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we are women who love entertaining, reading, cooking, and drinking great wine. Follow us as we quest to forge city-life, career, and a full schedule with our domestic aspirations all while maintaining friendships with strong, independent women around our area! With the help and inspirations from our book club socials, we will blog about books, cooking, entertaining, friendships, and anything that will help you come up with unique ideas to form a womens social circle of your own!

This is your link to other women who love the simple pleasures of life, home, and friendships.

UPCOMING EVENTS

June 20 - Movie on the Pier

June 29 - The Forgotten Garden

Book Ratings

Our ratings:

A = Put on top!

B = Add to your list

C = Decent read

F = WALK AWAY´╗┐

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Wednesday
Mar282012

Decoding the Hunger Games Hype

I will be the first to admit that I tend to be tardy to the literary trend party.  For example, although Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was released in 1998, it wasn’t until I received a paperback copy for Christmas 2000 that I became hooked on Harry (and Ron, and Hermione).  The same goes for Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo - in fact, initially I tried reading the sample on my Nook, was bored to tears by the dry first chapters, and quit before I had even reached the end of the sample pages.  I only gave that book a second chance after a few friends implored that the rest of the book made up for the boring introduction, and by that time, the third book in the trilogy had been released.  (The exception to this rule is Twilight.  In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess that as a die-hard “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer” fan, I refuse to buy into the idea that vampires freaking sparkle in the sunlight.  Give me a break.)

 My point is that it should come as no surprise that despite widespread accolades, including those from friends whose reading recommendations I respect, I did not pick up The Hunger Games, the first book in Suzanne Collins’ trilogy, until less than a month ago.  

I finished Mockingjay, the third book, exactly one week later.


For those who haven’t read the trilogy, you may be wondering, “Truly, WHAT is the big deal?  Aren’t these ‘Young Adult’ books?”

In my opinion, the answer to those questions lies in the fact that the underlying themes of The Hunger Games transcend the fine line between “Young Adult”/”Adult” literature.  Without spoiling anything, the basic premise of The Hunger Games trilogy is this: Set in post-apocalyptic, dystopian North America, each year the twelve districts of Panem are “punished” for their previous rebellion as the Capitol forces one male and one female teenager (“tributes”) to compete in a nationally televised fight to the death, in a selection process known as “The Reaping.”  The protagonist of the books is sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who, in a moment of utter desperation, volunteers to take her younger sister’s place as the female District 12 tribute.  The books also explore Katniss’ complicated feelings towards two men from home: Gale, her best friend and hunting partner; and Peeta, who is selected as the male tribute from District 12.

Although the first book starts out a little slowly, the plot soon quickens and sucks you in, as you start rooting for Katniss despite the fact that the odds are stacked against her.  Ms. Collins has written Katniss as an identifiable character - she isn’t exceptionally pretty or strong, but she’s smart, and she uses her adolescent angst (as well as her hunting skills, sharpened out of the necessity to survive in District 12) in her favor. 

Throughout the novels, Ms. Collins explores rebellion on an individual level as well as within the context of a civil war; the struggle to define on which side of the line one takes a stand; survival of the fittest; and the widening gap between the “haves” and the “have nots.”  And of course, the idea that all of this is happening on national television makes you consider the desensitizing effect that reality television has brought upon the fictional society of Panem and of our reality. 

One thing that really surprised me about this so-called “Young Adult” series was how graphic Ms. Collins’ descriptions of violence were throughout all three books.  No one can accuse her of holding back when writing about the (oftentimes fatal) injuries inside the Hunger Games arena, but it’s exactly this commitment to vivid storytelling that allows the adult reader to be drawn into the adrenaline rush of the games.

I also appreciated that the romantic elements - specifically, the love triangle between Katniss, Gale, and Peeta - really took a backseat to the action, despite the fact that The Hunger Games made the American Library Association’s list of most banned books of 2010 due to the claim that it is “sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and violen[t]” - a designation I find almost humorous.  Violent, yes.  Unsuited to age group, debatable.  Sexually explicit?  Compared to the oversexualized nature of many other “Young Adult” works, The Hunger Games barely registers higher than Harry Potter on the sexy scale.  (I may not have read Twilight, but I am fully aware of a certain birthing scene involving Edward and Bella.  Ew.)
 

Bottom line - you needn’t be embarrassed about checking out The Hunger Games, even if it requires a detour into the “Young Adult” section of the bookstore or library.  In fact, now is the ideal time to check out The Hunger Games.  Read the first book (and if you become addicted as I did, the second and third), and then you can see the movie and decide if it translates onscreen.


 

 

Wednesday
Mar212012

March Wine of the Month Club

As I do enjoy decadent dishes like my “Baked Brie”, I selected a wine that would pair well with any strongly flavored meat or cheese dish.

LAUREN'S PICKS:

The Red - Petite Sirah, $10.99

Bogle Family Vineyards - Petite Sirah, 2009 from California.

This wine is a product of the Bogle Family Vineyards and it is their “heritage” wine. The family began producing Sirah’s in 1978 and have since perfected their aging and harvesting processes.

The 2009 vineyard was released in August of 2011 and was a very fresh and full bodied wine, with a nice woodsy nose. There were some tannin’s upfront, but it had a very smooth and long finish with acidity aftertones. One will find oak, black currants and plum on the palette and this mimics the deep purple color of the wine. Overall, the taste was fruity, heavy on the currant and plum with a nice oak/leather undertone.

This is an excellent wine @ $10.99 and can be found in wine stores or supermarkets.

As mentioned I would pair this with strong flavored food, such as meat dishes of lamb, pork or game that come with heavy and rich sauces.  This Lamb recipe is from Martha Stewart.

While I do enjoy decadent dishes I also enjoy seafood and who can turn down puff pastry and seafood? Not me!

Rating: 7 out of 10

 

 

 

 

The White - Chardonnay, $13.99

Louis Jadot Macon - Villages – Chardonnay, 2010

My white selection is from a very well know and respected vineyard in France. The maison's was founded in1859 and since the founding Louis Jadot has become a name to reckon with in Burgundy. This vineyard produces a variety of different Chardonnay wines; while the red is their most popular and largest seller I prefer the white variety.

This white Burgundy wine is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes grown in the Mâcon-Villages area in Burgundy's Mâconnais region. The wine is very light and fruity with a pleasant floral scent. It was a bit sweeter than expected and a little tart. This white Burgundy is clean and crisp on the palate, with a nice acidity and a somewhat tart taste of lemon zest that plays big on the palate and even bigger on the finish. It did however, have a slight acidic and mineral flavor but that was overshadowed by the apple and melon taste on the palate. Overall, very refreshing and easy to drink – especially @ the $13.99 price point.

I discovered this wine @ the grocery store but it can be found in most wine stores as well.

As I mentioned it would pair nicely with hors d'oeuvres and puff pastry, and any kind of fish or poultry.  It would be perfect with these shrimp pot pies from Martha Stewart.


Rate:  7 out of 10

 

 

 

HAVE ANY WINE RECOMMENDATIONS YOU'D LIKE US TO REVIEW?  SEND THEM OUR WAY!  EMAIL: THEBOOKHOSTESS@GMAIL.COM

Tuesday
Mar132012

Irish - aren't we all!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to All! As an Irish American I wanted to take a moment to share some of my favorite Irish quotes, food and décor – all of which I will use this year for one amazing St. Patrick’s Day party!

My paternal Grandmother was Irish and loved to spat out random quotes ..below are some of her “words of wisdom”

"May the roof above us never fall in, and may we friends beneath it never fall out."

"Here's to me, and here's to you, and here's to love and laughter. I'll be true as long as you, and not one moment after."

"Here's to you and yours, And to mine and ours, And if mine and ours ever come across you and yours, I hope you and yours will do as much for mine and ours and mine and ours have done for you and yours!"

"May your thoughts be as glad as the shamrocks. May your heart be as light as a song. May each day bring you bright, happy hours. That stay with you all the year long."

Growing up my family always celebrated the holiday with the traditional dishes but as we got a bit older and more adventurous we tried new “spins” on the old favorites. Take a look at some delicious dishes I found – they are sure to please any crowd!

For those who want traditional dishes here are my favorites Corned Beef with Marmalade Whiskey Glaze, Shepherd’s Pie , Beef Stout Stew, Lamb Stew of course Soda Bread.

Now for some lighter and perhaps more “fun” dishes I suggest going with a Brunch for dinner theme – mainly because I love breakfast and it is so easy to make. Eggs are an easy dish to serve and you can add in Corned Beef Hash or some Irish Bacon with Potatoes. If eggs are not on the menu serve Potato pancakes with hash or go with a quick and tasty Currant Scone.

And no meal would be complete without some drinks and dessert – or at least no meal @ my house. Whip up some Irish Coffee and pair them with cupcakes of the same name Irish Cupcakes – thanks Martha Stewart. Prefer something with more kick? How about a dessert that is also a drink? Stout Ice Cream Float or skip the ice cream and kick it up with Jameson Whiskey Sours. As I do have a sugar fetish I will elaborate on this one – please try any of these amazing treats; Irish Mint Brownies , Bailey's Irish Cream Shots, and lastly Grasshopper Floats.

Tuesday
Feb282012

The Paris Wife 

Book: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Grade: A

Summary: A deeply evocative story of ambition and betrayal, The Paris Wife captures a remarkable period of time and a love affair between two unforgettable people: Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley.

Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness—until she meets Ernest Hemingway and her life changes forever. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group—the fabled “Lost Generation”—that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.

Though deeply in love, the Hemingways are ill prepared for the hard-drinking and fast-living life of Jazz Age Paris, which hardly values traditional notions of family and monogamy. Surrounded by beautiful women and competing egos, Ernest struggles to find the voice that will earn him a place in history, pouring all the richness and intensity of his life with Hadley and their circle of friends into the novel that will become The Sun Also Rises. Hadley, meanwhile, strives to hold on to her sense of self as the demands of life with Ernest grow costly and her roles as wife, friend, and muse become more challenging. Despite their extraordinary bond, they eventually find themselves facing the ultimate crisis of their marriage—a deception that will lead to the unraveling of everything they’ve fought so hard for.

A heartbreaking portrayal of love and torn loyalty, The Paris Wife is all the more poignant because we know that, in the end, Hemingway wrote that he would rather have died than fallen in love with anyone but Hadley. – Publisher Summary

 

{ernest & hadley: wedding day}What we Liked: We truly enjoyed this novel – one of our tops picks! As many of us had read Hemmingway but knew nothing of his personal life we found this to be interesting and intriguing. The novel was an intense dissection of Hadley and Hemingway's marriage and a detailed description of the collapse.

 Hadley's voice is exquisite. It is raw and true, clear and beautiful – similar to Hemmingway’s writing. The writing captivated us and at times we found ourselves more interested in the surroundings than in the characters themselves. The events described are entirely heartbreaking and a product of 1920's Paris, of the Jazz Age, and of something more than simply that.

Even though it is fiction, and written after extensive research you feel transposed into a world that could have been and routing for their marriage to work. McLain does a wonderful job of bringing the reader into the period - using common slang, such as "tight" and pet names, such as "Tatie" and "Pfife" - but the book is still fiction. It was a wonderful read that made us all want to read more about Hemmingway and his novels.

What We didn’t like: Overall it was a great novel with very little negative feedback from the group. Are only issue was Hadley. At times we were frustrated by her actions and we were horrified by the different morals and understanding of certain situations by their generation at large.

 

 

Book Discussion Theme: Family, Marriage, Love, Sacrifice and Equality, Infidelity, Paris 1920s.

Food Theme: French  

{Hemingway's wives}Final Thoughts: We were torn between rooting for Hadley when Ernest became an outright scoundrel and wanting to slap some sense into her! The man was essentially a selfish pig throughout their marriage and yet she loved him truly despite or maybe because of his neurosis & arrogance. We can't judge Hadley for her choices in putting up with his behavior - all she wanted was for her beloved husband to succeed and find some internal peace & happiness. Isn't that what we all want for those we love?

We all enjoyed the novel and highly recommend it to others. 


 

 

NOTES: A MOVEABLE FEAST is HEMINGWAY'S MEMOIR OF HIS LIFE IN PARIS WITH HADLEY AND THEN FALLING IN LOVE WITH HADLEY'S BEST FRIEND, PAULINE.  Mary, Hemingway's 4th wife, as executor, published this book 3 years after his suicide.  There has been much controversy over the book as far as how Hemingway would have wanted it executed.  The book in its original form does not shed light on Pauline (being Hadley's best friend).  Her grandson took it upon himself to reconstruct the ending of the book to how he "thought" his grandfather would have rather portrayed their marriage.  There is an interesting article on the NYTimes about Sean Hemingway's version of the story.

{ Ernest & Hadley; Ernest & Pauline}

Thursday
Feb232012

The Author's Kitchen...

We are excited to introduce another new feature to our blog - The Author's Kitchen!! We are going to try to feature a new author every month, featuring their lives, their books, and their favorite recipes that they can share with us! Once we get more established, we can feature version 2 of the Author's Kitchen - but that will be unveiled later, you'll just have to wait ;)

This month's featured author is a friend of mine and we used to work together in the fashion industry before she left and pursued her passion of becoming a Romantic Novelist. I would like to introduce, A.S. Fenichel :)

Q: Hi! Can you tell our readers where you are from, where you live now, married, pets, interests, life motto?

Hello. Thanks for having me.

Yes, of course. I was born on Long Island, New York and grew up there and in Central New Jersey. About three years ago, my wonderful husband, Dave, and I, moved to beautiful east Texas. We have one cat, Molly, the center of my universe (don’t tell my husband I said that). I love to read, travel, cook with Dave and, of course, write romance novels.




Q: When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer?


I’m a late bloomer. When I was a freshman in college, I had an English professor who made us write a short story. That was the first time it occurred to me that the people living in my head, might want to come out and play.



Q: Was it difficult for you to get into the book business and get published? What were the challenges that you faced?


Almost impossible! I had a full time job and little time for promoting myself or editing. There always seems time to write, but the really hard part, is the editing. It took me fifteen years to figure out, with the help of some wonderful writing organizations, that I needed critique partners. Basically, I had to become a better writer and no one does that on their own. We all need brutally honest friends to tell us what works and what doesn’t.


Aspiring writers should get involved with local writing groups. Romance Writers of America has a chapter in NYC and one in NJ not to mention every other city and region in the country. They even have an on-line group for Fantasy and Sci-Fi. Also Liberty State Fiction Writers is a great group of writers from all different genres.



Q: What inspired you to get into writing novels and why Romance novels in particular?


I love to read fiction, so writing it made sense. My favorite books are Romance, Science Fiction and Fantasy, so that’s what I write. I just made it into one genre, Paranormal Romance. It’s lucky for me that people are into that at the moment.



Q: Tell us a little bit about your first novel and what it is about?


Mayan Afterglow is a novella about two people living in the aftermath of End of Days, an apocalypse scheduled to occur on December 21, 2012. Aileen Grant is the woman prophesized to save the world, while Ian Scott is a thief, capitalizing on a world full of empty houses.


Here’s the blurb from the book:


They called it The End of Days after humanity met with near annihilation. Ten months later, the real end is coming.


Aileen Grant’s powerful psychic gifts have been nothing but a curse since the day she was born. She’d given up all hope of escaping the demonic grasp of Mictlan, The Lord of the Dead, until an enigmatic thief snatches her out of Hell. With something to live for, she convinces Ian to join her on a treacherous journey to save the world.


Ian Scott is stealing from long-deserted homes when he pulls Aileen’s unconscious body from a strange bolt of lightning. Aileen is the last thing that Ian wants or needs, but her quiet beauty and courageous heart bind him to her in ways he never imagined, and ignite passions he’s never known.



Q: What is your favorite chapter in the book and why?


I love them all, but chapter four is when, as the reader, you know these two were meant to be together. Up until then you get glimpses of Ian’s nature, but in chapter four it becomes obvious that there is more to him then meets the eye. It’s the relationship turning point.



Q: How did you get into the creative spirit to finish your novel? Where did the idea come from?


I’m always writing, so getting into the spirit is never a problem. I’m not saying I never get blocked, but I never stop writing. Sometimes it’s a struggle and sometimes it’s a pleasure but I’m always sitting in front of my laptop tapping away.


The idea actually came from a dream I had. It was a strange dream, not unusual for me, about a thief in a castle and a wizard with a captive woman. I didn’t give the dream too much thought until I saw a call for entries from a publishing house. They were looking for stories about End of Days for an anthology. For me, the idea of the thief and the castle only needed a little tweaking to become post-apocalyptic. I wrote the story in about a month and then, thanks to some wonderful critiquing friends, edited it in about three weeks, in order to make the anthology deadline. Relief!


Many weeks later, the story was rejected. Devastation!


I was ready to give up on submitting my stories. Not writing, I could never give that up. I thought I would just write for myself rather then be crushed by editor after editor. However, when I told a writer friend of mine about my plans, she told be I was being ridiculous and to just send the story to another publisher.


So, with much trepidation, I took a deep breath and submitted Mayan Afterglow to Ellora’s Cave Publishing. Within one month, I had an acceptance. One of the greatest days in my life, it was right up there with my wedding day. (Don’t tell my husband that either.)



Q: Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?


The ideas don’t always come from dreams. It’s nice when they do, since when that happens, it’s a gift. Sometimes an idea will come from something I read in the newspaper, something I see on vacation, or a piece of some story I heard at a dinner party. I guess, the point is, that a story idea can come from anywhere. I never know where the next character will come from or how hard they will pester me to be written.


After the nugget of an idea plants itself, it usually has to bubble a while in the cauldron of my brain, before it turns into something completely different and a plot forms.


Q: How did you market your book & what avenues did you find best for you to market the book?


I have a web-site and I’m very active on Facebook and Twitter. The Six Sentence Sunday blog has been really great. As a new author it’s not easy to build a readership, but as I have more books published I hope to gain loyal readers who will keep coming back for more.




Q: What has been your toughest, but constructive criticism that you have been able to work through and use for your next novel?


All criticism that I receive from other writers is useful. I have found that, unlike other industries, romance writers are always willing to give advice and assistance to up and coming writers. I have had a lot of help along the way, and I have been lucky to make quite a few good friends.



Q: What are you working on now?


Right now, I have had a second book, which has been accepted by Ellora’s Cave. I am working with my fantastic editor to get that ready for publication, sometime in the spring. It’s the second book of my Mayan series, Mayan Craving, all about Asher Dove, the pilot from Mayan Afterglow.


I’m also writing a third Mayan book, Mayan Revenge, I hope to have that finished this month.



Q: Do you have a particular location in your house or property that is your “zen” zone for inspiration, can you describe it?


Well, I have an office, but you usually can find me in the sunroom, on my chaise lounge, overlooking the lake.



Q: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?


When I have to stop for the day, I like to stop mid-sentence. I feel like that forces me to continue when it’s time to write again. I have to, at least, know what the rest of the sentence is, right? If I stop at the end of a paragraph then I find it harder to begin again. So even if I’ve managed to complete a chapter, I’ll go on to the next chapter and write half of the first sentence. I feel like it makes me continue the flow of words.



Q: What do you like to do when you are not writing?


We love to travel and cook. Dave and I love Italian food and part of our honeymoon was spent at a cooking school in Tuscany. Since we live in the south now, we have been trying to bring good Italian food to our neighbors. We even started teaching a cooking class in nearby Natchitoches, LA.



Q: What books are on your bookshelf now?


I’m reading Christopher Paolini’s, Inheritance at the moment. Next I have a big stack of Christine Feehans books that I’m dying to get through. After that, Eloisa James, has a fairytale series I want to tackle.



Q: What have been your favorite novels so far that you would whole-heartedly recommend to our readers and why?


Jeannette Walls’, Glass Castle is wonderful, touching, and a must read. I loved Karen Marie Moning’s, Fever Series. Anything Eloisa James writes is divine. She is my favorite romance novelist.




Q: Our book club also loves to Wine & Cooking – is there a recipe that you would love to share with our readers and a wine that would be great to pair with it?


Tuscan Dipping cookies (biscotti)

Butter – ½ stick

Sugar – 1 cup

Eggs – 2 large

Flour – 1 ½ cups

Almonds – ½ cup whole almonds

Baking Powder – 1 tsp

Almond Extract – 1 tsp



Preheat oven 350


With your fingers blend together butter and sugar. (The heat from your hands melts the two together better)


Add eggs and blend. (You can use a spoon) Add almonds and blend well before adding flour, baking powder and extract.


Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and dump the dough out on it. Shape the dough into a log about 1 inch high (WET YOUR HANDS TO SHAPE THE LOG TO KEEP THE DOUGH FROM STICKING TO YOU) and bake for 35 -40 mins. Until golden brown.


While the log is still hot slice and set aside to cool.


I like it on the soft side, so always serve it like this, but if you like the really hard crunchy Biscotti, then you have to put it back in the oven and toast it for another 10 mins.




Q: If there is one pantry item or gadget that you must have in your kitchen, what is it and why?

I have this little olive grabber. I love it. It looks like a hypodermic needle but then these three little prongs come out and snatch the olive from the jar. I guess it would work for pickles too. I love it because a good martini should never be underrated.

Q: Thank you so much for joining us on this month's blog post! The Mayan Trilogy sounds fantastic and sexy. I'm so happy for you and your succcess so far and have read all of the great review it has received. Anything else you would like to say to our members?

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to chat with you. It’s been such fun.

You can find my book, Mayan Afterglow, where ebooks are sold and at Jasmine Jade, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.

And you can read more about the Mayan, End of Days on my blog.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

We hope you all enjoyed reading our interview with A.S. Fenichel! Definitely check the book out!!

IF YOU KNOW OF ANY AUTHORS WHO WOULD LIKE TO BE FEATURED ON NEXT MONTH'S BLOG, PLEASE EMAIL US AND LET US KNOW!! WE WOULD LOVE TO INTERVIEW THEM!!

Tuesday
Feb212012

A Chair to call my own...

Happy Tuesday, Everyone!  I hope those of us who were lucky enough to get President's Day off were able to relax or get a lot of things on of their to-do list done.  I definitely got a lot done - with the new addition of dog, Luigi, it was a busy weekend!

One of the many things I have been working on is trying to figure out how to create a reading nook - a private reading sanctuary if you will.  However, being that we live in a condo, space is very limited; therefore, I can really only claim a window and have a comfortable chair in the corner of the living room.  So my search for the perfect reading chair has begun!  I want something so cushiony that I can melt into it with a good book and a cup of tea or a glass of wine.  My husband inherited an old velvety green recliner that his father used to own, which he calls his "football" chair - but it really is for ALL sports - actually ALL TV watching.  I want something like that, but not in velvet green and definitely prettier.

I want something like these from Thomas Paul, which I found on Joss & Main.  His fabric designs are fun, colorful, and modern and range between $300 - $600 a piece.  Thomas Paul also designs wonderfully large pillows that you can add to any of his furniture pieces.

Another great furniture company that I like is Pearson.  One of the things I like about this company is that they find and use some vintage textiles to create one-of-a-kind upholstered pieces.  Here are a few of their fabulous finds that were featured on OneKingsLane and range between $3200 - $6000:

 

If you are looking for an even more fun, one-of-a-kind chair, take a look at Happy Chair - designed by former Nascar driver Shawna Robinson.  Most of the pieces are a bit wild for my taste, but I still think they are totally fun pieces and range between $3000 - $6000 each.  Here are 2 that I like:

And last but not least, I am still a fan of the good, old ROCKING CHAIR!  Ever since I was little, I've always loved sitting in rocking chairs and knew I would have one of my own eventually.  There are fabric covered rocking chairs that can be wonderfully comfortable.  These are from rockingchairs.com:

 

But, I will honestly say, nothing beats a beautifully crafted, wooden rocking chair.  These 2 chairs below were hand-crafted by Hal Taylor and Parker Converse.

 

So, looks like I have a lot of saving to do, so I can get my own reading chair.  Hopefully, the Hubs and Luigi don't take over my chair once I get it situated.


Thursday
Feb162012

Got Wine?

We are so excited to introduce a new feature to the blog with The Book Hostess Virtual Wine of the Month Club!!!!  One of the things we love to do in our book club is drink wine - a lot of wine.  Each of our members who attend a meeting are supposed to bring a bottle of wine along with a dish.  We usually tell our members that they don't have to bring anything expensive, but if they do choose a relatively cheap bottle of wine, it should be one that they themselves like to drink.  There are many wines under the $20 mark, but how do you know what is good?  This is how the idea of a "virtual" wines of the month club came to fruition.  All of these wines can be found online.

Two of our members are wine buffs and are graciously helping us with wine selections each month.  We asked both Margaret and Lauren to select one red and one white – both under $20.  You can check out Margaret S. and Lauren T.'s bios here


Lauren's Selections 

 

 

The RED:

Mark West - Pinot Noir, 2009

Listed @ $13.99


 

Accolades: “Best of Category” and voted “#1 light New World Red” in the The Wine Trials in 2008; Food & Wine “Best American Wines $15 & Under: Merlot & Pinot Noir” in 2008; Nominated for “Steal of the Year” for Sunset magazine’s 2007 Western Wine Awards.

Nose/Palette: Black Cherry, Vanilla, Oak

Review: Mark West specializes in value California Pinot Noir and that comes across from the first taste. It is a very smooth red with very low tannins. It has a deep red color. The taste is fruity but with strong oak undertones, so it is a full bodied wine verses, a fruity Chianti. I tasted and enjoyed the black cherry, vanilla and smoky oak. It has a smooth finish, but the flavor does linger on the palette. If you like an oaky, yet fruity Pinot Noir, this is very flavorful and goes down very easy without any tannin residue.

Food Pairing: Pinot Noir, by nature is a versatile wine and can be paired with many different dishes. I find it works best with a strong spice or heavy sauce, such as Steak au Poivre, Coq au Vin, and even Veal Marsala


The WHITE:

CLOS DU BOIS – North Coast Chardonnay, 2007

Listed @ $14.99.

 


Palette: Pear, Apple, Oak

Review: This is a full bodied Chardonnay. It has a bold flavor but a smooth finish and no aftertaste. There were hints of pear, apple, spice and toasty oak. It has a nice straw color. The oaky flavor of the wine pairs well with salty foods such as bacon. It tempers the saltiness and brings out the maple flavor of the bacon. In turn, the maple and salty flavors in the food lightened up the flavor of the wine and the strong oaky flavor is replaced with a pale, refreshing and fruity finish.

Food Pairing: This wine can be paired with seafood and salty foods, such as cured meats, including Bacon wrapped Scallops, Shrimp Scampi, Chicken/Veal Oscar or Spaghetti Carbonara.

 

 

Margaret's Selections

 

 

 

The RED:

Z-52 Lodi Zinfandel 2006

Listed @ $13.99

 


Nose/Palette: Chocolate, Dried Fruit (Raspberries, Plums), Spice, Tobacco, Mushroom

Review: This wine was aged in French Oak for 14 months, which brings out the flavors of tobacco, spice and mushroom – giving it the personality to pair well with wild game and tomato based dishes. The wine is medium plus body with a smooth finish that will round out the aftertaste of the dishes listed above. It may be a bit too bold to drink by itself, but with its complexity and other notes of dried fruit, it will make any meal better.

Food Pairing: This wine pairs well with gamey or salty dishes such as; lamb kebabs, tomato or mushroom based dishes such as risotto, pasta, and pizza.

 


 

The WHITE:

Gustav Grüner Veltliner 2010: Listed @ $14.99

 


Nose/Palette: Citrus, tropical fruit, and a mineral quality on the nose. Apple, pear, herbs, citrus and spice on the palette.

Review: Very pale in color but with medium body and acidity, this dry white is very clean allowing for the fruit to shine in contrast to the citrus and mineral notes you get on the palette. With every sip, I discovered more flavors to add to the complexity: apple, pear, lemon, and pepper with a hint of sweet spices. A smooth, lingering finish highlights the white pepper and lemon flavors.

Food Pairing: This is an excellent wine to pair with salty cheese or a seafood based main course. I would suggest a cheese fondue or any salty cheese, such as manchego or parmesan. The acidity in this wines pairs perfectly with sushi, seafood dishes and any vegetable based dish, raw or cooked.

Cooking for a vegetarian? Margaret suggets mushroom pizza, pasta with marinara sauce or mushroom risotto and paired with a Zinfandel.

 

Let us know if you have any wine suggestions that you think we should review!  We'd love to hear about anything new that you would recommend!!

Thursday
Feb092012

"BE MINE, VALENTINE" Book Club Party

In celebration of Valentine's day, we are doing a Valentine's day inspired post.  This month, our book club is reading "The Paris Wife" in celebration for this month of love.  We wanted to think of fun ways for you and your book club to celebrate February Valentine's day too, so the first question is: what other great romantic books are out there for your book club choices? 

There are so many modern-day chicklit books out there that are trying to bank on the same successful storyline as Carrie Bradshaw and her Sex and the City love life, it can get pretty trite and boring to read.  So for Valentine's day, why not try the classics?  There are so many great classics that are dying to be re-read, that really encompass the passion and love in raw form.  How about classics like:

1. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez - one of the best novels about unrequited love.  I think Marquez has one of the best story-telling voices in this well-crafted piece of literature.  With the richness in the settings in the Caribbean, Mexico, and South America, you can't help but fall in love with this novel.  It's a romantic tragedy, so do not look for that happy ending.  This is one of my favorites.

2. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald - anyone and everyone who had to read this novel in high school will tell you it is one of the most remarkable novels of all time.   One of the most beloved American writers, Fitzgerald created some of the most fascinating characters and love story between Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan.

3. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte - Maybe one of the finest romantic novels of our time, it is a passionate love story between Catherine and Heathcliff.  Again, another tragic love story.  (Aren't all classic love stories like this?)

4.  Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak - Set during the Russian revolution, it tells a story of the love triangle between a man and 2 women.

For your book club, you can elevate the mood of your meeting with some Valentine's day flair.  Put a heart wreath in the front of your door - this one is from Jenni Copeland Crafts.  Serve guests some pink-hued punch drinks complete with paper heart straws from Ichoffel with some fun straw covers from You Make Do.  Set up your own photobooth party favor for your members with fun props like these conversational hearts from Maro Designs

Inside your house, hang up some paper heart garlands from GFetti and YoungHeartsLove etsy shops; Decorate with some BeMine letter blocks from Jody Aleavitt.  If you are serving a dinner party setting, use these adorable letterpress heart cards from Penelope Press and use these Heart Doily kits from Todo Papel as your placemats.  Give your guests some heart pinwheels from PartyFetti to take home.

 

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!! ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Thursday
Feb022012

Wednesday Wars recipes - a few favorites

STUFFED MUSHROOMS

submitted by Sho B.

Ingredients:

8 oz plain cream cheese, softened
2-3 boxes white button mushrooms, stemmed
1/4 cup grated onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp dill weed
2 tbsp bread crumbs
2 tbsp grated Parmesan
Cayenne pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Saute mushrooms in butter until slightly browned, ~5 mins
3. Combine all remaining ingredients in a bowl and spoon mixture into mushroom caps
4. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until water starts to run clear from the caps


TUNA-STUFFED DEVILED EGGS
submitted by Rose P.

Ingredients:

A Dozen - Hard boiled eggs cut in half with egg yolks removed to be mixed in with all ingredients
3 Cans of Tuna
3 Tablespoons Mayo
1 Tablespoon of Relish
a dash of Dried Mustard
a dash of Garlic Powder
a dash of Onion Powder
a dash of Dried Dill
a dahs of Paprika
Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Mix all ingredients together according to your taste and scoop the mixture into the egg halves.


 

CORNFLAKE-CRUSTED TURKEY "DRUMSTICKS"

submitted by Thu

Ingredients:

1 pound ground turkey
One 5-ounce can evaporated milk
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
2 cups crushed cornflakes
2 ounces medium-hard cheese

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
2. In a bowl, mix the turkey, 1/4 cup evaporated milk, the onion and 2/3 cup cornflakes; season with salt and pepper. Divide into 12 portions.
3. Cut the cheese into 12 small sticks and thread onto each of 12 skewers.
4. Wet your hands with evaporated milk, then mold some meat around each cheese piece, shaping into 3-inch ovals.
5. Pour the remaining milk into a bowl. Add the remaining cornflakes to a plate.
6. Dip each "drumstick" into the milk, then coat with the cornflakes.
7. Spray non-stick spray on baking pan and then bake drumsticks for about 30 minutes.

 


Tuesday
Jan312012

Wednesday Wars 

We would like to introduce one of our most dedicated members, Margaret who hosted our 2nd January book - The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt.

Margeret S.

A little tidbit about Margaret:  Margaret grew up in St. Louis, MO and makes this St. Louis staple called Gooey Butter Cake which is pretty pretty amazing.  She met her dear husband while on the train to work in Washington DC and liked him so much she moved to NYC and married him :)  They have an adorable boxer named Rome, who lives quite the good life with them - we all would be jealous of him.  When Margaret isn't busy coming up with new skits for her annual family talent show, she spends her time at the local beer garden in town or eating at Johnny Pepperoni's 3 nights a week.  Margaret has a great passion for wine, so much so that she changed her careers and is following this passion into a career in the wine industry.  We are lucky enough to soon introduce a new feature to our book hostess blog next month with Margaret as one of our premiere wine connoisseurs (we will get to that feature soon and we're so EXCITED about it).   

Margaret's motto in life: "Treat others as you would want to be treated."

Why did you choose our book club?

When I moved to NYC to follow my husband, I really didn’t know many people. I had met people of course, but I wanted to find a group of friends that shared the same interests as me. I had been a part of other book clubs in other cities, so I thought that would be the best place to start. Then when I searched for book clubs in Hoboken this one came up. I loved the creativity with choosing a dish to go with the theme of the book along with everyone bringing a bottle of wine, combing my love of food and wine. During my first meetup, the discussion was great and I laughed a lot, something that has continued ever since and even gotten better as we have all come to know each other.

What have been your favorite books thus far?

The Help, Cutting for Stone, Water for Elephants, Moloka’i, The Wednesday Wars, The Glass Castle, and Sarah’s Key

And now onto The Wednesday Wars

"Gary D. Schmidt offers an unforgettable antihero in THE WEDNESDAY WARS—a wonderfully witty and compelling novel about a teenage boy’s mishaps and adventures over the course of the 1967–68 school year.

Meet Holling Hoodhood, a seventh-grader at Camillo Junior High, who must spend Wednesday afternoons with his teacher, Mrs. Baker, while the rest of the class has religious instruction. Mrs. Baker doesn’t like Holling—he’s sure of it. Why else would she make him read the plays of William Shakespeare outside class? But everyone has bigger things to worry about, like Vietnam. His father wants Holling and his sister to be on their best behavior: the success of his business depends on it. But how can Holling stay out of trouble when he has so much to contend with? A bully demanding cream puffs; angry rats; and a baseball hero signing autographs the very same night Holling has to appear in a play in yellow tights! As fate sneaks up on him again and again, Holling finds Motivation—the Big M—in the most unexpected places and musters up the courage to embrace his destiny, in spite of himself."

Why did you choose this book?

To be quite honest, my mother suggested this to me and she has an excellent track record with book recommendations. What intrigued me most was that it is actually written for young adults, and with the success of the Harry Potter and Hunger Games series (which I loved), I was open to the idea of trying yet another.

What did you like about the book?

I am not sure where to start since there were so many characters, main events, and side story lines that really tugged at your heart. The fact that Gary Schmidt was able to write a story from the perspective of a boy in 7th grade that somehow I could connect with is amazing. Plus it touched on so many themes if you want to compare such an influential era such as the 60’s with Vietnam and the assassinations of MLK and the Kennedys to what kids face today.

The developing relationship between Holling and Mrs. Baker is the center of the story as she became not just a teacher, but a mentor, coach, mother, and friend to him. As the story unfolds, you also realize how Holling is just as important to her as she had to face hardships that many adults had to face during this time as brothers and husbands were drafted to Vietnam.

Chalk-covered cream puffs, rogue rats, Shakespeare plays and a boy in yellow tights, and baseball games are just some of the stories mixed with moments of comedy and seriousness that literally left you laughing and crying throughout the book.

What didn't you like about the book?

I can’t think of a thing that I didn’t like about the book other than a couple of the characters. Since I don’t think that you are actually supposed to like them, I can’t say that this is a criticism.


Would you recommend this book, to what type of reader, and why (discussion themes))?

I would definitely recommend this book to others of all ages. Popular discussion themes were family dynamics in the 1960’s versus 2012, bullying, teachers vs. educators, and the education system, once again in the 1960’s versus today.

The story was very touching and the author did a fantastic job at character development. You fell in love with Holling, Mrs. Baker, and so many other characters that when the book ended you couldn’t help but think that it ended too soon.

What cuisine theme did you select for your book club and why?

Since the book took place during the 1960’s, I thought it would be fun for a throwback theme and have dishes made popular during that time frame. It was great to hear how people used recipes from their mothers and grandmothers which added an extra element to the food…that it was an opportunity to talk with previous generations about what some of their favorite dishes were.

What special things did you add to make the event more interesting?

I attempted to make Manhattans (a popular cocktail from that era) to offer in addition to wine. It is a pretty strong drink so there were only a few takers.

Can you share your favorite dish from the evening?

Everything was amazing and I would honestly say it was one of the best catered groups I have been to. But…if I had to choose a favorite it would be a toss up between Sho’s stuffed mushrooms and Lauren’s spicy dip. I must have gone back for more about 10 times.


OUR BOOK CLUB MENU:  Cheese Fondue, Stuffed Mushrooms, Tuna-stuffed Deviled Eggs, Broccoli Casserole, Swedish Meatballs, Corn-flake crusted Turkey "drumsticks", Jello Mold, Mashed Potatoes / Sauteed Spinach, Spicy Buffalo Dip, Macaroni & Cheese Balls, Red Velvet Cupcakes

FINAL BOOK GRADE:  A-