Sunday, January 27, 2013

Meal Planning for the week

I am usually one who likes the task of making a list but then never following through.  However, meal planning is where I almost always follow through.  I may change a day up as the week goes, but the meal usually stays the same unless it turns into meal out.  The precious 30 minutes I have before the toddler meltdown WILL begin has made me a quicker/simpler week night cook.  I also like anything that can almost be done by the time I'm home from work.  Crock pot, I love you.

Here is the plan for this week...

Breakfasts - Applesauce Oatmeal Muffins that I will be making later today (along with fruit, yogurt or eggs and I am going to try to make overnight oats one night this week as well)

Lunches -  Salads.. I have cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, beans, lettuce, cheese, almonds, yellow peppers, fruits, chicken and dressing ready to go..

What is your favorite salad?  I need to change it up on the daily or I get bored.  Anyone ever use laughing cow cheese in a salad? It's tempting me..


Monday  - Veggie Stir fry and then chicken sausages (w/sun dried tomatoes and mozzarella) on the side

Tuesday - Crock pot Pot roast with mashed potatoes and gravy (carrots and onions will be cooked with the roast)

Wednesday - leftovers (another week night must have haha)

Thursday - Stuffed chicken breasts w/ asparagus and cheese for the fam while I am out to book club

Friday - Spaghetti & Meatballs w/ garlic bread, steamed green beans

Snacks will be - almonds, string cheese, apples, clementines, blueberries ..

What is on your menu this week?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

February Group Read - The Song Remains the Same

Allison Winn Scotch's book is our pick for February!

She’s a wife, a sister, a daughter…but she remembers nothing. Now she must ask herself who she is and choose which stories—and storytellers—to trust. One of only two survivors of a plane crash, Nell Slattery wakes up in the hospital with no memory of it, or who she is, or was. Now she must piece together both body and mind with the help of family and friends who have their own agendas. Although Nell can’t remember all that came before, something just doesn’t sit right with the versions of her history given by her mother, her sister, and her husband.

Desperate for a key to unlock her past, she filters through photos, art, music, and stories, hoping that something will jog her memory, and soon, in tiny bits and pieces, Nell starts remembering. . . .

From the New York Times bestselling author of Time of My Life comes a novel that asks: Who are we without our memories? How much of our future is defined by our past?

Discussion over the first half of the book will be on February 15th and the final discussion (whole book/last half) will be March 1st.

Hope you will be joining us!  We read her other book, The One That I Want, in August 2010.   

Friday, January 25, 2013

Those Who Save Us - Final Discussion

Happy Friday! I am so glad we read this! I really enjoyed it.  There were a few parts where they description of the weather/natural beauty had me skipping a bit but the plot was what wowed me.  Sadly, it ended before I was ready for it to end.  I wanted more details from Mr. Pfeffer!


For fifty years, Anna Schlemmer has refused to talk about her life in Germany during World War II. Her daughter, Trudy, was only three when she and her mother were liberated by an American soldier and went to live with him in Minnesota. Trudy's sole evidence of the past is an old photograph: a family portrait showing Anna, Trudy, and a Nazi officer, the Obersturmfuhrer of Buchenwald.
Driven by the guilt of her heritage, Trudy, now a professor of German history, begins investigating the past and finally unearths the dramatic and heartbreaking truth of her mother's life.
Combining a passionate, doomed love story, a vivid evocation of life during the war, and a poignant mother/daughter drama, Those Who Save Us is a profound exploration of what we endure to survive and the legacy of shame. (From the publisher.)

Discussion Questions:

1. How would you categorize Those Who Save Us: as a war story, a love story, a mother-daughter story? Why? How is it different from other novels that address the issues surrounding the Holocaust? What new perspectives does it offer?

I feel it fits into all of the above categories.  It's a war story because it discusses changes happening in Weimar during WWII, it's a love story because it covers Anna/Max, Anna/Jack (but can that be a love story?) and Anna and the Obersturmführer, which you could also question the validity of a love story happening.  Also, Trudy/Rainer.  And it is MOST definitely a mother-daughter story because of how Anna's war-life shaped the way she shared things/saw Trudy.

2. Discuss the novel's title, Those Who Save Us. In what ways do the characters save each other in the novel, and who saves whom? How does Blum play with the concept of being saved, being safe, being a savior?

Max saves Anna from loneliness, Anna saves Max from the Germans, Mathilde saves Anna from her father, Obersturmführer saves Anna and Trudy by providing food and some safety during the war, Jack saves Anna by bringing her to America....

3. What are Anna's sexual reactions to the Obersturmführer, and what effect do they have on how she sees herself? How do they shape Anna's relationship with Trudy? ... Do you see Anna's relationship with the Obersturmführer as primarily sexual, or are there places in the novel where their relationship transcends the sexual?

4. Do you see the Obersturmführer as a monster or as human? What are his vulnerabilities? To what degree is he a product of his time? If the Obersturmführer had been born in contemporary America, what might he be doing today?

I feel his moments of humanity were far and few inbetween.  His vulnerabilities are public persepective.  He wants to be adored and respected.  Others opinions are very important to him.  I also really wish we were given soem sort of a time frame on how long Max lived and when the Obersturmführer killed him.  Was it after he started visiting Anna and figured out who the father of Trudy was? Because I am certain he knew.

5. Toward the end of the novel, Anna thinks that the Obersturmführer "has blighted her ability to love." Do you think he has forever affected her ability to love Jack? To love Trudy? What are Anna's real feelings for the Obersturmführer, and what are his true feelings toward Anna and her daughter?

I don't think she could ever love another man.  I also think her ability to love her daughter in some ways was severely hindered by the Obersturmführer.  I think she was extremely traumatized by him and that what she thought might be love at times was more of a Stockhom syndrome.  When he was leaving town, I kind of got that he cared for her in a way that only he could, but he didn't truly love her.  If he did, he would have gotten papers for Trudy and put up a fight to get her to go with him.

6. Are Trudy's difficulties with her mother caused only by the secrets Anna keeps? If the past had not come between them, what would their relationship have been like? In what ways are Trudy and Anna typical of mothers and daughters everywhere? What parallels can you draw between their relationship and yours with your own mother?

7. Trudy has been familiar with shame all her life, both her own shame and Anna's. How does Trudy learn about shame from Anna? Does Trudy's shame stem solely from her suspicions about her Nazi parentage or from her German heritage as well? How has her shame manifested in her adult lifestyle?

8.. At the end of Those Who Save Us, the characters' fates are ambiguous; Trudy, for instance, is left in a "vacuum between one part of life ending and another coming to take its place." Why does Blum do this? What statement, if any, is she trying to make? Do you feel that the novel's end is a happy one for Trudy? For Anna? Why or why not? And what do you think has happened to the Obersturmführer?

Loved reading this and hope you did too! Can't wait to discuss again next month!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Explosive Eighteen

I am a sucker for this series.  When I finally gave in to my friend's insistence that I needed to try it, I almost didn't want to admit that I laughed as hard as I did.  And then I stayed up far too late in January of 2008 and caught myself up to the series.  Then around 2010 I wasn't as obsessed anymore and didn't have the patience to sit through the 500 plus waiting list at the library and so here I am, just reading 18.


Before Stephanie can even step foot off Flight 127 from Hawaii to Newark, she’s knee deep in trouble. Her dream vacation turned into a nightmare, she’s flying back to New Jersey solo, and someone who sounds like Sasquatch is snoring in row 22. Worse still, her seatmate never returned to the plane after the L.A. layover. Now he’s dead, in a garbage can, waiting for curbside pickup. His killer could be anyone. The FBI, the fake FBI, and guns-for-hire are all looking for a photograph the dead man was supposed to be carrying.

Only one other person has seen the missing photograph—Stephanie Plum. Now she’s the target, and she doesn’t intend to end up in a garbage can. With the help of an FBI sketch artist Stephanie re-creates the person in the photo. Unfortunately the first sketch turns out to look like Tom Cruise, and the second sketch like Ashton Kutcher. Until Stephanie can improve her descriptive skills, she’ll need to watch her back.

Over at the Bail Bonds Agency it’s business as usual—until the bonds bus serving as Vinnie’s temporary HQ goes up in smoke, Stephanie’s wheelman, Lula, falls in love with their “largest” FTA yet, lifetime arch nemesis Joyce Barnhardt moves into Stephanie’s apartment, and everyone wants to know what happened in Hawaii?!

Morelli, Trenton’s hottest cop, isn’t talking about Hawaii. Ranger, the man of mystery, isn’t talking about Hawaii. And all Stephanie is willing to say about her Hawaiian vacation is . . . It’s complicated.

My Thoughts:

It would have been nice to have been PRIVY to personal intimate details of her time in Hawaii (so SUE ME hahah).  I only laughed out loud twice this time around but there were still funny situations.  I suppose by 18, it takes a lot for me to laugh out loud and some of the silly lines that are always in the book aren't as cute at 18, but dude, it's mindless and you can read it in one day.  And there is Morelli and Ranger and Lula!

What is your guilty pleasure author/series?


Sunday, January 13, 2013

February Group Read Suggestions

Welp, December was a fail in that I forgot completely about picking a book for January's Group Read and had to do an SOS on Twitter.  Whoops.  So, I made a note to make sure I made the post this month.  I also meant to write a post about how it was nice to keep the group read going but then, it kind of got lost like the other post and then it was January and now it is almost half-way through January.  I kind of need buzzers going off to remind me of things constantly.

So to end my litany of excuses, here is what we have already read...

Those Who Save Us
We Are All Welcome Here
Gone Girl
Prisoner of Tehran
The Wednesday Sisters
Looking for Alaska
Cutting for Stone
One Summer
The Year of Fog
Winter Garden
The Violets of March
State of Wonder
The Invisible Bridge
The Postmistress
The Scent of Rain and Lightning
Still Missing
The Sandalwood Tree
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
Something Borrowed
The Blue Orchard
Sammy's Hill
In the Woods
Shanghai Girls
The Weight of Water
Water for Elephants
The Color Purple
The One That I Want
The Secret Garden
House Rules
American Wife
Firefly Lane
The Reader
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
The Awakening
Pride & Prejudice
I See You Everywhere

I would not mind revisiting an author we enjoyed before like, Jodi Picoult, Allison Winn Scotch, Lisa See, Chevy Stevens, Sarah Jio, Meg Waite Clayton, Gillian Flynn etc...

What would you like to read in February? Suggestions open until January 17th and then I will add a poll to the sidebar! 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Those Who Save Us - Discussion 1

Wow. I've read 27 chapters and wow.  I've been appalled, heartbroken, surprised and assured of the goodness of others in the face of evil.

This is a good book.  So much to discuss.

1. In the beginning of the novel, what is Anna's attitude towards the Jewish people of Weimar? Does her attitude change? If so, where does this transformation occur and why?

2. While she is hiding Max, Anna thinks she would "pay a high price to be plain, for her looks pose an ever-greater danger to both herself and Max." Do you see Anna's beauty as a blessing or a curse? What role does it play in shaping her destiny? How do her looks affect her relationships with Max, Gerhard, the Obersturmführer?

3. When living with Mathilde, Anna asks why Mathilde risks her life to feed the Buchenwald prisoners "when everyone else turn a blind eye." Why does Mathilde take this risk? Why does Anna? Do you think American women would react differently than German women in similar circumstances, and if so, why?

4. Anna's consistent response to Trudy's questions is, "The past is dead, and better it remain so." Why does Anna keep her silence? Is this fair to Trudy?

5. How did Rose-Grete's story affect you? Were you surprised?

6. What are your current thoughts on the book?

Sorry this post is so late in the day getting up! I wanted to make sure I was half-way through before I posted and I just got through chapter 27.  It's hard to put it down when you start reading, but man is it tough stuff to digest.

I just can't even begin to think what I would do in Anna's position.  One, I'd hope that I wouldn't have been stupid enough to think a 37 year old man was the guy for me at such a young age, but two, I'd hope to have her, and those in the Resistances, courage.  I also still cannot fathom people who claim concentration camps did not happen and that Jews are horrible people. I just can't.

“In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”   ― Anne Frank

Friday, January 4, 2013

Home Front

Kristin Hannah and I have a love hate relationship.  I either really like her book or I'm like gaaaaah, stereotypical crap I can't get into.  Unfortunately, this was in the gaaaaaaaaaah pile.  In theory, it has a great plot.  In reality, the family dynamic made me yell at the book, PARENT YOUR PRE-TEEN CHILD WHO IS BEING UTTERLY RIDICULOUS and the typical it's all about me, we will never work this minor disagreement out / our marriage is soooooo over/ I can't see your point of view, between Jolene and Michael turned me off.

Synopsis: Like many couples, Michael and Jolene Zarkades have to face the pressures of everyday life---children, careers, bills, chores---even as their twelve-year marriage is falling apart. Then an unexpected deployment sends Jolene deep into harm’s way and leaves defense attorney Michael at home, unaccustomed to being a single parent to their two girls. As a mother, it agonizes Jolene to leave her family, but as a solider she has always understood the true meaning of duty. In her letters home, she paints a rose-colored version of her life on the front lines, shielding her family from the truth. But war will change Jolene in ways that none of them could have foreseen. When tragedy strikes, Michael must face his darkest fear and fight a battle of his own---for everything that matters to his family.

At once a profoundly honest look at modern marriage and a dramatic exploration of the toll war takes on an ordinary American family, Home Front is a story of love, loss, heroism, honor, and ultimately, hope.

Basically, the Zarkades family are all very self-absorbed and the only one it's cute on is the 4 year old LuLu.  Michael changes completely from beginning to end and is actually the one I liked more so than Jolene.  I think Dr. Cornflower (ha ha, yes, that is his name) is my favorite character. 

Yes, the part when Jolene is in Iraq and away from the family shows a lot of emotion and reality to what soldiers and their families go through and I think probably contains the best parts written in the whole book.  However, the way Jolene and Michael deal with their relationship is just really absurd.  The way they let their 12 year old talk to them is absurd and ya know, another problem/story waiting to happen.

I was sad that I didn't like it.

Have you read it? Others by Hannah? What was your favorite?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Naptime is the New Happy Hour

I've had this book in my possession since Christmas 2009 or 2010 and I JUST read it.  Why did I not open this before? I have no idea, but I laughed my ass off reading it! It was hysterical and totally made fun of the kind of parenting that I also make fun of so that helped my enjoyment of it.  So, if you are into finding THE Best preschool for your child, being super perfect, don't like swearing, think the author really IS drunk all the time, or go to any of the extremes this isn't for you.  If you take great humor in watching people out do themselves to be AMAZZZZZING and have a sense of humor, please read it.

I honestly couldn't understand how people wouldn't like this unless they were part of the parenting styles that she made fun of,but apparently according to goodreads there are people out there who didn't find her funny or worried about her child or her liver.  To those people? RELAX and laugh!

Some gems I enjoyed...

"One evening I answered the phone to this: "You won't believe what Little Miss International is eating right now: a crispy baguette topped with red pepper hummus.  Hummus is her very favorite food! Isn't it amazing?" she crowed.  I didn't find it amazing.  What I did find amazing was that I still took this bizzotch's calls."

This cracks me up. I am very impressed with what my child eats and so are a few people, but they nor I should be.  My kid has always ate what we ate and we don't eat bland/kid like food.  If that's what she was given I'm sure it would be her fave too!

"Some of these classes don't even make sense.  If your one-year old is enrolled in Italian for Pre-Walkers, you'd better either be fluent in the language or planning to move to Florence.  Barring that, you'll have to send him off to some kind of toddler exchange program so he can practice with a native family while you entertain little Giuseppe, who zips around your living room on his moped and speed dials Papa John's delivery.  Otherwise, your kid will lose everything he's learned quicker than you can say ciao." 

Like anything in live and toddlerdom, balance is key.  Obviously, classes are more for moms than the kids but does your kid need a STRUCTURED activity every damn day of the week sometimes multiple times a day? Heck, no.  Don't feel guilty if your kid isn't even signed up for one.  I promise they will still have time find a hobby or sport they enjoy even if they didn't get started by 6 months old. ;)

"Bottom line: Wearing a diaper once in awhile is not a reason to get professional help; unless, of course, you're a forty-three-year-old astronaut traveling at the speed of light to kill your ex-lover's new girlfriend.  Then I'm afraid all bets are off."

...."Progressive in the context of describing a preschool is just a nicer name for crazy.  If a school calls itself progressive, just know that there will be a lot of  "children aren't allowed to look into mirrors" or "we only play with plain wooden toys," or "we believe wheat-based food items are the work of Satan" going on.  Oh, and you'll pay dearly for the privilege of having to send your child to a school with only organic raw veggies to eat in his plain brown lunch sack or face the wrath of the parents' board." 

Seriously.  BALANCE IS KEY hahaha.  My colleagues and I always talk about our the perfect curriculum would be a hodge podge of all kinds of curriculum but it sucks when you are pigeonholed into ONE SPECIFIC curriculum when you know some of the stuff is bologna! 

Anywho, this lady made me laugh hard and I would definitely recommend it to any parent or parent to be.  It's just so funny and you will find yourself nodding your head along with her.  Unless of course you take yourself so seriously that you have to hate her because you realize you need to get a clue.

Great book!

What's the last hilarious read you've read?