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You Guys Crack Me Up + Huge Spring Card Sale + plus KNITTING!

PB friends - you crack me up with your endless sunshiny attitude towards the weather.  I get to see so many of you day to day and almost without fail you say something chipper when you come in.  For example, when you bustle in, wrapped in a puffy coat and mittens and I say: "Welcome, thanks for venturing out to our store in all this cold,"  you say, "Oh, it doesn't feel that cold out with the sun shining!"  Just now on this grey Wednesday, I said "Boy, that is one dark sky this morning," and a PPB friend said, "Oh, but these temperatures make me want to plant some flowers."

Is it mid-western grit?  Warm Wheaton dispositions?  Or is it the very nature of booklovers?

Whatever it is, it is a pleasure to be here at the intersection of Scott and Wesley.  You guys make me smile.

Well, since you and your cheery selves just adore greeting cards, I felt the need to hit the REFRESH button for our Celebration Room full of them.  That means new beauties (and funnies and insightfuls and thank yous, etc.) are on their way. That also means we need to make way for them!  You might want to spend some of these delightfully warm days here at PPB (I know it won't matter to you that it might rain), and browse our Clearance Corner for your next stash of cards - at 40% off.

ALSO - we've had much interest in our Sunday Series offering for this week - Knitting!  Many of you have told us that you are not new knitters but want to come gather at PPB even though the event is called "Knitting 101".  OF COURSE come on over!  If you don't need needles and yarn, no charge - just come on over with your current project and meet some crafting compadres.  2:00 p.m. on the 13th, see you here.   learn more

Oh, hey - don't forget to sign up for next week's When Night Becomes Air PPB evening bookclub on the 17th, and our Cook the Book demo of Gabrielle Hamilton's wonderful memoir, Blood Bones and Butter.  If you're not feeling upbeat for some reason, you will find our PPB folks to be irresistible pick-me-uppers : )   Check out our upcoming events!

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I Agree with Jenny.

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I Agree with Jenny.

When Breath Becomes Air is a no-brainer, must-have book. Beautifully written, easily finished, universal topic. Male/female (wow-rare!) topics.

Every book club should have it on their 2016 list.  As ever, we at PPB will discount your club picks 15% to be sure you do - but here is an invite to the many of us without an organized bookclub:

EVERYONE — come to our When Breath Becomes Air PPB bookclub and enjoy the wonderful Jenny and her graduate degree in literature and education as she guides us thorough it.  Trust me:  Jenny-led PPB book clubs leave you smiling, but when you are driving home:  you are also thinking. A rare gift.

learn more

Plus, you simply must come for brunch on Tuesday.  Our Morning Book Club, American Housewife, is a cold water splash in the face of traditional domesticity. Not many of us in our west-suburban Chicago homes, I hazard, think the way this author here does:  random a bit, plus ranting- and yet with deep insight . C'mon Wheaton — stop by for my sour-cream coffee cake, because I am proud of the fact that me and Jenny and our brunch PPB bookclub will delve into it. Even if you haven't read it yet. Ya know?  Come over.

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Three Happy March Things at PPB

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Three Happy March Things at PPB

Hello friends!  It's March 1st at last; that Leap Day really throws a girl off, if you ask me. 

We all know what March means — that's when we midwesterners feel 100% free to resent snow in the forecast and expect winter's end any day (even though — c'mon people — we know never to put our mittens away until Mother's Day, especially if you're a sports mom). No matter - PPB is ALL IN for March + Spring.  Oh and in the March category — the Downton Abbey finale!  Get this:

1.  Walk with me here, as I tell you about our PPB March events.  You know that we love gathering more than anything other than reading, so you simply must attend our gaggle of upcoming gatherings.  As ever, we have 2 book clubs and 2 cookbook events that we are eager to experience with you; but get this — our Sunday Series begins this Sunday - and it is perfect to make us spring-vigorous again.  New for PPB, by popular demand:  we are hosting a singles event on March 10 called "Blind Date with a Book"....  Click here for all of our event deets.

2.  Speaking of Sunday - can it be?  Finale?  Of Downton Abbey? Oh No.  So many of you have told us you are attending finale parties and Series 6 binge parties this weekend, and there are great DA books to celebrate.   For things like keepsake books,  real bookstores really shine because we have copies of the hand-selected BEST ones for you to page through.  This week in homage to the prettiest show ever - take 20% off Downton Abbey books at PPB!

3.  Easter Basket Joy - I don't want to brag, but PPB just really owns the non-jelly bean Easter basket category:  we have the cutest books, bunnies, gifties, and stickers for any hunt you are planning, or basket you are fluffing. I put special energy in to this segment because, as anyone who's ever had a meal with me knows, I don't really like chocolate or dessert.  I'm Scottish - ok - and we like oats.  And so I've always LOVED filling my kids'  Easter baskets with at least some non-sweeties.   Anyway, take a look at these gorgeous Easter hunt or basket joys, and come on in to PPB to make your season even more wondrous.  EXCLUSIVE @ PPB: bring a basket and a budget with you and we will custom-create Easter Joy for your little lovie.  

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Presidential Pooches, plus Scalia and Ginsburg

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Presidential Pooches, plus Scalia and Ginsburg

It's always abuzz around here when Jenny performs at PPB.  What are you doing tomorrow that is funner than seeing J and her pal Elizabeth debut their original musical?  Nothing funner, me betcha.  

Here's what's afoot:  we all know that loved ones of the fuzzy and furry variety help bring out all of our softer sides.  Well, of course it's the same thing even for the families who have lived at the big white house at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  You simply must come and hear J and E tell, in story and song, how even in serious times and for stern men, pets of the White House provide a unique lens from which to view and understand our American Presidents. You loved J and E in their "Christmas at the White House", so come on over at 1:00 p.m. (Monday, 2/22) and enjoy this one, based on the book "Pets at the White House" by the same author.  Yes, it's fun and uplifting, and you'll love the anecdotes and music, but you can't help learning a lot too.  No one brings to life books like Jenny, and no one loves her pets as much, either.  See you tomorrow; please call the store to purchase your ticket, and to reserve your copy of this amazing book, (630) 765-7455.

Thursday Evening Book Club:  The sad passing of Antonin Scalia this last week made us all aware of a beautiful friendship.  How extraordinary that Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Scalia, ideological opposites - could be "best buddies," according to RBG.  Well, here's how:  he cracked her up and they had a ton in common and their spouses got right along.  The couples spent every New Year's Eve together, and enjoyed many an opera performance.  Scalia and RBG actually appeared together in one and had the time of their lives (does it surprise you to see the reserved RBG, grinning and costumed)?  

Among the many things that have me raving and gushing about RBG:  I just love it that she loved having her work bettered by Scalia's sharp mind ... and pencil.   Please take a minute to read her short statement that celebrates Scalia with wit, charm and admiration, AND THEN - you simply must come to our bookclub Thursday evening (6:30) celebrating the amazing new book, Notorious RBG.   I am a lawyer, I realize but I am TELLING you — you just must learn more about this amazing woman.  The book has awakened me, and I want to awaken all to the fact, that tiny, tidy and soft-spoken women can be architects of change.  Right now - in 2016, be aware of her kick-a** (impactful?) dissents and that they mean she is battling to maintain focus on preserving women’s rights:  in the workplace, in the home, and in personal choices. I bet you've seen this quote of hers lately - which she said long ago and not during this sad week (she never would). 

This is a book that is manageable to read, and I think should be read by every person who is open to understanding HOW and WHY barriers have dropped, and still exist - for women.  Besides - how cool is it that at 80+, RBG can do 20 push-ups?  See you here.  This is a free event but please call the store to RSVP and reserve your copy of the book, (630) 765-7455.

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Stay cool, Harper Lee

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Stay cool, Harper Lee

Thank you, Harper Lee for Scout and Atticus and Jem and Dill and Calpurnia and Boo, and Miss Maudie and Tom Robinson - and I guess for Bob and Mayella Ewell.  They are everywhere in all of our hearts.  Thanks for this quote:

"First of all," he said, "if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks.  You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view [...] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."  

Stay cool, Harper Lee.  — Sandy

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 We love Weddings!

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We love Weddings!

We love selecting the books, cards, planners and gifts for our gorgeous wedding section.

I just sent a box of goodies to my newly-engaged niece, Kristina. Here she is just after Alex popped the question. Follow her along in the next year as she and my sister-in-law plan, plan, plan. First up, a June engagement party — I'll tell you all about it and the Prairie Path Books items she liked best! 

Most of you know that we LOVE gatherings here at PPB, and so does Kristina — she has her eye on the new Kate Spade NY wedding collection we have here in the store. I sent some things to her girlfriend who is throwing an engagement party for the happy couple tonight.  What fun!  — Sandy

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 We are getting excited for our Cocktail Party event!

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We are getting excited for our Cocktail Party event!

We are getting excited for our Cocktail Party!

How to Host a Standout Event

Thursday, February 18, 11:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.  
We think The Cooktail Party is the most groundbreaking entertaining book we've come across, because you can set a table not only with great recipes from this cookbook, but it has loads of ideas on how to set an inspiring tabletop for your gathering.  See what I did here - I have this ladder "bookshelf" thing and I will put it outside my front door (you might prefer inside) as a welcome station to my guests that will be arriving later.  Look closely -- The Cocktail Party book advises that we use what we have (for me it's books books books, plus plenty of pencils and a set of champagne glasses) to make folks feel merry and special while they are over. 

Take a closer look at my "ladder/champagne" station and notice that the new Kate Spade of New York Spring 2016 line is in the mix.  We are so excited to be launching this line of pretty little cups and plates and trays on the 18th, and lookee here - the folks at KSNY sent us a box of 2016 fun to GIVE AWAY to you all.  

Anyone who buys the cookbook has a chance to win if they are at the event Thursday! The new line will be available for order at the event!

For today, Jenny and I have declared a READING DAY, where we hole up with our stack and immerse ourselves in books we've been dying to dig in to.  It's funny that we can call this "work" now, for we've done it all along, me and Jen.  (BTW, mark your calendars for our Spring Book Recommendation Party, April 9 at 11:00 am:  Champagne & Daffodils).  Here's her stack; I'm going to dive in at last to Jane Gardam, of Old Filth fame (tell you later) and the new phenom fiction, Thomas Murphy.  Gosh, I hope I like it as much as the critics...

Oh, and boy-o, thanks - we have been nominated again for the Best of Wheaton Awards in the retail category.  You voted us to victory last year, and once again — you can email your votes for PPB once a day until the voting ends on Monday, February 22, from as many email addresses as you want.  Deets below.  We've made so many changes at PPB since last year - a door, a Reading Room, a Celebration Room devoted to greeting cards, plus a more friendly location for our reception station.  We hope you will take a minute to vote — this year if we win, we will DEFINITELY have a PPB party for you all, incorporating all the ideas from our faveity fave Cocktail Party book!

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Emma's Kids President's Day Celebration

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Emma's Kids President's Day Celebration

Most of you PPB friends know that my 18-year-old daughter Emma does the purchasing and programming for 0-18's in my bookstore.  She's a senior in high school and has been busy since summer applying to colleges and the usual stuff.  She asked me if she could communicate directly with you, without mom in between, so below please find her message: it is that she is RE-OPENING her Emma's Kids program, starting Monday (President's Day). I have read it, but she asked me not to edit it. I have not, so here it is — my Emma's voice.  I will say in my defense, that at the time my parenting seemed entirely normal to me, and as always, I blame my mother for my whimsical "projects with mom" style because she raised me that way; she is an artist and views the world a tad askance.  — Sandy   

President’s Day Celebration

Monday, February 15th, 10:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
As all CUSD 200 students know, we have President’s Day OFF FROM SCHOOL. Score! It’s another day for play, watching movies, sleeping in, and getting that math homework done -- truly a gift from the scholarly heavens… well, for most. Not so much for the young Koropp children… at least, not in the way you’d expect.

Growing up, my mother firmly believed (and still does, rather) that a day off from school is in no way a day off from learning. So, starting in Kindergarten, every President’s Day, my mother required each of the Koropp children to choose a U.S. president, learn about him during the day, and give a presentation for her and Daddy when he came home from work. We read big fat books, looked through encyclopedias (2003 was longer ago than you think!), and colored in pictures of our presidents all day long.  

You must be thinking: research? A presentation? On a day off? In Kindergarten? I know, it seems a bit intense. But I sort of loved it. And it wasn’t that I was such a nauseatingly keen student that I couldn’t go one day without a textbook. It wasn’t even that wanted to show off to my classmates how studious I was or to butter up to my teacher the next day. Honestly, it just felt wonderful to be curious on my own time, to learn without inhibition, and to know that every bit of knowledge I picked up came from me. There is something different about discovery when it comes directly from yourself. It somehow feels more real, more important. It sticks.  

I was so lucky to have people in my life that facilitated just that type of learning; people like my mom, my dad, my siblings, and even some of my teachers. Plenty of kids, however, rarely find themselves in that perfect environment. I know that many rarely experience self-driven discovery, and it isn’t hard to see why. It’s extremely difficult, as the facilitator, to create an environment for learning that is effective and fun, but doesn’t feel forced. It is a wobbly balance. But it is SO worth it.

In my book, a child’s curiosity is the most beautiful thing in the world, and I can’t wait to share a bit of it with all of you. This year, I hope to get some more kids in on this whole idea with my PRESIDENT’S DAY CELEBRATION on Monday, February 15th from 10:30 to 12:00. There will be crafts, videos, star-spangled treats, and maybe even a play for all kids aged 5-10! We’ll learn all about our nation’s presidents and hopefully, if I do my job right, we’ll leave just a little bit more excited about learning. Just maybe.
 

I hope to see you all there,

Emma
 

P.S. Just to make y’all smile, I wanted to share my FIRST Presidents’ Day project…get ready for 4-year old me on President's Day 2001. http://imemories.us/1KPCHOA    

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Valentines say "I Know You"

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Valentines say "I Know You"

When I was a kid, Valentine's Day was a bright red heart-spot in the bleak midwinter.  We would paint and paste together Valentine Boxes and put them on our desks for the big exchange.  

It was a giggly and happy day.  Remember going through the little boxes of pre-printed Valentines at the kitchen table and picking just the one for each classmate?  The prettiest for BFFs Diane and Debbie and Beth.  Goofy but mild sayings like "I want to POP a CORNY question, Will You Be My Valentine" for Eric and Erik, the two smartest boys.  I remember being a tad confused about the more lovey-dovey ones, because you had to give those out too or you wouldn't have enough.  I didn't actually mean my first Valentine until Scott Custer's in 5th grade. 

I love watching PPB friends select their Valentine cards and gifts.  I had a blast picking cards out for you: we have funny ones and romantic ones and traditional ones and sassy ones and beautiful ones.  You can't believe how long our folks spend giggling and selecting just the one – it says to me that they are picking the card that says "I KNOW YOU" and I love you, too.  It makes me think they are remembering their own Valentine Boxes and ripping open each little card expectantly, the Room Moms waiting in the wings with cupcakes and games for the class party. 

My favorite Valentine book is great year round, and parents and grands will get as much from it as kids.  It's In My Heart:  A Book of Feelings. Who can resist that rainbow die-cut heart design on the front?  Inside it's all about feelings - what color is it when you feel Happy, Brave, Mad, Calm, Sad, Afraid or Silly? 

Sometimes my heart feels like a big yellow star, shiny and bright.

I smile from ear to ear and twirl around so fast,

I feel as if I could take off into the sky.

This is when my heart is happy.

Such dear illustrations and so important for kids (and adults) to understand our feelings.  I am sometimes not a fan of books made just for a certain holiday, and this one isn't — it's for every day joy.  Call us if you want us to set one aside, or come on in and see how books are the perfect thing to say not only I LOVE you, but "I KNOW you, too."

Much love, Sandy

Emma's Kids fans:  Stay tuned for info on Emma's next event - celebrating President's Day!

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Let's have lots of good fun!

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Let's have lots of good fun!

Hello friends!  Well, we rearranged a few thingsies and put our beautiful event flyers - you know the ones - on the front table.  And I realized that we have SIX events coming up between the 11th and the 22!  You just have to come over. We have:

  • two cooking demos (the 11th and the 23d)
  • a "Galentines" event (Girls Morning Out/Author Visit for a funny chat about finding l-o-v-e),
  • a NEW Jenny musical/book show,
  • the Lucy Barton book club (my fiction book of the year so far),
  • a DOWNTOWN ABBEY tea and crumpet celebration; AND
  • a brand new offering as of yesterday:  a free seminar on how to oh-so-easily host a standout event based on my faveity book The Cocktail Party, and featuring demonstrations for wow-tabletops next time you have guests (Oscar Party??) 


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I meant to be really focused yesterday...

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I meant to be really focused yesterday...

Ok, so I meant to be really focused yesterday and zip through my stack of book reviews so that I could cook or work out or something later on.  Well, what fun is focus?  Of COURSE I digressed!
 

My first meander from the stack all started with my vigorous nodding at the Author's Note by Janice Nimura in the NYT Book Review.  It's about the value of old-fashioned browsing as compared to the use of an internet browser.  She writes about her luck to live in an age where she can do research for a book while sitting in her slippers and up to the very instant her kids' school bus arrives at 3:

I could punch in a range of dates and a few search terms, and within seconds have a presorted queue of articles, every one of which was relevant.  No need to travel to distant archives, or spend fruitless hours turning the wrong pages.
 

We all totally get that - but she got me with this:

There's a problem with doing research this way:  you find exactly what you're looking for, and nothing that you're not.
 

Ok, re-read that.  I did.  An then I am up off my chair, looking for a Koropp to share this brilliant insight with.  Where's Emma?? Tom and Dave are out - so I texted Hannah at college, more on that later.

Nimura goes on:

It's not enough to find every mention of a specific event, even though algorithms make it easy.  Sometimes the telling detail - the yeast that makes the whole lump rise - isn't in the headline you're reading.  It's in the gossip column on the next page, or in the classifieds tucked in the back.
 

I know, right?  I text Hannah again and rip out the Author's Note from my NYT.
 

Get this:  Nimura tells us how Seabiscuit author Laura Hillenbrand, house-bound with a chronic illness, buys vintage newspapers on eBay for her home-work.  One day, while looking for more information on Seabiscuit, she flipped over the paper and found the story that became Unbroken.  How cool is that?
 

I am beside myself with analogies.  It's just like with Prairie Path Books, I tell my dogs, since I've outworn my Hannah's text-interest.  Sometimes you come in to see us for one thing and through some serendipitous glance or overheard conversation, you meander into the joyful experience of unplanned discovery, curiosity, bonhomie -- I think it's called COMMUNITY.   You might learn that Jenny is performing her new show at PPB on February 22 and be reminded that the novel everyone is talking about, My Name is Lucy Barton, is the PPB bookclub on February 16. 
 

PPB friends, you and I both know that there is no substitute for a real visit.  Even if what you see or hear is not something you yourself end up reading or doing, you might mention it to someone for whom it is just the thing.  Making conversation is funner if we've been out and about for a true browse with real shoes on - not slippers.  Community.
 

Back to my daughter.  Sometimes if Hannah texts me right back, I know she's right there with her phone and she knows I know.  Only rarely so I don't over-employ the tactic, I call her right at that moment.  She sometimes texts back something like "I'm with friends, later."  But on this Sunday I knew she was in her room.  She picked up.
 

With the benefits of browsing on my mind, I shifted to another analogy: I wanted to remind my daughter of the joys of browsing through definitions of words in the dictionary. I launched right in and reminded her ... "remember I always encouraged you to look up words in a dictionary because in searching for your word, you flip to wrong pages and come across new stuff, and even when you're on the right page and using your index finger to find the word you need, you learn surprising things!"  I told her I just now had that experience:  so I'm reading about two great new books on Lincoln (fave President, totally ordering them for the store, really excited) and the word "hagiography" is used in the review.  Hmm.  Stumped.  Hannah, you still listening?  So I looked it up and learned it means a "biography that idealizes its subject."  Just like my new book-crush Notorious RBG; Hannah did you read that yet, I sent it to your dorm?  But here's the exciting part -- while searching for "hagiography" I came across "hagridden" which means oppressed in the mind, harassed.  Hagrid from Harry Potter, Hannah!  Did you know all this time that's what his name meant?  Hannah?

My long-suffering teenager pointed out that I was full of it and that she had heard me speak "define limn" or whatever word I don't know into my iPhone.  Curses.  OK, she's right - sometimes I do that.  But, I pointed out, I try to click on the synonyms from there to "browse" - like for limn it's interesting to whittle through the precise meanings of "synonyms" suffuse and imbue.  She retorted that with her phone she can say "pronounce hagiography" and an app or whatever it's called comes up and PLAYS THE CORRECT PRONUNCIATION for you.  (listen here to the pronunciation of "hagiography").

Rats, she has me there.  That phone thingy is GOOD - I love that I can feel confident saying aloud my new word.  I'm saying it to myself now.  Go ahead, say it:  "Haygeeahgraphy"  OK, so, point for Hannah and technology.  Also, she says - you can take a "screen shot" of the word you have just learned and refer back to it throughout the book or week or whatever so that you actually remember it.  Egad.  Rotten kid.
 

So I guess my point is (there is one, there is one!) that real-live browsing is best, however, I am humbled to admit that sometimes technology rocks.  
 

Hannah, glad I called.  Not sure you are at the moment, but maybe someday.

 

Sandy

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Standing Room only at PPB on Saturday

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Standing Room only at PPB on Saturday

Wow - was Saturday's Champagne and Snowflakes Winter Book Recommendation party a blast of a bash. 

Even though you know I love snow, weren't we all really glad that Prairie Path Books is in Wheaton and not Washington DC?!   We had a cozy inch on the ground for our party and BOY did you all come out to hear us gush about our favorite new reads.  I took this of the crowd - at least 75 or 80 strong - eager to support their local bookstore (or have an excuse for a wee AM splash of champagne??). Just now I received the following email from a guest, and it made my entire week — and it's only Monday. 

Subject: Saturday's Book Talk
Message: Sat. was my first visit to PPB and I loved it! It was a warm, welcoming environment and the love for books was palpable. It felt like home. I can't wait to read the books that were featured (I bought the Brilliant Friend and the Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend for starters). Thanks for a great event! I'll be back. That's a promise.
Carrie

It meant so much to Jenny and me to literally have standing room only for this event. 

NEWS:  have you noticed our new website?  It's gorgeous thanks to Becky.  She is the greatest and she redesigned it, and she specifically chose the format because it much more easily allows for A PPB ON-LINE STORE!  What?  You can read our own PPB recs in our very own words and click a button and get that read right away?  YES!  We are setting it up for in-store pick up or ship-to-you for a small fee, because sometimes we just do not want to leave our firesides, do we friends?  Coming very very soon . . . stay tuned . . . we are almost ready to put Saturday's list of recommendations on-line for you! 

Jenny and I wanted you to know that we love what we do so much that Saturday evening and Sunday (hours after our bash) we were back at our stacks of new books to read. We love learning about new books, receiving big boxes of books we've ordered ("our babies are here!"), seeing and feeling them, then sitting down and reading them.  In both of our homes yesterday, it looked like this -  we had already started collecting ideas for our SPRING book rec party in April. 

Speaking of snow, on Saturday so many of you told us that you love the twinkly cozy look of our store, and one woman told me that she always looks to the right once she's inside to see what's in the "red chest".  She just loves that display, she said - and was delighted to see all the SNOW picture books we have hand-picked.  She went straight over and browsed for her grandson.  So, in thanks to her and you all and Carrie the emailer, please come in and take 10% off those red chest books through Friday, January 29.  

See you soon, friends. Sandy

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PPB Events - your cure for those wintry doldrums!

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PPB Events - your cure for those wintry doldrums!

Our PPB book-based events are back in a big way this week - just in time to get you up and out of any wintry doldrums that may have set in.  Our store has transitioned beautifully from holiday twinkle to a snowy sparkle, and we have so many great new reads we are eager to share!

Tuesday January 19 at 10:30 a.m.

Tuesday
January 19 at 10:30 a.m.

First, even if you haven't read it, you simply must come and hear all about First Bite: How We Learn to Eat by Bee Wilsonon Tuesday for our Morning Book Club.  I'll serve up some food tastings that make her points - and I bet you'll surprise yourself.  Every single major reviewer gushed about this book last fall, and I can see why.  It uses stories and history and behavioral studies to help us understand how and why we eat.  Bee nudges us to know that the only "superfood" is one you enjoy that also happens to be healthy.  She posits that real change means bringing closer together the foods we crave and the foods we know are good for us.  It just makes so much sense!  I love mushy comfort food like mashed potatoes with butter, so why not have more oatmeal and polenta?  I wonder if you feel at all like she does, that when it comes to food, we "treat pleasure and health as enemies."  I loved her example of how we all can picture the dreaded "food pyramid" we learned about in school, and how most of us felt punished by the bottom part (pictures of raw veggies and a wheat stalk), and warm and fuzzy and somewhat aspirational about the cookies on the pyramid's pointy top.  She makes frequent literary references, so my PPB friends will love that (she highlights Bread and Jam for Frances and Blueberries for Sal, along with, of course, Proust's madeleines from Remembrance of Things Past.)  Her epilogue of wisdoms alone is worth your coming over and hearing about ("We mostly eat what we like.  Before you can change what you eat, you need to change what you like," and "If you are vacillating between two main courses, go for the one you really love and when you are full, stop.")  NOT your typical get healthy January book!!

Tuesday January 26 at 1:00 p.m.

Tuesday
January 26 at 1:00 p.m.

Next, come over Thursday at noon for our monthly Cook the Book demonstration, this time featuring Laurie Colwin's Home Cooking.  In this series, I take a food memoir and we talk about it and cook from it.  This one is an all-time favorite of mine.  It's a chatty and sincere and charming and tiny little paperback look at cooking (at first in an impossibly small New York apartment with no oven or even a real sink), and the love of being HOME.  I promise you will love her voice and her simple ideas of nourishment without any fuss at all. 

Boy!  You can't miss our Saturday event:  Jenny and Sandy's Champagne & Snowflake Winter Book recommendation bash.  We have been reading like crazy and cannot wait to share our faveity-faves.  You know the drill - come on over, grab some yummies and we will talk talk laugh talk challenge giggle question talk ask our way through dozens of new reads.  As for me, My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (in fact all of the books in her series) has won my heart, and I've decided to spend some time "peeking under the pot-lid" of some non-fiction issues that have been bubbling over onto all of our consciouses. Jenny has immersed in some non-fiction, but fiction too and so have Wendy, Cathy, Emma and Betsy — between us all, we have read most all the best new fiction. These events are a PPB quarterly highlight for our devoted readers.  It's a Gathering about Great Reads, exactly our PPB motto.

Come out from under your blanket, and see you here!

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2016 events at PPB, and a toast to a book so good I'm speechless

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2016 events at PPB, and a toast to a book so good I'm speechless

Have I ever mentioned how much I adore inclement weather?  I think it's the reason, or one of them, that I love reading.  I always tell my staff "it's a great day to read" when the weather outside makes you hurry inside.

When I grew up, my mom and the other '70's moms pretty much wanted us outside all the time — and if we came in and out too often, we'd be forbidden to return unless "we were bleeding."  I may have made that last part up.  Anyway, my brother and sister and I would groan and put on the mittens our mom knit (how embarrassing), and end up having a great time in the snow.  Back then, you could rely on the fact that all the neighborhood kids would be out too. Most of our activities revolved around school; there weren't many private sports clubs or lessons keeping kids "off the streets."  So it ended up being fun, unless my older brother threw the snowballs too hard.  Sometimes if I played my injuries up just right to mumser, I'd get to go inside AND he would get in big trouble, but that was a rare triumph.

So I thank my mom and the surrounding neighborhood mothers now, because rotten weather still feels to me like permission to come inside, settle in, and read for hours. And that is warm cocoa (with weird freeze-dried marshmallows, remember those?) for my heart.

I did just that early this morning:  the brrrr was so bad when I opened my door to let out my hounds that I gleefully brought my coffee over to the fireplace, ignoring the breakfast dishes, and did nothing but finish my first great book of the new year, My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout.  You must read it too.  If you're in a book club, you must select it as soon as you can for a meeting.  Jenny and I will be discussing it on February 16th for our PPB Morning Bookclub and you must come.  Sometimes when I read a book that astonishes, I am speechless for a good while.  I don't want to gush, because that's common.  I just want to grab everyone around me and say "read this book. I mean it."  I'm going to brave the late afternoon snow and go into my store now (lucky me) and do just that. 

But before I go, two things:  here are some upcoming events Jenny and I want you to bundle up and come inside PPB for, so we can talk about what we are reading (and cooking).  We will welcome you warmly and cluck about the weather, and hand you a real, not symbolic, cup of cocoa.  You must especially come to our Champagne & Snowflakes Winter Book Recommendation party on January 23d.  I promise I will be over my speechlessness by then - I can't wait to share with you all the reads Jenny and my PPB staff-readers and me are crazy for right now.  Call the store right away and claim your seat to this and the other events we have for you (630-765-7455).

Second, take a second to read this happy cocoa-for-the-heart thing:   "Bookstores Are Back" by Ann Patchett.

See you soon!

 

Ann Patchett on the Return of Bookstores

(one of 12 predictions made by "prominent thinkers" published in WSJ's regarding"What to Expect in 2016" Jan. 2-3, 2016)

Despite Amazon and e-readers, customers are embracing their community stores

When Karen Hayes and I opened Parnassus Books in Nashville a little over four years ago, I repeatedly said that we were part of a trend. The small independent bookstore, long ago beaten down by Borders and Barnes & Noble, then repeatedly kicked by Amazon, was rising up from the ashes. People were tired of pointing and clicking. People were tired of screens in general. They no longer wanted one store that promised them everything but instead were longing for a store that sold good books, had a staff of smart readers, a thriving children’s section and maybe a couple of shop dogs. That is what we were offering.

I don’t know if I’m prophetic or just lucky, but what was at the time not much more than wishful thinking has turned out to be true. New stores are opening; old stores are branching out into new locations. In Nashville, we’re not only doubling our size in 2016, we’ve bought a mobile book van. Booksellers are, generally speaking, a cautious group when it comes to voicing optimism, but I sense a cultural shift coming on: Books and bookstores and reading are the wave of the future.

I don’t credit the booksellers for this change. In my extensive experience with booksellers, they’ve always been a hardworking, innovative bunch of passionate readers w ho were in this business for love. I credit the customers, who seem to be collectively waking up to the fact that they are in charge of what businesses fail and succeed based on where they spend their money. If you like your bookstore and want it to stay in your community, then you have to buy your books there, in the same way you must buy your hammer from the guy at the hardware store who always gives you good advice.

I also credit the authors who keep people passionate about reading. This is going to be a fabulous year for books. In 2016, Elizabeth Strout has her best novel yet coming out, “My Name Is Lucy Barton,” and I can’t wait to sell the late Paul Kalanithi’s gorgeous “When Breath Becomes Air,” and just when you think Louise Erdrich can’t get any better, she goes and writes “LaRose.” Go to your local independent bookstore this year and buy a copy. You’ll be part of the trend 

Ms. Patchett’s novels include “Bel Canto” and “State of Wonder.”

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 Holly, Jolly, New Year's Eve Plan!

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Holly, Jolly, New Year's Eve Plan!

Boy, the weather outside is finally frightful!  Which is perfect for my message to you today:  I have a holly jolly stay-at-home-New-Year's Eve plan, including a Film, Food, and FUN!  Just sit back and enjoy my PPB-happy offering!

I don't know about you, fellow-readers, but when it comes to parties, I've always been better in settings where I can actually hear my friends' conversations and can pepper them with my endless curious follow-up questions and tangents.  My kids threaten every year to get me an ear-trumpet for Christmas because I tilt my head to the left and frame my ear with my hand to make sure I catch every word being said.  They think it's because I'm fifty, but I know that I've always had to work hard to hear conversation when there is music and crowd and hubbub to hear over.  Plus, isn't it a compliment to actually be listened to intently, says me?  I am DETERMINED to hear what's said.  Besides, re parties, I can say for sure that Dave did not fall in love with me for my glamorous outfits or talented dance moves.  So home and small groups have for a good long time been a great choice for New Year's Eve with the Koropps.

First, FILM.  For your wonderful celebration anticipating 2016, you simply must Netflix or rent, or On Demand the most wonderful movie, "The Big Night", about two Italian brothers bringing their traditional, home-cooking to 1950's New York via their tiny, start-up restaurant.  Watch it for the cast, the acting, the cinematography, and the FOOD!  This film is just a must-see, especially for smaller groups who wish to listen to it.  Maybe start it early - before dinner?  The scenes depicting the two brothers are unforgettable, including their inevitable sibling-bickers, melded with the pressures they share of running a small business.  The brothers' pressures are overcome on "The Big Night" by their sheer love of food, family and tradition.  It is sooooo good!

Once you've watched the movie and seen my favorite ending-dinner scene, you'll know the magic of Wish Papers.  Wish Papers are a dessert tradition in which folks write their wish for the year on very special paper and then set it alight -- if you catch the wee ember on its descent, your wish will come true!  Please come buy a pack at PPB; they will enchant you and your friends.

Next, FOOD, after the film (or pause it, or before, or whenever), go ahead and serve a simple Italian (of course) red sauce and romaine salad. For dinner, I'll give you two Italian red sauces:  one so easy and fabulous that it will make you want to dance around, and one my Scottish grandmother Jean Duncan MacGregor sort of stole from the great Italian restaurant near her home in Forest Park in the 1940's. This recipe is so good by the way that my Italian husband has learned how to make it and all three of my teenagers can make it without a recipe card.

  1. Dance-worthy Sauce. Take out a pan, a 28-ounce can of tomatoes, a stick of butter, an onion and your salt and pepper. Put the pan on the stove and put in the tomatoes and butter and season with salt and pepper. Cut the onion in half (I don't bother to peel mine) and put it in, cut side down. At medium low heat, simmer the sauce for 30-35 minutes. Stir occasionally. This sauce is meant to be used sparingly on your pasta. Make double for a group of 4 or more or if my son Tom and his friends will be there. Use leftovers as a topping for bruschetta, along with ricotta or any white cheese you have.  If you still have more, use it as a base for tomato soup with water or broth to loosen it, and half and half if you like.
  2. MacGregor Spaghetti (email me at read@prairiepathbooks and I will reply with this recipe - but you need to leave about 6 hours to cook and simmer).

Now, FUN!!  I would never sell you "oh,boy" sparklers, confetti or surprise gifties.  PPB sells only OH Boy!!! things!!  First, you simply must pop our Confetti tubes at the big moment — and just watch how much fun Jenny and I had with this Confetti Popper!  And our sparklers are the BEST you've ever seen - you will not just "oh, boy" - I promise, you will share a wonder-full OH BOY with your friends.  I recommend passing a sparkler and saying your best 2015 memories out loud, even.  If there are any kiddos present, please don't miss the opportunity to watch them, again - enchanted, unroll a hand-made and whimsical Surprise Ball, laden with old-fashioned and charming gifties that will ooh-ahh your party, no doubt.

And if you are cooking "off the Italian grid," I've ordered extra copies of my favorite cookbook of the year:  Mary Giuliani's "The Cocktail Party."  Her things are small portions that are never fussy, always clever, and so darned FUN!  What a blast for you, and your guests (adults and/or kids) - to serve her DIY Grilled Cheese Bar, and her Dress-You-Own Pigs in a Blanket, or oooh - so naughty MACO (Mac and Cheese taco with guac).  If you don't want to be elaborate but want a dessert, what about her "Chopretzato"?  It's just chocolate pudding, mini pretzels and potato chips in a clear glass or mug, sprinkled with grated dark chocolate. Kids can help make everything here.  And if you're wanting to indulge in a funner wee bubbly, think about Giuliani's champagne Jell-o shots, or her blueberry vodka cocktail (both can be made with alcohol substitutions).

No matter how you order your Film, Food and Fun - we at PPB just know you will have a Happy New Year.  See you soon, all the best!  Sandy

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Star of Wonder

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Star of Wonder

We are really in it now!  It's Twinkle Time.  We love hearing stories of who you are buying for - sometimes it's not someone you've met, sometimes it's a dear and beloved one.  We are fulfilling a lot of "I just need one more special thing" requests, grab bag party favors, and hostess gift-book needs.  Oh, what fun!  Don't be ashamed if you are starting and finishing your shopping with us this week - you are not alone — we are helping lots like you.

Maybe my favorite request so far came from a grandmother yesterday:  the family will be meeting for the first time on Christmas her son's newly adopted 14 year-old daughter.  Grandma wanted a way to give a very special welcome to her new granddaughter, and her idea was tohave the family write love and welcome messages and give that book to their new loved one on the day they will all meet.  Christmas Day!  We, hearts warmed, set her up with a beautiful journal and pen.  Sounds like a scene from a Frank Capra movie, doesn't it?

My favorite that I have a picture of is our dear PPB friend Mary, seen here in full joy and twinkle, with one of fave new items:  dazzling and happy sparklers (for stockings or a toast at your holiday dinner - or ANY reason at all).  We at PPB are all about old-fashioned wonder: the wonder of learning something new, gathering folks together, and sharing gifts that you just don't see every other place.  Mary wanted a gift that said "thank you!" and we looked here and there - but once she lit one of our sparklers - she knew they were that perfect thing.

Come on in this week and we will help you find your perfect thing.

Pssst - if you're ready to think about NEXT week, watch for my complete New Year's Eve at Home plan for you, including fun food, a great movie and some "not very messy" ways to celebrate.  PLUS, I'll send details for our "lighten our load before we take inventory January 4th" sale, taking place December 27-30th.

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