Monday, December 7, 2015

Welcome to the Hundred Acre Wood

So, have you ever read Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne?  I mean the original version that was published in Great Britain in 1926?  Neither had I nor many of the members in our Book Club and that is why Linda B-B chose it for our November book.

Our lovely hostess transformed her home into a replica of the Hundred Acre Wood and greeted us dressed as Winnie the Pooh!

We all agreed that we experienced a lovely return to childhood memories and simpler times while reading this book and we rated it a 9 out of 10.

It was such a great evening and we all appreciated the extra efforts that Linda put into making our book club evening an experience as well as a gathering. The following sentiment expresses the friendship we all feel in our book club:

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Fasten Your Seat Belts!

We read a very interesting book this past month - An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield.

Chris Austin Hadfield is a retired astronaut who was the first Canadian to walk in space. As Canadians, we came away from reading this book more informed about what it takes to become an astronaut and understanding what space travel is all about, along with feelings of pride in our home-grown hero.  But as a book club we found this book a difficult read.  Overall, it was dry, textbook-like and, to be quite honest, we were all hoping for something... more?

Most of us felt that the author gave a good accounting of his experiences, but there were way too many facts and not enough emotion.  While Chris tries to share his 'advice' throughout the book (such as, it is best to be a team player, strive to be a zero, sweat the little stuff before it becomes big stuff), it sometimes felt as though he was preachy and a bit self-applauding.

One thing we all found interesting was his idea of aiming to be a zero.  This is his rating system:
 -1:  Someone who is actively harmful; someone who creates problems.
  0:  A person whose impact is neutral and doesn't tip the balance one way or another.
+1:  Someone who actively adds value.

He explains:  "Everyone wants to be a +1, of course.  But proclaiming your plus-one-ness at the outset almost guarantees you'll be perceived as a minus one regardless of the skills you bring to the table and how you actually perform."   Hmmm... some good food for thought.

I think this was our least favourite book since our book club began, with a rating of only 5.9 out of 10.  I would not discourage anyone from reading his book, but I believe it would appeal to a more scientific mind.

With all of that being said, our lovely hostess, Linda R., was as gracious as ever and we enjoyed another evening of lively conversation and delicious food and wine! 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Back Together

September is always special for our Book Club because we get to reunite after a summer break.   The months of July and August are normally busy with family, cottages, traveling and other summer time activities, so we say good-bye at the end of June and then meet again in September.

It was my turn (Joanne) to host the September meeting and I chose the book Ragged Company by Richard Wagamese.  I first read this book a couple of years ago and was very moved by it and thought it would make a great Book Club pick.  Fortunately, the rest of our group thought the same and we found our discussions took us in some interesting directions.

The book centers around four chronically homeless people–Amelia One Sky, Timber, Double Dick and Digger – who seek refuge in a warm movie theater when a severe Arctic Front descends on the city. During what is supposed to be a one-time event, this temporary refuge transfixes them. They fall in love with this new world, and once the weather clears and their lives are forever changed they still continue their love of movies and trips to the cinema.

Some of the questions we discussed included:  Do some street people actually choose that way of life?  Do most street people struggle with mental illness?  Was their lottery win and how it affected them a realistic depiction?  Who are the shadowed ones?

The idea of 'home' was an important theme of the book and the author painted such a beautiful picture of it.  "Dick taught me that home is a truth you carry within yourself.  It's belonging, regardless.  It's the place where you never need to qualify, measure up, the place that you never have to fear losing."  This quote from the book just really touched my heart.

Other favourite quotes that provoked deep thought: "When the hands on the street are held out, it isn't always alms that are beggared; it's life, contact, touch, generosity of spirit."  

And: "Today, showered, shaved and dressed expensively, I had become a sir.  What had the soap washed off, I wondered?  What did the clothes cover?  What did the plastic bank card in my pocket buy me that I didn't know I'd purchased?"

Our Book Club gave Ragged Company an 8.6 out of 10 rating. It's a story of hope, despair, love, redemption, trust, loyalty and it's a story you just have to read.  I hope you pick it up and enjoy it as much as we did!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Summer Reading

Do you find that you read more or less during the summer months?  I actually find that I read more in the summer because I simply use every opportunity I have to pull out a book and read.  Especially when I am traveling in the car (not while driving!), sitting on the patio or laying on the beach, and always, always before I fall asleep at night.

In addition to reading a couple of Kate Morton's books, I just finished reading a very interesting book called The Snow Child.

It is the story of a couple living in Alaska that find a young girl who seems to have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale.  I found it an easy read but mid-way through wondered if I should keep going as the story seemed to slow down a bit.  I am happy to say that I persevered and read it through to the end and I am so glad that I did!  I would highly recommend it and I would give it about an 8.0 out of 10.  It would make an awesome book club read as I would be interested in what others thought about the ending.

So what has been on your summer book shelf?  I found this list below that had a few titles that I have not read yet.  I might have to make a trip to the book store sometime soon :)

I hope you are filling your days with lots of great summer activities, including reading.  That is the beauty of a book.  It can go anywhere with you and keep you company at any time. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Dolls, Shawls and Vodka!

Every once in a while we do something really different when we meet for Book Club.  It is up to each host/hostess to decide what food and drinks to offer and if we will be doing something outside the ordinary when we discuss the book for that month.

One of my favorite Book Club memories is when Vesna hosted our discussion of Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.  She chose that book as it is a classic that many of us had not read and because she lived in Russia for a few years and could bring her personal experience of the culture to the discussion.

When we arrived at Vesna's house, we were greeted with Russian music playing and we were each given a shawl to wear. How fun! Then, as we entered her dining room, we were welcomed by a gorgeous sight!  Her table was beautifully set with authentic collectibles from her time in Russia.  It was so interesting!

One of my favorite things, were the nesting dolls she had displayed.  I have always been intrigued by nesting dolls and was so delighted to see them.

She also had the largest bottle of Vodka that I had ever seen!  lol  This was all in addition to a lovely selection of delicious foods. 

Thank you, Vesna, for sharing your history with us.  It really brought the book to life and enhanced our Book Club experience tremendously.

Until next time...

Monday, June 29, 2015

Our Book Club List

Wednesday, January 26, 2011, marked our first ever Book Club meeting!  It was held at Linda's house and we discussed our read for the month, The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga.

It was different from what most of us were used to reading, but enjoyable nonetheless.  The story follows a poor Indian villager who acts as a driver and servant for a wealthy Indian family.  It offered an interesting glimpse into the rapidly changing economic situation in India. We enjoyed a lively conversation and authentic Indian food at this meeting.

Since that time we have read the following books:

1. Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis
2. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
3. Never Look Away by Linwood Barclay
4. Irma Voth by Miram Toews
5. The Book Club by Mary Alice Munroe
6. Tracks by Robyn Davidson
7. The Little Old Lady Who Broke all the Rules by Catherina Ingelman-Sundberg
8. Bury your Dead by Louise Penny
9. Wicked by Gregory Magurie
10. All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
11. The People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
12. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
13. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
14. The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow by Rita Leganski
15. I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak
16. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Hadden
17. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
18. Left Neglected by Lisa Genova
19. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
20. Readers Choice – any book by Steve Berry
21. The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling
22. Outside the Lines by Amy Hatvany
23. We'll Meet Again by Mary Higgins Clark
24. Peony in Love by Lisa See
25. Readers Choice – any biography
26. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
27. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Shaffer and Barrows
28. Motorcycles and Sweetgrass by Drew Hayden Taylor
29. What The Psychic Told The Pilgrim by Jane Christmas
30. Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda
31. Crow Lake by Mary Lawson
32. The Bishop's Man by Linden MacIntyre
33. Selected Stories by Alice Munro
34. Smoke by Elizabeth Ruth
35. The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
36. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
37. Ascension by Nadine Lalonde

This list is not in the order that we read the books.  After four years of Book Club we had to put our heads together to try to remember all of the titles, but I think we got them all.

We are currently taking a break for the summer and we will meet again in September.  Our pick for September's meeting is Ragged Company by Richard Wagamese.  It is a tale of rags to riches, of trust and redemption.

An award-winning writer, Richard Wagamese is one of Canada’s foremost Native authors and storytellers. Working as a professional writer since 1979, he’s been a newspaper columnist /reporter, radio/ television broadcaster and producer, documentary producer and the author of twelve titles (as of 2012) from major Canadian publishers. 

We would love if you read along with us!  Why not make this book one of your summer reads.  Then you can share your views with us by commenting on our blog in the fall.  I hope you enjoy it!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Thought For The Day

This is especially true on a rainy weekend!  I hope everyone is currently enjoying a good book :)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

For The Sweet Tooth

Our last gathering also included some incredible desserts.  It seems as though we end up with as many sweets as we do main dishes whenever we have a pot luck and this meeting was no exception.  We had Creme Caramel, Decadent Chocolate Cupcakes, Brown Sugar Cake with Strawberries and Chocolate Italian Love Cake!

This is Renee's recipe for the Brown Sugar Cake:


1 pkg. yellow cake mix
1 pkg. (4-serving size) Jell-O Vanilla Instant Pudding
4 eggs
2/3 cup Sour Cream
2/3 cup Water
1/2 cup Oil
1 cup Packed Brown Sugar
1 tsp. Icing Sugar


Heat oven to 350ºF.

Beat first 6 ingredients in large bowl with mixer 3 min. or until blended. Add brown sugar and nuts; mix well.  Pour into 3-L fluted tube pan or 10-inch tube pan sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake 1 hour or until toothpick inserted near centre comes out clean.

Cool cake in pan 15 min. Loosen cake from sides of pan; invert onto wire rack. Remove pan; cool cake completely. Sprinkle with icing sugar just before serving.  

Variations:  You can serve this delicious cake with strawberries and fresh creme.  You can also drizzle chocolate glaze on top.  Enjoy!

Joanne also brought a delicious dessert, Chocolate Italian Love Cake.  Another death by chocolate dessert! lol  Here is the recipe for it if you would like to give it a try.

  • 1 package chocolate cake mix (I recommend using Betty Crocker brand), and the ingredients needed to make the cake according to the package
  • 2 lbs. ricotta cheese (@ 900g)
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large package instant chocolate pudding mix
  • 1 cup cold milk
  • 8 oz. Cool Whip
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 F and spray a 9 x 13 inch pan with nonstick spray.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together your cake mix according to the directions on the box. Set aside.
  3. In another bowl, using a hand mixer, beat together the ricotta cheese, eggs, sugar and vanilla until smooth.
  4. NOTE:  The following directions are correct.  The layers switch during the baking time!
  5. Pour the cake batter into the prepared baking dish.  Spread to fill the pan evenly.  Once the cake batter is in place, carefully pour the cheese mixture evenly over the top of the cake batter.  Spread to cover the cake batter as best as you can.
  6. Bake the cake at 350 F for 1 hour.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before frosting.
  7. Once the cake is cool, stir the pudding mix and milk together with a whisk until combined.  Carefully, fold the Cool Whip into the pudding until combined.
  8. Spread the pudding mixture over the top of the cooled cake.  Cover the cake and refrigerate at least 6 hours before serving.  It tastes even better the next day.
This dessert is not for the faint of heart!  With 3 eggs in the cake mixture and 4 in the cheese mixture, you do not want to eat this if you are watching your cholesterol.

We hope you enjoy these recipes!  There will be many more that we will be sharing :)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Maple, Mustard and Balsamic Pork Tenderloin

Our Book Club normally takes a summer break, so at the end of June we combine our book discussion with a lovely pot luck meal.  This past month, we met at Judy R.'s house and enjoyed some delicious culinary treats.  One dish made by Judy was Maple, Mustard and Balsamic Pork Tenderloin.!  It was so very good.

This recipe seriously takes pork to a whole new level.  Here is the recipe so you can give it a try.


  • 1 Ontario Pork Tenderloin (about 1 lb/454 g)
  • 2 tbsp (25 mL) vegetable oil
  • 2 Ontario Carrots, sliced
  • 1 Ontario Leek (white and light green parts only), halved and sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) dried rosemary leaves, crumbled
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) pepper
  • 1/3 cup (75 mL) Ontario Maple Syrup
  • 1/4 cup (50 mL) sodium-reduced chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp (25 mL) grainy mustard
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) cornstarch
  • Fresh Ontario Rosemary Sprigs (optional)


Cut pork tenderloin into 1-inch (2.5 cm) thick slices. In large nonstick skillet, heat half of the oil over medium-high heat; brown pork slices on both sides. Transfer to plate; set aside.
In same skillet, heat remaining oil over medium heat; cook carrots, leek, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper until leeks are softened, about 5 minutes. Add maple syrup, broth, mustard and vinegar; bring to boil. Add pork; reduce heat, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until juices run clear when pork is pierced and carrots are tender, about 20 minutes.
In small bowl, stir cornstarch with 1 tsp (5 mL) cold water until smooth. Stir into skillet and bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer until thickened, stirring constantly.
Garnish with fresh rosemary, if using.  Enjoy :)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

In The Beginning

This is how it all began.  A simple email from Linda.  And I quote:

"I've included you in this email because (a) you feigned interest in beginning a book club, or (b) I thought you would like to join in. As the twins are applying for University (I swear I just took them to JK yesterday), I don't want to be at home pining for them, but will hopefully have so many social engagements I won't feel so sad. Also, my purpose of starting a book club is that I'd like to read books and then discuss them. Yes, I know you may think this is obvious, but I have been in and heard of many book clubs where people don't get to discussing the book because they just chatted... not what I had in mind! Now don't get me wrong, I do love to chat, but if you want in this group can we lay down the ground rule that chatting comes after we discuss the book? So, now that you know I have standards (ha), do you still want in?"

Linda, a wonderful friend who is generous and witty and a great person to be around, is the reason we are all together. That was over 4 years ago and we are still going strong!  We have basically the same group of ladies we started with, plus Tony, Linda's husband.  Dear, dear Tony... our one male member who tries to keep us grounded and focused and who offers a male's point of view.  Such a brave soul!

In addition to Linda and Tony, we have Beatrice, Heather, Joanne, two Judys, a second Linda, Renee, Val and Vesna. It is a great mix.  We decided early on that we were not limited to particular genres, but that Science Fiction was definitely not a favorite.  We seem to enjoy Historical Fiction, Popular Titles, Mysteries and the occasional Biography. 

This blog is just a way that we can share our Book Club adventures:  what we are reading, our reviews, our favourite book club recipes, etc.

Thanks for stopping by :)