it'sadisaster

I picked up It’s a Disaster because I saw David Cross on the cover, and went in with low expectations (I mean, he was in all three Alvin and the Chipmunks movies). The cover on the dvd looks cheesy (a shame, since the theatrical poster is so fantastic) and the premise seemed a tad forced:

Four couples meet for Sunday brunch only to discover they are stuck in a house together as the world may be about to end.

But I was pleasantly surprised.  Julia Stiles, America Ferrera, David Cross, and Erinn Hayes are all fantastic in this dark comedy. Written and performed with the pacing of a play, It’s a Disaster is for fans of live theater and comedy shows.

What makes this movie stand out from other independent comedies is the fantastic build-up.  The first part of the film is paced slowly and leads the viewer to believe that this will be a standard examination of the relationships of people in their thirties.  As the story progresses, there are a smattering of twists and surprises (some much more surprising than others) that help build on the film’s twisted sense of humor.   Don’t be surprised if you’re left asking, how would I react if I knew I only had a few more hours to live?

Fans of The House of Yes, Igby Goes Down, and Election or anything featuring David Cross should give this movie a try.

slice and bake cookiesChristmas is coming – some planning ahead may help make it a little less chaotic!

For those short on time but long on cookie love, Slice & Bake Cookies comes to the rescue! Elinor Klivans shares 50 recipes that are quick to mix up, stash in the refrigerator or freezer, and have at the ready to slice and bake whenever a sweet craving strikes. From classics such as old-fashioned oatmeal raisin cookies and Linzer hearts to modern takes on savory cookies and crackers, the recipes collected here fit the bill for any impromptu get-together. With a rundown of ingredients and baking equipment – plus tips on decorating, serving, storing, and even shipping – freshly baked, warm-from-the-oven cookies will always be on hand. (description from publisher)

frankshowGrandpa Frank is just a grandpa and he doesn’t seem to like anything (except pickled onions), so how could his grandson possibly talk for a whole minute about him in front of his entire class?

In The Frank Show by David Mackintosh, Frank’s grandson is nervous about presenting about his curmudgeon grandfather during show and tell.  Especially since his friends have exciting people to introduce, like Fay’s cousin who “tells you if your bag is too heavy at the airport” and Hugo’s stepbrother who’s sports car has an eight-ball gearshift knob.

The Frank Show is the perfect example of a picture book that seems to have been written more for adults than for kids. I see the jokes flying right over younger kid’s heads, and not many children are going to spot Edgar Allen Poe and his raven in the illustrations. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t recommend this book — because it is fantastic.  Mackintosh’s illustrations are funny and child-like, filled with subtle references and jokes. This story is as much about the generational divide as it is about taking people for granted — both topics rarely explored in picture books. Grandpa Frank’s exaggerated stories and cranky advise are entertaining, and his grandson’s fears are completely understandable. Seriously, pick up this book. You won’t be disappointed, unless you’re Frank. I’m sure he’d say that they don’t make them like they used to or something as equally crotchety.

artful parentBring out your children’s creativity and imagination with more than 60 kids’ art activities from the creator of The Artful Parent blog.

Art making is a wonderfully fun way for young children to tap into their imagination, deepen their creativity, and explore new materials, all while strengthening their fine motor skills and developing self-confidence. The Artful Parent has all the tools and information you need to encourage your children’s creativity through art. You’ll learn how to set up an art space, how to talk to children about their artwork, how to choose the best art supplies (without breaking the bank), how to re-purpose and organize the piles of art created, and even how to use kids’ art activities to soften everyday transitions. The more than sixty engaging kids’ arts and crafts projects included here are accessible and developmentally appropriate for one- to eight-year-olds, and they’re a far cry from the cookie-cutter crafts many of us did in school as kids.

From bubble prints to musical chairs art, these kids art activities allow children to explore art materials, techniques, and ideas as they grow more creative every day. With activities for down times, action art for releasing energy, and recipes for making your own art materials, this book is your guide for raising an artful family. (description from publisher)

library readsThis probably won’t surprise you, but most librarians are voracious readers. We read books in the areas that we select, we read books that we think our patrons might be interested in, we read about books and publishing trends and we even read books for our own pleasure (if only we were allowed to read books at work…..!) Because we’re so immersed in books, we  can often be a great resource for finding your next great read. But when your favorite librarian isn’t available,  LibraryReads, a monthly list of librarian recommendations is the next best thing.

With contributions from librarians across the country, LibraryReads presents a curated list of ten about-to-be-published books that are worth reading. They cover all genres and various interests including literary fiction, romance, non-fiction, young adult, and mysteries and authors famous and unknown. This list bypasses the publisher hype and finds real gems, read and enjoyed by readers just like you – people who love to read. Be sure to check it out each month for more great titles!

french market cookbookCook from the farmer’s market with inspired vegetarian recipes – many of which are gluten-free and dairy-free – with a French twist, all highlighting seasonal produce.

Beloved Chocolate and Zucchini food blogger Clotilde Dusoulier is not a vegetarian. But she has, like many of us, chosen to eat less meat and fish, and is always looking for new ways to cook what looks best at the market. In The French Market Cookbook, she takes us through the seasons in 82 recipes and explores the love story between French cuisine and vegetables. Choosing what’s ripe and in season means Clotilde does not rely heavily on the cheese, cream, and pastas that often overpopulate vegetarian recipes. Instead she lets the bright flavors of the vegetables shine through: carrots are lightly spiced with star anise and vanilla in a soup made with almond milk; tomatoes are jazzed up by mustard in a gorgeous tart; winter squash stars in golden Corsican turnovers; and luscious peaches bake in a cardamom-scented custard. With 75 color photographs of the tempting dishes and the abundant markets of Paris, and with Clotilde’s charming stories of shopping and cooking in France, The French Market Cookbook is a transportive and beautiful cookbook for food lovers everywhere. (description from publisher)

geniusSteven T. Seagle and Teddy Kristiansen’s Genius tells the story of Ted Max, a genius weighed down by expectations and overwhelmed in his interpersonal relationships.  Once a promising quantum physicist, his life seems to have come to a halt.  He cannot think of any new ideas at work and is facing losing his job at a think tank.  His wife has been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness and he doesn’t know how to interact with his budding genius daughter and future frat boy son. And to make matters worse, his crotchety father-in-law won’t tell Ted the secret that Albert Einstein entrusted him with when he was “Bert’s” bodyguard. With no relief in sight, Ted begins to see himself unravel.

There has been a biographical graphic novel trend in publishing the last few years, but despite Albert Einstein’s strong presence in this graphic novel, this is not a biography.  Seagle uses Einstein as a memory or an absence in Ted’s life.  Kristiansen’s absorbing, lush pastel watercolor illustrations  pair well with Seagle’s sparce and straightforward text, and make Einstein’s presence known throughout the novel. There is a sense when you read the book that you’re able to see some of the beautiful inner thoughts of a quantum physicist who has a difficult time voicing his feelings.  I was much more touched by this book than I expected, and really felt Ted’s frustration with trying to live in the present when the future beckons and the past haunts.  Ted many not be an everyman, but I think that most of us struggle with similar worries and heartbreaks.

supper club bookThe supper club of the Upper Midwest is unmistakably authentic, as unique to the region as great lakes, cheese curds, and Curly Lambeau. The far-flung locations and creative decor give each supper club a unique ambience, but the owners, staff, and regulars give it its personality in The Supper Club Book.

Author Dave Hoekstra traveled through farmland, woods, towns, and cities in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan, and Illinois, eating at salad bars, drinking old fashioneds, and most of all talking to old-timers, local historians, and newcomers. He discovered that far from going the way of so many small establishments, supper clubs are evolving, combining contemporary ideas such as locavore menus and craft beer with traditional Friday night fish fries and Saturday prime rib. He brings to life the memorable people who have created and continue the tradition, from the blind dishwasher at Smoky’s to the Dick Watson Combo playing “Beyond the Sea” at the Lighthouse and the entrepreneurs and hipster crowd behind the Old Fashioned.

Corporations have defined mainstream eating habits in America, but characters define supper clubs, and this combination oral history and guide, with more than one hundred photographs, celebrates not only the past and present but the future of the supper club. (description from publisher)

last of the blue and grayIn the late 1950s, as America prepared for the Civil War centennial, two very old men lay dying. Albert Woolson, 109 years old, slipped in and out of a coma at a Duluth, Minnesota, hospital, his memories as a Yankee drummer boy slowly dimming. Walter Williams, at 117 blind and deaf and bedridden in his daughter’s home in Houston, Texas, no longer could tell of his time as a Confederate forage master. The last of the Blue and the Gray were drifting away; an era was ending.

Unknown to the public, centennial officials, and the White House too, one of these men was indeed a veteran of that horrible conflict and one according to the best evidence nothing but a fraud. One was a soldier. The other had been living a great, big lie. In The Last of the Blue and Gray, Richard Serrano weaves together American history and larger-than-life characters to create a tense and fascinating account. (description from publisher)

I require two things of a cookbook for me to check it out:

♥ There must be lots of photos.
♥ Those photos must be beautiful.

Checking out a cookbook is not the same thing as USING a cookbook. For me to actually use a cookbook, I require two additional things:

♥ Simple ingredients.
♥ Simple instructions.

Very, very few cookbooks meet these requirements (thus I am forced to make frozen pizza at least twice a week. Sigh. It is so difficult being a lazy cook with high cookbook standards). So when I discovered that Mary McCartney’s new cookbook, FOOD: Vegetarian Home Cooking, exceeded all of my requirements I just had to hug it. Yup, I hug that cookbook. On a regular basis. Because I love it. I really really love it.

For those of you who are not as obsessed with the McCartney family as I am, Mary McCartney is the daughter of Sir Paul McCartney and the late Linda McCartney, and thus grew up in arguably the most famous of vegetarian families. I was worried that Mary’s long history with vegetarian cooking (not particularly my favorite type of food) would result in complicated and unappealing fancy cuisine and thus dash my hopes that I would ever be able to comfortably tuck in if invited to sit at the McCartney supper table.

Upon opening the cookbook, I was first struck (and almost brought to tears) by Mary’s cozy photographs of lovely people and fresh food and how the photographs reminded me just enough of her mother, Linda, but were still very much the artist’s own. Wonderful and crisp.

Then I started looking at the recipes and I was like “HEY I CAN MAKE THESE!” I made a cold Quinoa salad, a Quinoa and white bean soup, granola bars, zucchini pasta, a coconut-pineapple smoothie and all were easy and successful. My favorite recipe was the hummus and hot pepper jam sandwich – So simple, right?! The recipes are delicious and appealing to even a non-Veggie lover like me. Mary McCartney managed to not only make a beautiful and delicious cookbook, but also to make me feel like a confident, capable cook. And that is why FOOD gets a frequent hug from me. You should probably hug it, too.