right now - I'm listening to an audio book of Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen and reading When Madeline Was Young by Jane Hamilton. Ususally, when I'm juggling two books, one is fiction and the other is non-fiction. I do have to say that the audio book is winning out over the paperback book. I may have to put that aside until I finish Water for Elephants. Jexy and Rae have both read and recommend this book.

Water for Elephants -

From Publishers Weekly
With its spotlight on elephants, Gruen's romantic page-turner hinges on the human-animal bonds that drove her debut and its sequel (Riding Lessons and Flying Changes)—but without the mass appeal that horses hold. The novel, told in flashback by nonagenarian Jacob Jankowski, recounts the wild and wonderful period he spent with the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth, a traveling circus he joined during the Great Depression. When 23-year-old Jankowski learns that his parents have been killed in a car crash, leaving him penniless, he drops out of Cornell veterinary school and parlays his expertise with animals into a job with the circus, where he cares for a menagerie of exotic creatures[...] He also falls in love with Marlena, one of the show's star performers—a romance complicated by Marlena's husband, the unbalanced, sadistic circus boss who beats both his wife and the animals Jankowski cares for. Despite her often clichéd prose and the predictability of the story's ending, Gruen skillfully humanizes the midgets, drunks, rubes and freaks who populate her book

When Madeline Was Young -

From Publishers Weekly
An unusual ménage poses moral questions in this fifth novel (after Disobedience) from Hamilton, winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award for The Book of Ruth. Aaron and Julia Maciver are living in a 1950s Chicago suburb with their two children—and with Aaron's first wife, Madeline. Aaron has insisted on caring for Madeline after she suffered a brain injury soon after their wedding, leaving her with the mental capacity of a seven-year-old. Refusing to consider this arrangement inconvenient, Julia treats the often-demanding Madeline like a beloved daughter, even letting her snuggle in bed with Aaron and herself when Madeline becomes distraught at night. Decades later, the Macivers' son, Mac, now a middle-aged family practitioner with a wife and teenage daughters, prepares to attend the funeral of his estranged cousin's son, killed in Iraq, and muses about the meaning, and the emotional costs, of the liberal values of his parents. Hamilton brings characteristic empathy to the complex issues at the core of this patiently built novel, but the narrative doesn't take any clear direction. Though Mac suggests there are "gothic possibilities" in his parents' story (partly inspired, Hamilton says, by Elizabeth Spencer's The Light in the Piazza), the Macivers' passions remain tepid and unresolved, and Julia remains an enigma to her son.

Website/Blog of the Week - - Get Rich Slowly....."Personal finance that makes cents"

Podcast of the Week - Agatha Christie Radio Mysteries - go to and do a search for Agatha Christie - fun old-time radio

Vocabulary Word of the Week - xenophobia

From Wikipedia - Xenophobia is a fear or contempt of foreigners or strangers and people .[1] comes from the Greek words ξένος (xenos), meaning "foreigner," "stranger," and φόβος (phobos), meaning "fear." The term is typically used to describe fear or dislike of foreigners or in general of people different from one's self.
For more info about xenophobia and how it is distinguished from racism or prejudice, go to

Cooking and Dining Report:

Two great recipes to share:

Classic Spaghetti Carbonara from Emeril Lagasse - this is great because it doesn't use cream or butter but tastes like it does!,1977,FOOD_9936_10210,00.html

Sweet Potato Soup from Sunset Magazine - I made this today to bring to book group tomorrow - had a little taste and it is yummy! The recipe says that it serves 25 as one of several appetizers at an appetizer party. Serve in demitasse size cups. To make it completely vegetarian, substitute chopped chives for the prosciutto chip garnish. You can make both the soup and the prosciutto chips up to 3 days ahead chilled in an airtight container.

1 1/2 T unsalted butter
1 large leek (white and light green parts only), thinly sliced, rinsed and drained
2 small garlic cloves, minced
2 lbs orange sweet potatoes, (often labeled "yams"), peeled and cut into roughly 1-inch pieces.
About 1 1/2 t coarse kosher salt
About 1/2 t freshly ground pepper
2 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto
1/4 cup heavy cream
Chopped chives (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add leek and cook, stirring, until soft and translucent, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes longer. Put sweet potatoes in pot, add 3 cups water, 1 1/2 t salt and 1/2 t pepper. Increase heat to high, bringing to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-high and simmer until sweet potatoes are tender about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool 10 minutes. Working in batches, puree soup until smooth.

2. Prepare the garnish. Spread prosciutto slices on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer. Bake until crisp, 7 to 10 minutes. (watch carefully, as they can burn quickly) Let prosciutto cool completely on baking sheet (about 1 hour), then crumble into tiny pieces and set aside.

3. Transfer pureed soup to a clean pot set over medium-low heat. Stir in cream and up to 2 cups water (enough to make soup easy to drink out of cups). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve soup hot, in demitasse cups, garnished with prosciutto or chives, if you like.

That's it for now - have a great week. I do have a request - I'd like to feature some Thanksgiving favorites next week - send me your family favorites and tips for the perfect turkey and I'll include them in next week's blog.


Saturday Morning Walkers - November 6, 2007

Hi everyone!

Sorry to be late with this blog entry but this is the first opportunity I've had to write since returning from Libby and David's wedding in New York. It was an amazing weekend - starting with a lovely dinner on Thursday evening with David's parents at the Homestead Inn in Greenwich, Connecticut; Friday night was the "rehearsal" dinner at John's Pizza in the West Village; Saturday night was the wedding at the Blue HIll at Stone Barns in Westchester County, NY. I'll give some food details later on but I must tell you that Libby was a beautiful bride and David a handsome groom and both were amazingly gracious hosts. We all had a wonderful time at this most memorable occasion.

I do have a book to report on - Lib asked me to pick out a good book for her honeymoon in Cabo.

Both Jexy and Rae recommend Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.

From Publishers Weekly
With its spotlight on elephants, Gruen's romantic page-turner hinges on the human-animal bonds that drove her debut and its sequel (Riding Lessons and Flying Changes)—but without the mass appeal that horses hold. The novel, told in flashback by nonagenarian Jacob Jankowski, recounts the wild and wonderful period he spent with the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth, a traveling circus he joined during the Great Depression. When 23-year-old Jankowski learns that his parents have been killed in a car crash, leaving him penniless, he drops out of Cornell veterinary school and parlays his expertise with animals into a job with the circus, where he cares for a menagerie of exotic creatures[...] He also falls in love with Marlena, one of the show's star performers—a romance complicated by Marlena's husband, the unbalanced, sadistic circus boss who beats both his wife and the animals Jankowski cares for. Despite her often clichéd prose and the predictability of the story's ending, Gruen skillfully humanizes the midgets, drunks, rubes and freaks who populate her book. (May 26)

Website of the Week - - find, price and compare wines

Podcast of the Week - Diane Rehm's interview with Judith Viorst broadcast on Thursday, November 1

Vocabulary Word of the Week - enoteca
Enoteca. A wine store. Also a place to drink wine, often with small snacks.

Cooking and Dining Report - here's a brief review of some of the fine dining experiences we had this weekend in New York/Connecticut - as many of you know, great cooking and fine food is pretty important in our family. Although Libby was pretty particular in her eating habits as a child, she has certainly broadened her horizons and along with David has developed a tremendous appreciation for great food. This was certainly evident in their dining choices for their wedding weekend.

Dinner with Libby, David and David's parents, Cora and David at the Homestead Inn in Greenwich Connecticut - - a very beautiful inn and restaurant in the tradition of southern New England. The decor, menu, service and company were outstanding.

Rehearsal Dinner at Libby and David's favorite pizza place at John's Pizza in the West Village of New York - what a fun, relaxed place to usher in the wedding festivities! Great pizza, calzone, meatballs and topped off with cupcakes from the renowned Magnolia Bakery The evening was capped off by a visit to a private room in a karaoke club, Karaoke One 7. We had a great time!!

Wedding Dinner at Blue HIll at Stone Barns in Pocantico HIlls, New York - -
Blue Hill at Stone Barns combines a working farm, restaurant, and educational center in the spectacular surroundings of Pocantico Hills, New York, revitalizing a collection of barns and creating a space that highlights the abundant resources of the Hudson Valley. The menu was just outstanding - a salad of field greens, fennel, pistachio nuts topped with a soft-boiled egg, cavatelli pasta with woodsy mushrooms, sliced beef, tender and rare and a very unique chocolate bread pudding for dessert. The accompanying wines were perfect!

Jack and I had dinner Sunday night with Jeff at Mario Batali's Otto's Pizzeria and Enoteca in Greenwich Village near NYU - we shared a selection of cheeses - tallegio, gorgonzola and pecorino - along with some proscuitto. Jeff had an arugula salad with tomatoes and we all shared a clam and mozzarella pizza - yum!

Two hotel recommendations if any of you find yourselves traveling to New York City and want to stay in Greenwich Village or Soho. Both of these areas give you an opportunity to discover two of the most interesting neighborhoods in Manhattan and offer a nice departure from the typical tourist spots of mid-town Manhattan. Most of the wedding guests stayed either at 60 Thompson, a small boutique hotel in Soho or the Washington Square Hotel, a small and more affordable hotel right on Washington Square in the heart of Greenwich Village

Oh - I almost forgot to mention our wonderful brunch on Saturday morning at the famous Katz's Delicatessan on the lower East Side. This is the real deal if you want authentic New York Jewish deli fare - also was the site of that famous scene from When Harry Met Sally. We shared goodies such as kugel (noodle pudding), knishes, pickles, chopped liver, and potato latkes. Jacob and I shared a salami sandwich!

Whooo - that's it for now! Hope you all have a great week ahead!



Saturday Morning Walkers - June 24, 2007

Hi everyone,

I'm actually writing this just before leaving LA - it will be pretty late when we get home tonight so thought I'd get this written now. We've had a great weekend here celebrating Jacob's "graduation" from the Garden School. It has been such a wonderful, warm place for Jacob and the whole family - we will all miss it! Jacob will be moving on to kindergarten in the Fall at the Odyssey Charter School in Altadena. We got to visit his classroom on Friday and it promises to be an enriching and progressive place for him to be. Jexy is pretty excited about getting involved along with several other Garden School families who will be there as well.

Hope our "walkers" had a great morning on Saturday - missed you all!

Book Report -

Susan finished Walking on Eggshells by Jane Isay this week - this was recommended a couple of weeks ago by Jackie - see June 9 post - definitely worth the read whether you are a parent of an adult child or if you are the adult child of an aging parent. Lots of wisdom here - nothing we don't already know but worth being reminded.

Jexy and Jacob are just finishing up Peter Pan in Scarlet by Geraldine McCaughrean - a sequel to J.M. Barrie's classic Peter Pan. They are really enjoying it - I may check it out myself.
Book Description:
In August 2004 the Special Trustees of Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital, who hold the copyright in Peter Pan, launched a worldwide search for a writer to create a sequel to J.M. Barrie's timeless masterpiece. Renowned and multi award-winning English author Geraldine McCaughrean won the honor to write this official sequel, Peter Pan in Scarlet. Illustrated by Scott M. Fischer and set in the 1930s, Peter Pan in Scarlet takes readers flying back to Neverland in an adventure filled with tension, danger, and swashbuckling derring-do! \

Jexy read and recommends - AlternaDad by Neal Pollack - a light-hearted memoir about becoming a parent and family

From Publishers Weekly
His novel Never Mind the Pollacks, a hilarious treat, used a fictional "Neal Pollack" to parody the excesses and idiocy of current pop culture. But his self-awareness becomes more self-indulgent (though still witty) in this straightforward memoir of life with his artist wife, the couple's decision a few years ago to have a baby and the attendant strains that his son, Elijah, wreaks on their hipster lifestyle. Pollack details the kind of problems that can be found in almost every memoir on child-rearing, from how to clean up baby poop to figuring out how best to be a "Dad" while being a friend. But he never really defines what it is that makes his parenting so alternative other than that he wants to be a parent and still get high and stay out late. Nevertheless, Pollack hasn't lost his flair for tongue-in-cheek commentary ("I'd begun exerting cultural control over my son; I was going to shape his mind until he was exactly like me").

Jack is currently reading and really loving The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon (Ayelet Waldman's husband)
From Publishers Weekly
[Signature]Reviewed by Jess Walter They are the "frozen Chosen," two million people living, dying and kvetching in Sitka, Alaska, the temporary homeland established for displaced World War II Jews in Chabon's ambitious and entertaining new novel. It is—deep breath now—a murder-mystery speculative-history Jewish-identity noir chess thriller, so perhaps it's no surprise that, in the back half of the book, the moving parts become unwieldy; Chabon is juggling narrative chainsaws here.The novel begins—the same way that Philip Roth launched The Plot Against America—with a fascinating historical footnote: what if, as Franklin Roosevelt proposed on the eve of World War II, a temporary Jewish settlement had been established on the Alaska panhandle? Roosevelt's plan went nowhere, but Chabon runs the idea into the present, back-loading his tale with a haunting history. Israel failed to get a foothold in the Middle East, and since the Sitka solution was only temporary, Alaskan Jews are about to lose their cold homeland. The book's timeless refrain: "It's a strange time to be a Jew."Into this world arrives Chabon's Chandler-ready hero, Meyer Landsman, a drunken rogue cop who wakes in a flophouse to find that one of his neighbors has been murdered. With his half-Tlingit, half-Jewish partner and his sexy-tough boss, who happens also to be his ex-wife, Landsman investigates a fascinating underworld of Orthodox black-hat gangs and crime-lord rabbis. Chabon's "Alyeska" is an act of fearless imagination, more evidence of the soaring talent of his previous genre-blender, the Pulitzer Prize–winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.Eventually, however, Chabon's homage to noir feels heavy-handed, with too many scenes of snappy tough-guy banter and too much of the kind of elaborate thriller plotting that requires long explanations and offscreen conspiracies.Chabon can certainly write noir—or whatever else he wants; his recent Sherlock Holmes novel, The Final Solution, was lovely, even if the New York Times Book Review sniffed its surprise that the mystery novel would "appeal to the real writer." Should any other snobs mistake Chabon for anything less than a real writer, this book offers new evidence of his peerless storytelling and style. Characters have skin "as pale as a page of commentary" and rough voices "like an onion rolling in a bucket." It's a solid performance that would have been even better with a little more Yiddish and a little less police.

Website of the Week - featuring Johns Hopkins professor PM Forni with his perspective on behaving with civility in our increasingly "un-civil" world. He is a frequent contributor on The Satellite Sisters radio talk show.

Podcast of the Week
NPR's This I Believe - based on the 1950's series with Edward R. Murrow

Vocabulary Word of the Week - schadenfreude
schadenfreude \SHOD-n-froy-duh\, noun:
A malicious satisfaction obtained from the misfortunes of others.

That the report of Sebastian Imhof's grave illness might also have been tinged with Schadenfreude appears not to have crossed Lucas's mind.
-- Steven Ozment, Flesh and Spirit

He died three years after me -- cancer too -- and at that time I was still naive enough to imagine that what the afterlife chiefly provided were unrivalled opportunities for unbeatable gloating, unbelievable schadenfreude.
-- Will Self, How The Dead Live

Somewhere out there, Pi supposed, some UC Berkeley grad students must be shivering with a little Schadenfreude of their own about what had happened to her.
-- Sylvia Brownrigg, The Metaphysical Touch

The historian Peter Gay -- who felt Schadenfreude as a Jewish child in Nazi-era Berlin, watching the Germans lose coveted gold medals in the 1936 Olympics -- has said that it "can be one of the great joys of life."
-- Edward Rothstein, "Missing the Fun of a Minor Sin", New York Times, February 5, 2000

Schadenfreude comes from the German, from Schaden, "damage" + Freude, "joy." It is often capitalized, as it is in German.

Cooking and Food Report - some pretty good food and cooking this week but not much out of my kitchen:

Jexy made dinner on Thursday evenig and made this wonderful recipe from Sunset Magazine -
Sage Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Sage Butter

On Saturday we had a potluck at Jacob's school

Jexy made our family favorite Noodle Pudding (kugel) - this recipe appears in a very early post - you can simply do a search on the blog.

Charlotte's mom, Lori, made the Barefoot Contessa Macaroni and Cheese from the Family Style cookbook - luscious and terrific for a big group! You'll notice that the recipes call for sliced tomatoes on top - Lori didn't do that and I certainly didn't miss them although a nice tomato salad on the side would work well.,1977,FOOD_9936_32868,00.html

Susan made a new appetizer from Giada de Laurentiis - I tried this out earlier in the week and then made them for the potluck - I think they're great and it would be fun to try different toppings. Next time I might try grilling the polenta tartlets before topping them.
Chicken and Polenta Tartlets,1977,FOOD_9936_37043,00.html