Friday, April 20, 2012

Book Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

The Dial Press, 2007; 274 pages; ISBN 0385340990
My Goodreads Rating: 5 stars

I had a listen to the audiobook of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and I'm so happy to have experienced this book as a spoken performance. The audio production (published by Random House on 7 audio discs) features five different narrators all speaking each part. This added to the charm of the story, which was set after World War II in London.  The story unfolds as a series of letters.  It begins with writer Juliet Ashton who has enjoyed some success with a column that she penned during the war entitled "Izzy Bickerstaff Goes to War". She is on a book tour and is corresponding with her publisher, who is also a dear friend, and her best friend, who is his sister. She also writes to her publicist and soon enough to a resident of Guernsey Island. This is a man named Dawsey Adams who found her name in a book by Charles Lamb, who is his most favorite author.  Juliet is intrigued and so begins the correspondence between herself and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, of which Dawsey Adams is a member. 

As the letters progress you learn how the society was formed, which is bittersweet as it occurred during the war, an especially difficult time for the residents of Guernsey. One Elizabeth McKenna had a lot to do with forming the society and her story is woven into the letters, which eventually give Juliet the subject for her next project. She becomes so embroiled in the lives of the Guernsey society that she ends up on the island herself, despite a persistent suitor (who is a rich business man) and her life and friends in London.  The cast of characters is really marvelous as each has their own quirks and beliefs, but they all come together anyways to hold their Potato Peel Society meetings. Juliet becomes an "honorary" member and her writing project takes on a life of its own, and really, her life becomes a part of the Guernsey story which comes to  involve romance, an orphaned child, a jilted lover, and an enchanting island that is regaining what it lost during the war.

I'm so happy to hear that the movie was optioned as a film and so far it looks like Kate Winslet may be playing the part of Juliet, which I can totally picture (filming was delayed to 2013).  I highly recommend this book for anyone that enjoys historical fiction. The format of letters may not be best suited for reading for some, but I would recommend listening to the audio version as it was truly divine.

Friday, April 13, 2012

My Look Back: 1935

View of New York City, 1935
Photo from LIFE Photo Archive
I hope everyone is having a very lucky Friday the 13th today! It's raining cats and dogs here and I'm so happy that I'm indoors.  I'm taking a looksie back to the year 1935 and that year had two lucky number 13 Fridays, Friday, September 13th and Friday, December 13th 1935.  So here's a bit of trivia on 1935 and the number thirteen.
  • The number thirteen is one of the only three Wilson Prime numbers. The other two are 5 and 563.
  • Amelia Earhart became the first person to fly solo from Hawaii to California in January of 1935.
  • There are 13 loaves in a "Baker's Dozen".
  • The first canned beer was sold by the Kruger Brewing Co. of Richmond, Virginia in the form of Krueger Cream Ale. This was also the year that Alcoholic Anonymous was founded.
  • A gallon of gas cost 10 cents and the average new car sold for $625.
  • The number 13 has been worn by many well-known and high-achieving athletes during their professional careers and Olympic appearances, such as Alex Rodriguez, Dan Marino, Wilt Chamberlain, Yao Ming and Shaquille O'Neal, to name a few.
  • It Happened One Night starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert won the Academy Award for Best Picture. See my movie review for it here.
  • The board game Monopoly was released by Parker Bros., although it's history can be traced as far back as 1904. In the 1950's three tokens were retired: a lantern, a purse and a rocking horse.
  • The moon travels around the earth 13 degrees each day. The 28 days of the lunar cycle can be broken down into 13 days to change from Full Moon to New Moon and back, plus one day of a Full Moon and one day of a New Moon.
  • Jerry Lee Lewis, Sonny Bono, Mercedes Sosa, Elvis Presley, Woody Allen, Julie Andrews, Luciano Pavarotti, and the current Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso) were born in 1935.
  • 13 is considered lucky and sometimes unlucky. In Judaism, 13 is the age when a young boy matures and becomes a Bar Mitzvah (when he bears responsibility for his Jewish faith) and 13 is the number of principles that exist in the Jewish faith.  In the ancient Iranian civilization, the 13th day of a new Iranian year is considered to be sinister and wicked. It is called Sizdah Be-dar and many people celebrate it by taking to the outdoors as a way to get rid of the day.  There are 13 witches in a coven and 13 turns make a traditional hangman's noose (anything less than 13 would not accomplish the task).
  • Babe Ruth hit his last home run of his career, which was his 714th.
  • Airplanes were no longer allowed to fly over the White House starting in 1935.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Read a Book, Sip a Cocktail No. 16

Photo from
I could have sworn I was embroiled in a Mexican telenovela as I read The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly.  You have your poor, pheasant girl.  She's feisty, she's beautiful, she's down to earth, and everybody loves her.  Then you have a handsome young chap who is in love with her and wants to give her the world.  But tragedy strikes.  The heroine falls on hard times and her beau is tricked into a relationship with her evil enemy (insert spoiled rich girl here).  But all is not lost for our beautiful heroine.  Somehow, someway she perseveres and with revenge in her heart, she rises above it all.  But the passionate love that exists between her and her beau will not be extinguished.  Will they meet again?  Or will the rich, evil people get in their way?  OK, so this was not exactly how the story went, but it was pretty darn similar.  Of course the writing is much, much better and a bit less sappy than most soap operas, so that was much appreciated as the book is extremely long (675 pages!).  I also loved the suspense that was thrown in as this takes place around the time of the Jack the Ripper murders in the Whitechapel district of London.  The aspects of tea are nicely woven into the story and I could just picture the charming grocers, tea rooms, and old streets of turn-of-the-century New York and London.  Which brings me to the cocktail I made for The Tea Rose.  It is a Cup of Tea-tini made with vodka, hibiscus tea infused simple syrup, and rose petal infused water.  Not too strong with just a hint of the rose water, I really enjoyed the sweet hibiscus flavor.  It's definitely not like any cup of tea I've had, but for a martini, it's quite lovely, so I would hope that Fiona could appreciate it, as she did with tea, tea roses and her Joe.

A Cup of Tea-tini
1 1/2 oz. vodka
2 oz. Hibiscus tea infused simple syrup*
2 oz. Rose infused water*
A fresh, clean rose petal for garnish

How to: Prep your martini glass by sticking it in the freezer for about 5 minutes. In a cocktail shaker mix ice, vodka, hibiscus simple syrup, and rose water. Shake for at least 20 seconds. Serve in your ice cold martini glass and garnish with one or two rose petals. *To make your own simple syrup, take 1/2 a cup of sugar to 1 cup of water and cook over medium heat (watching it and stirring every so often). When the sugar has dissolved, take the syrup off the heat and let it cool. To infuse it, soak dried hibiscus tea or leaves in the syrup overnight and drain them out before you use it.  You can do this with simple syrup you make or you can buy the simple syrup on its own and just infuse it yourself. To make your own rose water, see these great recipes: How to make rose water: 4 recipes

Here are the rose petals before I placed them on the stove to prepare the rose water
The hibiscus gave the drink it's beautiful pink hue, and of course the wonderful taste