Friday, January 7, 2011

Risotto Anyone? A Review...

This is the name of the island in Maine where this story takes place…Blue Crab Island. It is connected to Portland by a lovely bridge. This puts Holly…the main character… close to amazing stores and small artisanal shops and farmer’s markets. The island itself is only a mile or two long and perhaps three miles wide. The houses are quaint and cottagey…Maine colors abound…bright blues and yellows and lovely greens. You can walk to the beach. You can escape to Portland. You can find peace.

Enter Holly Macguire. She is broken hearted and believes she will never find the love of her life. She has lived everywhere…sort of following her heart. Her grandmother lives on Blue Crab Island. Her grandmother is Italian, makes amazing foods and teaches cooking classes. Holly has spent lots of time with her grandmother throughout her life so this is where she goes to heal her once again broken heart. Holly is there a few weeks when her grandmother just does not wake up one morning. Holly is left with her grandmother’s recipes; her grandmother’s house and her grandmother’s cat…none of these are taking well to Holly. Her grandmother also has a reputation for telling fortunes. So…Holly also inherits the three smooth stones that her grandmother used to do this.

Holly has some truly awful days on Blue Crab Island. She is not the cook her grandmother was. She spends all of her days trying to learn to cook her grandmother’s recipes in order to keep the house, have a career and stay on the island. Holly’s grandmother’s recipes always have something special in them…such as a sad wish or a happy moment or something that you are yearning for. Holly has heard these all of her life but never really was truly mindful of them until this time in her life. As Holly grows her grandmother’s words begin to have true meaning for her.

The evening of the first cooking class finally comes and Holly finds herself teaching a tween who hates her father’s girlfriend, a single woman trying to find love, a divorced dad trying to deal with his young daughter and an old friend who is so sad that she can’t even speak to anyone.

Through out the course of the book each issue is dealt with. We see friendships form and relationships get destroyed or blossom and grow. Of course this is all dealt with in a totally entertaining way by the author. Mean girls and mean women are everywhere. Relationships are fun and lively. My interest was keen and I read this book really quickly…it was that good.

My mother was Italian…so I loved all of the recipes and sayings and Italianesque things all throughout the story. I was so hungry for pasta during this book that I had to make pasta for dinner last night. You will also be hungry for fresh cheeses and great Italian breads and olive oils and wines and Italian Espresso. And…there are even recipes at the end. Yum…

Overall…I enjoyed this book…it was fun and interesting.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Radley's...A Review...

Where in the world do I start with this one? And before I start…this was not a YA book nor was it an intentionally humorous book but it was full of lots of sort of tongue in cheek humor. It was sort of a serious book about the vampires who live among us…or rather in the case of The Radley’s…they live in Bishopthorpe... which is in England. Peter and Helen Radley appear to be quite normal…Peter is the village doctor and Helen belongs to a book club and keeps her house lovely and full of food (MEAT) and raises her son Rowan and her daughter Clara. And Helen paints apple trees with apples…over and over and over again.

Rowan doesn’t get why he has to wear a 60 sun block and Clara doesn’t get why being a vegetarian is so appalling to her parents…until…hmm…I will get to that in a moment. The Radley’s…Peter and Helen are abstainers. They follow an Abstainers Handbook and have not tasted blood for years…but they do eat a lot of meat…deli meat.

Clara is at a party with her friend Eve…she and Rowan are in high school and Clara is sort of nondescript…in other words…she is not a hottie. While at the party…Clara is sort of attacked by a classmate and …let’s just say that Clara will not be a vegetarian anymore.

Thus begins the unraveling of The Radley’s and it is fascinating to watch. Clara and Rowan are both shocked to realize what their parents have been hiding from them for all of their lives…

Then…due to Clara’s mishap with that classmate... Uncle Will is called to town to help them solve their dilemma. He can “bloodmind” people into doing his will and this is what Helen needs him to do to the police to get Clara out of trouble. Uncle Will is an old fashioned sort of vampire with tons of bottles of blood in his camper and a penchant for neck biting both vampires and unbloods. (non vampires )

Clara and Rowan sip some blood and become healthier and more beautiful and stronger. Clara is afraid that Rowan will not be able to stop himself from becoming the kind of vampire that Uncle Will is…this discussion occurs as they are walking to school and Rowan is contemplating asking out Eve, a classmate. He has a bottle of vampire blood in his backpack to
give him courage. I love his response to his sister… which is…We are middleclass and we live in England...repression runs in our veins.

However…it sort of doesn’t. There is actually a very cool surprise ending in this very clever book.
I can’t compare it to anything. It is fresh and new and funny…not out loud funny but rather sort of tongue in cheek funny. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Oh...and everyone in The Radleys has a story.  Peter and Helen are having marital issues, Rowan is being bullyied...but that is taken care of rather nicely...Clara is in trouble with the police...Uncle Will is totally messed up...and sort of all comes together in this amazing way.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New Year's Eve...A Quiet Romantic Dinner For Two...

Sometimes my husband and I will ponder over the road that eventually landed us in the small Pennsylvania town that is now our home.  We have lived in larger more metropolitan cities where it often seemed as though there was a ton of stuff to do...more exciting and much more fun.

But we have learned to love where we are and to appreciate its nearness to Baltimore and Philadelphia and New York...close to beaches, too.
And we have learned to love its lovely yet amazing restaurants.

For the last few years we have had New Year's Eve dinner at one of our most favorite places...The Orchard.
It is owned and lovingly run by Chef Gary Trevisani...a gentle and amazing chef.  Chef Trevisani makes the most beautiful and delicious food ever.  There is not a doubt in our minds about that.  His food is delicate to look at...each presentation is totally delightful.  And each bite is such a total "to die for" moment that you literally don't want dinner to end.  That is not quite true, actually, I almost forgot about Chef Trevisani's dessert presentations. They are the ultimate end to a wonderful dinner.  We have attended a wine dinner at The Orchard that was quite fantastic.  Chef Travisani brought in a vineyard owner from a small town in Italy.  This wine maker was using vines that his grandfather had planted.  His wines were totally organic and fabulous and Chef Trevisani planned an entire course filled dinner around these various wines.  It was a wonderful experience.  I know Chef Trevisani is planning more events similar to this one and we can't wait to attend.  We learned this from chatting with Chef Trevisani on New Year's Eve.  In spite of being incredibly busy he takes time to visit with each of his diners and ask us how we are.  He even sent me home with a bag of cookies!!!
I can't believe I almost forgot to say that The Orchard is a BYOB...lots of restaurants here are.  So you can bring in your own martinis if you wish and a great bottle of wine.  We love this aspect of the restaurant, too.  Most of our friends ( and us, too ) acquire great wine tote our bottles to our restaurants in. 
If you are ever in our should not miss dining at The Orchard.  I am making a reservation for two for this Friday night!!!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Going Bananas...In A Good Way!!!

I think I throw out about a million bananas a year.  If I don't throw them out right away...I freeze them for smoothies and then when I don't have room in the freezer for something else...I throw them out anyway.  There is almost nothing I can do with an old banana.  Birds don't eat them.  They are not pretty to look at.  And yet they sit on my counter in a pretty bowl and just sort of die there.  I really only like to eat a firm banana.  And I really only like to eat a small banana.  And also...never ever in my entire life have I ever bought just the right banana.  Monday morning found me staring at about 6 very brown looking bananas.  And it did not help to have my husband tell me that he ate one and it tasted just fine.  Ick!!!  Double ick!!! conquered my banana dilemma.  I made a yummy delicious looking banana easy recipe from allrecipes.

However...there are two of us and this cake looks huge...what am I going to do with all of this banana cake?

Monday, January 3, 2011

I Love Setting Goals For Other People...Especially My Husband.

This goal is short and sweet and simple...he will read at least one book a month or else!!!  I am referring to my husband...I will drag us up to bed early and literally prop him up in bed with his Kindle...I will nag him relentlessly until he finally finishes The Kitchen House and begins reading The Hunger Games...I will make sure his Kindle is charged at all times.  I want him to complete 12 books in 2011...that is a book a month...don't you think this is a reachable goal?  He loves to read...but always has an excuse...too tired, sports, work out...I will strap his Kindle to him if necessary,  darn it!!!  I will make him an obsessive reader...I will!!!  I will set a timer and force him to read for at least 20 minutes a day.  There is so much for him to will he ever catch up to me?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year!!!

To all of my friends and new friends and my amazing husband and my delightful LucyGrace...

I wish you all a wonderful and healthy and safe and  prosperous book filled 2011!!!