Monday, March 26, 2012

Book Nook - Outlander

Outlander, written by Diana Gabaldon:

Can we talk for a moment about first impressions of a book?  How does it find its way to us?  Sometimes, it's recommended by a friend.  Or given to us as a gift.  Maybe it has interesting cover art that beckons us to pick it up.  And once it's in our hands, is it a lengthy book?  How is the story described on the back cover?  Who does the author dedicate the book to?  All sorts of things can affect our first impression of a book, before we even read the first word.

My impression of Outlander by Diana Gabaldon was colored by the fact that it was always popping up as a recommended book whenever I searched something on Amazon.  And then the fact that is is so lengthy (I read mine on CD, all 28 of them, or 32.5 hours - over 600 pages in book format).  There is an Outlander group on Ravelry.  There are tons of comments about the book on Amazon.  I had to wait for months to get it from the library, and couldn't renew it because there was a line behind me - even though the book was originally published 20 years ago.  So, all that said, I thought to myself:  this book is going to be epic.

And after my investment of 32.5 hours, I can say that I wouldn't go so far to say that the book is epic.  I'm not even sure I'd classify it as a novel.  I once read an interview with Stephenie Meyer, creator of the Twilight series.  She was speaking in response to some of the flack about her books, and the quality (or  accused lack of) her writing style.  She said that she views herself as a storyteller, not a novelist.  And I'd say the same is true with Outlander: it's not a novel, but a long, meandering, and (overall, pretty good) story.

Part of this "story" vs. "novel" really stems from the perspective: it is written in the 1st person narrative, and told to us by Claire Randall (more on this idea in a moment).  The year is 1945, and Claire and her husband are enjoying a second honeymoon in Scotland.  Claire was a combat nurse in the war, and her husband Frank fought in the war, although Claire isn't exactly sure what his role was.  Frank is particularly interested in genealogy, and does a lot of research on his great-great grandfather Captain Jonathan "Black Jack" Randall, who was stationed in Scotland for a time 200 years prior.  While Frank busies himself with interviewing locals and pulling out dusty books, Claire wanders around with an interest in the local flora, and explores an ancient henge (think Stonehenge).  She hears screaming through the stones, and when she touches one of the stones, she is transported to the year 1743.

Sounds like an interesting premise for a book, yes?  I thought so, and began reading with high expectations (and that epic word in mind).  While I really enjoyed the story, I feel particularly critical of the author's execution, but I'm not certain why.  Maybe part of it is the 32.5 hours of my life spent with this book.  But I really think a bigger part of it is that it feels like a missed opportunity.  To explain, the author does little to play up the biggest "hook" - the time travel aspect of the story.  Once Claire is there, and realizes what has happened, she pretty much figures she's there for good and doesn't dwell on the ifs, hows & whys much, but gets right down to the business of adjusting to her new life in a new time.  When she is asked by a redcoat (who, coincidentally, is the first person she meets in this new world and he just happens to be Captain Jonathan Randall) who she is and why she is out in the middle of nowhere without any companion (a woman traveling by herself in those days would have been pretty unheard of) she lies, responding that she and her husband were traveling together, but they were attacked and now she is a widow.  Then she reflects that she really must be a widow, for Frank is not alive in her current time and place.  And then she doesn't think about Frank again for, oh I don't know, like 30 chapters.

This example demonstrates one thing that really gets to me about this book: Claire (our 1st person narrator) doesn't think (or act, for that matter) like a normal person would, most of the time.  I would be thinking about my husband, my experience traveling through time, I'd be thinking my husband must be looking for me, etc.  And to be fair, Claire does this to an extent, but not in a convincing way.  When Claire is given an option for an arranged marriage in order to get out of a sticky situation, she doesn't really think of Frank at all.  Her response to the situation is but I don't want to get married or this is just absurd.  Since the reader is trapped inside Claire's narrative, we'd be privy to all her thoughts, yet her thoughts just don't seem to match up what most people would be thinking in the same circumstances.

Not only are Claire's thoughts a little out of whack, but her actions are too.  Personally, if I were flung into 1743, I would do my best to be as inconspicuous as possible.  Claire speaks her tongue to anyone, especially those in authority.  Once, she remarked to the leader of the Clan Mackenzie that she knew he did not father his child (being in the medical field, she figured out what disease he had & knew that he was not able to have children)....she told this to a man who has suspected her as a spy since she arrived at his castle.  Would you put further suspicion on yourself by commenting on something like that?  She also goes around cursing like a sailor, drawing yet more attention to herself because women in this time just don't do that.  Claire does a pretty lousy job blending in - I'm sure the author wanted to show a "strong character" but I was just shaking my head at Claire's lack of sense.

In addition to shaking my head throughout the story, I also found myself blushing through most of it.  I didn't realize that it was so heavy on the romance factor.  So, I mentioned that Claire was set up in an arranged marriage.  Poor Claire, forced to marry the one character who was kind to her, charming, gallant & handsome - Jamie Fraser, an outlaw for a crime he didn't commit.  Claire and Jamie get along, um - very well and spend a great deal of time getting along (and thanks to that 1st person narrative, we hear all the details).  If you like romances, this book is right up your alley.  Me, I don't mind some romance in my books, but after a while, it got a little ridiculous.

Alright, I'm almost done with the rant (did I mention I spent 32.5 hours of my life on this book?  I did?  Oh, sorry) & then I promise I'll tell you what I liked about it!  One of the things that got under my skin was that everything always works out for Claire.  After a while, I figured this out, so when the author put Claire in a perilous situation, there was absolutely no suspense to it.  There are so many situations of near-rape in this book, that whenever one came up, I knew the author would get Claire out of harm's way.  (One character - not Claire-  is raped in the book, and we learn the details of it through a re-telling of the event.  Just warning you - no detail is spared.)

And based on what I've written here, it sounds like the problems center around Claire's character, but sadly, it's throughout the book.  There are dialogue issues (Jamie tells an incredibly personal story to a group of people at the castle, including young teenage girls.  I just didn't believe that he would actually do that) and character issues (Captain Randall is such a stereotypical bad guy and you could spot his "surprise" appearances a mile away).  I had a great deal of difficulty suspending my disbelief throughout the story.

Now, I know it sounds like I thought the book was rubbish and I should have just stopped reading it.  In truth, I did enjoy the story.  Diana Gabaldon did a wonderful job creating the setting throughout the book.  Her descriptions are well written, and I had great visual imagery throughout the story.  It was fun to romp along the Scottish countryside and villages in 1743.  I enjoyed the history aspect of the story, and how Claire used her 20th century knowledge of 1743 to her advantage.  While some of the characters and dialogue seemed fake, the setting seemed very true to what I imagine it would have been.

Being a "story"  instead of a "novel" I found there weren't a lot of "meaty" issues to contemplate after reading.  What we see & experience through Claire at that moment is really all that is happening in the story.  But there was one scene that Gabaldon included, and I was so happy she included it, because it's rather controversial and discussion-worthy.  And it tested Claire in ways she's never experienced.  I hate to give out spoilers, so I'll just say that Claire (stupidly) leaves a safe place where Jamie specifically told her to stay, in order to try to find the henge to try to get back to her own time (even though it's seven miles away, and she has no food, water, shelter, protection, transportation or apparent sense of self-preservation.  But I digress.).  Jamie bails her out (no surprise there) but what he does next was a surprise and I'm glad the author had the nerve, if you will, to include the scene in the story.  I don't want to reveal too much, but it's really a glimpse of the novel this story could have been.

And a couple of more praises: the reader on the book-on-CD, Davina Porter, is just fantastic.  I loved all the Scottish accents she uses.  She had her work cut out for her with all that, er, getting along, as mentioned previously, but Porter handled it with tact.  I definitely recommend the book on CD (although I would have liked the paper copy, too, just to look up some of the Scottish words or names that are used to see how they are spelled).  Also, I really liked the foreshadowing in the first few chapters.  Frank sees a ghost (Jamie's ghost) who is staring up at Claire's window one night.  And, Claire gets her palm read by a local one day, who gave her a very interesting fortune.  I liked these touches to the story, and they got me excited for things to come, which sadly, weren't as epic as I was hoping for. 


Friday, March 23, 2012

Magnolia photoshoot

Our Spring here in Central Ohio has been so warm, it's really more like summer.  We went from Winter (a mild one, at that) straight to Summer.  So it's no wonder the trees and flowers have been blooming like crazy.  When I noticed some gorgeous magnolia trees in bloom in our neighborhood, I knew I needed to get out there and capture some of those lovely blooms before they are spent.  I can't believe they are blooming one entire month earlier than they did last year!

The Bachsters and I visited one of our local Columbus Metro Parks, where I knew a beautiful old magnolia resides.  Last year, we discovered a wonderful magnolia tree at Greenlawn cemetery (see original post here).  I think magnolias are one of my favorite flowers (or in this case, blooms) to photograph.  The colors are soft and feminine and the blooms are so.....voluptuous is the only word that comes to mind.


DD made a "butterfly" with some of the petals she found on the ground:

I think the Bachsters and I have a new Springtime tradition.......magnolia, we'll see you again next Spring!


Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night.  
 ~Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke

Spring is officially here - I hope you had a beautiful 1st day of Spring!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Book Nook - How to Train Your Dragon

How to Train Your Dragon, written and illustrated by Cressida Cowell:

Before I forget to mention this, have you ever seen the Tournament of Books?  It's a March tradition (sort of like March Madness) - if you love books, definitely check it out.  There are lots of great discussions (from the judges and the comments section) and you might just find a real gem of a book to read.  Here is the website.

How to Train Your Dragon came to the Bach house by way of the movie, which is a very exciting adventure, yet is totally different from the book.  If you liked one, I would encourage you to check out the other, because they are both a lot of fun.

In the story, young Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third, son of the chief of the Hairy Hooligan Viking tribe, tells the tale of how he became a hero (an unlikely hero).  The story starts right off with adventure, with Hiccup and a group of young boys, going through an initiation of sorts to become full-fledged tribal members: they must enter a cave, situated on some very precarious cliffs, approach the dragon lair, and each boy must capture one of the sleeping beasts.  The idea is to then be able to train this dragon to do tasks for you, like catch fish.  Things go wrong for Hiccup, as they always do, but he manages to get a dragon and make it out alive.  The problem is, his dragon is so tiny and non-sinister, that he is named Toothless by one of boys in the group.  Hiccup has to work with what he's got, so he sets out on the task of training Toothless, which proves to be a big challenge, considering that dragons are inherently selfish and greedy.  But Hiccup has some tricks up his sleeve, including knowing a lot more about dragons than anyone else, and being able to speak dragonese.

As I mentioned, there is a lot of action in the book.  We had trouble putting it down after a chapter or two for the nightly bedtime story.  And the story hooks you right away with all that adventure.  But there's a lot more here to enjoy besides a great plot.  I loved the characters - Hiccup, Toothless, the boys in the initiation group, the adults......for being a rather short book, these characters really "pop."  Perhaps some of the bullying boys are a bit stereotypical, but really, in Hiccup's situation, I'm not surprised he got some jealous teasing.

The best part of the story is the humor.  Author Cressida Cowell pokes fun at everything and everyone, and has such a great sense of humor throughout the story.  Gobber The Belch, who has the task of  leading the boys to the cliff for their dragon-lair-experience, stole a book from the Meathead Public Library entitled How to Train Your Dragon, written by Professor Yobbish.  Cowell takes up five or six pages of illustrating Professor Yobbish's book, including the title page, publishers information, author dedication, due date stamps (May 16 866 AD is the last date stamped), etc.  All that for a book that consists of 17 words (including "The End").  In the back-cover praise for the book, The Hooligan Observer states, "This is a sensitive and well-researched book that contains all the information you need to turn your dragon into a pussy cat."  My 6-year-old thought this was hilarious, and made me read it over and over for two nights straight!

I'm not really sure the age that this book is geared towards, but I would guess 9 or 10 year old boys.  I say boys because there is only one female in the entire story (besides one of the dragons) - Hiccup's mother, Valhallarama - whose bra the boys use to bomb a dragon with feathers to make him sneeze.  And I think an older child will be able to handle some of the violence in the book (dragons trying to eat our hero, that sort of thing).  There are also a myriad of assorted poop & nose picking jokes.  So, yes, you can see that this is heavy juvenile boy territory!  But great fun nontheless, I think, for just about any kid, and their grown-up, who wants to enjoy a good laugh.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy Sant Pachrik's Day

Saint Patrick's Day is not a big holiday around the Bach house - yet this year, we've all been in the spirit of the holiday and have been doing some fun things to celebrate it.  Crafts, sweets, dressing in green (a little Bach elf pinched me this morning because I was not wearing any green) and other fun stuff - I thought I'd share a few pics from our day:

Wishing you a very Happy Sant Pachrik's Day!


Monday, March 12, 2012

Book Nook - A Homemade Life

A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes From My Kitchen Table, written by Molly Wizenberg:

One of my favorite book genres is the food memoir.  I love reading others' experiences in the kitchen, with various recipes, or food-related experiences in a new culture.  Maybe this is because I spend so much time in my own little kitchen, I like to know that I'm not alone.  Or maybe it's just because I'm always hungry!

In A Homemade Life, author Molly Wizenberg shares story after story about growing up with foodie parents, her late teens/early adulthood (with various time in Paris!) and how she met her future husband through her popular food blog, Orangette (warning: it's incredibly addicting).  Each story is followed by a recipe that somehow pertains to what we just read.  For example, in the chapter entitled "A Personal Chronology in Christmas Cookies" she tells us about all the cookies that her family makes, which ones are destined to be iconic, and how she tried the fruit-nut balls only after hunger and desperation from a long layover at the airport.  Then, the recipe for the aforementioned fruit nut balls is given, along with her mother's notorious espresso-walnut toffee.

Here's the thing about this book: Wizenberg's writing is funny, personable, down to earth, and she has a great way of looking at things and writing about them.  I couldn't get enough of her writing style, and apparently I'm not the only one, because she got a book deal (actually, two - there's another one in the works) and a husband because of her blog.  In one of the chapters, she includes an excerpt of a piece that she wrote in high school about making fresh ginger cake in the kitchen, alongside her parents who are making rice pudding and poached pears (at midnight).  And it's there, in her early writing, that you can see she is destined for her book deal, her uber-popular blog, and her adoring husband.....because her writing, even back then, is just so good!  And reading her posts or her chapters, you can't help but feel like you know her, that she is one of your friends - a really cool, witty friend who seems to know multitudes of interesting people and do all sorts of amazing things with her life, like study abroad or open a restaurant.  My life does feel a little boring compared to Ms. Wizenberg's!

So, about the recipes.  I was so incredibly excited about Wizenberg's stories, that I started post-it-noting practically the entire book.  And I've tried several of the recipes, but unfortunately, only a couple turned out to be fabulous, including one that I least expected.  First, I will tell you about the desserts that I tried (yes....dessert first!): French-style yogurt cake with lemon, winning hearts and minds cake & coeur a la creme.  The lemon cake was good, the lemon being light instead of overbearing.  I would definitely recommend the lemon syrup and icing....they add a lot.  And I liked this better on day two, after the syrup and icing had a chance to really work their magic on the cake, making the top moist and sweet.  Maybe I would make this again, and add blueberries on the side, or maybe raspberries.  Below is a pic of DD helping with the icing (the Bachsters were so excited about this cake, because I rarely make cakes outside of special occasions):

As for the winning our hearts and minds cake, also known as the author's wedding cake, I'm on the fence about it.  It's a dense chocolate cake - the recipe is basically just chocolate, eggs, butter and sugar - but it had a strange, egg-y texture.  Almost like chocolate quiche.  Or light fudge.  But it wasn't super sweet, which could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your tastes.  We served ours with vanilla ice cream, but I think her recommendation of whipped cream would be good too.  But I'm still not 100% sure about this recipe - one bite, I like it, the next bite, I don't.  The coeur a la creme, however, is wonderful!  This dessert is simply heavy cream whipped & sweetened with white chocolate & powdered sugar.  I didn't mess with the heart-shaped mold, opting for serving it in ramekins instead.  And I also didn't bother with the raspberry puree, but topped the dessert with fresh raspberries.  It's so creamy & white-chocolatey....I'm definitely making this one again, maybe around strawberry season.  It's divine with fresh berries.

The Ed Fretwell soup was ok - as the author mentions, it gets better with time.  I made mine with navy beans, so maybe if I had used the cannellini or marrow beans as she recommends, I would have liked it better.  I found that I had to salt it, and salt it, and then salt it again, to enjoy it.  It didn't seem very healthy with all that salt!  The other soup I tried was the butternut soup with pear, cider and vanilla bean.  This one, sadly, didn't work.  The soup ended up tasting too sweet, and the pears made it sort of gritty. 

And I also tried the frisee with ham, eggs and mustard vinaigrette, except I made the Bibb lettuce version, with toasted walnuts.  It's delicious, but I actually already have a recipe that is almost identical to this one, just with celery, so it's more traditional than original.

Now, for the recipe that topped them all, a recipe that I will surely make time and time again, one that completely, and happily, surprised me: cream-braised green cabbage!  It's soooo delicious - and simple: cabbage, cream, butter & a little lemon juice.  I could have eaten the whole thing by myself.  Giving it time to cook down, where the cream is almost cheesy, it the key to this recipe.  If you make any recipes from this book, make sure you start with this one - it's a keeper!  Cabbage....who would have thought?

While the recipes were very hit-or-miss, there are more recipes in the book that I would be willing to try.  And I would like to read the book again, too.  There are so many funny & poignant stories, along with delicious-sounding recipes, that this book truly leaves you hungry for more.


PS - Incidentally, I got my recipe for the awesome peppermint bark (see original post here) from the Orangette site, way before I found her book.  If you've never tried it, you must - especially if you like peppermint!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Maine Morning Mitts

I've recently finished another knitted project, and this one couldn't have come at a better time: Maine Morning Mitts, to keep my ever-chilly hands warm.  The pattern is from The Knitter's Book of Yarn by Clara Parkes, but she also offers the pattern for free on her website, knitters review

I've never knit gloves or mittens or mitts before, so I was looking for a really easy project.  And this was a great one, with very clear and easy instructions.  When the first mitt was complete, I could wear it while I worked on the second one:

The funny thing is, when I started the second mitt, I ended up going around in circles the opposite way that I worked the first mitt (on the second mitt I went clockwise).  And on the first mitt, my knitting ended up being inside out (it took me a while to figure out why my mitt looked so different from the pictures on Ravelry).  I'm still not sure how I got turned around, but no matter.  It ended up working all the same!

The yarn is from a farm local to my parents, Alpacas of Stewart Heritage Farm - it was a holiday gift from them.  I'm guessing it's baby alpaca, because it is so incredible soft, and very warm.  My hands are very happy to have these mitts, and I wear them while knitting, reading, blogging....even sleeping, sometimes!

For those on Ravelry, here are my project notes.


Monday, March 5, 2012

Book Nook - French Women Don't Get Fat

French Women Don't Get Fat, written by Mireille Guiliano:

As I write this post, I've just finished off a very generous portion of a dense, fudgy chocolate cake, with a scoop of ice cream on the side.  So, I wouldn't say that I'm particularly concerned about my body size (although I should be thinking about it....swimming-suit-season is just around the corner).  No, in the case of this book, I'm more interested in the French culture: how do the French eat, what do they eat, how do they shop for their food, etc.  I'm a true Francophile and consider France to be my long-lost homeland, although I don't have a drop of French blood in me, alas.

In the book, our author demystifies the French and their cuisine.  The French blessing for being svelte basically comes down to this: a system of checks and balances.  If a French woman has a full course dinner (usually served at lunchtime), complete with wine (or champagne) and dessert, then she will scale back her supper and maybe just have a moderate bowl of soup and a piece of bread.  Guiliano tells us that throughout the day, every day, French women use their minds over their stomachs.

I can buy into this to a certain degree: up until dessert.  The author tells us that every French woman knows that the first three bites of dessert are the most satisfying, and after that the taste buds are too used to the taste and texture.  She tells a story of how she takes her three bites and then sends the rest of her dessert back with the server (when at a restaurant, of course).  I'll tell you, I could never do that!  But, I could probably work the checks and balances in elsewhere, maybe denying myself dessert for the week, and then fully enjoying my one dessert on the weekend.  I guess you have to do what works best for you, as long as you are being mindful of what you eat and that everything balances out in the end.

One thing to consider is Mireille Guiliano's job: she is the CEO Clicquot, Inc. - a champagne maker.  So, as she explains, she is constantly dining out with clients, enjoying fabulous meals and champagne constantly.  Oh, the life!  But by limiting herself to tiny amounts of alcohol or dessert, she is able to stay thin and healthy (and sober on the job)!

I really enjoyed the book's look into French women's lifestyle.  Most French women dislike formal exercise regiments, but incorporate physical activity into their daily lives - things like taking the stairs or going for a stroll after lunch.  I also loved hearing about how the French shop for their food: little shopping trips, just to get enough for the next couple of days.  And you will not pick out your own produce, but the grocer will do it for you, after determining when you'll be eating it and in which manner you're planning on preparing it.  French women only enjoy wine or champagne with their meals, and most never drink hard alcohol.  I must admit, I was a little confused on the snacking issue: sometimes, our author leads us to believe that French women don't really snack, but other times we're told to pack up emergency snacks in our purses. 

In addition to lots of insight into French culture, there are recipes throughout the book for simple, healthy meals.  I tried the Apple Tart Without The Dough, which was yummy, but I prefer to cook my apples on the stovetop, in a pan, instead of cooking them in the oven.  The Bachsters really enjoyed this healthy dessert, too.  I also tried the Magical Breakfast Cream from her companion book, The French Women Don't Get Fat Cookbook.  It was alright, but I would cut the amount  of flaxseed oil if I were to make it again.

This is a great supplement to the French Women Don't Get Fat book, with lots of recipes and sound advice.  I think I'll try the Potage d'Hiver soup next, which is simply potatoes, carrots, leeks and parsley.  I gather from both of these books that French women still make a great amount of their own meals homemade, or dine at restaurants that use top ingredients - there are not a lot of food additives, preservatives or chemicals in their foods.  In fact, she states that the French government has limited the number of supermarkets allowed, thus preserving the farmer's market or neighborhood market that seems so integral to their culture.  Vive La France!

I desperately want to go back to France.  I want to shop for my next meal at Rue Cler, and fumble through my limited French vocabulary.  But until that day comes again, I can at least eat as if I were in France: allowing yourself reasonable amounts of decadent food and drink, as long as you are mindful of your consumption and keep the system of checks and balances in place.  In France, it seems,  you can have your gateau and eat it too!


Thursday, March 1, 2012

Book Nook - Arnie the Doughnut

It's a special Thursday edition of Book Nook!

The past several days have been pretty stinky in the Bach household, I must admit.  First, the Bachsters all have the stomach flu.  It's been terrible.  I will spare you the details.  Fortunately, they are slowly starting to get better, but it's hit them all hard.  Poor things!

And then, the drive in which all my pictures are stored on just went and died.  So, until we take the computer to the computer-fixing-store and beg and plead for them to help us, we are sans all my photos since 2008.  Yes, I backed up my pictures onto an external hard drive, but I know there are some that I missed recently.

So, what is one to do in these rough days?  Enjoy a doughnut, of course.....Arnie the Doughnut, written and illustrated by Laurie Keller:

As the beginning of the book tells us, Arnie turned out to be just the doughnut he wanted to become: round, with chocolate icing and colorful sprinkles.  In a flashback, we see Arnie being made in the "ringy-dingy-doughnut-making-thingy," his bath in a vat of boiling oil, a nice, relaxing time to dry off and then it's icing and sprinkles and a home in the case among the other doughnuts (next to a very aloof apple fritter).  Arnie wonders who will purchase him, as he waves goodbye to all the doughnuts as they leave the bakery in sacks, or by the dozen.

And then enters Mr. Bing, a nice fellow with a nice name, who points right at Arnie in his case.  Arnie is so excited that his big day has come, and he imagines the grand farewell the other doughnuts will give him.  It's a bumpy car ride in his bakery sack, and Arnie is grateful to the baker for so thoughtfully including a napkin to cushion his ride.  When Arnie and Mr. Bing arrive at home, Arnie relaxes onto the plate that Mr. Bing sets him on.  Arnie thinks it's rather cute that Mr. Bing picks him up and wants to hold him.  But then everything changes in Arnie's world once he realizes just how close Mr. Bing is to taking a bite out of him........

The Bachsters and I all thought this story was hilarious, and it's especially fun to read because there are tons of little pictures on the sides with funny comments.  Kids can see way in advance what's in store for Arnie, although he is completely clueless.  When he realizes what's to become of him (after a discreet phone call to the bakery), he is in shock, with severe loss of sprinkles and the feeling that someone punched a hole through his stomach (of course, he really has a hole through his stomach).  But then, Mr. Bing and Arnie come up with the most unexpected (and funny) solution to the problem.

Each page is full humor, both laugh-out-loud and subtle.  It really begs to be re-read, because there is so much here, that little readers might have missed some of it the first time.  I love that Laurie Keller's sense of humor even extends beyond the story, into the section about the author on the back cover: her author photo shows her covertly leaving a bakery, in dark sunglasses, with a box of doughnuts in hand.  Like I said, there's something to laugh at and giggle at throughout this whole book!

Which is just what we need on a yucky sick day (with lost pictures) in the Bach house.