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RTB - When a friend says "Read This Book"

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Like you, avid readers, I've a pal-network that talks books during our regular chats, and when one of them says "I really liked this one," I take especial note. But when Jenny/Betsy/Laurie/Wendy etc. text me "READ THIS BOOK" that's a whole n'other level and I darn sure do.  

My book-recwork inspires me to read something I may or may not have chosen, and bonus -- my pal and I can then talk the book over, extending our chat/chardonnay time even MORE! Isn't it sort of nerve-wracking when you follow up on a recommendation: "How'd you like it?" It's a vulnerable feeling to have told someone you think something is great; maybe you loved it because you were rebounding off a rotten read, or because you read the book during a rare cozy quiet evening and that affected your opinion? It is a personal step to rave about a book, and sometimes my friends have found it gush-worthy also (usually they rave right away), other times there is silence for a few too many days and you have to follow up once you know they've started. "I liked it but I didn't love it as much as you did." EEK.

My dear friend Betsy started texting me regularly as she read "A Little Life" by Hanya Yanagihara in the summer of 2015. Usually she waits 'til she's finished before she recommends a book but this time I kept getting nudges like, "you've started it, right?" I had a wait-and-read attitude because of the wrenching cover art, what I knew of the content and the 700+ pages. Usually January is my month for a more mammoth read; I remember I read David McCullough's "John Adams" the January after 9/11 and it was the perfect time for an uplifting look at one of the brilliant, founding minds of America. But when Betsy finished and texted: READ THIS BOOK about "A Little Life" I did, even though it was summer. Like her I went all in for a week and Yanagihara's exquisite prose drew me, at times wincing, into an unforgettable story of four college friends. Of them, I will never forget Willem and Jude. Never. I was so immersed in their story that it felt like it was happening to me. I remember Betsy saying, "I can't get out of bed" she found it so affecting. I know it doesn't sound like something you want to race off and experience, but without Betsy's urgent "RTB" (our code for READ THIS BOOK, and I mean hurry), I would have missed one of the top two or three books I've ever read.

Well, friends - we have two events upcoming that will inspire you also to RTBs and GTBs (read and/or give these books...). It's that twinkle time of year for our Champagne and Sleighbells Book Recommendation party. That's when me and the PPB Readers "stand and gush" about their favorite new fiction and nonfiction. But this year we're adding a NEW SECOND recommendation event -- Paula will lead an evening of setting goals to make time for reading -- across your favorite genres, and maybe some new ones.  Paula will host a fun party December 3d at 7pm to share ideas and specific book titles to have an inspired 2019 reading year - this is perfect for you, yourself and you, or for members of book clubs looking to schedule your selections (remember you get 15% of your book club reads at PPB). Please RSVP to these events as seating is limited (630-765-7455).

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Friends, my current RTB is "Women in Sunlight" by Frances Mayes ... a novel of four women of a certain age range that takes place in Tuscany (Mayes wrote the delightful "Under the Tuscan Sun.") It's full of food and friendship and re-imagining the second, more independent and wide-open half of life. Really well written and immersive - you will feel like you have four new friends -- and I imagine it will be a movie (maybe casting Meryl, Sally, Blythe, Julia?). It's not fluff because these are strong, complicated women, but it's an easy read if that makes sense. Click here to order it and support PPB - you won't regret it!

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 SOLD OUT!

SOLD OUT!

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Open Doors

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Open Doors

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Happy November, friends! Wednesday night I stepped outside to photograph my spooky front door to send the Koropp kids because all live away this year for the first time. I was feeling nostalgic. Once I hit "SEND" though I realized I'd left the dumb door open and you can't see my pretty lit-up wreath! Alas, I was too lazy to go out and re-take the photo because I was already settled in by the fire with my book. Oh well, I'm pretty sure my youngest, freshman in college Tom, frowned down at my text for a fifteenth of a second and thought as he deleted it - "Mom, why?" Oh me, even if my kids weren't feeling pangs for Halloweens past, it was a perfect autumn day . Hope you enjoyed it too.

This morning I took a new look at the photo and saw that door as a message of transition. As many of you know by now, I'll be closing and then hopefully opening new "bookstore doors" someday soon. Somewhere. I was happy for the Price family to learn that their gorgeous building I've been nestled into since June, 2014 was sold to College Church so that the congregation can extend their thriving fellowship. However, that means me and my PPB peeps will most likely be packing up and moving. As I've mentioned to you before, our Hale Street Annex is a short-term lease so we are looking to consolidate into one store -- but where? It's both fun and daunting to imagine. Every morning I overstuff my arms with things from home for the stores -- apple pie bars to share or one more set of sparkle lights from the Koropp basement to polish a book-display -- and struggle to unlock the door with my "free" hand. (Sandy, will you EVER take TWO trips??). What will my new door look like?

Regarding our second store, to be honest, the construction on Hale Street has been impactful. In case you've not been by, here's a photo from the inside of my store yesterday morning. I hear (hooray) this phase will near completion in the soon-coming days so we will go back to our regular open 7 days ANNEX hours starting tomorrow. Still I am wary of a downtown Wheaton location only because the next years of work needed to make the streets as wide and welcoming as Front Street is now, are tough on an independent retailer. If you haven't seen it, here's a link to the long-term project map www.wheaton.il.us/DocumentCenter/View/6031/Downtown-Streetscape-Map--Project-Timeline?bidId=. Exciting and beautiful it will be, though!

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I'm taking a creative look at all my options and hey, if any of you know of some charming site with a lovely door just perfect for me and PPB, gosh, I'd love to hear! In the meantime, elves at both my stores are stringing miles of twinkle lights, carefully placing tiny Scrooge within our Dickens Village, positioning wreaths and Santas and sleighs, and displaying our most charming holiday reads just perfectly so. 

As ever, thanks for all your support, and yes, now is the perfect time to support PPB. It's true. So stop in and shop — for yourself or for all on your list. Of course we wrap for free, more on that in a few days … hint: it involves Emma and the class analyzing one's gender she is taking this fall. Never fear, I'll get you "woke on the wrap ish" (alert you to new viewpoints on the issue of gender and wrapping paper). Sigh.

  Thanks Ellen for steering me towards Ted Kooser's new poem collection. It was just the thing to settle into once the last Trick or Treaters had run off.

Thanks Ellen for steering me towards Ted Kooser's new poem collection. It was just the thing to settle into once the last Trick or Treaters had run off.

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Well, I've done it! 

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Well, I've done it! 

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Well, I've done it!  I spent about six days reading and cooking just as I wished — what a treat. Not much to get in my way except for ... er the dumb dogs! Maybe like some of you, it takes me a bit of a while to move from hustle-bustle everyday-ness into an engrossed state of mind. I've always thought of my concentration as a deep, water well and demands on my attention as a rope and a bucket. People never believe me but I'm actually introverted (with a heaping side of chatty). I'm most comfortable when my "bucket" can settle all the way down to the bottom of the concentration well and not get yanked up for this or that call upon my attention. Does that make sense?? Before children my mind was almost always at leisure to settle down deep in the well, but with the little ones came years and years of bucket yanking. Parents, I bet you can relate - we sort of get used to it and don't really come to expect or hope for much time in the deep-well state, do we? Now I'm without toddlers, but I have to really discipline myself to turn off my personal devices and control interruptions, especially with all the details of running two stores. I know you're nodding along with me here. But last week I did it (mostly) and read five delicious books. One clearly rose to the top of my heap and there's a close second -- come on in to the Wesley Street store or our Annex and find out what it is .... 

  Visit our Brownies in Tow Trucks Treat Stations at both stores for a morale boost during construction!

Visit our Brownies in Tow Trucks Treat Stations at both stores for a morale boost during construction!

Speaking of the Annex - boy have you seen the construction on Hale Street? It's moving right along and we hear Halloween-ish all will be clear. 'Til then we've decided to open on "weekends"; that is, after trucks and dust are cleared away on Thursdays and Fridays 4-8pm, Saturdays 11-7 and Sundays 1-5pm. (And by the way, if you're wondering - YES, now is areally good time to support your local businesses)!

Last - now we're a few weeks into the fall season, I bet your schedules are starting to hit their rhythm. Perfect timing because our book clubs, discussion groups and cooking demonstrations are too. Take a look and come over and gather with your friends at Prairie Path Books!

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Finding balance: reading/cooking just for me

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Finding balance: reading/cooking just for me

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Happy October friends. We brought my Emma to college and she started class Monday. As many of you know I could not would not have managed the opening of my second store without her and I miss my mini-me. She’s now immersed in college life on a beautiful campus - the best of times. 

The house is more quiet now (even with four dogs) and I’ve had some time to reflect. You know what’s weird about opening a bookstore when you are a lifelong reader? You can’t help but become a bit more purposeful with your reading. Because of my love for cookbooks and the convenient fact that I have a wee kitchen in my first store, I’ve been lucky to offer events stemming from my love of cookbooks and gathering folks. But even in that, often I am selecting recipes with my cookbook demonstrations in mind. It’s natural to synchronize my personal tastes with what I sell but sometimes I finish a fiction tale quickly because I know you all will love it or abandon a read earlier than I might because I can’t imagine it selling. That feels unbalanced to me sometimes - as if I’m too store-oriented. So, because like you I’m drawn towards balance when I've tilted one way or the other, for the next few days I’ve decided to read and cook completely without the bookstore in mind if I possibly can. 

Here is a picture of me, like Jo March, way too close to the fire, with a stack of books and a candle going and snuggly socks on my reader’s feet. I’m excited to spend uncomplicated rainy-day time with lovely books. I’ve asked my staff to handle things while I immerse - I’ll see you Tuesday, no doubt with lots of opinions and recommendations. 😉 

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We love being local!

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We love being local!

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You all cannot imagine how much we appreciate being surrounded by folks that truly love local. Around here, we think of it as "Every time you spend money, you're casting a vote for the kind of world you want." Many votes were cast Saturday at our Champagne & Maple Leaves Book Recommendation Party. A packed house listened and laughed as Jenny and Carrie and Jen and Paula and me gushed about the best new books for the season, and then, guess what??  The line at the register was so long that I felt the need to bring over cookies and applesauce cake from our cozy kitchen to break up their wait. You see what I mean?? Everyone was on board - each one of you in that line was voting for the kind of world you want. Us too, we want that world too ... 

so we decided to plan three holiday-themed events that are purely local:

  • THIS THURSDAY AND FRIDAY, September 27-28th at our Wesley Street store, KINFOLK Members will have a private peek at and purchase opportunity of our just-unpacked autumn and holiday hand-made goodies*. Of course we will provide snacks and bevs just for you, beloved KINFOLK, come back to the Reading Room for your private party. If you're not yet a member, sign up here and begin to enjoy PPB Members Only benefits; Kinfolk Membership.

  • On November 9th we are thrilled to host two very very local events - a craft show featuring our most talented most local crafters, and a tree-lighting to celebrate the life of Glen Ellyn's Donna Terbell.

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September is Saturday!

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September is Saturday!

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Thank heavens, if you ask me. How are you guys? I hope the summer hounds among you are at least open to the very appealing nature of autumn - I know the end of August is hard for you. But some of us yearn for our book + sofa + blanket routine. Working in the store I get every sort of opinion on the weather and it's a favorite topic of mine. For warm-weather lovers fall means making the most of lingering outdoor reading opportunities, at least 'til the time change darkens our midwestern world on November 4th. Today's cooler temperatures made me excited for the first real leaf-crunching 60 degree day and my first sweater of the season. It was a day like this Thursday when my family loaded into our car and dropped my youngest to college* so it's been a bittersweet week.

No matter what you wear over to Prairie Path Books, it's GO TIME again for our gatherings! We've taken the last 6-weeks to immerse ourselves in great reads we can't wait to tell you about (call today to sign up for the Champagne & Maple Leaves Book Rec Party on September 22), plus planning 9 smart and inspiring gatherings for your September days and evenings (click here to take a look). Many PPB events are free but for some we have fixed costs that need covering as you might imagine. Like for Movie Club -- those of you who've been know that our facilitator Lee Shoquist and his enthusiastic expertise are worth the fee (this autumn our focus will be Stephen King movies). For you cooking demonstration veterans you will note that there is now a $15 store credit required when you RSVP. We know that you love our home-cooking + how we share our love of food with candor and laughs but we also know that not everyone is in the market for the cookbooks Cathy and I show you. So sign up for our cooking demonstrations and for sure we'd love you to buy the cookbook we are crazy for, but you can also use your credit that day or another for any of our luscious books, gifts, toys and cards. See you soon!

*On the personal side - since many of you have been with me nearly 5 years -- yes I'm now a mama bird with an empty nest. It took we Koropps one trip to bring into Tom's dorm his rather monochromatic wardrobe and bedding and very small shoe collection. So that was refreshing after our first two daughters and their much more voluminous dorm download that included puffy mattress toppers, decorative pillows, wall art and extra storage drawers. We had to convince Tom to bring a pen - that's how low maintenance he is. But since Thursday I've been you know, coping with things like adjusting my weekly grocery shop way way down from 12 pounds of pasta, 4 gallons of milk + 6 cereal boxes, family-sized Cheez-Its (go ahead, judge me) and double pints of fragile fruit (which he ate in one toss back - it irritated me at the time but I miss it now). Like many before me I'm now dealing with text replies of "Mom, what?" after I send a frustrated-face emoji because he hasn't answered how the first day of class went. I mean geez - now that I can't trap him and mine information during the 90 seconds it took him to fill a mixing bowl with cereal and milk, I need some cooperation, right? 

Oh well, I'm so glad I have all of you to help me stay busy over the empty inbox/silent house/no sports games to be late for or terrifying sweat-damp laundry/sad-fridge shelves hump. I'm the worst momento mom ever, but I've found photos of his first-ish days of Kindergarten (look it's framed!) and college below so you can wonder/gape with me at how time flies. Gosh - sign up for some events so I can see you all soon! 

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Gatherings -- They're Back, Geez!

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Gatherings -- They're Back, Geez!

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The first thing a lot of folks notice when they come into The Annex is a lovely sign that reads GATHER - it’s the juicy cherry on top of our huge table of summer cookbooks and hospitality goodies. I've found that folks new to The Annex and PPB ooh and aah at the display -- and then want to buy the sign! Naturally I've forgotten where I bought it - or truly I'd tell. 

Folks who have been around PPB on Wesley for awhile are used to seeing GATHER signs and pillows all about because they know that since 2014 our motto has been “Prairie Path Books - Gatherings & Great Reads”. We called ourselves that because we knew bringing the community together would be one of the very best ways we’d spend our time. And I've been hearing from you veterans -- who've noticed that our PPB gatherings have been a little slow in the last month, as follows: "hey I get that you've opened a new store but hey anyway: When's the fall calendar of events coming out??"

Geez amighty, guys, alrighty then! Glad to know you've missed us and each other. Get out your calendars, because in my next communications I'll be setting forth details on upcoming 2018-2019 GATHERINGS: 

  • Three new bookclubs, all monthly, two in the evenings and one on Sunday afternoons; PLUS

  • Our Champagne Book Review parties; PLUS 

  • Our 2x/month cooking demonstrations, one series to be held in Sandy's home in south Wheaton; PLUS 

  • Cookbook launch parties by Jenny and Sandy for Ina Garten's new one and Reese Witherspoon's first (they're GREAT, we've peeked at advanced copies); PLUS

  • Some brand new thought-provoking content, including a 9-month series on "Readings in American Democracy," facilitated by our own Carrie W., using the Shared Inquiry model developed by the Great Books Foundation at the University of Chicago.

To whet your gatherings appetites, here are the cooking demonstrations we have planned so far. Not only are we excited to reveal Ina and Reese, Cathy and I are launching an August - April series celebrating Italian food - and not only from famous Italian restaurant chefs, but from Italian Moms (a great new series of books) plus a cook-off set of two programs comparing recipes from the queens of Italian cuisine -- Marcella Hazan and Lidia Batianich. In November we will show how Italians do holidays and celebrations - that one we can't wait for, for sure -- but first Cathy will show us all how to make handmade pasta on August 30th and we will taste test it alongside the least $ and most $$$$ boxed pastas, with great sauces to go with. (I'm pretty sure Cathy's will win....)

I'm especially thrilled to spotlight Alana Chernila's three cookbooks in a three-part series from September-November to take place in my own kitchen. Cathy and I will pull out ALL the stops to tune you, our tribe, onto Alana's simple, homey, nourishing food vibe. Really pumped about this one. 

Deets on the rest coming soon -- so keep those calendars out, friends. 

*All events will take place at PPB on Wesley Street rather than The Annex: more room and more parking, plus the kitchen's there. 

Fondly, Sandy

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Make New Friends, But Keep the Kinfolk

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Make New Friends, But Keep the Kinfolk

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Whoosh we did it. Thursday night we welcomed dozens and dozens of Prairie Path Books friends in to our new 102 N Hale Street space. What a lovely night and we even had a vast double-rainbow just to the south to mark our event. If you haven't been, The Annex is smaller than our core store but spiffy and bright and in the heart of downtown Wheaton. Books, for sure - yes (only our most favorites because of space), but also lifestyle and gift items that will inspire.

Yesterday morning I opened The Annex for real and with delight, greeted all sorts of curious folks. Some knew that Prairie Path Books opened 4 years ago 6 blocks away, but some didn't. Have you ever been given the humbling gift of awareness that the thing you have been entirely focused on has not been observed by the wider universe?? It is a great gift indeed, and I felt myself shift quickly to the start-up gear I'd employed four years ago on Wesley Street when I first introduced Wheaton to my beloved books and other beauties. It's a tonic, really to meet new friends.

And what do you think our new neighborhood welcomed us with? We have moved in during downtown Wheaton's annual Sidewalk Sale!! Who knew? It begins Thursday, so I gave my staff oh - ONE DAY of rest after we opened and put them to work clearing out our off-season warehouse of PPB merchandise and bringing it over to Hale Street for markdowns. There was great stuff back there, you guys! 

So just for you, old friends - we will close The Annex at 5pm on Wednesday and stay open 'til 8 just for Kinfolk members so you can get first dibs. Look at these Naughty/Nice cuties we found, for example, and there are more fall and winter lovely cozies, plus we will clear out some current summer things to make way for all the autumn pretties we have coming in. Can't make it Wednesday? Email me and if you're Kinfolk I'll open the store early (before 9am) for you during the sale for a private tour - coffee is on me. 

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Speaking of treasuring old friends - Kinfolk, if you're in the market for a holiday treat - Santa just committed to a third date to come to Prairie Path Books* — December 14th 5-8pm. Pssst - first dibs! Call today (630)-765-7455. 

Not a Kinfolk member yet? You wanna be, with our day to day membership benefits and special extras like these. Now's a great time to join. See you soon, friends old and new!

*Santa event ticket not eligible for Kinfolk free event pass

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How do you build a new store?

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How do you build a new store?

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Hello friends! 

Hope you're having a great July so far. Some of you have poked your head in to our Annex, our second store taking shape at 102 N. Hale Street, and it's been fun showing you around. Others have told me you've cupped your hands around your eyes and peered in to see our progress. Here's how I would describe building out a new store: it reminds me of the Christmas tree prcoess: 

  • First you pick a tree (spot for a store), inspecting and circling the choices and weighing all its qualities;

  • then you haul out your decorations and buy new ones too (pretty + useful things to stage the store and wonderful things to put on sale); 

  • next you get the tree up, making sure it's angled just right (install the bookshelves and move in the furniture, grunt and heave);

  • putting on lights (putting the first "layer" of seasonal sparkle down all over the store, ready for the nestling in of books and such);

  • getting the ornaments up, maybe breaking a few along the way (alphabetizing and shelving all the books, arranging all the pretty gift items with an occasional "oops!");

  • taking a few more passes at your decorations, standing back and appreciating your tree with each pass (it's the same at the bookstore!); and

  • anticipating merry oohs and aahs, you turn off your house lights and turn on the tree (we can't wait to light up for Thursday night's party!)

I would say as of this Monday afternoon writing that we are at the "taking a few more passes" stage, so we are passed the heave-ho part and onto the funner smarter part -- selecting books to feature, arranging displays and making lovely final touches.  Hope you come see us Thursday at our Fireflies & Sparklelight opening party - we can't wait to celebrate with all of you and are hoping for merry oohs and aahs. Call the store (Wesley Street!) and say you can come (630) 765-7455!

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Want a Sneak Peek?

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Want a Sneak Peek?

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Thursday, July 19, 6:30–9:30 p.m.

102 North Hale Street, Wheaton, IL

We are having two parties in the next few weeks and you simply must come. Here's the purpose of the parties (as if we ever needed any):

This past weekend my eldest graduated college. I'm not sure where you were during Saturday morning's torrents but we were in Hyde Park, peering proudly at the proceedings from beneath collegially-wielded umbrellas. All the graduates were given giant "emergency ponchos" to put over their caps and gowns and it struck me that from now on, these 20-somethings must now metaphorically pack their own ponchos as they wade on into real life. I have the feeling they are up to the challenge, based on their purposeful strides across the stage. 

My daughter's college graduation is NOT why PPB is having two parties; however, Hannah in her Class of 2018 tassel reminded me that when she last gowned-up she was graduating from Wheaton Warrenville South High School four years ago. Right then, Jenny and I were days away from opening our first bookstore. I'm sensing a pattern because my youngest - Tom -- graduated the same high school a few weeks ago and in a just a bit we are opening our second Prairie Path Books! That's right, we are opening a sister store almost exactly 4 years + 4 weeks after our first one and we are calling it the "Annex". You guys, get ready - you are going to love us in this Annex space - a cozy 125-year old brick-walled nook at 102 North Hale Street that comes into our lives July 1st for nine precious months. Aren't you just dying to see inside? 

Of course you are, so -- of course you must come to our Annex SNEAK PEEK evening open house on July 19th. We are calling it "Fireflies & Sparklelight," a happy, glimmery, summer-evening gathering with Jenny's hubby Bill playing jazz and glimpses of our book + gift offerings. Call the store to sign up - you don't want to miss it -- but wear flats because we won't have many chairs yet (there will be fresh paint however because said Koropp graduates plus Dave and me and middle-kid Emma will be painting over the July 4th holiday). Oh and say you will see the middle-kid at the Annex all summer -- Emma is a college junior now and I'm full-heart thrilled that she will be by my side there when she's not doing science-ish things for her summer course work. Look for some Emma's Kids events popping up soon.

I didn't forget - here's the deets on our second 4th Birthday Party: when you're RSVP'g for Fireflies & Sparklelight -- say YES to our annual summer/beachy reads book review called "Champagne & Raspberries" on June 28th at 6:30 p.m. It will be at PPB, at 302 E. Wesley Street. We've been reading like crazy just so that your hammock + book time is best-spent.

Geez, re this bookstore-opening/graduate pattern thing: does that mean in the summer of 2022 when Tom graduates college we will open a third PPB??

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So many of you are talking about the "Great American Read"

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So many of you are talking about the "Great American Read"

OK–so, many of you are coming in talking about the Great American Read, the summer-long PBS series celebrating America's favorite novels. It's a reading initiative to get folks motivated to check out the 100 works of fiction a survey found Americans love best, and it launched last week with a 2-hour tv show and the release of the list (see below). The idea is to get everyone to their local independent bookstore to buy 😉 and read some titles you may not have heard of or read yet, but that your fellow Americans like very much. There is a summer-long nation-wide online vote and on October 23 a winning book will be announced. 

I have a unique gift – I can make everyone feel better about themselves because on any topic I have a story such that I (usually) or someone I know (only rarely necessary) has done something more numbskull, dumb or embarrassing.  So in that vein, I wanted to share with you my experience of going through the Great American Read list of 100 books - because even though I was an English major and own a bookstore I pretty much felt like an idiot. Never one to wallow, I began coming up with excuses for WHY I couldn't actually check off a book on the list, and really after a while I almost began thinking that there really should be a "kind of, could have, almost have read" check-list. So, unless you're feeling smug because you've read 85 of these (Wendy Durkin, I know you have), I'm here to make you feel better, because here are my almost-read categories:

  1. Books I feel like I've read because they were school assignments for my kid and were lying around the house for months (e.g. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy);
  2. Books I bought twice for my kids' assignments because "we" lost them and I was blamed for tidying the house and moving them (too many to admit to);
  3. Books I was assigned in school and started but didn't finish but got a good grade on the paper anyway (e.g. Moby Dick);
  4. The category of "OK, I haven't read THAT book but I've read others by that author so I can sort of check that one ... " (e.g. The Stand by Stephen King);
  5. Books I ambitiously started when in the midst of crazy career or child-rearing throes and I either lost them on the train or they got spit-up on (e.g. Lonesome Dove);
  6. Books I didn't finish in time for bookclub but never went back for some reason (e.g. Frankenstein);
  7. Books where I saw the movie and people said it was better than the book (e.g. The Godfather);
  8. Books where I liked the movie and I have no excuse for not reading the book (yet, e.g. The Help);
  9. Book that I feel like I've read because someone I know talks about it a lot (e.g. Ready Player One);
  10. Books I feel like I should get multiple credits for because of how many times I've read them over my long lifetime (e.g. at least 5x Pride and Prejudice);
  11. Then there's this: "Dang, how embarrassing, I'd never heard of it much less almost read-it ... " (Foundation by Isaac Asimov); and
  12. And this confession: "Dang, there's a lot of science fiction on this list, maybe the rest of America is on to something, I better get going on that genre".

There now - I've made you feel better haven't I?? Never fear, fans of Prairie Path Books, I counted 47 that I've read and finished, and between Jenny, me and our PPB readers we've got them all I reckon. With or without this listJane Eyre is my favorite book of all time for a lot of reasons but really high up there is her moral certainty and self-knowledge even in destitution and despair (my girls call Jane "badass"); for Jenny, it's Charlotte's Web because she's never forgotten the enchanting characters and how hard she cried when SPOILER ... Charlotte died. What's yours?? Come in and share, won't you and please bring your list whether filling it out made you feel proud or not — I'm here for you.

—Sandy

 

The Great American Read Quiz

The Great American Read

 

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How I Buy Books - A Memorial Day Memory

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How I Buy Books - A Memorial Day Memory

My sister and I have wondered why we cry during parades when veterans pass. For sure as the grandchildren of immigrants, a sense of luck and awe imbued our youth and there is no doubt we were taught to quickly rise when the flag passed by, but we don't have a deep military history in our family (that we know of). Still, like many of you I bet, we both feel strong pangs when we encounter those who have served, and when we hear things like the opening chords of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."

When my kids were small I volunteered quite a bit in children's programming for my church and I remember the first time I stopped by the pastor's office to discuss some detail of something -- probably summer vacation church school, based on the timing here. I'll never forget it because while I waited in the hallway I overheard murmurings from the meeting before mine: it involved 4 or 5 local military veterans discussing with the pastor why the Battle Hymn wasn't on the program for the Memorial Day service. I recall that the gathering had a palpable emotional charge for sure and that the veterans, all elderly, were standing and the pastor was sitting. Now it's not my intention to take sides on a religious matter here but more to relate an example of seeing a thing from all sides, because here's what happened -- the pastor bravely explained that it wasn't on the program because the Battle Hymn had always made him feel uncomfortable. Quietly he asserted that some of the Hymn's lyrics troubled him because they seemed to have "Our Lord" taking sides on a battlefield. Plus it seemed to him the stirring melody and fervent feeling the congregation conveyed singing the Battle Hymn roused a sort of "us versus them" sensibility - one that didn't feel quite right to him in a church. (I can add that when our congregation actually knows the entire melody and even harmonies of a hymn - there are 733 tunes in our hymnal — we really bring it). I adored and admired the veterans in the office that day, and have always loved performing that hymn, but I and they were moved by the pastor's words. His was quite a position to take given the circumstances. I've never forgotten that moment and I call it up whenever I need reminding that there are two sides to almost everything. As I recall, in the end we sang both the Battle Hymn and one of the pastor's favorites, "This Is My Song."* For me with my insider insight, it was an especially moving service. 

I bet you're wondering how on earth this ties into a bookstore blog!? Well, here's what brought to mind that exchange: yesterday as I was reading a newspaper's review of summer books, I came across a new history about how one American was selected for interment in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington, Virginia. If ever I write a book, I want Matthew Davenport (if he likes it) to do the review because geez did he with moving lyricism recommend "The Unknowns" by Patrick O'Donnell. Here's an example: "By revealing the stories of those whose names and deeds we do know, 'The Unknowns' prods our consciences to heap fresh honor upon the Unknown Soldier of World War I, renewing his station as the mortal embodiment of every American who has fallen on a battlefield far from home." My sister and I are totally tearing up just reading the review!

And yet, recalling my experience outside a pastor's office long ago, I got up and retrieved my small collection of World War I poems by Siegfried Sassoon (couldn't locate my Wilfred Owen) and re-read a few of his agonizing and emotional battlefield descriptions. I know I need to keep in my bookstore owning heart and mind as many perspectives as I can. I will carry both, so thanks, Pastor Ed. I bet you didn't know I was standing there that day and I'm sure you don't know how your quiet position informs my thinking and indeed, book-buying. Every day. 

— Sandy Koropp

 

*This Is My Song

by Lloyd Stone and Georgia Harkness 

 

This is my song, O God of all the nations,

a song of peace for lands afar and mine;

this is my home, the country where my heart is;

here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine:

but other hearts in other lands are beating

with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

 

My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean,

and sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine;

but other lands have sunlight too, and clover,

and skies are everywhere as blue as mine:

O hear my song, thou God of all the nations,

a song of peace for their land and for mine.

 

May truth and freedom come to every nation;

may peace abound where strife has raged so long;

that each may seek to love and build together,

a world united, righting every wrong;

a world united in its love for freedom,

proclaiming peace together in one song.*

 

*Third stanza by Georgia Harkness.

St. 3 © 1964 Lorenz Publishing Co.Sts, 1, 2 © 1934, 1962 Lorenz Publishing Co.

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These events make perfect Mother's Day gifts

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These events make perfect Mother's Day gifts

The first line is: "The year began with lunch." And with that Peter Mayle's 1989 book A Year in Provence had me and millions of other readers, at "hello." With relaxed amusement Mayle tells the tale of how in 1987 he and his wife Jennie were fed up with the urban rat race and moved to Ménerbes, a village in the Provence region of France. They had long promised themselves that one day they'd live in rather than visit Provence and Mayle recalled that "In the end, it happened quickly - almost impulsively - because of the house. We saw it one afternoon and had mentally moved in by dinner." The couple knew that the 18th-century stone farmhouse required renovation, but Mr. Mayle intended to write a novel while employing local craftsmen to make the couple's clever updates. If you haven't read it, you simply must come get it because of course, he discovers that Provence time, including that of hired plumbers, builders and lawyers runs rather by seasons and not days. When he wrote to his agent that his novel was no where near ready and explained, in his charming way that: 

"Following some primeval springtime urge, the builders had migrated, leaving us with some token sacks of plaster and piles of sand as proof of their intention to come back. We made a conscious effort to become more philosophical in our attitude to time, to treat days and weeks of delays in the Provencal fashion - that is, to enjoy the sunshine and to stop thinking like city people. This month, next month, what's the difference? Have a pastis and relax. It worked well enough for a week or two, and then we noticed that the building materials at the back of the house were turning green with the first growth of spring weeds."

His book agent loved it and Mayle was told to write more about the house and the local townsfolk, including truffle and boar hunters, goat-racers, the divine local cuisine and the characters that cooked it, and neighbors who worked his new home's ancient grape vines into liters and liters of wonderful red wine.  And boy, did he - with wit and delightful style, he fondly recalls the entire year it took to complete his farmhouse renovation. You'll love every minute (it is quintessential Mayle when he describes a Provencal's elastic explanations of dates and deadlines on page 45, "the behavior of his hands is all-important.").

I have a story about my first read of A Year in Provence (in a minute!) but before I get to that, like so many we at PPB were saddened to learn that Mr. Mayle passed away in January. Yet we were heartened to hear of the publication of his last book, coming June 26: My Twenty-Five Years in Provence: Reflections on Then and Now. To celebrate of course we need to have a party, feting not only Peter Mayle and his personal tales of Provence, but also his sunny novels and mystery series - what delicious summery reads. Plan to come to our Peter/Provence Party, featuring Provencal cuisine from the cookbooks of the great Patricia Wells. More on that below, but first my story.

OK so in the summer of 1989 I was a second-year summer law associate at a big firm in Chicago and back in that day, lucky law students were actively recruited to join firms - and I mean recruited with a full-court press that included fancy restaurant meals and private museum tours and Cubs games and other posh gatherings. I grew up modestly and none too worldly but I was game to give grown-up life a go. My office-mate was a great pal from my undergrad days and we had a blast together, him being none too posh either. In fact that summer his main food group was Garrett's cheesy/caramel popcorn and he got powdery orange goo all over our shared keyboard and I yelled at him often. He went on to graduate from Oxford as a Marshall scholar, attend Harvard and become editor of its Law Review, then serve as a Supreme Court Clerk (Scalia), then as a U.S. Attorney, federal judge and even United States Attorney General for awhile. I'm pretty sure it was my influence .... Anyhoo, down the hall was another summer associate who was the current Harvard Law Review editor in 1989, and he ended up being an Illinois State and U.S. Senator and then, well, President of the United States. I bring this up as context to the heady times I happily lived in when I read A Year in Provence that summer. Feeling perhaps more confident than I should, or maybe it was just me being me -- I was chatting at one of said posh gatherings about this great new book (of course I was), just out in Britain. I gave the group a grinning, spirited book review before we all finished our drinks and made our way to the dinner tables. I probably was feeling trendy and well-read, as the British book wasn't yet released in the U.S.: I sure showed that this University of Illinois gal had lots to offer, you betcha!  

And then, I'll never forget it --as we broke up and the group wandered off, someone in the group (I can't remember who!) touched my elbow and very kindly whispered, "Provence is pronounced "prah-VAHNS." 

So wow, yep. I can't remember how I had been saying it - probably "PRAH-vince," but the shame quickly swallowed my blithe confidence. What a blow to my unsophisticated self and tender ego; the word naif comes to mind. As I recall I re-grouped and kept smiling, and of course now find it still wince-worthy but hilarious. More important, especially in these lately days, I think how classy the person was not to call me out in front of everyone but with a private voice made sure I'd know the right pronunciation should I rhapsodize over the book in the future. How marvelous. That night I learned a forever lesson in gentility, civility, and breeding that I hope I've payed forward once or twice.

It's funny how a favorite book, sort of like a favorite song - the best ones at least, can bring us straight back to the time in our lives and the person that we were when we read it. If you've not yet experienced Peter Mayle's one-of-a-kind tales praising the French pace of life, with its regular town cafe visits and deadlines ignored in favor of lingering conversation accompanied by good crusty bread and a bottle of wine — you must. Come join us for this grand event, and these others too:

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Baking with Karen: "Summertime and Baking is Easy"

Thursday, June 14 at 6:00 p.m.

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Cooking Demo: "The Provence Cookbook"

Wednesday, June 27 at 6:00 p.m.

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Cooking Demo: What do Italians eat int he summer?

Thursday, July 12 at 6:00 p.m.

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High School to Hale Street

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High School to Hale Street

I was a senior in high school in February 1983 when I reached out to a boy I'd dated a bit there, Dave Koropp. He was by then a freshman at the University of Illinois, and imagine - I wrote him a letter addressed to his dorm and I had to walk all the way over to Student Resources to buy a stamp!  Ya see, when Dave left for college, he'd given me the idea that he might enjoy hearing from me ... so long story short a few days after his receipt of my letter we began dating and now we're married.  

My sorority roommate Christine had a gushy lovey constant flower-sending boyfriend one time who we called "Hallmark." That is not a nickname I'd give my beloved even though he's been my Valentine for 35 years now. I've told you all before that he's the greatest, of course (which explains the three and a half decades thing) but he's not one to gush. (Christine dumped Hallmark, so maybe it all works out as it should.) 

So naturally I took note one morning last August when Dave looked up from his part of the Sunday paper and said "this woman reminds me of you." He was reading a New York Times article on a cookbook author named Erin French and he said something like "she found a way to open this great restaurant in the middle of nowhere Maine and runs it exactly like she wants and is really happy doing it." Naturally, I grabbed the paper soon's he put it down and read about Erin and her new cookbook, The Lost Kitchen, because this had all the earmarks of a GUSH! It was; in fact, for all of us it is a hugely inspiring story about a woman who:

  • loved to cook and started a hugely successful dinner club in her apartment (she made food, and friends donated to cover her costs), so then she;
  • started a little restaurant she called "The Lost Kitchen" in her building with her husband, even though she had no chef training, and that was packed and popular too, but then;
  • she had a horrible divorce that left her penniless and without a restaurant so she acquired a very vintage Airstream trailer and tore it apart inside so she;
  • could create a mobile home + kitchen and be a sort of traveling restaurant, which also went really well.

This woman was going to find a way.  

So next she settled in her tiny hometown of Freedom, Maine and got up the courage to lease space there for The Lost Kitchen restaurant in a gorgeous renovated 1830's mill. That’s where you will find her now, four days a week, eight months per year, but she offers only one sitting and only a prix fixe menu, to 40 people and that's all—because she likes it that way. She rejected restaurant norms to be open all hours and create a large menu because she wanted her guests to feel like they were in her home for a 3-hour dinner party: click on the video (below) about her and you’ll get right away why:   

The Lost Kitchen sells out for the entire year—all 5,000+ seats —in minutes—YES, minutes—after she opens the phones— yes phones for—reservations! 

(thus the New York Times attention, etc.

Thursday the 15th we offered one of our lovely cozy, casual cookbook demonstrations featuring Erin and The Lost Kitchen and I thought about that August Valentine morning gush every step of the way, doing the things I love for me and PPB, reading the book, planning the menu, editing the menu, working with my lovey co-chef Cathy, shopping for and making the food and talking to a full house about it. So what Dave said about Erin is indeed true about me and PPB, an off the beaten path bookstore with a kitchen: "she is really happy doing it her way." Who needs a Hallmark when your high school sweetheart knows you better than anyone and still likes you??  

Speaking of happy doing it her way, I've something to tell you: 

I'm opening a Prairie Path Books Annex* at 102 N. Hale Street, Wheaton in July!

It’s a wee 750 square feet, which is perfect and cozy because while we will sell books of course, and cards AND lovelies like candles and blankets and glassware because we know what you need when you read:  

the Erin French aspect is that just as she wanted an intimate dinner party feel for her "restaurant," I want to build at 102 N. Hale a lovely, furnished space that mimics how readers live and gather, and invite you in for very frequent, well... gatherings.  

Gatherings to inspire curiosity and conversation, those designed to appeal to anyone with ideas and an open mind— no matter in what format you read. 

Ya know? I’m excited! More later, friends.

*FAQ - are we closing PPB Wesley street? NO, we are adding an Annex on Hale Street. Huzzah!

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A Wintry Morning, Awake to its Still Reality

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A Wintry Morning, Awake to its Still Reality

But while the earth has slumbered, all the air has been alive with feathery flakes descending, as if some northern Ceres reigned, showering her silvery grain over all the fields.

We sleep, and at length awake to the still reality of a winter morning. The snow lies warm as cotton or down upon the window-sill; the broadened sash and frosted panes admit a dim and private light, which enhances the snug cheer within.

—Henry David Thoreau

Enjoy this snow-quiet morning and your snug cheer within. How lucky we are to live in a land of feathery flakes, and some time (sometimes) to reflect on beautiful words. 

Your PPB readers were under blankets last night turning pages with every snowflake. We can’t wait to share our favorite winter reads on Saturday, February 3d so call to sign up for Champagne & Snowflakes (630-765-7455). 

If you are home this Martin Luther King Jr. holiday with little ones, and seek some of Thoreau’s “snug cheer within” — stop over today and see our lovingly curated selections, and make plans to spend meaningful time together.

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The Art of Conversation

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The Art of Conversation

For a long, long time Jenny and I have wanted to offer a conversation series at Prairie Path Books and this winter seems like the perfect opportunity.  Both of us feel strongly that gathering and interacting with those in our social circles and broader community is the most interesting way to live and learn.  So let’s do that, ok?  Call the store to register for our free three-part, interactive series we are calling “The Art of Conversation.”  We are reading up on the latest literature about what makes for the best conversations and we will talk about that with you, but then we hope you all will put what we learn into action. Or should we say, INTERACTION.  

We are inspired by this quote from American professor William Lyon Phelps (1865-1943):

“The happiest people are those who think the most interesting thoughts. Those who decide to use leisure as a means of mental development, who love good music, good books, good pictures, good company, good conversation, are the happiest people in the world. And they are not only happy in themselves, they are the cause of happiness in others.”

Three Sundays- January 21st, 28th, and February 4 at 3:00 p.m.
Free series, attendance at all three strongly encouraged. Snacks and Bevs provided.

Don’t miss this! Call the store to say you can come, (630) 765-7455.

This series is generously sponsored by:

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📖 Where do you sit and read?

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📖 Where do you sit and read?

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All my friends have a "spot" or several for their adored reading time, so I asked what they need when they read. I know you'll believe me when I say that the universal component among readers surveyed was: COMFY PANTS! So funny. Here is where I often read when I’m home. My need/read combo: great book and chair (Toms Price of course) + candles and reading glasses. Oh and a blanket for my bod or a shawl for my shoulders, but one that leaves my hands free for page-turning. (If you’re my age you may shrug off the shawl from time to time, but still you’ll want it close by). And gosh, after 15 minutes what reader doesn’t need a nosh, so let’s add in a tidbit plate and wine glass or coffee mug full of something soothing. Oh, and comfy pants to be sure. Me, I like to have a lovely tote to pack up up all my "reading condiments" for a neater look if I must finish up my story-time to get up and go, or to take with me when I move to another spot to read s'more - maybe by the fireplace if there's a chill in the air. 

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I’ve been knocking around ideas for a Prairie Path Books Lifestyle section for a while now. Meaning PPB sells the yummy stuffs we need when we read — you know, the softest blankets that encourage you to linger for one more chapter, plus all of the above. So I built one! Come see our "How Readers Live - PPB Lifestyle" section this weekend — we are plumping it up every day with more and more reading-nook necessities for you or that beloved reader in your life. Pick for them or get 'em a gift card so they can shop for their own holiday gift. 

OH - and here's a fun idea - $50 PPB gift card goes to the most inspiring photo one of you sends of your own "What I Need to Read" nook ... we will pick a winner Friday the 15th at noon. Send yours to read@prairiepathbooks.com!

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Dorie's Cookies!

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Dorie's Cookies!

Enjoy our favorite cookie-book blogs from our December 2016 baking binge!

 

Wendy's Blog

My grandmother was one of those people who was absolute fabulousness in the kitchen. Kitchen creativity was a way of life for her. Some of my favorite memories of childhood holidays involve her homemade cookies and pies. Being a chocolate fan, her refrigerator pie was my favorite. This chocolate pie had a hard, crusty outer shell and a chewy, fudge-like center. It was meant to be served cold (hence the “refrigerator” name) with whipped cream, I actually liked it best slightly warmed and served with vanilla ice cream (a much denser and crunchier version of a brownie sundae). Although I’ve never been able to replicate this pie, one bite of the Cocoa-Tahini Cookies with Sesame Crunch brought back a flood of memories. The crunch in this cookie was so easy to make – and along with the tahini adds a nice undercurrent of nut to the chocolate cookie. It also makes for a perfectly crunchy outside and a chewy fudge inside. The only thing this cookie is missing is the vanilla ice cream!

Cathy's Blog

I have to start with..... OMG!! Just took the Tarragon Apricot cookies out of the oven.  Waited till they cooled, and that took some self-control, and then took bite.  And as I said OMG!!! What a flavor.  The combination of tarragon, with its hint of licorice, and the sweetness of the apricot is just amazing.  Again, Dorie Greenspan has come up with another fantastic cookie.

Putting the recipe together was relatively easy. And now after working with a number of Dorie’s recipes I'm feeling much more comfortable and truly enjoying every minute. As for this wonderful cookie, I had to wrap them carefully and place them in the freezer.  Know why?  Because little by little, I would have eaten every one of them.  Now I will serve them Thursday night for my little Christmas party.  I know my friends will love them.

In following the recipe’s procedure, it truly makes you think about how much creativity, technical points and the understanding of flavor combinations goes into creating a cookie recipe.  Dorie has it all and is an amazing chef.

I've got everything ready to go (“mise en place”) for the Blue Cheese Madeleines and it makes everything so easy.  Eggs at room temperature, butter melted, blue cheese crumbled and everything else measured out. It all comes together nicely.  This goes in the refrigerator for an hour, and that's one of the steps I love.  I guess because it gives me time to clean up before putting them in oven.  Most of her recipes require you to chill dough.  This makes cutting out cookies much easier.  It all makes so much sense.

Just took them out of the oven. Only 11 minutes and they were done to perfection, beautifully browned around the edges and golden on top.  Now I guess I have to try one, and after one bite, I don't know what to say.  It was heaven in my mouth!  After savoring this wonderful Madeleine, I started thinking......why not cut it in half, and with a bit of honey mustard and fresh ham, what a beautiful little sandwich it would make.  I think it will be another wonderful morsel I'll be serving at my party.

Guest Baker Adrienne Franceschi
local sales rep for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

I’ve made a few recipes from Dorie’s Cookies now: the meringues, Thanksgiving Bars, World Peace Cookies—and now her Chocolate Chip Not-Quite Mandelbrot! One of the things I love most about the recipes in this cookbook (and there’s so much to love!) is that there is a really wide range in terms of difficulty, flavors, textures, etc. There is a good chance that you already have everything you need to make these cookies in your pantry already (except maybe the mini semi-sweet chocolate chips) and the recipe comes together quickly and easily. 

The mandelbrot are basically a biscotti, but with a more cake-like texture, i.e. not as dry as typical biscotti. She explains that traditional mandelbrot incorporates almond, but these actually don’t have any almond; they are quite delicious just using vanilla extract. They’re sprinkled with a cinnamon-sugar mixture before both bakes, which makes the whole house smell good while they’re in the oven! 

The best part is that the mandelbrot will keep at room temperature (covered) for a couple of weeks, or up to two months in the freezer. You can easily whip up a batch this weekend and have a full cookie jar when guests arrive for the holidays! I’m from a big Italian family and Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without dipping biscotti in your morning coffee (or wine…though hopefully not in the morning!). This is a very basic dough that you can easily play around with, too, and try other fillings and flavors. If you’ve never made biscotti before, these are a good place to start!

 Adrienne (one of eight sisters) is on the left.

Adrienne (one of eight sisters) is on the left.


Sandy Tucker

Brrr it's cold! The morning weather report said that it would be "the coldest morning "so far this year, so of course when I heard this, I decided it was a good day to bake some cookies. Baking reminds me of my Danish mother, who loved to bake and we loved to eat whatever she made!   

I decided to bake the Pfeffernusse cookie. So easy and tasty!  This cookie is very popular in Europe for the holidays. They taste fresh for days - no worries there though, your family will gobble them up. 

The ingredients include orange peel, nutmeg and white pepper, just to name a few. I rolled mine in powdered sugar because it reminds me of the first snow.   Dorie also has a nice chocolate and espresso bean glaze recipe for her Pfeffernusse – I think I will use that the next time! Happy baking and Merry Christmas. 


Karen

The story behind the recipe for Melody Cookies in Dorie Greenspan's cookie book is that she recreated a Nabisco cookie that held fond memories for her husband. Although I don't remember these cookies from my childhood, I think you can't go wrong with chocolate, butter and sugar! The dough is chilled and then cut out and sprinkled with a coarse sugar to give an extra sweetness and crunch when you bite into the cookie. I ended up with a thicker cookie than the 1/8" Dorie recommends so definitely needed the glass of milk nearby, but I liked the results with the scalloped edge cutter. A couple of days later I made the rest of the dough into star shapes and tried a drizzle of chocolate across the top so use your imagination for shapes and toppings and you will be singing a beautiful melody as you eat these Melody cookies!

A couple special guest bakers this week tried out the Snowy-topped Brownie Drops. My niece, Lauren, and her daughter, Emery, baked up a batch and you can see they had a grand time. Lauren bakes cookies for friends and family and enjoys having Emery in the kitchen with her. The chocolate is melted on the stove and then the rest of the ingredients are added before the dough is chilled. Rolling the chocolate balls in confectioner's sugar gives these cookies an extra special coating that pairs nicely with the chocolate. Invite some friends over for a relaxing evening of cookie making and be sure to include this recipe because it is a winner!

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Jenny's "Joy of Cookies" Blog!

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Jenny's "Joy of Cookies" Blog!

Growing up, there was only one kind of chocolate chip cookie in our house--Toll House.  When my mom made them, she always let us eat the dough.  Oh, joy, the good old days when we never gave salmonella a second thought.  I can still remember digging my spoon into that mound of dough dotted with chocolate chips.  I would almost make myself sick eating the dough--but it was worth it! 

By the time I was in fourth or fifth grade, I could whip up a Toll House batch by heart.  No need to even look at the back of the yellow and black crinkly package.  

Now, with my own family, I am considered the queen of chocolate chip cookies, and, yes, we still eat the dough.  I’ve tinkered with the recipe over the years, but just a smidge--one stick salted and one stick unsalted butter and a little more brown sugar than white--but that’s it because the Toll House recipe is kind of inviolable.  My chocolate chip cookies are a tradition in my family. So much so that when my youngest daughter Julia wants to make them, her older sister tells her: “No. Only mom can make them because hers are the best.”  

So when I was looking through Dorie Greenspan’s Cookie book, and I saw she had a recipe called Newest Chocolate Chip Cookies, my immediate reaction was “UH-UH!” It called for whole wheat flour, nutmeg, and coriander. I said to myself, “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.”  But then I got a little adventuresome and thought...okay, I’ll try it.

I was skeptical as I sifted the coriander and nutmeg into the flour mixture with one part whole wheat.  Sheesh!  I turned on my Mixmaster and Voila!  Dorie’s chocolate chip cookie dough was ready.  My husband was working in the other room and heard the familiar sounds of baking.  He sauntered into the kitchen asking “Is that chocolate-chip cookie dough?”  “Yes,” I told him.  “But I just want to warn you that these are not my usual...”  Before I could finish my sentence he had plunged his spoon into the dough and popped it into his mouth.  “Mmmm,” he said.  “Delicious!”  He got out a new spoon--I had trained him well--and went for seconds.  

I said to him, “You mean, you really like it?  It doesn’t bother you that it’s ‘different’?”

His mouth was too full of dough to answer.  Moments later Julia tumbled into the house and made a beeline for the bowl.  “Yum, chocolate chip cookie dough.”  Before I could warn her, she grabbed a spoon and dove in.  Her eyes got big and she smiled through her mouth full of dough.  No words needed.  While our stomachs digested the dough, I chilled what was left and then later popped a batch into the oven.  The aroma from the cookies, with their infusion of nutmeg and coriander, filled the house with a hint of Christmas.  And how did they taste?  Well, let’s just say the three of us finished off the first batch hot out of the oven.  Yep, the entire cookie sheet.  Julia summed it up perfectly: “These are GOOD!”  Check out the picture of her below.

Now there’s a little “tiny tip” hidden in this story.  How often do we find ourselves glued to doing things a certain way?  Yes, traditions are good, but sometimes it’s ok to change things up a bit, to add a little “nutmeg” or “coriander” to your life.  To say “yes” to something new.

Dorie Greenspan herself knows the value of continually putting herself out there and experimenting with new ideas.  This wonderful baker/chef actually started out working on a doctorate in gerontology but never wrote her dissertation. After her son was born, she didn’t go back to it and didn’t know what she wanted to do.  She did know she loved food and writing, and eventually ended up with her dream job--baking, cooking, writing cookbooks, and sharing her expertise online.   

Dorie says she’s lucky she gets to do what she loves, but I would argue that her “luck” came from her openness to new ideas.  She told Epicurious, “Every time something looked like an opportunity, I always said, ‘Yes.’ I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted it to be food.”  

Not everything we try always works out.  But that’s okay.  There’s always another recipe, another batch, and who knows what you might discover along the way when you add a little spice to your life.

 

Karen's "Joy of Cookies" Blog

I love a good sugar cookie, especially around the holidays. A rolled sugar cookie lends itself to many occasions, depending on what shape cutter you use, but the Lemon Sugar cookies in Dorie's Cookies will become a year-round favorite as well. The ingredients came together nicely. Rubbing the lemon peel with the sugar and then adding fresh lemon juice really packed a nice flavor into this cookie dough. I used a mini cookie scoop and tried baking with parchment paper as well as on an ungreased sheet with similar results. Dorie suggests a baking time of anywhere from 8-14 minutes. I found that turning the pans after 8 minutes and then baking for another 3-4 yielded a nice crunch with a semi-soft center. I also refrigerated some dough for a couple of days later and it came in handy when I realized I needed some cookies for an event and had hot, fresh cookies in no time at all. Please beware: It is very hard to stop eating these cookies! Don't say I didn't warn you. They are delicious!


Kandy's "Joy of Cookies" Blog

I'm a "guest baker" this week and a good friend of Karen's. We've baked together for different events and she thought it would be fun for me to contribute by making Coconut Lime Sablés this week. Dorie's Cookies has an entire section of the book dedicated to variations of Sablés, a French butter cookie. The name refers to the sandy texture of this delicate cookie. I now understand why Dorie says these cookies have a committed cult following. The ingredients seem too simple to be so delicious. The coconut and lime add an incredible depth of texture and taste. I usually make cookies with lots of nuts, raisins or chocolate but this coconut-lime combination is unique and lovely, perfect for an afternoon tea, cookie exchange, or really any occasion!

 

Wendy and Maggie's "Joy of Cookies" Blog

Chocolate and coffee. Two things Maggie and I crave daily. So we were excited to make the Espresso Chocolate Sablés. These cookies were more work-intensive than our other cookie endeavors thus far, but it was fun work. Maggie loved chopping the bittersweet chocolate into small bits. And rolling out the dough between parchment paper and using cookie cutters to cut the rounds to fit into cupcake tins got us both reminiscing about our earlier years “cooking” with Play Doh! The espresso extract was quick and easy to make – and it’s so good! I know I’ll be making it to add to my next batch of Two Bite, One Chip cookies for an extra zing!  And these cookies were worth the effort. Made with only confectioners’ sugar, they come out much like shortbread, only softer and flakier. The espresso perfectly complements the bittersweet chocolate for a melt in your mouth savory taste. Whether dunked in a mocha latte (Maggie’s choice) or paired with a tawny port (my personal favorite),  these cookies make for a delicious mouthful of goodness heaven.

My daughter, Maggie, started off our cookie baking by trying the Two Bite One Chip Cookies, because who doesn’t like chocolate chip cookies. They are described in the book as “adorable” and “delicious” – and they don’t disappoint. These are bite-size comfort food – the perfect nibble when you just want a taste of something sweet. And due to their size, they are all the goodness of a chocolate chip cookie in half the baking time. They are fabulous right out of the oven – and just as good 3 days later (if they last that long!). I popped a couple in the microwave the next day for a few seconds – and it was just enough to make the chocolate center warm and “fresh out of the oven” melty again. Dorie suggests they would make a great sidekick to ice cream, and I agree. We will have a bowl of these to add to ice cream sundaes at our New Year’s Eve dinner!   

Cathy's "Joy of Cookies" Blog

Just finished watching “The Great American Baking Show” and tonight it was all cookies, so of course I had to watch.  I had a nervous stomach watching these contestants have their cookie houses fall apart and not finish their challenges in time. I'm so glad I could make my cookies at my leisure and they turned out beautifully.

I made Cocoa Cayenne cookies and I do love a shortbread cookie, and with this variation we have a wonderful savory chocolate shortbread with a touch of heat.

Dorie's recipes come together beautifully and are easy to follow.  What I love is that I'm learning new techniques.  Rolling the dough between parchment and then freezing rolled out dough before cutting out cookies.  These are things I've never done, but will definitely do from now on.  Always good to learn something new.

The cookie came out great and the flavor is wonderful.  It's a delicate cookie.  I love the chocolate with that touch of heat and then to top it off with the Maldon salt, just a perfect bite.
Because I am planning to serve these at a Christmas party next week, I cut the cookies out and then froze them. Once frozen, I put them in a plastic bag and then I'll bake them off on the day of the party.  They will be wonderful served along with wine and cheese, just perfect!

 

Sandy's "Joy of Cookies" Blog

I think it's unanimous - this is an amazing and surprising cookbook.  One thing we all have said is "the dough comes together nicely." Isn't that so true?  I've been serving up the Salt and Pepper, Sugar and Spice cookies at PPB and that dough was so easy to roll out and cut and get on the dang cookie sheet it WAS like Play-Doh.  These almost savory but buttery cookies are surprising and it's been fun to watch people's expressions as the many tastes (ooh, cinnamon + ginger, and wait is that salt on top!!?) tumble around on their tongues.  Highest recommend for this cookie - note refrigeration time of two hours for the dough though; naughty me was too lazy to go in the basement and haul out the muffin tins she calls for so I did without and mine were fine.  

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Joy of Cookies!

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Joy of Cookies!

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Cathy

Who would have thought to use Triscuits in a "cookie".......well Dorie Greenspan did, and what a "cookie" it is.  It's savory biscuit, and with a glass of wine, oh my, delightful! I decided to test them out the other night by bringing them to my book club ladies.  Since we always have wine, I thought these would be a great accompaniment.  We'll they went over big time with many ooh's and ahh's about how great they were.  So....I guess they are a keeper!

Now the rest of the story.  After I baked off the first batch I didn't have time to do the rest as I had to go to book club.  So I put the second wrapped disk in the fridge to do the next day and it stayed for two days.  Not good!  Finally baked them off, and in the end realized that they just weren't the same as the first batch. Not as delicate, a little greasier and I used a bit too much salt.  Learning experience! They need to be done all at once, but done correctly, it's a great biscuit and your guests will be impressed.

Biscotti are one of my favorite cookies to make.  I've been making them for years, and I now have a new recipe to add to my collection. Dorie Greenspan has come up with a great combination of ingredients that come together beautifully.  She calls it a Breakfast Biscotti and with the addition of oatmeal, granola, cranberries and almonds, it certainly comes together for a wonderful breakfast treat. I can see them on a beautiful Christmas Brunch table, wrapped up and given as a gift (which I've done many times) or just as an afternoon treat with a cup of coffee or tea.

A wonderful advantage of this cookie is that it will last for weeks when stored properly.  I use metal tins, which keeps them dry. A little foil and cover on top! I always have some on hand, just in case someone drops in.  These will be a great addition to your Christmas festivities!

 

Wendy

My oldest son, Conor, loves all things banana, so Maggie and I decided we would make him the Cabin-Fever Banana Caramel Bars. These are essentially a denser banana bread, but with a twist. Dorie made hers with cardamom, but suggested you could substitute nutmeg, cinnamon or star anise instead. We used nutmeg, which added a warm, nutty flavor to the banana caramel. The caramel was so easy to make – but the flavor was a little less prominent then I would have liked, so next time, I plan to 1-1/2 times the homemade caramel in the recipe. The pièce de résistance was the chocolate glaze and nuts. As some members of the family don’t like nuts, we added them to half the pan (we used cashews as we didn’t have peanuts….just as good!). These bars disappeared within 24 hours. They make great late afternoon snacks or after dinner desserts and are equally fabulous for breakfast with your morning coffee. I plan to try these again with cinnamon replacing the nutmeg – and maybe just a chocolate or caramel drizzle on top! 

Being a big chocolate fan (and I do mean BIG), Maggie eagerly dove into making the dough for World Peace Cookies, a double chocolate cookie. The dough is made with both cocoa and bittersweet chocolate. As these cookies are “all about the chocolate” Dorie recommends splurging on quality “good” stuff (we used Penzey’s Dutch process cocoa and Baker’s bittersweet chocolate squares). Just as with every recipe we have tried, the dough itself is easy to make. We were a little daunted by the log-rolling descriptions, but don’t be discouraged, these cookies are so worth it! Dorie cautions patience as the dough “may be capricious” and not always roll into a log easily on the first, second or third try. She recommends mixing the dough for as long as it takes to make big, moist curds but notes that the dough can be inconsistent from batch to batch. We found this to be a spot-on description. Our dough never did develop into big, moist curds. It remained grainy and wet sand-like. Maggie kneaded the dough by hand for several minutes and rolled it into log shapes; they crumbled. Her second attempt held. We wrapped, put them in the freezer for two hours, and removed. We let the dough sit for 10 minutes at room temperature and then sliced and baked. These cookies are the BEST! When eaten warm, they reminded me of a pot of French hot chocolate I once had (warm, rich cake-batter) but with a hint of sea salt for a savory finish. When cool, they start with a light crisp and finish with melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness. They are, hands down, the new favorite at our house.

 

Karen

To cap off a whirlwind of making Dories' Cookies this month, I was so happy to make a batch of cookies with my daughter, Camille, who is home from college. We made Chocolate Sandwich Cookies and had a great time being together in the kitchen. This recipe is similar to the Melody cookies with just a few simple ingredients that are combined, rolled out and then chilled. We decided to use a small circle cutter and the little chocolate disks came out perfectly. Who can resist a yummy buttercream icing in between two chocolate cookies? Not us! Put on some holiday music and make time for some homemade cookies with your family this week! The aroma itself will make you feel wonderful and time spent together will create lasting memories. Enjoy!

 

Sandy T.

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I have had so much fun baking this Christmas season and Dorie’s Cookies has made my baking more interesting. This time I chose Cocoa-Almond Uglies – and they are ugly! I was intrigued not only by the name but also by the simple ingredients. There’s no added fat in this recipe – just lots of cocoa, chocolate chips and almonds, making for a very rich flavor with a crunchy texture. So if you’re in the mood to try something different, make these cookies. You might want to put them with some of your pretty cookies!

 

Paula and her daughter Noa

When I brought Dorie’s Cookies home, it took my daughter Noa turning about four pages before she said “you did buy this cookbook, right?” She loves to bake and invent, as well as cook dinner with her dad (bonus for Mom). She chose Chocolate-Raspberry Thumbprints, made with the Do-Almost-Anything Chocolate Cookie Dough. Dorie gives this basic dough recipe and encourages bakers to use it as the base for whatever cookie they invent (but she does provide a handful of recipes). Besides the Chocolate-Raspberry, Noa used some dough and rolled some smashed candy canes into the dough and sprinkled more on top.

The dough yields enough for 80 cookies, so we halved it and it came together quite quickly. We chose the freeze for one hour option and the dough softened very easily as we rolled it into balls, stuck a knuckle into the dough to make an indent and filled it with a hearty jam. We made it with the raspberry jam, as suggested, but Noa made a few with orange marmalade as well (she loves the orange/chocolate combo). The recipe suggests drizzling melted chocolate over the cooled cookie, but we decided it was already sweet enough so we wouldn’t do the melted chocolate next time. Very soft cookie and they turned out so pretty! And how nice to have the dough in the freezer whenever the craving kicks in for a cocoa cookie…

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