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It's that time of the summer...

It’s that time of the summer when having a thing or two to do each week (day??) is a really welcome idea! It’s a little cool for the pool this week, so c’mon over tomorrow at 11 for our Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site event and look over all of our events for July and August. Every Thursday at noon, we offer Kids in the Kitchen - a book based exploration of fun ingredients plus lunch making! Our Children’s Program Director, Kristy, creates the most warm and loving welcome for the kids, inspiring a love of reading but also fun and active connections with books and their subject matter. 

Please call the store to reserve your spot(sssss...), (630) 765-7455!

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How fun was Saturday??

How fun was Saturday?? I hosted a bridal shower for my nephew's future wife, and me and my Emma and Hannah cooked everything from Flavors of Summer, the book Tucker and I will be demonstrating on Thursday. If you're not signed up already, you simply must come because I'm over the top about this cookbook. 

The recipes for the shower menu leaped out to me from the Flavors of Summer pages, from the opening drink featuring pureed watermelon + triple sec and a splash of vodka, to the asparagus and smoked salmon frittata, to the strawberry and cream cheesecake (visible in the photo), plus a few others. I shopped* and chopped on Friday, cooked a bit on Saturday morning, and I was ready for a 3 o'clock shower by noon. My Hannah had a flight to DC for her summer internship at 1:30 so I took a while to cry because she is now a college senior and growing up so fast and hates winter and will probably move far away where there is more sunshine and she'll meet someone from that warmer climate and his parents will help to raise her kids and not me .... (SOB!!) 

Enough of that, good thing I had pressing things to attend to - by 1:39 Emma has urged me to stop already and start stringing twinkle lights and find more forks. Here's a photo - we pulled it together and had a wonderful celebration. Hope to see you Thursday so I can share what I learned! (Call the store to RSVP, 630-765-7455). 

*Boy, how lucky we are to live in Wheaton?! For the shower flowers I brought in my Flavors of Summercookbook with its gorgeous "sunshine living" table settings featuring lots o' flowers, and Andrew came through with the most inspired + lovely conversation-height vases. They were the subject of much shower guest-admiration. Shop Andrew's when you host because his flowers make you look like a star. Also, did you know that Wheaton Meats smokes their own salmon? I did, and their work was a critical part of the just-plain GOBBLING up by my guests of the Asparagus and Smoked Salmon Frittata at the shower. I doubled the recipe and STILL it got fully-gobbled; thank you Wheaton Meats!

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One day, I received a real typed letter from a local author...

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One day, I received a real typed letter from a local author...

One day, I received a real typed letter from a local author named Patricia Toht. She had not one but two picture books coming out and wondered if we at PPB might have a launch party. She mentioned that she had owned a children's bookstore in Wheaton years before mine (1988-1995), name of Never Never Land. Well, gosh of course we will, said I: The party for Toht book #1, All Aboard the London Bus, is Sunday at 2:00 p.m. I really want you to come and meet this Patty woman. She is charming and forthrightly friendly, understated but somehow keen in her demeanor. I didn't have a quiet moment to set myself down with her book until a day or so after she dropped it off and we chatted, but when I did — I mean I was gobsmacked. I loved all of it, the energy of the illustrations for sure, but even more so Patty's gentle and frolicsome verse that guides wee tourists to wonder at the wonders of London, including the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, and the making of Big Ben (which is actually a nickname for the giant bell that bongs each day from the Houses of Parliament tower). 

Even more than being pleased with her book, though, I was wowed by this woman in the following ways: 

  1. You know that ping of appreciation we feel when we are affected and impressed with someone or thing? When I'm reading, for me I'm pretty sure a ping prompts me to tilt my head, then shoot my eyebrows up. A particularly impactful ping makes me purse my lips in an "ooooo" and I have to look away from the page for a second to let the ooooo-dea knock around for a bit. Pair that with the appreciation one feels when that impressive someone doesn't pirouette their thing with sparkle and spot-light, but lets you find your own way in your own time - and somehow, a much deeper wow is stamped in your heart;
     
  2. Nearly 30 years ago, Patricia decided to open a bookstore without much experience and loved her adventure. She has equally loved becoming a published children's author, an achievement she achieved just by - well - writing. In her unassuming way, she left her work with someone that said "ooooo" and her books were born. I love me a person who just starts doing the thing they want to do, even if it might mean a clumsy tromp, creating a path armed not with a map but with righteous energy. I loved it when I told her I have notions sometimes of writing myself, and she replied forthrightly: "If you think you'd like to write, jump in and get started!" Perfect. 

Patty lived in London for four years with her family because her hubby's job took them there, and All Aboard the London Bus is the charming result. Come celebrate Wheaton's own Patricia Toht. Bring along your kids or grands or just enjoy meeting this inspiring woman. 

— Sandy

Thank you for being a huge part of our wonderful year! Please come and help us celebrate our 3rd anniversary on Saturday, June 3! We want to celebrate our birthday with a party-full of the sort of events we do best: cooking demos, Jenny shows, and Champagne Book Recommendation parties! 

  • 11:00 a.m. Cooking Demo featuring Short Stack Editions
     
  • 1:00 p.m. Back by popular demand, Jenny Riddle will be performing one of her most popular shows “We Will Survive”!
     
  • 2:30 p.m. Champagne & Raspberries book recommendation followed by our raffle—including Short Stack cookbooklets and kitchen goodies! 

Call the store to let us know which of these 3 offerings we will get to greet you.
(630) 765-7455!

 

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Blue bloomers and Bumble Bees

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Blue bloomers and Bumble Bees

When you pick a card at my store for your mom for Mothers Day, there are many dynamics at play. There is of course, what you want to say. And what your mum wants to hear. Some years, Mothers Day might come at a tender time when things in your family are complicated, so you seek a card that makes some sense of that, others you need a gushy card to try and say all the gratitude you feel. I see many folks lingering a long time over our Mothers Day display before selecting a card. I don't ask, but I'm dying to hear the thoughts, feelings and stories of "mom" zipping through your minds. So I thought I'd share my card-selection process, and if you want, send me yours. I'd love that.

This is the card I picked for me mumser. I like how it looked because it's not all flowery which is not our style, at least not this year, and because it calls her "Mom" and not mother, which is what I call her (when I'm not calling her mumser or "Nanimator", a take on her grandma-honorific, Nani). Mostly, though, I was drawn to the" swinging a hammer" bit, because my mom is pretty much badass — to use my daughters' word for awesome, inspiring, powerful — in her own 1960's stay-at-home mom kind of way. 

Here's an example: when me and my two sibs were born (1959-1964), Dr. Benjamin Spock's book "Baby and Child Care" (1946, and still in print), was second in sales only to the Bible. It's message was "you know more than you think you do", and it was apparently ground-breaking as previous experts advocated rigid schedules and not-too-much affection or the kiddies might be soft and not independent. Spock was more of a trust your instincts, every child is different sort of dude. (I didn't know these things, I looked it up on Wikipedia - where I also learned that Spock was on the 1924 Olympic-gold-medal-winning American rowing team - making my thoughts wander to that great book "Boys in the Boat" except for Spock went to Phillips Andover and Yale, so .... Do you see how hard it is for me to get things done when there are so many other interesting tangents to explore??) 

Anyway back to my mom: she thought Spock presumptuous in soothing her into being more confident. She knew she knew what she was doing, and when she didn't she called her mother. She just didn't care what everyone else did, even when literally everyone else did it. Here's another: I remember, or I think I do, that when we moved to the house I grew up in, the neighbors came over with baked goods to say hello and welcome (those were the days). We kids were busy running through the empty house, rough-housing and finding fun echo-chambers by yelling back and forth. Her main form of discipline was "noses in the corner" and so when her new friends got their first impression of the family that day, each of us had a nose in three of the corners in the dining room which was completely visible from our front door. You might think she would be embarrassed either by the fact that her children were clearly rotten or her odd parenting methods - and let us out of our punishment. So that we could smile politely and make-nice to the neighbors. It's funny that you thought that. NO, SO not her style. They came in and she explained the situation, gesturing at us with her hand, and went on chatting cheerfully with her new friends. See what I mean? Badass. 

One more — remember those blue bloomers we wore in gym class? I'm (only) 52, and we totally wore them all through the early eighties when I was in high school, so yes they are vintage but it wasn't that long ago. Pretty hilarious. When I was I think a junior, York High switched over to shorts and tees for girls' gym, but we were given a grace period to go buy them. I didn't really see the need, so I wore my blue bloomers on and on, until I was the only one in them. Truly blithe in my bloomers, I spent zero time thinking about how quirky I must have looked. Without realizing it, I'd been schooled by my mother already. My husband Dave and I laugh when he remembers seeing the bloomered, 17-year-old me from his side of the gym and thinking "I like that one." 

Maybe my mom is why in 1993 the video for the Blind Melon song "No Rain" made an instant impact on me. You have to watch it now before reading further and you must keep watching until the end. OK, click the link below now. 

If you didn't do as I said, go find a corner and put your nose in it for awhile and then watch it. 

Oh good, you watched it — isn't that the greatest? I connected with bumble bee girl on a visceral level the first time I saw her and she strikes me hard still. You too? At that time in my life I needed reminding of how badass a bumble bee can be and I left one job for another where there were lots of bees like me. 

So that's why I picked the card I did for my mom. Even though she didn't face a corporate glass ceiling, in her own quiet way (she's not an in-your-face badass, just firmly and confidently resolved) she gave me a hammer and showed me how to swing it. Thanks,  - I am truly "grateful to be your daughter," and we will pick you up at 11 on Sunday to have brunch with your badass granddaughter. 

— Sandy

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Coming soon, May flowers and great PPB gatherings

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Coming soon, May flowers and great PPB gatherings

It's May now!! Hooray for May at last, and although we, all of us, are still dodging raindrops, flowers are surely on the way. Our hearts were full and blooming Saturday on Indie Bookstore Day - you shared so many blossomy, happy, supportive things about what PPB has meant to you, and I weighed every word double because you literally blew through the door, dripping wet — to tell me! It's funny how every single one of you had the same exact expression on your face when the door shut behind you ("PHEW!"), and then after a sniff of the air, your smile said "WHAT'S THAT YUMMY COOKING SMELL??" We loved welcoming so many of you to our warm nest of books + good cheer, not to mention S'mores and DIY grilled cheese. 

On to the next: Fun PPB gatherings worth bringing yourself out into the rain this week are:

  • Tomorrow night we get to heap love on, and have a party for, our beloved Wheaton superstar-author Jen Grant because she is launching her new book and can't wait to tell you all about it (free event);
     
  • Our every-Thursday free Milk & Cookies Storytime at 11:00 a.m. (always free);
     
  • Advice for making HUNGRY people HAPPY - you simply must come to our cooking demo featuring Lucinda Scala Quinn's new cookbook "Mad Hungry Family," more on that below: and,
     
  • A perfect way to begin Mother's Day WEEK begins Saturday the 7th ... moms come put your feet up and sip mimosas and enjoy a 15% off your purchase day, while Kristy leads the kids in the perfect mother/child love-story over in the next room! 

The Koropps had a horrible, terrible, no good very bad week so we were not sad to see April go. See, we had 3 cars go down in 3 successive days (a bang, a leak, and some grinding noises, but no injuries) plus both daughters lost track of some expensive laptop-ish technology. Luckily for me — they chose daddy to call up and confess. (All of my acting dim and disoriented about black things that plug in really paid off for me.) Tom kept a low profile by just staying consistent: sweating a lot playing sports, leaving his clothes in a stinky heap, eating 6,000 calories a day, and then collapsing into bed. I have to say, I adore feeding hungry people. His lacrosse team came over recently and ate 8 pounds of pasta plus meatballs and meat sauce, a salad mountain, and bags and boxes of cookies, with a leftover Easter-candy chaser. It was like they were locusts on corn. 

Even if you don't feed MAD HUNGRY teams of boys, Lucinda Scala Quinn's cookbook - and our Thursday cooking demo — is all about getting nourishing food on the table without fuss and bother, but MORE IMPORTANT, using food to connect with others. Especially the sort of others who live with you (Tom, ahem) and say "Good," when you ask about their day and don't utter very much else. Most days I want to slice open his head and twist it like a lemon on a juicer to discover his brain contents, but instead I warm some olive oil and add chopped onions and minced garlic. I know he takes a whiff from inside his room and wonders what will be to eat. Saturday, I was much encouraged that he has maybe-ish noticed his upbringing because he wanted to make chicken soup to bring to a sick friend. I tried to stay cool, but let's face it, I practically leapt from my chair and showed him how to cook diced carrots in broth (I'm going to brag right now and tell you my son knows how to make chicken stock from leftover bones, even though he'd never admit it). 

Any of this sound familiar?? Can warm food help bring together some folks in your life? Come over Thursday and let's cook and connect, a la Lucinda.

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A Whole Lotta Fun is "in store" for Independent Bookstore Day, Saturday the 29th

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A Whole Lotta Fun is "in store" for Independent Bookstore Day, Saturday the 29th

Three years ago, someone in BookLand wisely decided that independent bookstores deserve a DAY! A day to be glad that this ancient, ageless paper-exchange of ideas, beginning when ancient Greek and Roman scribes put stories on to pages — continues today. The printing press in the 15th century helped nudge things along, of course, but the concept has always been the same: ideas travel from the thinker who writes them down, over to the bookmaker who prints them and binds the pages, then to the bookstore (eager to shelve and share them in a welcoming place with candles or twinkle lights), and ultimately to a new reader and thinker, keen to discover a new voice. 

I'm proud that I do something that I could explain my commercial existence to in 3 words, even if it was, say ... Aristotle. I SELL BOOKS

We at PPB are proud to invite you to a day celebrating our independent bookstore! On Saturday, April 29th, from 10:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m. we will all-day-offer lots of the things we do best: 

  • Cooking demonstrations all day long from our two top-selling cookbooks in our almost-3-year history - The Cocktail Party and Ina Garten's Cooking for Jeffrey (including a DIY Donut Bar, Grilled Cheese station, Hot Dog Stand, and fire-pit S'mores; 
  • A' course we will offer personal recommendations on the best new fiction and non-fiction; 
  • FUN discounts in a groovy way only PPB could come up with - this time- ROLL our dice to determine your discount before we'd let you pay for your stack of books; and, 
  • A sale on cards and gifts WHILE you need them - not after — 15% off our section of cards and books for MOMS, DADS AND GRADS. 

We are excited to celebrate with you on Saturday the ancient tradition of idea-exchange — a la Prairie Path Books.

See you here, Sandy

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Happy Valentine's Day!

When I have you all over here at PPB, you know that I love to acknowledge the Price family for making Prairie Path Books possible. But it's not often enough that I applaud my Valentine of 35 years, Dave Koropp, for his PPB support. I'm not sure what other virgin retailers go through in their journey to a grand opening, but I can tell you this of mine - it's a ton about Dave loving me. You see ... he is my York High School sweetheart (1983) and U of I college/law school soulmate (B.A. 1987/JD '90), Wheaton husband + commuting young legal co-professional (circa 1991), then District 200 parent of children (2001 - ), now parent of WWSHS 17 year old + Hyde Park 19 and 20-year-olds — but always sweetheart — Dave. 

Dave. To whom I said "I'm thinking about opening a bookstore," in February 2014. And Dave said "You'd be great, you should." And so I did. And that's a powerful love. 

Yep, him and me been together since I was sixteen - and this photo is of us on one of our first dates - a York High School dance called "SNOWBALL" in February, 1981. See, Dave and I went to a few teen dances, then we were together all through college and law school and then I married him right after I took the Bar Exam (1990), and headed straight (with my nose) onto the grindstone. I have a large capacity for work - for better or worse. I can sit and concentrate (read) for a very very long time. Like most students or bookstore owners I guess. So I worked very very hard until I was 31 and Dave and I looked up from said stone that 'twas grinding and decided it was time for Hannah, Emma and Tom. 

After a rather giant personal transition, I stayed home with those three - leaving my legal career behind. Long story short - when Tom was 14, I began to cast about for a new placement of my stone-grinding energies. And thus was born the idea for Prairie Path Books. I hadn't traditionally earned money for 14 years so retail loans were difficult to negotiate - plus I was damned scared. I had no experience in bookstore retail (other than buying books), but plenty of chutzpah. 

But I had a secret weapon - my Valentine, Dave. When I said "I'm ready to work full-time again, but nawwww - not at a law firm, I want to open a bookstore," he said "if anyone can do it you can." I think that's because he loves me. Plus, because we raised our kids literally chest-deep in books and we two still go at it (two lawyers??!) discussing ideas based on books. Just books. 

So, if you're ever wondering what the business plan for small town retail looks like — know that in my case it's got a big ol' Valentine on the cover page. On this 36th anniversary of the Snowball dance - thanks to my Valentine - and I love you, Dave Koropp.   Happy Valentine's Day!

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It's not yet green outside, but we are GROWING!

Even though it's been bleak and blustery, here at PPB we are green and growing! We've added 400 square feet, and wait 'til you see our two new sunshiny rooms. Have you ever moved things around in your home, and it hasn't gone, well — perfectly at first?? Let me explain ... 

First thing in the morning of the big move-in-to-our-added-space day, Tucker and I had hot morning coffee in hand and we were feeling spry. We took stock of our new space, just east of our former Reading Room, and our initial move was obvious -- we'd simply nudge the Room over! With tremendous confidence and vigor, Tucker and I lifted and shoved our Reading Room sofas and love seats and chairs and tables and rugs over to the new space and then we plumped pillows and hung artwork and added a mini-frig. Phew. Our new Reading Room is ready for you to host your book clubs and for us to host you during ours. Plus, just generally we can host there the very book-based GATHERINGS that I dreamed of having when I opened Prairie Path Books two and a half years ago. We have 65 coming Saturday for our author visit - and we hope to welcome many a'more into this new space.

Our coffee gone cold, Tucker and I wiped our brows and looked around the newly empty space where the Reading Room had been. We set about filling it, and we knew with what because I had decided to expand our children's section. See, y'all love children's books - it's one of our tippity-top-selling sections. And frankly, for a long time the 3 itty-bitty bookshelves in our original children's section were cramping our enthusiasm. We needed more ... well, bookshelves, and so we set our sights on the newly empty (former) Reading Room which had FIFTEEN BOOKSHELVES already in it! "Think what we could do with FIFTEEN bookshelves, Tucker!" says I. Huzzah and exultations!! So she and me feasted on apples and peanut butter (it being noon by now) and then brought ALL the picture books over to their new space and stacked them in stacks! We stepped back and smiled at our piles. 

I'm sure there are bookstore owners who would know in advance how to move a children's bookstore over with no errors, but guess what? I'm not one of them, so amidst the book piles we weren't quite sure where to put yet, me and Tucker dragged in the new colorful kids' rug and the cheery child-like yellow table and chairs and the adorable wee brown bookshelves from my Tom's childhood bedroom. All was a'mess, but it somehow inspired us - and so over the next hours we shelved our books and placed the rugs and like, then stood back and looked. We consulted and laughed and shifted them again. Jenny came in and made a comment that made us re-think — so we all shifted and shoved again. I think what we came up with will delight you and the children - it was created with warmth and love and joy.

One very personal aside - please bear with me: When we created a new children's section, I knew I wanted to rename it so it would stand out as an independent children's bookstore. For a few weeks I cast about for just the right words to convey how I feel about children and books. See, I'm Scottish. My maternal grandparents both came from Scotland in the early 20th century. My grandpa, John MacGregor, was born in 1899 (we think), and he came to Ellis Island alone at 18 years and never lost his brogue or his Gaelic. When he would ask after his three grandkids, he'd ask me mum: "So today, are they wee bairns ... or are they wee beasties?" In the Gaelic, "bairn" meant to him most precious little child. Adored and rosy-cheeked beloveds, so tiny and rare — forgiven in advance for all their naughties. To my grandpa, "beastie" meant — well, the opposite — so it needs no translation. And thus PPB developed a logo for my new children's section based on my grandfather's love for me and my sibs, and featuring a watercolor my mom painted of MY three wee Koropp bairn/beasties, Hannah, Emma and Tom. You know it and I know it - books and lap-time reading tame beasties and soothe them in to bairns, so next time you're in, please visit The Wee Bairns. I'm pretty proud.

Last, now we had a new children's bookstore but an empty room — and it is in fact PRIME real-estate: a sun-splashed, window-lit space that begged for something essential to PPB. The fresh new-seeming room was full of potential, but I needed a few days to think about what to use it for. Once we placed an ocean-blue rug in the room's center, and a peaceful grey shelf near the gorgeous natural light — the room's purpose seemed clear to me: in this welcoming space we must put the books PPB is most passionate about. Books that every person walking into Prairie Path Books simply must see. The ones Jenny and me and our PPB Readers have recently read and vigorously recommend — the fiction and non-fiction that we would love to talk with you about. We call it our "Rec Room", and it features the newest best releases also. 

So c'mon in soon out of the grey and in to the green and growing space of PPB. We can't wait to show you around! 

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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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8th Day of Christmas!

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8th Day of Christmas!

As we near the end of the year, we see Favorites of 2016 lists everywhere and we didn’t want to finish the year without a look back at what we loved. Here is our 8th Day of Christmas and we hope you find a new book or two from your PPB Readers’ favorites from the past 12 months.

 

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Jenny

On Living by Kerry Egan
What does a hospice chaplain do?  In her touching and inspiring new book, On Living, Kerry Egan shares incredible stories of people she has listened to and comforted as they confronted their own deaths. This book reminds us all of the larger story or our lives: to dance more while you still can!  Absolutely loved this book!

The Book of Joy by Dalai Lama
Who knew the Dalai Lama was so wise?  Wow.  I underlined half the book. He and Desmond Tutu share important truths, and both are so full of joy. There's much to glean from these pages!  

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler
This is a great story!  Such a fun read.  The characters are unique and memorable, the descriptions scrumptious, and a book that will stay with you long after you close the book.  

The Girls by Emma Cline
Awesome book.  Fascinating and thought-provoking story about a girl who becomes friends with some girls who are part of a cult.  The novel reminds us all of our own adolescent insecurities and vulnerabilities in our journeys to understand ourselves and the world around us.  This book is definitely one you will want to talk about.

Sing for your Life by Daniel Bergner
Fantastic biography.  At the age of 12, Ryan Speedo Green was placed in solitary confinement in one of Virginia's worst juvenile detention centers.   At 24, Ryan won America's most prestigious contest for young opera singers that led to his subsequent career at The Met.  Today he is starring in LaBoheme there.  Such an inspiring story of how he did it and the people who helped him.

Grit by Angela Duckworth
Look, I had everyone in my family read this book. Must read for everyone about the power of passion and perseverance and how anyone can become grittier.


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Jen H

When Dr. Paul Kalanithi is diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer at the age of 36, it appears that all he has worked for in becoming a neurosurgeon is about to evaporate into thin air. He distills his experiences in When Breath Becomes Air through prose that affirms the profound depth of life, even while he wraps his mind around the undeniable approach of death. Beautiful in every way.    

Hope Jahren weaves the natural order of nature, trees in particular, to the lessons she has learned from her own life as a female scientist navigating through academia in her amazing memoir, Lab Girl. This book breathes life out of every page in a way I never imagined a scientist could explain it to me. Simply put - SUPER! The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben makes a genuine companion to Lab Girl! This book gives you the nitty gritty of how trees communicate, think, feel, and protect one another. Absolutely amazing information that will change the way you look at our leafy shade givers forever!

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli presents an overview of the science behind the natural world we live in through 81 fascinatingly brief pages of pure enlightenment for anyone with a curiosity about physics! No science background required!


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Cathy

Homegoing by Yaa Glass
This novel traces the path of two sisters, (unknown to each other) in Ghana and America over a 300 year span. It is a tale of slavery, sadness, power and redemption. 

Last Bus to Wisdom by Ivan Doig
Donal Cameron is living in Montana 1951 with his grandma until she has medical issues. The precocious Donal is sent alone on a bus to Wisconsin.  An adventure, coming of age story and the bonds of family.

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
A thought -provoking tale of four college buddies through the years.  One in particular is Jude, a survivor, loyal friend and deeply troubled soul.

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, this is a suspenseful novel of a double agent from Vietnam. After the fall of Saigon, he travels to L.A.  to build a new life. A brutal tale of espionage, love, betrayal and friendship.


Sandy

In Bookland, it’s actually pretty rare that a book is perfect for readers of any age and gender but I am wild for three of them this year. My book of the year is Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance, a 32-year-old Yale Law grad, born and raised in Kentucky and Ohio. In telling his life story, he brings a fresh outlook and rare understanding of the culture and families in the Rust Belt, which was the area that so impacted our recent presidential election. Read it, read it, read it!

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles and News of the World by Paulette Jiles are books of historical fiction with charming and event delightful male protagonists. The dashing gentleman of Gentleman handles decades of house arrest in the magnificent Hotel Metropol, beginning during the Bolshevik Revolution. In News, a 70-year-old undertakes to return a 10-year-old to her family after Indians kidnapped her four years prior, even those she does not want to go. Set in the 1870’s Texas, this magnificently written, slender novel is my fiction book of the year.


Paula

The Guineveres by Sarah Domet tells the story of four girls named Guinevere, all abandoned by their parents during wartime at a convent-run orphanage. The bonds of friendship, the desire to be adults and how our childhood impacts us – great book club read.  

Last Days of Night by Graham Moore is a historical fiction that both men and women will enjoy. Follow the true story of the fight for the rights to the light bulb, featuring many names we recognized – Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, Morgan. I found it fascinating.

The Queen of the Night by Alexandre Chee focuses on the most sought after opera singer of Europe at the turn of the century. She is approached with an opera written just for her but quickly recognizes that it is the story of her highly guarded past and the reader then follows her on the hunt to see who has sold her story. Rich, deep and well worth the length.

Today will be Different by Maria Semple is a gem. As a huge fan of Where’d You Go Bernadette, I eagerly awaited this book and was not disappointed. Follow the protagonist throughout one day of her life where she vows that “today will be different.” Delightful.

Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware is my mystery of the year. Agatha Christie fans will love this book that features a luxury yacht that loses power on the water, the sounds of a murder but no body, and suspicious characters abound. 

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"Joy of Cookies"

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"Joy of Cookies"

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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"Joy of Cookies"

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"Joy of Cookies"

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"

Sandy's "Joy of Cookies" Blog

One Christmas-time when my three kids were tiny and at least some of them were napping each day (never all at once, dang it!) - I decided to expend some of my hyper by baking every day between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I can't remember if I actually met my weird goal, but I do recall taking the kids on sleds and delivering many confections to the neighbors.  Looking back, they probably thought I was nuts, which I kinda was/am.

Anyhoo - all of BookLand is raving about Dorie Greenspan's new cookbook:  Dorie's Cookies.  Here she takes a fresh look at cookies, to see what they could be when "along with butter, sugar, eggs and flour" she brought curiosity to make her faves even more delish.  We had some of her cookies out for our Small Business Saturday, and they are so good they actually inspire the follow up "oh my gosh!  what's in these? yum!"  

So naturally it seemed like a great idea to me to bake every December day from this book.  This time, I enlisted a team of bakers and together we will bake and chat our way through a couple a'dozen Dorie's Cookies recipes starting December 1st.  Look for our "The Joy of Cookies" blog every Friday before Christmas; Karen and me and Jenny and Cathy and Wendy and Maggie will tell you all about their 24 days of happy baking, with a few photos to inspire. 

This week, I made Dorie's chocolate shortbread caramel bars to add to my girls' college finals care package.  They are together at school and there, they have quarters and not semesters.  That means finals are NOW, so cookies and fuzzy study socks are on their way.  

Call us if you want us to set aside a book for you - I promise you'll be glad you did, even if you take your time baking your way through it!  (630) 765-7455 

 

Karen's "Joy of Cookies" Blog

Growing up, the Christmas holiday season was not complete for me until my mom purchased butter, pecans, and chocolate. I knew she was getting ready to make homemade turtles, one of my favorite candies. The Salted Chocolate-Caramel Bars in Dorie’s Cookies remind me of an old-fashioned turtle albeit stepped up a notch or two! The base for the bars is a chocolate shortbread, which makes a very nice, flaky bar beneath the caramel and nuts. Don’t be intimidated if you’ve never made a caramel sauce before. Give it a try! The instructions are clear and easy to follow. I have never tried adding chopped chocolate to homemade caramel before, and I don’t know why! The flavor reminded me of a Werther’s chocolate caramel, only better because it was homemade. The bars are rich and delicious and the recipe says to cut the 8”x 8” pan of bars into 21 pieces, just enough to get a mouthful of gooey chocolate caramel and nuts. Enjoy!

I really enjoyed making Blondies from Dorie's Cookies this week. I love the combination of chocolate, pecans and coconut and this recipe did not disappoint! The ingredients were easy to combine and I went from start to finish in under an hour. I tried two of Dorie's suggested techniques for baking--using muffin tins as well as a mini-scoop drop cookie. I have never baked cookie dough in a muffin tin before and I really enjoyed the results. The cookies bake at a lower temperature for longer than a regular cookie but the results were amazing. A slightly crisp exterior with a nice chewy interior filled with pecans and chocolate and a hint of coconut. The drop cookies spread more than I had anticipated but since I had used a small scoop, they turned out just fine. Another winner and a festive treat for the holidays!

My mom was very close to her dad, my grandpa, who died when I was only 3 1/2 years old. I feel like I know him just a bit because of my mom's memories. One of those was "he only liked two kinds of pie--hot or cold." My mom and my grandma were fabulous pie makers and I remember asking how to become such a good baker. My mom said, "The only way to become a good pie maker is to make pies!" My love of baking comes from my mom and over the years I have had a lot of fun trying new techniques and tinkering a bit here and there to find the best recipes and to make desserts people find comforting and delicious.

 

Cathy's "Joy of Cookies" Blog

Dorie Greenspan calls these "Friendship Cookies" because everyone she serves them to" want to follow her home and be her best friend".  I, on the other hand, have always called them Rugelach.  Coming from New York and frequenting many Jewish neighborhoods, this is how I knew them.  And yes, I too have enjoyed raves and my friends do look forward to my Christmas Rugelach.

Now though, with this new recipe from Dorie, and just devouring one, I can honestly say "I want to be her friend".   From the delicate cream cheese dough to the sweetness of the chocolate, raisins, and apricot jam...... Wow! Just a beautiful bite!

P.S.  If you don't want any more friends, don't hand these out😊

I became familiar with the ANZAC cookie (Australian & New Zealand Army Corps) after reading a beautiful book, The Light Between Oceans".  It took place in Australia, and since it was my book club selection, I decided to do some research on the foods of that area.  I came to find out that this cookie was a staple for wives and mothers to send the soldiers during war time.  The reason for this was that this cookie did not contain eggs and therefore kept well for overseas travel.

They're an easy cookie to make and come together nicely.  I've added a little something to the original recipe, cranberries.  They work so well with the coconut and oatmeal.  But be careful, they are addicting and it's hard to put them down once you start.  Remember I warned you!

I became familiar with the ANZAC cookie (Australian & New Zealand Army Corps) after reading a beautiful book, The Light Between Oceans".  It took place in Australia, and since it was my book club selection, I decided to do some research on the foods of that area.  I came to find out that this cookie was a staple for wives and mothers to send the soldiers during war time.  The reason for this was that this cookie did not contain eggs and therefore kept well for overseas travel.

They're an easy cookie to make and come together nicely.  I've added a little something to the original recipe, cranberries.  They work so well with the coconut and oatmeal.  But be careful, they are addicting and it's hard to put them down once you start.  Remember I warned you!

 

Jenny's "Joy of Cookies" Blog

Simply scrumptious and savory:  "Rosemary-Parm Cookies" and "Parmesan Galettes."  These are ridiculously delicious.  The great thing is that you can make these two recipes one after the other in your food processor.  No need to wash between the doughs--just wipe out and prepare the next recipe.  The first is an incredible combo of parmesan and fresh rosemary with just a hint of sweetness.  The butter in the recipe makes the texture of the cookie perfect.  Super easy to roll into a log, chill, slice, bake and EAT.  O.M.G.  So yummy.  The "Parmesan Galettes" have an incredible texture and intense cheesy taste.  I kind of wanted to roll around in the galettes they were so tasty.  I'm telling you, serve these fresh out of the oven or make the day ahead--still perfect the next day.  A must-make for your next dinner party.  Both these recipes are super easy and over the top in taste and texture!  (If you make them both, start with the galettes first, then do the cookies.)

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It's funny how we choose a book, isn't it?

It's funny how we choose a book, isn't it?

The other day I had lunch in Chicago with my dear friend Betsy, during which we - as only old friends can - downloaded our life headlines lickity-split-like. 


Says me: "Whatever happened with your son" and "How's Mark's dad" and "You got tickets to Hamilton" and "Wait, I never heard about your trip to Portugal?" On my side it's usually she (mother of two sons) consoling me that it's normal to need an ice pick to get life-details from a teenage son, that no, I shouldn't have let on that I was thrilled that my daughter broke up with whatzhis name because I just might end up seeing him at Thanksgiving, and then always: what are you reading?? You can see Betsy on our website; she is a fearless PPB Reader and the reason I challenged myself and read A Little Life, the subject of a great PPB book club Thursday.

After we hugged and headed off I realized that joy oh joy, I was steps away from the shop owned by my mentor, Ellen Sandmeyer. Ellen and her husband have owned Sandmeyer's Bookstore in Printers Row since 1982 and it's second only to PPB in my heart. In the last 2 1/2 years I have asked 35-year-veteran Ellen every question I have and she has so graciously walked me through how she does it. "IT" is that her store is so enviably curated that anyone would feel like they've entered the Land of BookOZ. So I spent hours that day learning (again) from her - "Where did you find this one, a catalog or sales rep or word of mouth or what?" and "After how long is a book moved from your 'New Release' section?" and "You didn't bring in ______, why not?" Bookstore owners are in a tiny club and when we get together we are so excited to speak our own book shorthand that we spiral very quickly into a private universe. (One time in a New York bookstore - tiny and so charming - the owner introduced himself and we spiraled so far into BookLand that my husband left and sat outside and I didn't even notice .... Oops).

All that said because at Ellen's I enter a bookshopping wonderland that inspires and surprises me and I can only hope my store feels to you what hers feels like to me. And joy oh joy - I had just finished A Little Life: Time for a new novel!! It's funny how we choose a book, isn't it? That day I purchased Rush Oh! by Shirley Barrett. Why that one you say? This was my process:

  1. The cover. Okay, I admit it, I am a cover lover. With all those book spines facing out - the font of the title and color of the Rush Oh! cover, plus the energetic and nostalgic title - RUSH OH! spoke to me. I pulled it from the shelf and sure enough, I could tell from the cover illustrations that it was about whaling, which maintained and even piqued my interest. That's because Nantucket Island is probably my favorite place on earth and I love their whaling museum.
  2. The recommendations. Ooooh - the cover recommendation was by an author I admire: "Beautiful and brutal, witty and kind, Rush Oh! is a story of great surprises and a beating heart - a book to never forget. Markus Zusak, author of The Book Thief." Who writes the recs and how often those people recommend books (too many, Elizabeth Gilbert!) is something I look for. My book-heart is pumping now: on to the back cover and quotes there: "Hugely funny. Poetic meditation on love. Bloody battles between man and beast ...." Dang, this adventure tale could be the one - totally different from my last read.
  3. The inside flap. The inside coverslip usually has a plot summary and this one sounds great: Rush Oh! is set in 1908 in a New South Wales whaling community, and the story is based on a real character, George "Fearless" Davidson, a legendary captain. What luck, I was in the mood for historical fiction. Ooooh - lookee, high praise for the novel's flinty and hilarious but also vulnerable narrator, 17-year-old daughter Mary. Female narrator - haven't read one in a while ....
  4. Read a little bit. I got a feel for Mary right away reading the first pages, and her voice reminded me of the young heroine of the recent True Grit movie with Jeff Bridges - bold, sassy and with an unusual cadence and manner of speaking (formal? old-fashioned?) Page 38, Mary says:

I shall now pause a moment and describe my sister Louisa, as I notice she is creeping into my story and perhaps warrants an explanation. At that time (I have decided to confine my literary endeavors to an account of the whaling season of 1908), Louisa was sixteen years of age and widely admired for her appearance. Her hair was a pale straw yellow in color, her features dainty and her figure slender, with an overall effect which many found pleasing. (I myself value qualities such as kindness and consideration for others above mere symmetry of form; however it seems I am out of step with public taste in this regard.) 

Hilarious - I'm sold! Thanks Ellen for having this book. (P.S. I can tell you that I'm half way through and loving it. Success!)

Next time you're in - I'd love to chat about your process for choosing a book, it's so interesting I think! See you soon - and lookee here:  

PPB now has dozens of wool mittens for gifting or keeping - handmade by Wheaton sisters Wendy and Susie. 10% off while supplies last...

You know me by now, I LOVE to cook!

You know me by now, I LOVE to cook!

You know how I didn't know anything about retail when I opened PPB 2 years ago? Well I've figured something OUT! Just today!! 

The reason why we keep selling out of tickets for our cooking demos and their cookbooks is because I LOVE to cook. So much so, that I'm taking the PPB cooking show on the road October 5th.

You know me by now. I am invigorated by chilly weather. So after a full morning yesterday, I decided to embrace the rain and gloom, put ON my robe and just stay home and cook. My house became more quiet (and clean) the day we dropped the girls to college ten days ago (sob), and I've been paying lots and lots of attention to my Tom (junior in high school). Mostly by cooking for him, but also asking tons of keen questions about how his school year is going. He seems to really enjoy it (the homemade food). 

So hiding in my house in my robe in the middle of the afternoon, I set about making the chicken nuggets from Alana Chernila's Homemade Pantry (just cube the chicken, dip in mayo + lemon juice then coat with bread crumbs + salt/pepper). Oops - dangity - I didn't have any bread crumbs and I was in my dang robe! Welcome to SandyLand. So after a few swear terms (house quiet, me alone), I forewent the grocery store and Cuisinarted some stale Cheez-Its and oyster crackers I found behind the Cheerios. 

Nuggs (breaded without bread) in the oven, I decided to stir up my most-ever-requested recipe, chocolate chip brownie double-deckers from Abigail Johnson Dodge's The Weekend Baker. I love this recipe because all you need is a pot and a wooden spoon - no electronic mixer and all that detestable noise! I wanted to hear my rain pitter. Patter, pitter, happy rain. Tra la, hum hum, thinking about my new blog ... DANGITY!!!! I used the wrong (too big) measuring cup for the dry ingredients. Alas, I knew the dough looked wrong so - DANGITY!! Wait, no problem!! I shall melt more butter and add the brown sugar, thus belatedly doubling the chocolate chip part of the recipe — and TA DA!!!! Recipe saved PLUS a recipe of chocolate chip dough extra-like. (Sob, if my girls were here, they and their friends would totally be eating it....) Anyway - here's a picture of Tom, home from practice, with a nugget-mountain on his plate, but with his stomach's eye on the chocolate chip brownie double-deckers. Bitter and sweet, this.

Long story short ... "too LATE" as my husband always reminds me ... I can't stop myself when it comes to how I feel about home cooking. Every time I pull out the drawer where I keep my cinnamon and nutmeg and vanilla and apple pie spice, I smile and linger and sniff. 

Yesterday, it hit me — the REASON my PPB cooking demo for Homemade Pantry sold out 3x is because enthusiasm and true kitchen love is contagious. And the REASON we sold out tickets in just days for the first November demo of Ina Garten's new cookbook Cooking for Jeffrey - then added another on November 10th and sold out of that — is that we at PPB love to cook. (By the way, Tucker and I will be cooking from "Jeffrey" October 25th, the day the new Barefoot Contessa launches.)

Now we take our kitchen-love west: our PPB demos last spring and summer - of The Cocktail Party by Mary Giuliani, and Grilled Cheese Kitchen by Heidi Gibson - you guessed it - sold out. We've been asked to offer the program at The Little Traveler, just a tad west a'here - in Geneva. This next Wednesday the 5th! Have you been to Geneva in the autumn? It's a Norman Rockwell painting. 

Please come visit us at The Little Traveler on October 5th. And, if you're still with me - yes, I've been approached to open a PPB - yep, in gorgeous Geneva, and so I've been noodling hard and happy about it. In terms of things I've learned in 2 years - go with what you love, and you can't lose. — Sandy

Autumn Transitions - Emma, PPB Kids & Family

Autumn Transitions - Emma, PPB Kids & Family

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As I sit here writing, I look over and spy my dining room table piled to toppling with all the things my Emma will need to move into her college dorm this weekend.

There are many many stacks, all ready for packing in the car. Of all my children, E is the most like me. We were born to chat but also crave quiet reading hours. We love mild September sun and 68 degree days, and even yearn for October chill and 58 degree sweater days. She couldn't wait, back when she was teenywee-Emma, to gleefully re-visit her favorite, seasonal apple, pumpkin, school and autumn picture books I'd pull out this time each year. This is a REALLY good time for me to point out that: 

  • reading rituals like a set-time-of-day-storytime, or a seasonal box o' books you pull out in September etc. — are so important to foster an adoration of reading, so gosh, please create some of these rituals in your home; and
     
  • please have in your house cozy, wonderful picture books and storytimes way PAST the days your child can read chapter books because picture books are lovely and enchanting and fond and rich in content, plus ... the snuggling and reading together years fly by all too fast. Trust me ... and Emma! 

I don't know what not having my Emma near me will be like. I swear we have identical DNA so I wonder who in her new life will read her blinks and know her thinks like I do, and vice versa. Of course, leaving and learning is exactly what she should be doing, but still my heart breaks every time I look over at her stacks of dorm stuff. It's not just me and my house that will miss her — PPB has been lucky to have Emma running the Children's Department and Events for 2+ years. Always a voracious reader, she ordered the books for these sections and read and recommended them like crazy. She has been working in bookstores since she was a high school freshman, and she knew 100% more about the business than I did when I started PPB in June, 2014. Many of you attended fun family events with your loved ones, so you and I both know that PPB Kids & Families must go on after tomorrow's dorm drop-off.

Lucky me, Liz Sims has attended "Emma's Kids" fun family events with her boys for a long time, and she wanted a job! Liz and I have put together a fun-filled Fall-Full of activities for PPB Kids & Families (we've been calling it a "September through Santa" -worth of programming). So please take a look and call the store to sign up — the first one is NEXT WEEKEND - Grandparents Day fun on Sunday, September 25! I am so excited to welcome Liz, and I guarantee you will love all the things we have planned!

As I sit here now, still writing, the yellowed leaves on our backyard trees are rustling with breeze and foretell Friday evening rain. Emma and I always say rainy days offer perfect permission to stay home and read and read, and then get a blanket and burrow in and read some more, preferably with our three pooches Walter and Payton and Cubby at your feet. I and we at PPB will miss you, Miss Emma - now go get 'em and make the most of every day, even rainy ones. — Sandy

"Independent Bookstore Showrooming"

"Independent Bookstore Showrooming"


Hello friends, Ann Patchett's recent comments (below) about "independent bookstore showrooming" have made quite a splash in BookLand, where I live.  You don't live there I bet, so I'll fill you in.  

Often at booksellers' conferences, or when a bookstore goes out of business, there is always talk of folks who "showroom":  use brick and mortar bookstores to get a look and feel of a book, or an idea for a book they'd never heard of, and then head off to the internet to save some money on their purchase.  I've mentioned to you before that I don't actually have negative energy  - I mean, really I do not dwell on the negative ever - and so when I hear this sort of talk I sort of tune out or even walk away.  After all, I said to myself when I started PPB, and I still say it now -- it's up to ME to make my bookstore competitive;  to make myself stand out in the marketplace as it IS, and along with that to employ excellent and modern business practices to make sure every cent counts.  I told myself I would leap out of this business if I ever began sending out  "please, please, please ... support your poor local bookstore, please" vibes.  

On the other hand, bookstores have to be smart and just plain say, "I know you have a lot of ways to buy the books I tell you about and I really would appreciate it if you'd honor PPB with your purchase."  So way to kick a little hiney, Ann!!  As I am standing here, a customer is taking pictures of books in my "American Presidents" display.  Urg.  Our customers are so loyal, and I know for sure that all of you who actually read my rants are the choir so I won't preach.  

From the beginning though,  I've been very interested in innovating a new model for bookstores - such that we truly can afford to offer a career in book-selling.  No doubt I will never make as much running PPB as I did as a lawyer.  And without my husband having a good job and Scott Price's generosity in offering me this lovely space 2 years ago - believe me when I say there would be no bookstore in Wheaton.  That said, I didn't love when people would say "oh, that's so cute (crazy)" when I mentioned I was going to open a bookstore.  So it is my mission to try to innovate the traditional model and take bookstores from sort of cute and charming to essential to community well-being, and, well ...  kick-ass.  I'm feeling you, Ann.
 


Showrooming Patrons: Ann Patchett 'Will Hunt You Down'

"I'm like, 'You cannot come in, soak up what we have, talk to the staff, get recommendations, then go home and buy the book on Amazon. If you do, I will hunt you down and smack you around.' Somehow... Ann Patchett can say that in a way that your regular bookstore owner can't....

"If somebody said, OK, you can either write five more great novels, or you can make sure that the people who work in bookstores have health insurance and have some place to go if they need help because they're broke. At this point I might really go for the good. Nothing fuels the good of the world like happiness, and the thing that makes me feel really alive is figuring out how I can frighten other people into doing good."

—Ann Patchett, author most recently of Commonwealth and co-owner of Parnassus Books, Nashville, Tenn., in a recent Guardian interview

We Do Book Clubs!

We Do Book Clubs!

The weather is perfect at last. I hope you are enjoying it, on this traditional last weekend of summer. We all know better, don't we - 'round here there will be more 90 degree days, and yet I've seen more than a few red and yellow leaves on Wheaton trees, haven't you? For the sports-loving Koropps, this weekend means the U.S. Open is on TV, plus our beloved Cubbies (Magic # 11 - yay!!), and college football. The change of seasons ALSO means our Quarterly Book Recommendation Party, dubbed Champagne & Maple Leaves, and you just can't miss it. RSVP please; it's on Saturday, September 24 from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Jenny and me and PPB Readers Paula and JenH will talk (briefly?!) about over 40 books we adore; it's a must for book clubs and avid readers.

There are two types of book clubs that meet at PPB: your own groups that come in and meet in our Reading Room, and boy do we love having you. And our own PPB-led book clubs. Re the first, I had a blast on Thursday night helping the Page Turners pick their September - May, 2016-2017 set of reads. They are really organized, great heavens! Fearless leader Meg booked our PPB Reading Room, everyone brought snacks and bevs, and they set right to work after only a half hour of chat! Can you believe that?? That is award-winning book club discipline if you ask me. Any member that wanted brought books to consider, I added a fairly giant stack of books that make my heart throb, and we set them up right there on the Reading Room floor — organized by categories like Lighter Lit, Challenging Lit, Book + Movie, Short Stories, NonFiction, and Young Adult. The 10-member Page Turners likes to toss in some alternate genres with their traditional fiction/non-fiction. Impressive, right?? If you're interested in what they picked, I've included their choices below - they had fun discussing and comparing and winnowing down. Above is a photo of the group, still smiling at the end of an evening of hard work!

If you're not in a book club (or even if you are), me and Jenny would LOVE to have you come to one of ours. We meet in the PPB Reading Room too and we provide the snacks and bevs. This fall we have selected Hamilton by Ron Chernow for September 12th, (paperback non-fiction a 'course), A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara for October 13th (paperback challenging lit, and a bit longer — but OH SO worth it), and A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles for November 16th (hardcover, fiction by a fabulous writer). September and October, we will meet at 6:30, and in November we will meet at 1:00 p.m. Click on the links above to read about these events in greater detail.

PS - if you want to reserve the Reading Room for your book club meeting, email me at read@prairiepathbooks.com. It needn't be your "selection meeting", but it sure can be. As always, book clubs receive 15% off on their selections. If you want me to recommend books, let me know. I like to ask a lot of questions up front about what you all have read and liked, didn't, how long or deep you want to go, paperback vs. hardcover, classic versus new release, fiction/non-fiction. That way, you get the BEST mix of reads just for your group's tastes. Enjoy the weekend, and see you all soon!!  — Sandy

Jenny & Sandy's Fall Book Review

Jenny & Sandy's Fall Book Review

Champagne and Maple Leaves

Have your heard the swooshy noises of PPB Readers' outgoing emails zipping around town at alarming rates?? That's us, me and Jenny, Paula and Cathy and JenH. We've been reading like crazy all summer finding the greatest books to recommend to you on September 24 for our Champagne & Maple Leaves Book Recommendation Party. If I'm guessing, between the five of us, we probably read 15 books a week, and I am not kidding. Don't worry - we won't talk about all of them, we will recommend only our most beloved. These quarterly reviews are among my faveity things to plan and offer to you. So here's a quickie look at some of the books we will share next month.

Space is limited for this free event, so please RSVP by calling the store (630-765-7455), or emailing us at read@prairiepathbooks.com

from Sandy

from Sandy

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara: What if your college best friends were still your closest friends in middle age, but after years of friendship, you realize one friend seemed to carry a terrible burden and it takes all this time for everyone to even begin to understand? This is truly a life-changing story and everyone I know who has read it is stunned and moved and changed by it. You will be too. 

Britt-Marie Was Here by Frederik Backman: Meet a Brit-curmudgeon who we can't love at first encounter, but then irresistibly charms us with her stalwart and steady qualities. Britt-Marie is looking for purpose after marriage difficulties and is determined to at last get a job after years taking care of a thankless mate. She finds a job in a bleak community and she is just what they need. You will love it.

from Jenny

from Jenny

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth: The reader is taken on an amazing and edifying journey of the important role grit has in determining one’s success, demystifying long-held beliefs that IQ and talent are fixed. Rather she shows the potential in all people to become grittier in order to live happier and more successful lives. 

The Girls by Emma Cline: In fascinating detail, the author re-imagines the Manson cult of California in the 1960’s and the young people who fell prey to it. A coming-of-age story told through the eyes of an older woman recounting her fixation and experiences with the cult the summer she was just 14. A page-turner and thought provoking book that you will definitely want to talk about. 

from Jennifer

from Jennifer

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer: History, culture, and the race to save ancient manuscripts from invading jihadists. Librarians to the rescue! 

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler: Lush descriptions of New York City and sensual food experiences fill this novel set in the modern restaurant industry. 

Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe: Despite heavy themes, this novel maintains lightness and humor as a largely absent father attempts to reconnect with his daughter.

from Paula

from Paula

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware: This mystery features a boat at sea, a possible murder and a what seems to be an unreliable narrator. Fans of Agatha Christie, check it out. 

Love the House You’re In by Paige Rien: Instead of dwelling on how much you don’t like your house, use the helpful instruction of this book to turn your house into a home you love.

from Cathy

from Cathy

The Invoice by Jonas Karlsonz: This book reminded me of the movie, “Defending Your Life” with Albert Brooks. A young man is charged an exorbitant amount for his happy life. A quirky little book, that makes you appreciate what you have. Uplifting, yes! 

My Mrs. Brown by William Norwich: Mrs. Brown has lived a simple life, until she decides she must own a designer dress. How does she afford it and why does she desire it? All of us, no matter our station in life, want to live well and feel beautiful.  

August Thrills and Chills

August Thrills and Chills

It was a dark and stormy Wednesday ...

August Dog Days are all about sitting in the air conditioning with a great read (if you're me), or outside on a patio with sweet iced tea (if you're Jenny, — she has Southern roots.) How ever you endure these post-Olympic (sob!) Dog Days, we have here a great list of THRILLERS to help you chill out. If you want me to put one aside, call the store (630-765-7455) or email me at read@prairiepathbooks.com. Oh and hey - if your book club is looking for an October spooky selection, these are great choices, especially Woman in Cabin 10; don't forget book clubbers get 15% off their selections at PPB! See you soon, Sandy

The lead book for this month must be Ruth Ware’s The Woman in Cabin 10. The cover is textured and you can feel the water, very cool for our tactile readers! After surviving a house invasion, travel writer Lo Blacklock boards the inaugural voyage of a wealthy couple’s ten-cabin luxury yacht before it becomes available to the public. Woken in the middle of the night of what sounds to be a struggle and something falling into the water below, Lo is convinced the woman in the cabin next to her has been murdered and tossed overboard – but no one has any recollection of the passenger on the boat. Situations get stranger, Lo begins questioning her sanity and answers seem too murky to figure out. The Woman in Cabin 10 will have its readers questioning and curious until the last page. It is one of those books that once you figure it out, you may just go back to page one and piece it all together from the beginning!

In the vein of Liane Moriarty (The Husband’s Secret, Big Little Lies), Megan Abbott’s new release You Will Know Me hits all the same notes – tight knit community, suspicious event, characters who readers don’t know who to trust. Following the sudden death of a young man in their gymnastics’ world, a mother of a gymnastics prodigy begins questioning her life, her family’s choices and all those around her. As we watch the Olympics and see the sacrifices families must make to support their Olympian, it makes the reader wonder what they would be willing to do to make their child “the best.” Readers will be held through the end when they learn what happened – fun, don’t-want-to-put-it-down read. A great way to end the summer. 

For readers who love twists, mysteries and plunging through a book to figure out what the "real story" is, it is time for you to check out Swan Huntley's debut novel, We Could Be Beautiful

Catherine West is a 43-year-old New York City woman who owns a card shop but lives off her trust fund and desires to be married. An older handsome gentleman sweeps her off her feet, but something is off. Catherine's mother has progressive Alzheimer's and is often confused, but she is unhappy and flustered about the match, leaving Catherine to question whether she should be concerned about her mom or her man. Follow Catherine through the whirlwind romance, as the reader and Catherine question what is actually happening. Enjoy this mystery! 

If you like a little lighter fare for your thrills, check out The Assistants by Camille Perri. It was described as a "'9 to 5' (the '80s movie with Jane Fonda, Lily  and Dolly Parton) for the debt-ridden college graduate era. But instead of revenge, it is the desire to be debt-free from college loans that female assistants feel they will never escape while working for bosses who spend, in one moment, more than their assistants will make in a year. 

When the assistant to a major media mogul discovers an ignored reimbursement, she quietly uses it to pay off her student loan and vacillates between feelings of guilt and freedom...then she is found out. But in a twist, the colleague doesn't want to rat her out, she wants her debt paid off too! Soon the small idea becomes a scheme that involves other assistants. It's a modern-day Robin Hood! Early on in the book, the narrator tells that she was caught, so the reader spends the book wondering how it is going to blow up. 

For those who prefer their thrills to be straight from the headlines, check out American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst by Jeffrey Toobin. I was too young to remember this time but the name Patty Hearst, the term “Stockholm Syndrome,” and that infamous photo of Hearst with the gun are all familiar. Even if the reader was aware of the Hearst situation, this book will unveil new information and great depth to one of our country’s  and most riveting stories. Toobin’s book is fascinating in describing the era, the San Francisco setting, the political climate – and although it is nonfiction, it reads easily and it truly is a “truth is stranger than fiction” tale. 

Jenny (and her daughter) is recommending The Girls by Emma Cline. In day, Evie recalls her teenage years in the 1960s and 70s where she was introduced to a cult with a manipulative leader. Jenny loved that “Evie’s world and our own adolescent worlds revisited in our minds. And Cline does this masterfully throughout the book with her alluring and evocative descriptions, reminding us of the challenges of being a GIRL, of surviving the teenage years with its fixations and immaturities not all that different from Evie’s, at times. In the end, of course, we don’t join a cult, but we can identify with the circumstances that lead Evie astray. This book is one you will definitely want to talk about.” 

And if we are talking about great thrills, we must pay homage to the queen, Agatha Christie. There is a reason she is the third  author of all time (behind the Bible and Shakespeare, so that’s pretty good!) – one billion English copies, another billion in other languages. Christie’s mysteries are great palate cleansers – they are quick, they are good, they stand the test of time, and they thrill and chill. I recommend And Then There Were None and Murder on the Orient Express, but there are many to choose from in the Christie legacy. 

Here are some more titles of thrillers, courtesy of the PPB readers: 

• The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (Paula) 

• Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John LeCarre (Paula) 

• The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson (Susan) 

• Into the Woods by Tana French (Susan) 

And for our younger readers: 

• The Pet and the Pendulum by Golden McAlpine (Stephanie) 

• The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (Jennifer) 

All these books are available to purchase or order through Prairie Path Books. 

Happy Reading, Paula