Archive for January, 2008

You should SEE the bite marks on my hand

January 30, 2008

The thing they don’t tell you in advance about parenting? Is how VERY HARD it can be some days not to laugh. Also, how VERY HARD to know what the right answer is.

Yesterday Will and I were rolling along in the car after his morning at nursery school, and he asks, in what can only be described as a world-weary tone, “Mom? When are the babies in my belly going to come out?”

Those of you following along at home might remember that Will has taken matters into his own hands since he hasn’t seen any evidence that I’m cooking up a baby for him to love. Will is also incredibly envious of Amily and Tyler’s great fortune to be expecting triplets, to the point where many of his imaginative play games start out, “Mom, you be Amily, no, I’ll be Amily…” You THINK I’m kidding.

In fact, I think I sense a slight disdain from him some days, as he tries to figure out why we only came up with one baby for him when we could have really gotten it right and brought home three of them. He does ask me regularly and hopefully, “Mom? Do you have a baby in your belly?” His constant scrutiny of my midsection is a bit unnerving and reminds me that I really ought to do some more sit ups.

So anyway, now he has babies, plural in his belly, and just as I am biting my hand trying hard not to laugh and think of an appropriate answer to when they might come, he switches gears and says, “Mom, I want to wear earrings like Mia. They are so pretty!”

I agree, they are indeed pretty, but explain that I had to be sixteen before I could wear earrings (the only time in my life I have ever been grateful for that strict rule, thanks mom and dad!), and so he would have to wait until he was older to wear earrings.

“But Mia does!”

Thank GOD for the garbage truck that came along right then. Because I was fresh out of answers.

And laughing really, really hard.

P.S. I have zero worries about Will and gender issues—have you SEEN the number of trucks in my house? I know the fascination with princesses, fairies, earrings, dress up and nail polish is mostly because he has never really seen it until now, with  lots of girl playmates at nursery school. Any other preschool boys out there drawing princesses and dreaming of diamond stud earrings? No? Never mind.

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Baby faces

January 28, 2008

I had a great weekend visit with college friends for our annual Christmas (or thereabouts) gift swap and a surprise baby shower at the same time. Friends came from all over to gather together just a few months before our fifteenth college reunion, and we had great fun—and great food, too, of course.

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The pregnant mama-to-be is glowing with anticipation (and still learning what to do with her baby gear, as you can see) and we’re all thrilled about the arrival of the newest baby in the group.

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But in case you needed a visual reminder of how fleeting babyhood is, some of the original babies of this group have somehow turned into big, beautiful grown-up girls now.

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It was impossible to pass up taking photos of these fresh faces, all while remembering what it was like to hold each one of them as newborns. SIGH.

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These sweeties are my Best Shot Monday. For more Best Shot Monday and children growing faster than you can believe, click here.

 

Food Friday: Died and Gone to Heaven Chocolate Cake

January 25, 2008

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So, I was all set to tell a potty story today, but it seemed in poor taste (ha!) coupled with Food Friday, especially given the recipe I am presenting today. And that’s all I’m going to say about that. You’ll just have to stay tuned for exciting! potty! stories!

* * *

I was trying to stay away from recipes for sweets, really I was, but I can only go so long pretending that I think entrees are as interesting as baked goods. But I did promise healthy eating this month, and so you have both today.

This old chestnut has been around forever, but it is foolproof and delicious. And happens to be low fat. (And I have a version of this that is egg-free and milk-free—if you need it, just email me.)

Eating Well‘s Died-and-Gone-to-Heaven Chocolate Cake

Cake
1 3/4 cups all-purpose white flour
1 cup white sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup canola oil
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup hot strong black coffee

Icing (I think of the icing as optional, but it does look pretty. If you want to make it chocolate, add 2 Tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa))

1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons buttermilk or low-fat milk

The Recipe

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly oil a 12-cup Bundt pan or coat it with nonstick cooking spray. Dust the pan with flour, invert and shake out the excess.

(Note: Learn from me and go VERY EASY on the flour in the pan, because you aren’t frosting this cake. And as it turns out, no one likes to see stripes of raw flour on their chocolate cake.)

2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, white sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add buttermilk, brown sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla; beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes. Whisk in hot coffee until completely incorporated. (The batter will be quite thin.)

3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes; remove from the pan and let cool completely.

4. To make icing: In a small bowl, whisk together confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and enough of the buttermilk or milk to make a thick but pourable icing. Set the cake on a serving plate and drizzle the icing over the top.

Okay, I know I said I wouldn’t do this every week, but the nice people at Eating Well gave me all the nutritional info, so here you go. And besides, it is good for bragging rights when you serve this, because here’s the thing: you COULD serve this moist, chocolatey cake and not tell anyone it was low fat and low calorie, but you will be so proud of it that you’ll burst. When that happens, here are the facts:

Per slice (cake makes 16 slices)

222 calories; 4 g fat (1 g saturated); 27 mg cholesterol; 43 g carbohydrate; 3 g protein; 2 g fiber; 4 WW points

Not a post but not not a post, either

January 22, 2008

I have about three minutes to write a post, so I can:

A) continue to leave you with my little chickens pecking corn off the floor or,

B) write a fake post that will look a lot like a real post because it takes up space, except that it doesn’t really say anything, so is it really a post? or

C) opt for (B)  plus tell you about a super cool site for that narcissist blogger deep down inside you.

Who Links To Me 

Wondering who out there is linking to you? Wonder how popular your favorite blog really is? Type in the URL and lower the veil of secrecy.

Go on, I’ll wait while you check it out. See you tomorrow.

It’s a good thing they can be so sweet

January 21, 2008

Because some days I need a good reminder as to why we keep them.

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And yes, those are corn kernels sticking to their bodies.

And yes, they ran around around the house after this picture was taken, scattering corn kernels everywhere.

And yes, they were EATING them off the floor.

Which wouldn’t be so bad if it was, you know, PRISTINE.

For much better photos than this, from around the world, go to Best Shot Monday!

Food Friday: Skinny Pot Pie and Skinny Mac-n-Cheese

January 18, 2008

Before I get on with today’s exciting post I have a little bit of housekeeping to take care of. (You can file this under the category of NOT THAT YOU ASKED AND WHY, EXACTLY, DO I THINK YOU CARE?)

I think I unfairly represented the number of page views I get, and since so many of you seemed amazed at my hits, I wanted to clarify that. That total I mentioned was the number of times my delurking entry had been viewed over at least two days, not my actual daily page views. Which, of course, means that some of you came back more than once looking for me to, for the love of God, post something else besides a photo of Henry with a shiner. But you got counted in that group of nearly 900 page views. So that’s that.

Now onto the real reason you came here—skinny mac.

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It’s January.

You’re trying to eat better. But it’s cold. And dark. And no WAY is a light meal going to satisfy you tonight.

YOU WANT COMFORT FOOD.

I hear you.

Who says you can’t have both?

Try these recipes from Cooking Light magazine for chicken pot pie and homemade macaroni and cheese. No, these aren’t exactly mom’s pot pie and mac-n-cheese, but the modifications are well worth it to bring these dishes into the category of healthy eating. And, it means you can even have seconds, guilt free.

Now THAT’S comfort.

***

Chicken and Root Vegetable Pot Pie

The vegetables are what add flavor and fiber to this recipe, so add them all if you want to reap the nutritional benefits of this recipe.

3 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups frozen green peas, thawed
1 cup (1/2-inch) cubed peeled baking potato
1 cup (1/2-inch) cubed peeled sweet potato
1 cup (1/2-inch) cubed peeled celeriac (celery root) (Makes it super creamy, don’t skip this one.)
1 cup (1/2-inch-thick) slices parsnip
1 (10-ounce) package frozen pearl onions (I just chop a regular onion—I don’t like the pearly ones. Too much like eyeballs.)
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
2/3 cup all-purpose flour (about 3 ounces), divided
1 1/2 cups fat-free milk
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cooking spray
1 sheet frozen puff pastry dough, thawed

Preheat oven to 400°. Bring broth to a boil in a large Dutch oven. Add peas and next 5 ingredients (through onions) to pan; cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 6 minutes. Add chicken; cook for 5 minutes or until chicken is done. Remove chicken and vegetables from broth with a slotted spoon; place in a large bowl.Increase heat to medium. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Place all but 1 tablespoon flour in a medium bowl; gradually add milk to bowl, stirring with a whisk until well blended. Add milk mixture to broth; cook for 5 minutes or until thickened, stirring frequently. Stir in chicken mixture, parsley, thyme, salt, and pepper. Spoon mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.
Sprinkle remaining 1 tablespoon flour on a work surface; roll dough into a 13 x 9-inch rectangle. Place dough over chicken mixture, pressing to seal at edges of dish. Cut small slits into dough to allow steam to escape; coat dough lightly with cooking spray. Place dish on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 400° for 16 minutes or until pastry is browned and filling is bubbly.
Yields eight servings, and because I am helpful, here is the nutritional info, including Weight Watchers info, on this puppy.
Don’t expect THAT every week. That’s just to make up for you having to find parsnips and celery root at the grocery store.
Calories: 388; Fat: 13 g; Protein: 21.9 g; Fiber 4.4 g; Weight Watchers points: 8

Creamy Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese

Mustard, garlic and Worcestershire sauce add some zip to this comfy favorite. Try this with any short pasta, such as fusilli, farfalle or cavatappi or experiment with different cheeses.

4 cups uncooked medium elbow macaroni
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 1/4 cups fat-free milk
1/4 cup (2 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain and set aside.While pasta cooks, place flour, salt, and pepper in a large saucepan. Add milk, stirring with a whisk until well blended. Drop cream cheese by teaspoonfuls into milk mixture; bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat; simmer 2 minutes or until thick and cream cheese melts, stirring occasionally.
Stir in mustard, Worcestershire, and garlic; simmer 1 minute. Remove from heat. Add cheddar cheese, stirring until cheese melts. Combine pasta and cheese sauce in a large bowl; toss well.
Yields six servings.
Calories 252; Fat: 8.2 g; Protein 14.5 g; Fiber 1.1g, Weight Watchers points: 6 (per 1 1/2 cup serving)

Hope is the thing with green, poking out of the ground

January 17, 2008

Well, thank you all. You sure know how to make a girl feel good with your enthusiastic comments. I got a few really nice surprises in the mix, and was SO GLAD to hear from each and every one of you commenters.

I am still wondering who the OTHER 850 or so people are, especially the person at pentagon.mil (seriously!), but it’s okay if you just want to whisper it in my ear sometime. Maybe you were just checking out Henry as a weapon of mass destruction?

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Theme Thursday’s theme for today is WINTER, and between my lack of great affection for the coldest season of the year and the fact that it doesn’t snow much in my part of the world, I don’t have much to show you for snowy pictures.

Instead, I have this, which is the greatest gift I can give to you on this oh so chilly day: HOPE.

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I took this photo in my yard on February 11, 2006. Spring really can’t be that far away.

For some more interpretations of winter, head to Theme Thursday at Stacy’s!

 

Come out, come out, wherever you are

January 15, 2008

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Sorry for the repeat, but this photo is comedy GOLD, how could I not rerun it?

A few times a year in the blogging world you see posts about Delurking Day—a day when bloggers request that their readers briefly leave the shelter of their anonymity and leave a comment on their blog.

But since I was probably busy cleaning my house for Real Simple to come take photos or dreaming of new ways to add bulk to our collective thighs when the rest of the Internet was delurking, I am establishing my own Delurking Day today.

When I started this blog nearly a year ago, I figured that my sisters and a few other relatives would read it occasionally, and maybe my coworkers Mike and Molly and probably friends like Maria and Jess and definitely Sarah and Rush.

But guess what happened? The rest of you found me, too. Hundreds of you a day, actually, and for some reason, you KEEP COMING BACK and I’m really hoping you’ll say hello today. Comments are like Christmas morning for bloggers, and I read every single one—always.

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So regular commenters, people on my Christmas card list who just started reading, That Person in the White House, FAMILY, friends, former coworkers, neighbors and strangers from around the globe (Brazil, I’m talking to you!) this is your day to come clean.

Show some love, and post a comment. I’d love to know where you’re from and how you found me. And if you like, so that we have something to talk about, answer one (or more!) of the following:

1. What are your three favorite foods?

2. What are your favorite baby names? (Because I know someone who is in the market for a few names. Three of each gender, to be exact.)

3. Would you like me to add you or a woman in your life to my Real Simple casting list? You know, your chance to have your linen closet reorganized in a national magazine? I know I offered before, but I will make my distribution list based on this response since I was too disorganized before. Unlike now. Right.

4. And finally, in a brawl between you and Henry, who would emerge victorious?

EDITED TO ADD:

My husband says my SPECTACULARLY low conversion rate of readers to commenters (27:1) is because I ASKED TOO MUCH OF YOU. That I should have just asked you to say hi. SERIOUSLY?

The whole poop and nothing but the poop

January 14, 2008

So, three and a half years into this parenting gig, I finally had the kind of poop experience that you hear stories about before you have kids. (Hi Megan, I do still remember your blueberry poop story!)

So, soon-to-be first time parents? STEP AWAY from the computer screen and go rock serenely for a few minutes in your pristine Pottery Barn Kids nursery while I tell this story. And enjoy that nursery the way it looks now, WITH NO KIDS IN IT.

The other morning dawned sunny and warm for January in these parts. Will’s lunch was packed, his nursery school bag was packed, the boys were fed and I was actually organized enough to take the time to put the boys in the stroller and walk Will to nursery school. I got Will dressed, and just as I was about to get Henry into his clothes, Will sniffs the air, turns to me and says, “Mom, what’s that smell?”

Like in a bad sitcom, we both turn and stare down Henry at the same time.

Henry, still in his footie pajamas, takes one look at us, knows the jig is up and takes off, giggling. But not before my eyes fall upon the large lump around his left ankle. Which can only be his diaper, the one that has abandoned the safe confines of his waist and shimmied all the way down his leg while still inside his pajamas. And judging from the smell, this isn’t going to end well for anyone.

I sigh, shelve my dreams of a midwinter walk in nearly 60-degree weather and begin the process of extracting Henry from his poop-lined pjs, and removing the patina of poop that covers him from his ARMPITS TO HIS TOES. All while Will looks on excitedly, handing me wipes and soap and washcloths.

Tell me, would you have saved the pajamas?* The fact that Henry has now started sitting stark naked on the potty while saying “‘pee! poop! potty!” DOES NOT MAKE UP FOR IT.

*(I did, but it was a tough call. I almost sent them on their way to poop heaven. It was that bad.)

* * *

And for my Best Shot Monday, something a little different. I didn’t take these, but have you ever seen anything so fantastic as these posed preschool portraits? I thought not.

Henry’s, taken three months ago at sixteen months, was timed perfectly to showcase his first black eye. And his felon expression.

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And somewhere out there is a portrait photographer who can actually make my slender, nearly waifish son look like a neckless brute.

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And these? These are just SO AWESOME that I have no words for them. Well, except to say I have NEVER seen my son sit in either of those positions before. But clearly he is so happy about it that I ought to encourage it at home.

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For more fantastic Best Shot Monday and maybe even more felonious-looking toddlers, head over to Mother May I!

 

 

 

 

Food Friday: Island Pork Tenderloin Salad

January 11, 2008

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At the risk of sounding like a complete tool or the ultimate parody of a food columnist, I can seriously say this: our good friends from California cooked this for us at their seaside home one summer evening and this savory delicious meal, seasoned with great company and a fantastic view, had us hooked from the start.

It is the perfect summer dish, for sure, but as it turns out, it is equally as good all winter long, especially when you are craving something lighter than that dependable fall-winter fare: roasted meat with potatoes and roasted vegetables.

The sunny flavors remind you that it won’t be winter forever, the fresh tastes of citrus and avocado seem just right in January and the meal-and-salad-in-one approach makes it remarkably easy and waistline-friendly to boot. And since they originally served it to us on their own private island, we especially love the double meaning of the name.

This recipe originally appeared in the May 2003 issue of Gourmet, and can be found on epicurious.com—take a look at all the rave reviews and inventive modifications!

Island Pork Tenderloin Salad

Serves 6 to 8 (but there will be NO leftovers!)

For pork
2 teaspoons salt (I use one teaspoon, and add to taste when eating if necessary)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder or ground chili (I used ancho chilis)
1 teaspoon cinnamon (If you have the option, use a robust cinnamon, like the strong and spicy Chinese Cassia available from Penzey’s. You can really taste the difference in a recipe like this.)
1-2 pork tenderloins (2 1/4 to 2 1/2 lb total)
2 tablespoons olive oil

For glaze
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon Tabasco

True confessions: I really don’t like this vinaigrette, and neither do most of the people I know who have made it. It’s just a little bitter or something. I tend to use a vinaigrette made with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, Dijon mustard and a little orange oil instead. And it saves you from having to toast that curry powder, which leaves a distinct aroma in your kitchen. If you make your own and use mandarin oranges in the salad (see below) you can also add a little of the mandarin juice to the vinaigrette.

For vinaigrette
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon curry powder, toasted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

For salad
5 oz baby spinach, trimmed (6 cups leaves)
4 cups thinly sliced Napa cabbage (from 1 medium head) 3 navel oranges or 1 large can mandarin oranges, drained 1 red bell pepper, cut lengthwise into thin strips ( I used two)
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 ripe California avocados

Prepare pork:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Stir together salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder and cinnamon, then coat pork with spice rub.

Heat oil in an ovenproof 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until just beginning to smoke, then brown pork, turning, about 4 minutes total. Leave pork in skillet.

Make glaze and roast pork:
Stir together brown sugar, garlic and Tabasco and pat onto top of each tenderloin. Roast in middle of oven until thermometer inserted diagonally in center of each tenderloin registers 140°F, about 20 minutes. Let pork stand in skillet at room temperature 10 minutes. (Temperature will rise to about 155°F while standing.)

Make vinaigrette while pork roasts:
Whisk together juices, mustard, curry powder, salt and pepper, then add oil in a stream, whisking until emulsified.

Prepare salad ingredients while pork stands:
Cut peel, including white pith, from oranges with a sharp knife, then cut oranges crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. (Or open can of mandarins and drain!)Toss spinach, cabbage, bell pepper and raisins in a large bowl with about 1/4 cup vinaigrette. Halve, pit and peel avocados, then cut diagonally into 1/4-inch-thick slices.

Assemble salad:
Cut pork at a 45-degree angle into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Line a large platter with dressed salad and arrange sliced pork, oranges and avocados in rows on top. Drizzle some vinaigrette over avocados and oranges. Pour any juices from skillet over pork. (I put the skillet glaze/drippings in a small pitcher, like a gravy.)

P.S. I’m kind of a one-trick pony when it comes to pork tenderloin because I love this recipe so much. What do YOU do with a pork tenderloin? Share the love, won’t you?

A study in contrast

January 10, 2008

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This gorgeous girl is Lydia, one of Will’s FAVORITE people in the whole world (me too.)

She nicknamed him “Froggy” when he was in utero, and it stuck for a very long time—he has an impressive collection of froggy gear to show for it. Lydia turned nine this week, so I thought I would use this photo of her for this week’s Theme Thursday. This week’s theme is CONTRAST, which is definitely what this photo has. I’m a little heavy handed on the contrast sometimes, but I just love it.

I have been off Theme Thursdays for a while, so I need to invite you over to their lovely new home, hosted by Stacy at The Kraft Family.


Stacy is a phenomenal photographer who is kind enough to share all of her tricks, so if you haven’t already discovered her amazing photo tips, posted each Saturday, start reading here.

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And in other news, WHAT? The LOVE MATTRESS? For problems you didn’t know you had. Find me a wackier product than this, Internets.

It’s a win for Hillary, plus Wednesday Book Nook

January 9, 2008

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Well folks, it looks like Hillary really is in it to win it. I’m not entirely decided on who I am voting for in my state’s primary, but I sure was glad to see the women of New Hampshire deliver a win for Hillary. As I whispered in Henry’s ear during our morning cuddle, he will never know a time when women didn’t run for president. And he might even have the chance to grow up assuming a woman is just as likely to lead our nation as a man.

Not sure who you’ll be voting for in your primary yet? A friend of mine passed on this cool online tool, the Electoral Compass, an easy, quick way to survey the issues and see where you stand—and which candidate is most closely aligned with your views. It also tells you who you AREN’T aligned with. Evidently Fred Thompson and I don’t agree on much.

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In other news, I’ve been on a huge reading bender recently, so here are a few recommendations for you.

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I stayed up way too late reading A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini two nights in a row this week, and tired as I was, I couldn’t put it down. It’s devastating and magnificent, heartbreaking and ultimately finds some moments of triumph. I liked The Kite Runner, but I loved this rich story, focused on two Afghani women and their relationships, set against the truly war-torn background of Kabul in the last 30 years. Oh, and don’t read the NY Times review of this book beforehand, because it gives THE WHOLE STORY AWAY.

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For something completely different, try Loose Lips, by Claire Berlinski. The cover is misleading—this is no trashy romance novel, but instead details the inner workings of the CIA from the viewpoint of trainee Selena Keller. And it is SO believable! Think she really was an agent? Read it and see!

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And for something, well, also completely different, read The Violin Maker, by John Marchese. I’m not a musician or a craftsperson, but this was a great, very quick, nonfiction read about a world-renowned violin maker in Brooklyn, and his quest to better the Stradivarius. (Sort of–it’s not that simple, but I can assure you, it is interesting even if you don’t know anything about violins, music or woodworking.)

Local friends, I’ll return the first two to the town library after my husband finishes them, and I have The Violin Maker on loan from my mother-in-law if anyone is desperate to read it.