Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

We enjoyed a lovely December evening discussing Charles Dickens' Classic, A Christmas Carol.  Becky prepared excellent questions about the book including:  Which ghost was the most effective? and Why is this book such an enduring classic?  We talked about each of the ghosts and how they worked on Scrooge.  His transformation wouldn't have been complete without the visits from all three of them.  We felt that everyone can relate with some facet of Scrooge's character.  We wondered about his father and what the novel really told us about him.  We also spent some time talking about film adaptations:  how faithful they are to the book, where they have taken license, etc.

I welcome comments to include significant parts of our discussion I missed, my time is short this season!  :)

For January's meeting...

We realize that everybody is super-duper busy in December so we are not going to be reading a specific book.  Instead we will be sharing books with each other.  This will help us to keep meeting, and still have something fun to do at our meeting in January without having to feel guilty about not having time to read our book club selection for the month!  Mijken will be hosting and leading our next discussion.  See below for details!

Book Club-Children's Book Review
Please select a picture, children's, or young adult book to review.  
Come prepared to share the following information:
Pages: (Number)
Type: (ie. picture book, children's, etc.)
Genre:  (i.e. fantasy, sci fi, fiction, non-fiction)
Description: (doesn't have to be long)
Recommended by:
Rating: (from 1 - 5 stars)

It would be super helpful if you could bring all of this info written out.  I have extra forms at my house for anyone who wants to have it already printed out.

***Also - we will be moving our meeting time in January to accommodate schedule changes for several of our readers.  We will now be meeting on the first Wednesday of each month.***

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis

We had another great discussion last night!  This one was about our latest book, The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis.  Our first surprize was that this book wasn't about a marriage!  It was, in fact, C.S. Lewis' argument that Heaven and Hell do not coexist.  There is no part of Hell in Heaven - that is the great divorce.  The book details a bus journey from Hell to the the "edge" of Heaven.  There, the ghosts who have come on the journey are given the opportunity to choose to go on to embrace all that Heaven offers or return to Hell.  Interestingly, most choose to return to the bus and return to Hell, not having the desire nor the faith to go on and make the choice to embrace joy, happiness and Heaven.

Most of us could see something of ourselves in some of the caricatures of the ghosts who were depicted.  We discussed making the choice to be happy now and the get comfortable with the things of heaven now so we will feel comfortable when we do "arrive" there.

Thanks to Dacia for hosting us!

And...if you want to recreate the deliciousness she served us last night...follow this link to her Cooking Momma blog for directions and pictures. Yum-Oh!


Our next book has been chosen by Becky and is perfect for the beginning of the holiday season!  We will be reading A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (seriously, how perfect is that?) and plan to meet the first Tuesday in December.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Prologue: The Brothers by Chris Stewart

We had a great discussion last night about Chris Stewart's The Great and Terrible Vol. 1 - Prologue: The Brothers.  We all felt that it was a book we enjoyed.  Some readers took issue with a few points of doctrine, but that didn't make anyone feel that it was not a book worth reading.  Most of all we enjoyed how this book made us think.  For many of our readers this book caused us to reflect on what promises we may have made in our life before earth and how we are living up to our promises now.  We thought of how meaningful it is that we have been given the responsibility of raising our own children and what their missions might be.

Most of our readers expressed a desire to read on in the series, in fact some have already read multiple books in the series.  We were interested to know what the prologue really has to do with the characters we came to know in this book.  We enjoyed getting to know the characters introduced in this book and to know their pre-earth stories.

Along with a great discussion we were treated to a delicious Apple Crisp served with whipped cream.  Thanks to everyone for coming!  Dacia's choice for our next read is: The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis - get ready for a fun meeting in November!

Here's Carrie's recipe for Apple Crisp - It's from her mom and is written in mom fashion!

Apple crisp....I peel the apples and put them in the baking dish (editor's note:  I noticed Carrie used a 9 x 13 glass baking dish)  so I know I have enough.  Then I put them in a bowl big enough to mix in.  Zest one lemon....if it is big only use half.  Add about 1/3 cup sugar and cinn and nutmeg to taste.  Dash of salt.  Put back into baking dish.  I used 2/3 cup flour, brown sugar and oats.  1/2 c soften butter.  Mix together and spread on top of apples with fingers.  Bake 350 until the apples are the softness you want.  I left mine a bit crisp...about 35 minutes.  Test with a tooth pick.  Serve with nothing, ice cream, whipping cream, milk or use your imagination!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

At our September meeting, we discussed The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

Our meeting was very well attended (thanks to all our new readers for coming too!) and everyone had something to say about this book! There was a lot of discussion about the plot of the book.  We agreed that the whole idea of the Hunger Games was revolting and that you had to find something else (the love triangle, friendships, the family relationships, etc.) to focus on to get past the horrifying elements of the book.  Some of our readers loved the book and others hated it.  We had an interesting discussion about the new movie they are making of this book (and subsequent books in the series).  We wondered if our culture and country were acting like "The Capital" by wanting so much to see this book dramatized in a motion picture.  We discussed how much harder this book would be to see in a movie than even to read.  Our thoughts were that the images would be hard to erase from your mind, while when you read you can gloss over them without fully forming them into images. 

Several our our readers had read all three books by the time we met and others were not sure that they would read more than this first book.  All in all it was an excellent discussion filled with differing opinions and viewpoints.  Thanks to all the Rexburg Readers for a great discussion!

At our meeting Kate treated us all to "Peeta" (pita) chips with Tiffany's excellent artichoke dip.  Also featured was mini cheesecakes with "poison" berries. 

For those of you waiting for the recipe for Tiffany's artichoke dip...here it is!

8oz. cream cheese-softened
1 C mayo
1- 14oz. can or jar of artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
2 green onions, sliced thin
1/2 C grated parm
1 C grated Motz.
Dash of hot sauce
Dash of worchestershire sauce
salt and pepper
*beat all ingredients together. Transfer to pie plate and bake at 350 for 30-40 min.

Carrie selected our next book:  The Great and Terrible, Vol. 1: Prologue, the Brothers by Chris Stewart.  See you all in October! :)

The Last Promise by Richard Paul Evans

Thanks to Conna for sending this report since I wasn't able to be at the August Meeting!

From Conna:

So, last night we enjoyed a wonderful evening at Camille's home with her yummy "Lemonade Party Cake" and fun discussion. We summarized the book for those who didn't quite get their hands on a copy. We talked about whether it was a true story or not but came to the conclusion that it probably is real. Dacia said she may try to contact Richard Paul Evans through Facebook so we'll see. Some of us thought that the main character Alina (sorry I don't have the book and forgot how to spell her name) was walking a fine line and emotionally crossed it with Ross to be unfaithful to her idiot husband. We did find it interesting that the jerk of a husband did finally let her go and she found her "true love".
We are excited to start the next book that Kate picked, "Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins. Half of us have already read it but haven't for awhile so we are going to read it again. But in part because the third book in this series is coming out soon.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The 5 Love Languages

Last night we discussed The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman.  I'm not sure that I can really summarize our discussion.  I think you had to be there for this one since much of what we talked about was so personal.  There seemed to be a consensus that we felt like this was a great book!  We talked about the importance of communication in marriage and letting our spouse know what we really need from each other.  We also all felt that knowing our husbands' love languages help us to better know and understand them and to bring us closer as a couple and happier in our families.

For our "treats" we had healthy veggies (since we are trying to have healthy relationships) and "Better than S@x" Cake ;)

It was a great evening!

Our next book is:  The Last Promise by Richard Paul Evans - a nice light summer read!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Candy Shop War

The Candy Shop War by Brandon Mull was the topic of discussion for last night's meeting of the Rexburg Readers.

We enjoyed using the questions from the back of the Scholastic edition of the book as a basis for our discussion.  Some of the group felt that this book would not be appropriate for young children, preferring to save this book for children in fourth grade and above - others didn't have the same reservations.  The main reasons for concern were:  the inability of parental figures to help the children when they were in trouble, some of the taboos that the children engaged in (taking candy from strangers, doing things that didn't feel right, etc.) and some of the characters (thugs) that might be frightening for younger readers.

We all liked the special powers of the candies and talked about which candy/power we would most like to have which proved to be an entertaining part of our conversation.  We liked how the kids wanted their parents to be involved and how they realized that they needed their help when they were in trouble.  We liked that it is a fun novel for children with some really good messages.  Some of the children we know who have read it really, really enjoyed it and loved the fantasy of it all.

We enjoyed lots of super yummy treats including "white fudge", "shock bits", "Ironsides", "Sweet Tooth" and more!  Thanks to everyone for a fun discussion!!!  Please feel free to comment and share other insights or thoughts about last night's meeting.

Our next book:  The 5 Languages of Love by Gary Chapman - see side bar for more info on our next meeting!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Hiding Place

At tonight's meeting we discussed the book, The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom.  The main feeling from our readers was that this is a life changing book.  We were amazed by Corrie and Betsy and indeed the whole Ten Boon family.  We discussed favorite parts of the book, or things that stood out to us as we read.  It was astounding to all of us to think of the way Betsy and Corrie planned to help those who suffered from the concentration camps both those who were imprisoned and their jailers after their experiences.  We loved their devotion to Jesus Christ and their ability to truly live what they read, studied, and "preached." 

We talked about how it was hard to understand how anyone could treat human beings the way that Corrie and Betsy were treated.  We talked about how the point of Hitler's regime was to dehumanize the Jews and those who helped them.  We were able to see parallels in forms of discrimination that exist today, here and now.

As we discussed characters who helped or showed compassion for Corrie and Betsy (notably Lieutenant Rahms) and discussed how they tried to do what they could to help in small ways and how it must have been painful for them to be able to forgive themselves for their part in the tragic events surrounding the Holocaust.  The ability to forgive that both Betsy and Corrie displayed was truly remarkable.  It was touching for us to see the way they trusted in the love of Jesus Christ to help them to forgive and bless others.

We were all moved by Betsy's gratitude in all things even when she did not understand why she should be thankful for them (ie. the fleas).  Our admiration for Betsy and Corrie's embracing of their ministry to teach of Jesus Christ and bring hope to those around them was inspiring.

All in all - we loved this book!!!

You'll find recipes for the delicious treats we enjoyed below:

Lemony Cooler (Drink)

6 cups white grape juice
1 cup sugar
1 cup lemon juice
1 liter club soda, chilled

In a pitcher, combine grape juice, sugar and lemon juice; stir until sugar is dissolved.  Refrigerate until chilled.  Just before serving, stir in club soda.

Lemon Delight Cake

1 package lemon cake mix
1 1/3 cups water
3 eggs
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
3 T poppy seeds

1 package (8 oz) reduced-fat cream cheese
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 can (15 3/4 oz) lemon pie filling

1/3 cup brown sugar
3 T flour
4 1/2 tsp butter, melted
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup powdered sugar
4 tsp lemon juice

In a large bowl, combine first five ingredients, beat on low speed for 30 seconds.  Beat on medium for 2 minutes.  Coat a 13x9 inch baking pan with cooking spray and dust with flour.  Spread half of batter into pan.
In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and powdered sugar until smooth.  Stir in lemon pie filling.  Drop by teaspoonfuls and gently spread over batter.  Top with remaining batter. Combine topping ingredients and sprinkle over batter.
Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack.  Combine glaze ingredients; and drizzle over cake.

Fruit Dip

1 package (8 oz) cream cheese
1 container of marshmallow creme
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Mix together and serve with fruit.

Our next book:  The Candy Shop War by Brandon Mull  see sidebar for more info. :)

Post may be edited with other significant observations I have missed.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Remembering Isaac

To find next month's book, scroll down to the bottom of the post.

At today's meeting we discussed our reading of Remembering Isaac by Ben Behunin. Because one of our members knows the author, she was able to ask him questions about the book (a big Thank You here to Ben, who answered these questions while on a much deserved Spring Break trip with his family). Which served as a great way for us to discuss the book.

These are the questions and his responses:

Rexburg Readers: Who do you relate to more as the author? Isaac or Jake?
Ben Behunin: I often say that Jake is who I am now and Isaac is who I hope to be when I grow up. I like to think I am becoming more like Isaac, but then I get upset and yell at my kids and want to kill someone in my ward, and I realize how far I have to go.

RR: What influenced you to create Niederbipp? Is Niederbipp a real place?
BB: Niederbipp---ahhh. the place we all want to be--a place where everybody knows your name. Niederbipp is a real town in Switzerland, not far from the town in Germany where i apprenticed after my mission. I always liked the name and used to tell my kids stories about a boy named Niederbipp. My mission president told me once when we were driving past the exit sign on the autobahn that if he were to have another son, he would name him Niederbipp.

The town that I describe is actually the town of Tiengen, Germany--at least to a large degree. this is where I returned after my mission to apprentice with Irene Adeler, a german potter I baptized while a missionary there. The pottery shop is on Zubergasse, just off of Hauptstrasse where the main fountain bubbles up natural spring water. I lived in this town for a total of 9 months and fell in love with its charm and character. I toook a lot of artistic liberty with much of the layout of the churchyard/cemetery. I am realizing I have a rather active imagination. I can see this town out on the banks of the Allegheny in PA, but unfortunately, it is not there, yet. I regularly get emails from folks planning trips to PA and wanting directions to this most unusual town. My general response is, it's hard to get there from here.

RR: Niederbipp seems like a pretty idyllic place, why is Jake having such a hard time making up his mind?
BB: I think we all have the problem Jake has, don't we? We all live in pretty idyllic places, yet many of us wish we were somewhere else. Paradise is always on the other side of the rainbow, the other side of the fence, or the other side of the world. We don't recognize the beauty and uniqueness of what we have until we stop and begin to open our eyes. This is not really a book about an ideal town, it is about making our town ideal--it is about reaching out to others and being a good neighbor. it is about overcoming selfishness. Jake doesn't learn what he has in Niederbipp until he clears his eyes of the selfishness that comes naturally to him--and all of us. We can all be doing something more to make our community more of a paradise instead of waiting to move on the the next better place, wherever that is. Paradise is all around us, we just have to discover it and do our part to make it paradise for others--Only in selflessness can we see these things--can we see that life is good

RR: We can see how pottery has influenced your writing - How has writing influenced your pottery?
BB: The work of creativity is a language with many dialects. Maybe it is many languages with many dialects, but I have learned that they all relate to each other--they all tie in somehow with each other. My writing has obviously been influenced with my work with clay, but my clay work has become much more meaningful from my writing. Objects never really say anything until you breathe meaning into them--then they can become a symbol. A beehive is just a place where bees live until you look for symbols and discover all that a beehive can represent--see book 2. As I have written, I find myself looking for meaningful symbols in my work. I have always enjoyed making bowls since I began my work in clay, but as I have thought about it since writing, there is much significant meaning behind a bowl. It is open, both to receiving and letting people take from it. A bowl, I think, is also the most basic instrument of nourishing our bodies. We can to do without plates or mugs if we have a bowl that can function as both. People throughout the world and throughout time have used bowls as part of their daily rituals of nourishing themselves and their families. As Thoreau would say, anything beyond necessity is vanity.

That probably sounds like a man talking--I know women like to collect dishes. I think the writing has made me conscious of many other things with my pottery. We all want to remembered after we are gone. I have always been concerned about legacy, knowing that my pottery is going to be around, in one form or another, for millennia. I am careful about what i make, knowing I will be judged accordingly. Maybe we all need to think more about legacy. I think our world might be better if we did--if we thought long-term.

Several years ago when I first got Arthritis, I began making tiles that have sayings on them. This, in part, was done in an effort to help us remember the simple things in life. One of my favorites can be seen on my website- It says, "Be still and know that I am God."

RR: Do you know an Isaac? What influenced you to create the characters you write about? are they like anybody in your life?
BB: Do I know an Isaac? To me, Isaac is very much a Christ figure, so yes, I suppose I do know an Isaac. In the Old testament, the sacrifice of Isaac was a type for Christ. Isaac knew what he knew because of the sacrifice he made--his will, his wife, his life--It is only after we lay upon the alter of sacrifice our offering that we are able to live the higher life. I know many people who know this from experience--who have lost or given up much in life in order to grow. We all have to sacrifice what we have for the potential of what can be--ie. marriage, children, missions, careers, etc. I am not really answering this question, but I will say that we all know people around us who know great wisdom, gentleness and love because of the sacrifices they have made in life. It seems it all begins with being willing to give up our will to a higher power. that is the hardest step, but from it comes love, wisdom, understanding, peace, happiness--all the good things is life have a cost. So, I don't know how to answer the question as stated, but I hope this is a good substitute. I might also mention that the name of my printing company that I formed when I self-published, Abendmahl Press, is a German word. Literally translated, Abendmahl means evening meal, but it also the word for sacrament in German. The wheat and the grapes are symbols of the sacrament--symbols of the greatest sacrifice the universe has ever known.

RR: Why did you decide to self-publish? What would you tell other aspiring writers about self-publishing?
BB: After studying the market and the economy, I self published because I realized i could either jump in with both feet or wait three to five years for things to recover. Most good literary agents receive 50-60 query letters every day, six days a week, fifty-two weeks a years. That is literally more than fifteen thousand a year and yet they only sign 2-4 new authors a year. I didn't like those odds, so I never wrote even one query letter. I was also told that no publisher would be interested in spending the time to put my book together like I wanted it with all the doodles, the flip book, etc. So I figured I would go for it, and after i sold several thousand copies, I might attract the attention I needed from a big publisher. So far, I have sold about 11,000 copies, combined, of the first two books. We were saving up to built onto our home, instead, I spent $65K last year printing, editing, and laying out my books. My wife has been amazing. She has really pushed me to do this. Without her full support, I know I couldn't have done this.

Self publishing is becoming increasingly easy to do, but there are lots of people losing their shorts--anyone will take your money. Print on demand is a bad deal. If you want to self-publish, do some serious homework and spend some time talking about it with a dozen people who have. Never go into the book business with the illusions of becoming rich...it just wont happen and you will have thousands of books in your garage for the rest of your life. I am just now breaking even with my financial investment, but I don't know if my time will ever be compensated. I realize this book was my sacrifice, my Isaac. It was what i had to lay on the altar to know my God. For that, it is worth it. Monetarily, it may never be what people would consider a good investment. Life has to be about much more than money.

Overall we all liked the book. We generally agreed that the book made us all want to be better people and we appreciated the themes of positive values, legacy and the general sense of morality of the book. Many of us felt inspired to be more supportive of the local craftsmen around us. We found that we wanted to know more about the back stories for some of the lesser characters. The greatest disappointment for most of us was that there didn't feel like there was a big enough resolution at the end. All of the biggest questions were still left up in the air. We are looking forward to reading book 2, Discovering Isaac.

Thanks to everyone for making our daytime meeting work this time! We will go back to an evening meeting for our next event! :)

For those who wanted the roll recipe...here it is:

Lion House Rolls

2 T dry yeast (2 pkgs)
2 C warm water
1/3 C sugar
1/3 C melted butter (can substitute margarine or shortening)
2 1/2 tsp salt
2/3 C nonfat dry milk
5 - 6 C flour
1 egg

Combine yeast and water in a small bowl and let sit for 5 minutes. In mixer - put sugar, shortening, salt, dry milk, 2 C flour, and egg - mix to combine. After yeast has bubbled up, pour into mixer with the rest of ingredients. Beat together until VERY smooth. Add 2 more C flour, one at a time, very slowly and beat until smooth. Start adding 1/2 C increments of flour until it reaches the right texture and is mixed in. Cover and let rise until triple in size. This could take up to 1 1/2 hours, depending on the temp where you are raising the dough.

Once dough has tripled in size remove from bowl and place on a greased, or lightly floured surface. Let dough rest 10 minutes. This will make it easier to roll out (the dough won't keep springing back on you). Roll out dough and cut or mold into desired shapes. Let rise again. Brush tops with melted butter or egg wash before putting in the over (I skip this when doing the orange glaze). Bake at 400 degrees for 10-20 minutes or until browned the way you like.

Orange Glaze
2 1/2 C powdered sugar
1/3 to 1/2 C orange juice
(you can add some lemon zest to give it an extra zip)

OK...there it is. I have two Lion House cookbooks and the roll recipes in each differ slightly, but both work equally as well - both recipes seem to be pretty forgiving too which is helpful if you are a novice baker like me! Or just use your favorite dinner roll (probably not bread though) recipe and add the glaze.

Next month's book: The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom copies can be found at the Madison Library, B&N, Amazon, Half.com, etc.

Links related to Remembering Isaac:

Ben's Pottery Website
Ben's Blog
Remembering Isaac Website

This post subject to editing if there are other significant things that need to be added. :)