Monday, August 26, 2013

Book Nook - The Inn at Lake Devine

The Inn at Lake Devine by Elinor Lipman:

I read Elinor Lipman's Then She Found Me years and years ago, and even after all that time, I was able to see big similarities between that book and this one.  The style is definitely Elinor Lipman, the plot quietly moved along, there is a romance in both books, and strong mother figures.  Based on the two books of hers that I've read, I would say that these are simple, enjoyable stories, great for a quick, easy, lighthearted read.  Lipman achieves what her books set out to do: entertain us.

The Inn at Lake Devine begins with our protagonist, Natalie Marx, as a young girl struggling to understand the Inn at Lake Devine's refusal to allow her family to stay there because they are Jewish.  Natalie's parents brush off the snub, but Natalie persists, and in some very humorous ways, confronts the mean owner of the inn.  She eventually gets an opportunity to tag along with a friend on her family's vacation at the inn.  What she doesn't realize, is that the people she spends time with that summer will return back into her life years down the road, in most unexpected ways.

I found this book on the 50 great books that will change your life list that I seem to be working my way down.  Will this book change your life?  I doubt it.  It's light and frothy, nothing to sink your teeth into.  But it's a fun read, and the author has an enjoyable writing style.  Actually, if you've never read any of Lipman's books, I'd start with Then She Found Me - I think I liked that one a little better.  If you find yourself heading to the pool, the beach - or even an inn on a beautiful lake in Vermont - on these last few days of summer, these books would be a good companion.


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sunday Brunch - {herbed focaccia}

Earlier this year, I went a little crazy over the Wheat Belly Cookbook and tried tons of the recipes.  I found some good ones, but this herbed focaccia was my favorite by far.

There is no flour in the recipe (which goes the same for all the recipes in the book).  Almond flour and ground flaxseeds make up the bulk of the bread.  The addition of egg whites fluffs it up just a bit.  And the sun-dried tomatoes and my own contribution, chopped up fresh rosemary sprinkled on top, makes it irresistible.  Seriously, I am the only one who eats it whenever I make it - not because my family doesn't like it, but rather because I am usually standing at the counter, snarfing it all down myself.  My poor family, they can't even get in to get a nibble.

Good thing I was able to get a shot last time I made the recipe, before everybody (ahem) gobbled it up!


Friday, August 23, 2013

1st Place (x2)

I have such good news to share: 2 of our Bachsters won 1st place in the local Graeter's Ice Cream coloring contest!  I'm such a proud Mama!

When the manager called to tell us about DD's first place win for ages 6-9, she probably didn't see that her brother had won in his age group.  So, when we all went to Graeter's to collect her prize and enjoy a celebratory cone, we were all pleasantly surprised that we had not 1 but 2 winners!

Actually, we have 3 little winners, because our 8-year-old was incredibly supportive of her siblings (even though she must have been very upset that she didn't win).  She gave them hugs and told them great job and showed no signs of jealousy.  That's a commendable accomplishment in itself, and another proud Mama moment.

Our oldest DD did a drawing of zombies eating ice cream at the cemetery!  Our 8-year-old did hills and trees and a fancy person in the truck.  And Little Dude drew a tree with a bug jumping out of it beside the Graeter's truck.  Here are their entries:

And here are our little artists enjoying the fruits of their labor (or in this case, the cotton candy ice cream in a chocolate waffle cone with sprinkles of their labor: 

And yes, they can eat those gigantic cones, no problem.  They're Bachs after all.  And they do their Mama proud.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Book Nook - Living the Good Long Life

Living the Good Long Life - A Practical Guide to Caring for Yourself and Others by Martha Stewart:

I have to laugh at myself: when I saw this book prominently displayed on a shelf at the library, I thought it would be interesting.  I love Martha Stewart's books and magazines, and one about leading a healthy life seemed like something I would enjoy.  I didn't know it was a book geared towards aging adults!

Since I'm rapidly approaching 40, maybe it's a good thing (as Martha like to say) that I accidentally discovered the book.  Goodness knows I could use some help in the healthy-lifestyle-department (as I eat an ice cream sandwich and type this).  This book covers a lot of ground: exercise, diet, overall health, social issues, attitudes towards aging, taking care of an elderly loved one, sickness, and much more.  All of it in regards to aging.  And, because this is Martha, there are also chapters on your home and some favorite recipes.  Think of it as an overall aging manual, Martha-style.

Even though I'm not (quite yet) the target audience for this book, I found it really informative and I believe any adult at any age would appreciate all the great information and advice found here.  From a younger reader's perspective, it's good to stop and think about things in the long-term every now and then.  For older readers, as Martha reassures us, it's never too late to change your ways for the better.

I admire Martha for taking on this topic.  She is living proof that you can age gracefully and remain vibrant, active and healthy, while enjoying a new phase in one's life.  And she's willing to share all her tips, knowledge and secrets with us.

One of the things Martha shares is a quote by Edith Wharton that sums up all the themes in the book quite nicely: "One can remain alive long past the usual date of disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small ways."  It's a wonderful attitude, one that we can strive for whether we're 70, 100 or (almost) 40.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sunday Brunch - {warm corn custard with berries}

I love corn on the cob season.  There is nothing like buying fresh corn from a local farmer, cooking it up and eating it with lots of butter and salt.  I buy as much as I think we can eat in a couple of days, and we all gobble it up (except Little Dude - for some reason, he doesn't like corn on the cob.  I really can't figure out how we ended up with a child who does not like corn on the cob!).

Anyway, with all that corn on the cob, naturally, I can't help myself but to look around for corn recipes.  And I found this one for warm corn custard with berries from Deborah Madison's Local Flavors.  This is a great cookbook with recipes for all the goodies you might be bringing home from your local farmers corn (imagine that!).

The recipe is really just like making a homemade custard or pudding - cooking a sweet egg yolk and milk mixture slowly in a water bath.  So, it's a pretty easy recipe.  And the custard is not-so-sweet, which is really nice if that's your thing.  I loved that it was a little corny - it reminded me of corn bread.  DH commented that it was sweet and savory.  The berries and whipped cream on the top are a must.  I used blackberries, as recommended in the recipe, but I think blueberries would be perfect too.

Do you have any family members who just won't eat something that everyone else in the family can't get enough of?


Monday, August 12, 2013

Book Nook - Siblings Without Rivalry

Siblings Without Rivalry: How to help your children live together so you can live too by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish:

Little Dude's preschool teacher recommended this book to me, and she is the calmest, most patient person around children that I know, so I was eager to take any advice that she could offer me.  And I hadn't even asked for any advice, so maybe she just perceived that I could use some help (either that or Little Dude must have shared some stories of horror at the Bach House).  Either way, I'm happy she led me to this book because it teaches you to become that same kind of parent that I see in our preschool teacher's demeanor: patient, understanding, fair, sympathetic and capable.

The book explores many different sibling issues: fighting, siblings being pinned into specific roles, parents comparing siblings, to name a few.  The book explores communication between the siblings and how parents can enable their kids to resolve their problems themselves, instead of always running to Mom or Dad. 

It was a real eye opener to read some of this stuff!  I love how the authors ask you to put yourself in your child's shoes, and what kind of parental reaction might appease you or set you off even further.  The analogy of a husband (or wife) adding a new spouse to the relationship, to help demonstrate how your child might feel towards a sibling, was brilliant.  Once I could understand how a child might feel in situations, no matter how insignificant they appear to a grown up, I felt that I could better parent my own kiddos.  The real key is trying to sympathize with your child, making sure they know you are hearing their complaints and that you are there for them.  Then, put them to the task of trying to work things out with their sibling to see if they can come up with some sort of agreement.

I liked how the authors think ahead to all potential responses.  The book is written as if we are in a group session on parenting.  Other parents share their stories and the group and authors discuss them.  When the authors make a point on an issue, they make sure to examine the issue from all sides, and point out possible things that could go wrong with their advice - usually, this is done in the form of a parent coming up with a story that might challenge the idea.  I really loved that they authors made the effort to do this - in so many self-help books, you'll get advice and you might be thinking well, that won't work because of this or this - here, our authors address those doubts.

There is some discussion on how the parents in the group (and perhaps the parents reading the book) relate to their own siblings and what their childhood was like.  And how perhaps that affects our parenting today.  I wouldn't have expected this - this is a book about parents and their kids and helping them get along.  But it was surprisingly helpful and really brought some issues full-circle.

I'm definitely going to re-read this book and try the approach to sibling issues the authors recommend.  I was reading the book while we were at the pool recently, and a mom stopped me and asked me if it was any good, that she could use some help with siblings.  Another mom chimed in and said that she wished she had this kind of book when her kids were growing up.  I gave the book an enthusiastic recommendation to the pool moms - I think our preschool teacher would be thrilled about that.


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sunday Brunch - {caprese salad}

On a recent trip to the farmers market, I purchased a huge bunch of basil.  I made basil ice cream with it, but I also wanted to try a healthier recipe with it as well (I had a lot of basil).  Last summer, we went to a cookout where our hostess had made a wonderful caprese salad.  Thinking back to that dish, I set out to make something similar.

The recipe is so simple, you actually don't need a "recipe" for it: slice up some tomatoes, some fresh mozzarella cheese and some basil.  Top with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  That's it!  But, I did find a recipe online (here's the link) that looked great, so I followed it.  In this version, you cook down the balsamic vinegar a bit (since I decreased the amount of vinegar I used, I only cooked it for about 5 minutes).  But this step really made the vinegar thicker and more down-to-business.  I found that you really only need a little bit to make a big impact, so drizzle it on sparingly.

There's really something magical about caprese salad.  The simplicity of it, the freshness of it, the way the main components just sing when they're together.  For me, it epitomizes what good food is all about.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Ohio State Fair - 2013

A couple of weeks ago, DH & I took the Bachsters to the Ohio State Fair.  It was a very, very crowded Sunday, but the weather was absolutely perfect for it (perhaps that's why it was so crowded?).  We went to the fair last year, too - here's the post.

Our game plan was to ride the rides - and we knew where they all were, and which ones we wanted to ride.  We started with the Ferris wheel - here's the view:

The Bachsters each got a wrist band, so that they could ride all the rides they wanted.  They rode the swingy kid-sized helicopters, and went down the giant slide, and rode the caterpillar roller coaster, and the spinning swings:

We saw some interesting fair food:

But the absolute favorite (and probably the one thing the kids were most excited about): cotton candy:

The Bachsters got to pet a kangaroo and ride a pony:

As soon as DD saw the signs to win a hermit crab, that's all that she could talk about.  We told her that we would try to win one at the end of the fair, so that we wouldn't have to carry it around with us.  Turns out, each Bachster won one, so now we have 3 new little unexpected pets:

We'll see you again next year, fair!


Monday, August 5, 2013

Book Nook - Daily Rituals

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey:

I was interested in this book because I was hoping that it would reveal some secret that all artists know and abide by, a routine in which they can attribute their amazing success.  Perhaps every artist wakes up at 6:00am sharp.  Perhaps every artist has exactly 3 cups of coffee in the morning.  Perhaps every artist takes an afternoon nap.  Maybe if I found out the secret, I could join their ranks.

Sadly, there is no common theme among the writers, composers, painters, choreographers, playwrights, poets, philosophers and scientists profiled (there are 161 artists total). I wish "hard work" could be accounted for, but not all of them did that - some of them preferred to loaf about, putting in only an hour or two every day on their work.  Some of them only work sporadically, when inspiration calls.  Others follow a strict schedule and work whether they feel like it or not.

Even though a common theme can't be found, there's certainly a lot of inspiration here.  I especially enjoyed reading about artists who had to take care of household responsibilities &/or raising children while at the same time working on their creative endeavors, like Sylvia Plath.  Reading through the book sort of felt like picking through a box of buttons - picking each one up, examining it for a moment, then setting it down to look at another one.  Each button/artist is a new thing, a little different from the last one.  Many of the artists are well known, but some of them aren't - I enjoyed them all, regardless of whether I'm familiar with their work or not.

More inspiration can be found in the way some artists approach their work, not just the details of their routine.  I appreciated Joseph Heller's comment "I don't have a compulsion to write, and I never have.  I have a wish, an ambition to write, but it's not one that justifies the word 'drive.' "  I loved that most artists seemed very open about their work and their routines, like Heller or Philip Roth, who commented "writing isn't hard work, it's a nightmare."  John Updike kept a regular routine, which he felt "saves you from giving up."

No matter the schedule they follow, the help that they may (or may not) receive with their domestic duties or their ultimate success in their chosen path, I found it inspiring to read about creative people leading creative lives, and just how they manage to do so.  Notes Twyla Tharp, "when it all comes together, a creative life has the nourishing power we normally associate with food, love, and faith."


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Sunday Brunch - {buttermilk pancakes}

Last week, I hinted that I was going to change my Sunday posts around a bit.  I loved doing Ice Cream Sundays, and as much as I love making and eating ice cream, I felt ready to tackle other recipes & share with you some of my favorites.

So, welcome to "Sunday Brunch!"  Every Sunday, I'll share a favorite recipe & some pictures - maybe you'll want to try the recipe too or share a similar one.  That would be wonderful!  And while I'm calling it "brunch" it's not always going to be breakfast-y kinds of items.  And, it's not always going to be bright & early in the morning, although I will try......sometimes, it's going to to be more like Sunday "late night snack" (like today's post) - oh well!

So, let's chat about buttermilk pancakes, shall we?  This is our absolute favorite breakfast around here, always requested on special days like birthdays or holidays.  And they are so easy to make - I often make them on school mornings because they are so fast to prepare (and the smell of pancakes on the griddle is sure to get even the sleepiest sleepy head up and dressed in no time flat).  Once you make them a couple of times, you'll start to go through the motions with just a mere glance at the recipe.  I hope that one day I can make them from memory, like my mom used to do with her go-to pancake recipe when I was a kid. 

The recipe I use is from Martha Stewart (I get out the original version, from the February 1998 magazine when I make them.  I keep the magazine on my cookbook shelf.  And it's all stained and tattered from lots of use).  Follow the recipe exactly (don't over-mix) and you will have the best buttermilk pancakes'll never want to go out to eat for pancakes again, because no other pancakes will measure up.  Which is kind of a bummer because I love ordering pancakes whenever we go out for breakfast.  But, as Martha says, it's a good thing - now you can have them at home, whenever you want.  Even Sunday, late at night.