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MOAM BOOK CLUB!

Summer! At last!

It feels like ages: since it’s been glorious, since I’ve written here, and since I’ve put up a Book Club post. I’ve been reading a lot. Have you? Anything I should add to my list? I’m always looking for a good read. And apparently, you are too. So,without further ado, I present the 2014 MOAM Summer Book Club. Enjoy!

THE GOOD LORD BIRD by James McBride

This award-winning novel tells the story of abolitionist John Brown through the eyes of a rescued slave. A rescued boy who, after being mistaken for a girl, maintains the charade.  There’s a bit of a Twain-esque feeling to this book and if you like that sort of thing, you’ll love this. Even if you don’t, it’s a great read. Beautifully written, sometimes horrific and always engaging, this historical novel is no frothy beach read, but it’s well worth a look.
 

THE PARIS WIFE – Paula McCain

And speaking of Gatsby….F. Scott Fitzgerald makes an appearance in this book, one of many about Ernest Hemingway’s handful of wives. This novel is based on the life of wife #1, Hadley. She was the one in it at the very beginning of Hem’s literary life. The first wife. The romantic. The one who thought she could make it work with the hard-drinking, fast-living writer. She was wrong, of course. A bit of a train-wreck of a relationship, but of course you can’t look away…

AN INDISCRETION by Charles Dubow

A golden couple. NYC. The Hamptons. A young woman who infiltrates the family and their circle in every way. Gatsby-ish vibe, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a film in the works. One bad – really, really bad – choice sends the family reeling. And sent me reeling too. Talk about fall-out! This is a morality tail that both frustrated and saddened me, and stayed with me long after I finished it.

 

TRAINS & LOVERS by Alexander McCall Smith

I love a good traveler tale. This one’s set on a train, on the journey from Edinburgh to London. Four strangers get to chatting and next thing you know, they’re telling their life – and love – stories. Always easiest to do with strangers, right? Like four little novels in one, this is short and sweet and perfect for summer. Check your cynicism at the door and enjoy.

 

THE GROUP by Mary McCarthy

Set in the ’30’s, it follows a group of women – The Group – after they graduate from Vassar. It explores their lives, families, and jobs. Their marriages, affairs, and divorces. It’s sex, love and analysis – which would be de rigueur except for the fact that it was published in ’63 and was considered pretty rad at the time. And – escandalo! – it was even banned. Kind of like a smarty pants version of Rona Jaffe’s 70’s classic “Class Reunion”!

 

A FEW SECONDS OF RADIANT FILMSTRIP: A MEMOIR OF 7TH GRADE by Kevin Brockmeier

I couldn’t not read a book with this title. This first year of middle school aka Junior High is huge. Coming of age, evolution of friendships, I love this stuff! Great references, funny and sweet, anyone who has ever been 12 will relate, even in some very small way. Charming and lovely.

 

BUT ENOUGH ABOUT ME by Jancee Dunn

The subtitle to this is “A Jersey Girl’s Unlikely Adventures Among the Absurdly Famous”. And that’s exactly what this is! Dunn is an unlikely candidate but somehow lands a dream job at Rolling Stone. With stints as a VJ, celebrity profiler and writer, she never thought she’d be rubbing shoulders with rock stars and film gods. But she does, and tells us all about it in a self-deprecating and hilarious memoir. I want more of her. And I want to be her friend!

 

THE HUSBAND’S SECRET – by Liane Moriarty

What if you found a letter addressed to you but only to be opened upon the death of your partner (who is very much alive)? And what if you opened it and found a terrible, horrible, very bad confession? Then what? That’s the premise of this seemingly cheesy yet riveting book. Perfect for summer, it’s a domestic drama set in Australia. Another possible movie-in-the-making I couldn’t put it down. And neither will you.

 

THE GOLDFINCH – by Donna Tartt

If you’re one of the 27 people who haven’t read this enormous Pulitzer Prize winner yet, what are you waiting for? Yes, it’s massive. But it’s infinitely readable. It’s also sparked a major debate amongst the literati of whether or not it is “Great Literature” or a glorified Young Adult fiction. Check it out and judge for yourself. I’m a fan.

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July 11, 2014   No Comments

MARCH OF THE LIVING

As many of you loyal readers know, I have just returned from Poland, where I participated in the March of the Living (MOL) from Auschwitz to Birkenau. The trip itself is a 2-part educational journey, from Poland to Israel. Originally designed for 17-year old students, there was so much interest that there is now an adult trip, as well as a young adult trip. For more information, click here.

A bit of background: I went to Prague for my 30th birthday, 16 long years ago. It was a magnificent city. And I hated it. For me, it was like the Epcot Center for dead Jews. We went to Terezin (Theresienstadt), a concentration camp masquerading as Jewish settlement, complete with gas chamber and crematorium. Thousands of people were murdered there and, after visiting the town/camp, I had no interest in seeing any others.

Until January 2014 when I attended an exhibit at the UN in NYC. Entitled “When you listen to a witness, you become a witness”, the event showcased photos from previous Marches, as well as testimony from survivors.  As the survivors spoke it was impossible not to be moved to tears. I decided I wanted to join my parents on the March of Living, to travel to Poland and visit these places with people who survived the horrors. I wanted to bear witness, and hear the stories first-hand, before those who had survived were no longer alive to tell their stories.

As the departure date neared, I couldn’t help but wonder what on earth I was thinking. Why was I choosing a trip of tears? Why hadn’t I just booked a beach vacay? Friends and family were wishing me bon voyage with some trepidation – no one wanted to say “have fun” or, “enjoy”. It simply wasn’t that kind of trip. Was it?

The night before I left, my Man and I spent some time on-line, googling Poland and Warsaw and checking out what else there was to see, aside from death camps and cemeteries. Admittedly, I was nervous to go to a place where, in my mind, they hate Jews. First thing I learned was that, among all the Nazi-occupied countries in Europe, Poland was the least collaborative. In fact, of all of the “Righteous among the Nations”, the highest number came from Poland.

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LOT Polish airways was phenomenal. The flight attendants were lovely and helpful and friendly. Was this a taste of the Poland to come? Turns out, it was. When my bag disappeared and I arrived in Warsaw without a change of clothes, I hit the local mall where the people I dealt with were nothing but nice. And normal. It was like being at Yorkdale, just a lot whiter. A lot. Being used to multi-culti Toronto, that was the one thing that stood out in Poland.

With the arrival of 3 busloads of Toronto-based Adults, our trip began in earnest. First stop were cemeteries in Lodz and Warsaw, with a visit to the Radegast train station memorial, the sight were thousands of Jews were deported from the Lodz ghetto to certain death.

lodz memorial

It was a long day with tired, jet-lagged people and an overwhelming amount of gravestones.

Jewish Cemetery in Lodz

Jewish Cemetery in Lodz

With each stone, a story:  LL Zamenhof, an opthamologist who created the international language of Esperanto; Marek Edelman, a commander of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising who survived, participated in the Warsaw Uprising and eventually died in Lodz in 2009, age 90; Janusz Korcak, the Dr Seuss/Dr Spock of the day, a famous educator and pediatrician, who ran an orphanage in the ghetto. When offered shelter on the Aryan side, as well as special treatment, he refused, sticking with “his” children – all the way to Treblinka where they were all murdered. The list goes on….At the Lodz cemetery, thousands of markers have been placed by Israeli soldiers to commemorate those who were killed. Each year, more are added to the growing field of memory.

Gensha Cemetery in Warsaw

Gensha Cemetery in Warsaw

Our brilliant tour guide, Mike Hollander, reminded us at every turn: for the Poles, the Holocaust was a Polish tragedy in which 6 million Poles died, half of them Jewish.  This can be seen at the Treblinka memorial.

treblinka 1

Treblinka, a death camp in which over 800,000 human beings were murdered was destroyed by the Nazis as they retreated. It is now a contemplative, beautiful memorial built by the Polish government as “a tragic monument of martyrdom”. Over 130 stones have been placed, each to commemorate the name of a town from which Jews were deported and killed.

One such town was Tykochin where, in the summer of 1941, 2000 Jewish men, women and children – half of the town’s population – were taken from their homes. Marched into the nearby Lupohowa Forest, they were forced to dig ditches before being shot. An entire town, obliterated in a matter of hours, buried in a handful of mass graves.

Tykochin Shul

Tykochin Shul

The synagogue still stands in Tykochin, a memorial to the town’s once thriving Jewish community. One of our accompanying survivors, Irving Eisner, led our group in a rousing sing-song in which it was impossible not to partake.

Warsaw Old Town!

Warsaw Old Town!

We spent a day wandering the rainy streets of Warsaw: the gorgeous and interactive Chopin museum; the Historic Centre of Warsaw, completely rebuilt after being destroyed by the Germans and now a UNESCO-heritage site; the New Museum of Jewish Life; memorials to the Ghetto uprising; Mila 18 – the bunker the heroes of the Warsaw ghetto uprising used as their headquarters. For those who’ve read the Leon Uris novel, it was a bit of a pilgrimage!

Mila 18.

Mila 18.

Next stop: Krakow. We visited the old Jewish quarter, the ghetto, and the pharmacy belonging to Tadeusz Pankiewicz, a Catholic Pole who rescued many Jews and who bore witness to the abuse, deportation and death of many more. We did a drive by past Schindler’s factory and walked around the market square. Pope John Paul II was canonized that day, so the streets were packed with worshippers, revellers, and fans of the near-local priest who made it to the big time.

Krakow.

Krakow.

And then there was the day of the March. Max Eisen, the phenomenally wise and well-spoken survivor who accompanied our bus, walked us through Auschwitz, the camp where he survived while the remainder of his family was murdered.

Max Eisen

Max Eisen

Clothing of all sizes. Suitcases with the names of adults and children still chalked on them. Prosthetic limbs, canes and crutches. Eyeglasses and shoes. Several tonnes of human hair. All stolen from humans before and after their death, and now on display. Personally, I found it repulsive. I couldn’t bring myself to take photos of such things. Seeing the display cases filled with children’s items – from bonnets to toys to dolls –  I lost it.

Empty, ready for Marchers.

Before: Empty, ready for Marchers.

Outside, in between the barracks, were the holding areas for the Marchers. Placards representing over 10,000 people from 40 countries were lined up: Canada, US, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Panama, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Hungary, Austria, Germany, England, France, Israel and, of course, Poland were just some of the countries from which I saw people.  Everyone wore matching blue windbreakers.

After: filled with Marchers.

After: filled with Marchers.

We began our march, from Auschwitz to Birkenau.

As far as can see

As far as the eye could see there were marchers in blue jackets. There was no beginning, no end. Poles lined the streets to watch and, contrary to rumours I’ve heard, there were absolutely no people throwing stones or yelling insults. Au contraire. There was nothing but love and humanity along the 3Km route.

Polish supp

Traditionally, the march is silent but where we were it was anything but. Israelis sang songs and survivors shared stories. School children from all over, Jews and non-Jews, all marched together in remembrance.

birkenau

As we entered the gates of Birkenau, we walked along the train tracks. People placed markers in honour of those who had perished. I was walking on behalf of my friend Sue’s mom, Lynn Mumford, nee Lisl Lichtenstein. At age 7 she was sent to live in England. Her brother, Erich, was 12 or 13, too old to be a part of the UK-bound Kindertransport.  He perished, along with the rest of the family.

Over a loudspeaker, a list of children who had been killed was being read. As people filled into the area, some took seats, some sat on grass, and some simply stood. There were performances, songs and speeches. Among the more memorable speakers were the President of Hungary, commemorating the 70th anniversary of the destruction of Hungarian Jewry; the grand-niece of Raoul Wallenberg who, using his diplomatic office, saved over 100,000 Jewish people before disappearing into the Soviet Gulag at the war’s end; the Head Sephardic Rabbi in NY who ran through a list of Sephardi communities that were decimated. Canadian MP Irwin Cotler, the former Head Rabbi in Israel, and Chilean philanthropist Leonardo Farkas also spoke. Finally, 6 survivors helped complete a Torah scroll that would be accompanying all future marches of the Living.

After such an emotional day, I was ready to go home. I wanted – needed – to be with my people. But we had a couple more stops to make.

First was Kielce, famous for the pogrom which killed 42 Jewish survivors after the war was over. There was also a beautifully touching memorial to the 45 Jewish children of Kielce who were marched into the cemetery and then executed by Nazis. Vile. The next day we joined many other groups in Lublin, an ancient site of Jewish learning in Poland. We visited the Yeshiva and then we made our way back to Warsaw via Madjanek.

majdanek

This concentration camp, almost fully intact, is mere minutes from the city of Lublin. It was here where particularly sadistic and chilling stories were set. Barracks still stand, some filled with shoes, others with other remnants of Jewish life. And death. The camp is enormous. At its end, a mammoth stone monument representing the weight of memory covers a mountain of ashes of the victims collected by local civilians and preserved in an open-air mausoleum.

The sun shines on the ashes of the victims of Madjanek.

The sun shines on the ashes of the victims of Madjanek.

What an intensely moving and incredible week it was. That there could be so much humanity where one of history’s darkest moments took place is difficult to fathom. So many tears shed, yet many uplifting moments as well. I’ve brought home more hope and faith than I left with. For those thinking about making this difficult journey, I can’t urge you strongly enough to do it NOW, while there are still survivors left to share their stories. While the physical structures hold their own meanings, it’s the words and memories of the brave and incredible survivors who accompanied us and allowed us to bear witness that had the most impact. As Mike, our guide, reminded us countless times: it’s the presence of absence, and the absence of presence that leaves us with more questions than answers.

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May 4, 2014   No Comments

NY, NY (again! again!)

New York City has made an appearance on this site before: and why not? Each visit brings its own tales of fun and excitement, with new places to go, new things to do and new things to eat… My last visit was built around a wedding in NJ and an exhibit at the UN. Making it a super-long weekend was a no-brainer.

First half was ladies’ night: all night. And all day from Friday-Monday. Then first-born son arrived Monday in time to hang out with the grandparents, uncle and extendo-clan. Getting there was super-cheap. Porter offered up a load of flights at $220 return. Including tax.

We traipsed through Soho, bee-lining it to my favourite shops Olive & Bette’s and Scoop. Both had badass sales, including $20 tables and The 50%-off-the-lowest-sale-price Sales. I blew my load within two hours.

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But wait! There was more…. Despite warnings of “frigid” temperatures, walking through Nolita kept us warm. (Disclaimer: not only were we moving, we were popping into just about every cute spot with a remotely well-dressed window) Novelty shops were everywhere in the East Village. Cool cards, foldable hipster reading glasses, moustache lip balms and rock star cutout dolls a-plenty. All kinds of dollars spent on novelty gifts – for ourselves and our people. Head shops on Broadway, assorted West Village boutiques and even a quick shlep up to Bloomies and we’d exhausted our retail adventures. My son, however, didn’t exhaust his until a visit to Dylan’s Candy Bar a (where they had NONE of my childhood sweeties. I’m talking those uber-junkie day-glo marshmallow-ish bananas and strawberries) with a final stop at FAO Schwartz where we bought practically all the toys being demo’d…

Big Piano...never gets old...

The Big Piano: it never gets old…

 

Wandering the streetscapes was fun, but it was “Broadway Week” while we were there, complete with 2-for-1 tickets! Who knew? Erm….Not us. We kept seeing ads in cabs, but the only show we caught was Buyer & Cellar, set in the underground mall underneath Barbra Streisand’s house. That’s right. Funny one-man comedy (but funnier concept) . Off-b’way matinee’d, caught a flick, saw some friends. Hit the UN, the New Museum and the New Jersey Turnpike.

And then there was The Tenement Museum. This place was so cool I had to go twice – and I am not a museum person. But, alas, this is no regular museum. Home to thousands until it was boarded up in the 30’s, the building was opened up in the 80’s and essentially a time capsule was discovered. Since then, using years of research and census data, apartments have been restored and homes recreated. Tours through the building share the stories of the families who lived there. Interactive, personal, emotional: amazing.

Best thing about the weekend (company aside)? The food! We did our research so you don’t have to:

SnackSoho: Lovely little lunch spot. Room is tiny but portions are massive. Greek-ish and delish.

Café Gitane: get there by 10:30 because this joint is packed! At least the one on Mott St…. French with Morroccan flavours, fabulous coffee, great vibes, and awesome avocado on toast. Baked eggs are AOK too!

Dominique Ansel Bakery –Once I discovered this place, I didn’t bother going anywhere else. Home of the original Cronut, the lines are out the door. But if you skip the Cronut, you miss the queue too. Go for the pastries, stay for the coffee. And the homemade granola parfait. And do not miss the DKA – some sort of caramelized pastry thing. Addictive.

Photo courtesy of Dominique Ansel Bakery. I ate mine too quickly to snap pics.....

Photo courtesy of Dominique Ansel Bakery. I ate mine too quickly to snap pics…..

 

Empellon Cucina: Modern Mexican that’s still authentic. Their guacamole with 7 salsas (and some snazzy crisps) was incredible. Ditto the ceviche taco. And pineapple margaritas. (And the resto is way hipper than its website)

Red Farm: YUM!! I constantly crave this type of food. Yes, I still love the Pan Asian places. And seeing how packed this place is, I’m not alone. No reservations, but worth the wait. Crispy beef was insane. So was the pastrami egg roll. And the chicken dumplings.

Balaboosta: Hummous & pakoras & swiss chard spaghetti oh my! We wanted everything on this menu. Everything!!!! The “Israeli Street Fair” was just that: a full-on party on a plate. And the mortar ‘n pestle hummous kind of speaks for itself.

Minds out of the gutter! And back to the table.

Minds out of the gutter! And back to the table.

 

Also went to some classic spots with my 10-year old: Katz’s Deli, Smith & Wollensky, and Serendipity. He likes meat and fruit, chocolate and cookies. So these spots were good for a young, non-gourmando palate. They were about the experiences, not the food.

 

Yeah, we finished it. With some help from grandparents...

Yeah, we finished it. With some help from grandparents…

 

Only losers head to NYC mid-winter? Perhaps! But with cheap flights, reservations a-plenty, semi-private tours (and, apparently, 2-for-one shows) maybe it’s time to rethink your winter weekend getaway**.

 

**Or not. But despite the cold/snow/slush it wasn’t as bad as Toronto!

February 5, 2014   No Comments

MOAM BOOK CLUB

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“Sleighbells ring, are you listening….On the shelves, books are glistening.

Beaches or ski, Paper or “e”,

Reading in a Winter Wonderland……”

 

Road Ends – Mary Lawson

The third (unrelated) book by this author set in Ontario’s North, this one revolves around the supreme dysfunction of the Cartwright family. Set in the ’60’s, each chapter alternates between the eldest son, whose ambition and potential  were thwarted after a local tragedy; the only daughter who “quits” being the caretaker of her ever-growing brood of siblings and heads to London; and their father, a victim of his own history who holes himself up in his office rather than dealing with his wife and children. Bleak and harsh like the landscape in which it’s set, it’s a perfect winter read.

The Rosie Project – Graeme Stinson

Socially awkward and statistically-inclined Professor Don Tillman has decided he is going to find a wife. And so, using a complicated list of criteria, he sets out to find the perfect woman. In the course of his project, he meets Rosie who is, of course, everything he is not looking for. This is a happy, feel-good and hilarious story. A movie in the making, if the rights haven’t been snapped up yet, it’s only a matter of time before they will be.

The Year of Magical Thinking – Joan Didion

Devastating. Didion’s husband suffers a heart attack and dies as their daughter lies in a coma. It can’t get much worse than that, but Didion chronicles the days before and after in such a moving, tender and beautifully written way. Life changes in an instant. Reading this memoir and sharing someone else’s tragedy reinforces how lucky we are. We really are.

The Lowland – Jhumpa Lahiri

Two brothers. Best friends in childhood who grow apart as they grow up. One becomes a revolutionary, the other an academic. Eventually, ideology and geography separate them. Their futures could not be more different and yet, are ultimately intertwined forever. Sounds dramatic, because it is. No spoilers here. Just read it and weep….

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena – Anthony Marra

This overwhelming and beautiful page-turner is, quite frankly, one of the best books I’ve read in years. Set in a broken Chechnya town, unforgettable characters take the readers on a poignant journey through a dark and brutal moment in history. Once you figure out who’s who – and please, stick with it until you do – you will be awed by this epic, magnificent novel. You may even want to read it again. I know I do.

The Woman Upstairs – Claire Messud

At 42 and single, third-grade teacher and amateur artist Nora feels like an invisible woman. I’m not single (or 42) but I could relate. At first. But when Nora meets a sophisticated, completely out-of-her world family, she becomes entrenched in their lives to an unhealthy extent. Obsession, betrayal, love, art: it all swirls together in this infinitely readable novel about an angry young woman and the choices she makes. Or doesn’t.

The Happiness Project – Gretchen Rubin

This one is completely out of character for me. I had to read it as part of a work assignment, but found myself turning back to it, quoting it and generally being unable to get it out of my head. Author Gretchen Rubin seemingly has it all. So why isn’t she happy….enough? Is anyone? So much about this book resonated with me – and still does, long after I’ve put it away. Part self-help guide, part pop-culture philosophy, I found it intriguing and have already pre-ordered the next book, “Happiness at Home”. If happiness is a choice that we’ve got to work for, I’m willing to give it a whirl!

Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon – Sheila Weller

The title says it all. (Almost all. Could be subtitled: Plus James Taylor). This one’s love-or-loath. I read bits of this as an excerpt in Vanity fair years ago and was intrigued. With a movie version looming, I figured I’d better get to it before Taylor Swift (as Joni Mitchell!!) wrecks it for me. These 3 ladies had a profound effect on me throughout my adolescence (and beyond… but don’t tell anyone). I’m still mid-way though the book and, while it may not be the best-written of the lot, it’s compelling for this used-to-be-guitar-strumming, has-been-piano-playing campfire singer.

December 11, 2013   No Comments

DELICIOUS DISH

I recently had the pleasure of taking a Delicious Dish cooking class with Occupational Therapist-turned-self-taught-chef, Carolyn Cohen. I’d heard about her classes for years and was intrigued, mostly because the menus were hoarded secrets. Sharing recipes was considered to be horribly bad form. Verboten? Forbidden fruit? I wanted in!  After managing to coax a few tidbits from some willing rule-benders, I tried a couple of recipes.

And they were, indeed, delicious dishes.

It wasn’t long before I was on Carolyn’s email list. Schedules were listed, but menus were not. And while I debated whether to sign up, the classes would fill up and sell out within hours of being posted. Who was this Carolyn Cohen? And what was she serving??  Finally, a friend asked if I wanted to join a private group she was organizing and I jumped at the chance.

The class was designed to be healthy, family-friendly, good for entertaining, and gluten-free optional. I’m not so healthy, tho’ I try to start the week that way. My family rarely eats the masterpieces I cook, and I am nothing if not a glutton for gluten.

I was in.

A week before the event, the original organizer had to drop out, along with half the class. After a mad scramble to collect a minimum of ten bodies – ten $95 pre-paid bodies – we ended up with 13 and were rarin’ to go!

Carolyn called me to plan the menu. At her suggestion we swapped some of the original planned mains, and we agreed to go completely gluten-free. We had a celiac among us, as well as the founder of the Gluten-Free Garage. In fact, I’m honoured to have posted this piece as a guest-blogger on the GFG web-site.  Click here to check it out. You’ll find loads of gluten-free ideas and information. And no, you don’t have to be gluten-free to check it out.

But I digress….

The night of our class, we descended upon Carolyn’s kitchen, where she commandeered 13 of the chattiest ladies in town. Pouring glasses of red, to go with the quinoa pizza bites she’d provided as a starter, Carolyn got right down to business.

She was a mountain of information both healthy and practical. Onion goggles to stop the waterworks. Kevlar gloves to prevent slicing off fingers. A list of suppliers and shops – and salts. Kitchen scales. Dough scoopers. Slicers. Pine nuts. Olive oil. She had it all covered.

Chef Carolyn Cohen in her onion goggles!

Chef Carolyn Cohen in her onion goggles!

We all laughed, learned and ate. A lot.

The Menu:

First up was quinoa with beets, radish and…wait for it….crispy Brussels sprouts. Anything with crispy Brussels sprouts and I’m in. But look how gorgeous this golden quinoa is with its beautiful Brussels sprout collar. Divine.

Winter Quinoa with Crispy Brussell Sprouts. Note the collar!

Herbed Quinoa with Crispy Brussels Sprouts. Note the collar!

 

Kale is the roughage du jour. The king of green. It’s everywhere. Healthy and tasty as it may be, I’ve always preferred mine wilted and tossed into a stir fry or sauce (or ratatouille! Yum!). But this Southern Italian Kale Salad, a cousin of the one at Toronto eatery Gusto, was crazy good. Made with black kale and Parmesan, it was totally addictive. I easily could’ve downed the entire platter….

Black Kale. Kavarro Nero. Lassi Nate. Call it what you will, it's sublime.

Black Kale.Dinosaur Kale. Cavalo Nero. Lacinato. Call it what you will, it’s sublime.

Chipotle Chicken burgers with Guacamame. These sliders were smoky goodness on a gluten-free bun. Spicy and beyond tasty and – get this – cooked under the broiler! Who knew? And that stunning bright green topper? It’s a dip! It’s a sauce! It’s NOT guacamole, but guacaMAME. Avocado + Edamame = one tasty topping. On anything. Or nothing!

Chipotle Chicken sliders with Guacamame Spread. Asombroso. Ole!

Chipotle Chicken sliders with Guacamame Spread. Asombroso. Ole!

My fave of the night was the Seared Tuna with Smoked Sea Salt, Sesame and Pepper crust. On a soy-maple glaze. This ain’t your gourmando’s ahi. It’s albacore! And it’s better, believe it or not. None of the gristle, all of the taste. And the glaze? Sublime! Instead of finishing it off on top, the seared tuna is sliced and sandwiched with a sliver of jalapeno before resting on a bed of glaze. Brilliant!!

Ladies prefer blondes. Blond - aka - albacore tuna. Nothin' like canned.

Ladies prefer blonde….tuna! Albacore, that is. Nothing like the canned.

And then there were the cookies: Granola cookies. Family-friendly, no doubt – if there are any left. Our crowd inhaled them, some of us even sneaking in extras. And by extras I mean thirds. OK, fourths. They taste neither gluten-free nor healthy, in the best possible way.

 

So good you won't believe they're not gluten. You may even think they're Quaker Harvest Crunch!

So good you won’t believe they’re not gluten. You may even think they’re Quaker Harvest Crunch!

Carolyn has generously allowed me to break with protocol and publish a recipe! Allow me to present The Granola Cookie, by Delicious Dish. Resistance is futile.

From DELICIOUSDISH: THE GRANOLA COOKIE

“These are cookies that you can bake and not feel guilty about eating them
afterwards! Make them and enjoy them; delicious cookies just don’t get any
healthier!” Carolyn Cohen.

INGREDIENTS
2 cups (8oz/225g) rolled oats, I like the large flake or old fashioned for these
1 cup (4½ oz/130 g) of brown rice flour (or any flour of your choice)
¾ cup (2 oz/55g) shredded unsweetened coconut
1 Tbs. cinnamon
¼ tsp. sea salt
¾ cup maple syrup
½ cup canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, optional
½ cup small raisins or chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat oven to 350°F or 325°F convection. Line several cookie sheets with parchment.
2. In a large bowl, combine, oats, flour, coconut, cinnamon and salt.
3. On a smaller bowl or measuring cup, stir together the maple syrup, oil and vanilla.
4. Pour wet ingredients into dry and stir until evenly combined.
5. Fold in walnuts, raisins or chocolate chips.
6. Using a soup spoon, scoop batter into mounds onto the prepared cookie sheet. You may need to form them into mounds with you fingers. They may appear as if they are not coming together, but they bake up great! Don’t worry about crowding the pan a little, they do not spread.
7. Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

Makes 3-4 dozen
Copyright 2013. May not be reproduced or used for commercial purposes without
permission of Delicious Dish/Carolyn Cohen.

For more info, contact Carolyn Cohen 416.200.3522 / deliciousdish@rogers.com

Carolyn offers classes all year round, day or evening. Private or GenPop. Your kitchen or hers. Be warned – if you head to her place I might be the one loitering outside, looking for scraps…..

 

 

September 23, 2013   No Comments

A LITTLE MORE TIFF 2013

Full confession: I’ve been more of a loiterer this year than a film-goer. I’m not sure what happened with the Gala screenings for 2013… Where was this year’s “Argo”? Or “King’s Speech”? How about the wonderfully random foreign film that may not get distributed but should? I think they hit up The Princess of Wales theatre. Or TIFF Bell Lightbox. Wherever they were, I’ll be seeing ’em in the regular theatres with the regular people.

Still, there is something to be said for ogling, right? Here are some shameless photo-ops!

I met Michael C Hall a couple of years ago, when no one else in the green room bothered chatting with him. He didn’t remember, but was still lovely.

Dexter and Shvitzer. Sweatiest night of the year.

Dexter and Shvitzer. Sweatiest night of the year.

He wasn’t here to discuss Dexter (sadly. Rita in the bathtub??!! The best!). He was here with Daniel Radcliffe for Kill Your Darlings. We were too hot ‘n bothered to stay for the flick but wee Mr Radcliffe’s fans were out in full force. They hung around the perimeter of Roy Thompson Hall in the crazy heat, waiting for a glimpse of Harry. Potter.

Look! Here he is!!

 

Dex  n the boy Wizard

Dexter
‘n the Boy Wizard

And then there’s Kurt Russell. Looking somewhat…erm..different but handsome. And very accommodating. Why, in my old age, am I getting him mixed up with Jeff Bridges? Weird, right? BTW – still love “Overboard”….

Papa Kurt.

Papa Kurt.

Despite skipping out on the movie, I had to acknowledge Jay Baruchel. “This is the End” was bloody brilliant!! We went opening night. I was probably the only person in the theatre who wasn’t stoned but was still laughing so hard I nearly peed. OK, I may have. Genius!!  So I had to tell him. We stopped short of holding hands and jumping up and down with glee, but he was almost as excited about the acknowledgement as I was. Almost.

Go Jay Go!

Go Jay Go!

And then there were the back-to-back-to-back rom coms.

One was from India: A Random Desi Romance. Super long, full-on Bollywood, total cheese and lots of fun! We were late so no pics. But lots of gorgeous people in gorgeous outfits. Nuff said.

Next up: Canadian flick The Right Kind of Wrong. I was sort of dreading it – that title? Jason Stackhouse as the big star? Um…..But we watched and we laughed. You probably won’t, nor should you race out, but if you find yourself flipping channels or on an airplane, it’s cute. Or I have TIFF fever and can no longer tell good from bad. That’s very possible.

I prefer him in BonTemps, but still appealing, shorn 'n all....

I prefer him in BonTemps, but still appealing, shorn ‘n all….

And for my personal final flick: The Love Punch. A Brit caper starring the beyond charming Peirce Brosnan and the spectacularly divine Emma Thompson, this one was sweet, clever and – at times – laugh out loud funny. Premise – retired divorced couple lose their pension to a business shark and plot a diamond heist to get it back – isn’t as good as the movie itself. The stars brought their A-game, bantering with fans, posing barefoot, being self-deprecating and witty and fun – maybe that’s why the audience went back shit for the film. It’s so much easier to enjoy a movie when its stars make you want to like it – because you like them, right?!

Who wouldn't love them?!?

Who wouldn’t love them?!?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 13, 2013   No Comments

TIFF 2013

It’s been a different kind of TIFF for the Green Room girls. Lots of sponsors, eagerly awaiting their close-ups, and a lot less stars. Or, rather, less stars ready, willing or able to hang our with the civilians. They come in like exotic animals, surrounded by handlers and managers and hangers-on, and, a quick sip later they’re gone, leaving nothing but fairy dust and frazzled publicists in their wake.

Still, I did manage to catch a few flicks as well as a few glimpses of those ethereal, elusive creatures we know as celebs…

THE 5TH ESTATE

You know, the one about Julian Assange. The WikiLeaks movie. Great performances, interesting film, mediocre movie. Less Social Network and more made-for-tv. But still worth seeing. On Netflix. Or an airplane. Or if there’s nothing else to see (which, going into fall, I find hard to believe.). But the awesomely named Benedict Cumberbatch lived up to the expectations of his Cumberbitches (yeah, he has those) and was terrific. Daniel Bruhl was no slouch either.

Benedict

THE RAILWAY MAN

Colin Firth wasn’t nearly as friendly as he’s been in recent years. Maybe because he’s hungry? He looked awfully thin. And speaking of thin, Nicole Kidman breezed in and out, posing with sponsors and doing her job. I actually felt a bit badly for her, as the second she walked into the room she was mobbed. She really is a delicate flower! With magnificent skin. Whatever’s she’s done has been worth every penny. A beauty. Unlike the film. The true story upon which it was based is extraordinary, and I have no doubt the book was spectacular. But the epilogue card had more emotional resonance than the two hours that preceded it. A shame.

IMG_6548 2

 

PARKLAND

This docu-drama is set in the aftermath of the JKF assassination. It’s about all the minor players: the doctors and nurses who worked on the president, as well as his shooter; Robert Oswald, the brother of Lee Harvey; a man who filmed the entire thing on his super-8 camera; the secret service detail, etc. I was pleasantly surprised by this one, considering the big draw was…Zac Efron.

Zac Ephron

Baby Efron

He was one of the excellent ensemble. And he had more babysitters in the Green Room than I’d ever seen. Bodyguards, publicists, and more bodyguards. A mini, girlier, Rob Lowe, he didn’t do it for me. Unlike Tom Welling, the tall gorgeous man being ignored at the bar. Re-ow! Smallville’s Clark Kent is nothing short of stunning – and sweet and modest to boot! Superman indeed.

Pic doesn't do him justice. Super stunning superman....

No, it’s not Ryan Seacrest. It’s Super Stunning Superman. Pic doesn’t do him justice.

MANDELA

Idris Elba. Idris Elba. Idris Elba. Word is this is one extraordinary performance among several in the sure-to-be Oscar bait, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. My mother couldn’t stop raving about the man, the movie, the cast. Sadly, it’s one of the few gala films I missed! Green roomed, yes, but didn’t catch the film. Loser.

Two hugely enthusiastic thumbs up from my mother!

Two hugely enthusiastic thumbs up from my mother!

WORDS & PICTURES

Speaking of losers….this was a dud. An interesting conceit, yes: which has more power: words or pictures? Set up a competition between two flawed teachers at a New England prep school and, well, you can guess what happens. Students are inspired, teachers are transformed, people fall in love, and they all agree that both are intensely powerful, just like love itself. Blah blah blah. Saccharine-sweet, with few surprises. There were several witty bits, but they got lost within the sentimental tone that defined this. Clive Owen was charming – on screen and in person, despite his current moustache.Yeah, it’s not Movember, but he’s sporting a ‘stache. Somewhat Clouseau-esque but he can pull it off. Kind of.

MOAM 'n 'Stache Owen

MOAM ‘n ‘Stache Owen

RUSH
Wow. Daniel Bruhl – our guy from the 5th Estate – steals the show as serious-as-a-heart-attack Austrian Nicki Lauda. Drop dead gorgeous Chris Hemsworth is dashing Brit playboy/partier James Hunt. ¿Quién es más macho? Loud, sexy, intense and true, it’s Formula 1 racing drama in the 70’s. Beautifully shot, superbly done and, while not perfect, is a damn fine flick. Verrrry manly, yes, but I liked it too. A great story and a big-screen must see.

Zoinks! Stu-nning!

Zoinks! Stu-nning!

 

Bruhl ruled the Galas....

Bruhl ruled the Galas….

 

Also fun was the star-packed greenroom….Just not with the stars of the movie!

Jason Sudeikis was there to support his gorgeous fiancee, Olivia Wilde. And guess what? He’s gorgeous too!

Clearly NOT his wife. What? He was cracking me up!

Clearly NOT his wife. Nor my best shot. What? He was cracking me up!

And Chris Hemsworth had his hot family around him. He’s the middle brother of 3. It took a while for most of us to figure out who was who. Luckily his magnificent wife Elsa Pataky was able to set us straight!!

 

Yes, it runs in the family.

The youngest, Liam. Yes, it runs in the family.

 

AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY

Yes, I saw it. Yes, it was brilliant. The writing! The performances! Breathtaking!!! This one’s guaranteed Oscar bait, no question.

So why didn’t I cry?!

Maybe it was too theatrical. Too much in the head and not enough in the heart? I don’t know. I appreciated it as a piece of work, but didn’t have the visceral reaction I thought I would.

My old doppelganger Dylan McDermott was there, as was Juliet Lewis. Ewan MacGregor? Still got it. And Julia Roberts?!?!? Always has, always will.

Love.

Love.

 

Still more to come! Stay tuned……

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 11, 2013   No Comments

MOAM Book Club

Summer is almost over….But before you pack in your flipflops and break out your boots, here are some good reads to get you through to Labor/Labour Day and beyond….

THE MIDDLESTEINS by Jami Attenberg

A Jewish family living in the burbs outside Chicago never mention the one thing no one can stop thinking about: Edie Middlestein’s obsession with food and eating. She’s massive. And will die if she doesn’t do something about it. So she emotional eats. When Edie’s husband of over thirty years ups and leaves her, the rest of the family must band together to save itself. This smart, funny, and quick-paced novel is told from each of the Middlestein’s points of view as they try to figure out how to save Edie – or who to blame.

THE INTERESTINGS by Meg Wolitzer

This author is very zeitgeisty for me. I over-identify with so many of her characters and/or the premises of her books that I have to read them all. I don’t always adore them, but I always find them, well, interesting! This one centers around a group of creative people who met at sleepover camp. Who will end up where? Doing what? It follows them as they live out their lives in shockingly unexpected, totally interesting and even decidedly boring ways…

THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE by Neil Gaiman

Cue the s-s-s-s-s-cary music, ‘cuz this one is creepy and magical and beautiful all at the same time. A man revisits the house he grew up in, and memories of childhood come flooding back. From mysterious deaths of neighbours young and old (and feline) to the terrifying nanny who is not at all what she appears to be. Only the house of women at the end of the lane can save him. A fantastical tale of childhood innocence lost and found. It’s billed as being for kids and adults but, while beautiful, it’s also nightmarish. Ssssspppoooooky!!!

ELEANOR & PARK by Rainbow Rowell

I love a good love story. Especially a first-love love story. And a doomed one? Even better!!! This one, set in the late 80’s – in high school – doesn’t disappoint. Two misfits from two staggeringly different worlds are all alone in their lives – they think – until stars cross and they find each other. This book felt like a cross-cultural John Hughes movie. Read it. Enjoy it. Don’t wait for the flick. No doubt it’s on its way.

DEFENDING JACOB – William Landay
RECONSTRUCTING AMELIA: A NOVEL – Kimberley McCreight

I lumped these two together because both are legal thrillers. Both have young protagonists. And both are about lawyer parents trying to get to the bottom of a death in which their child may or may not be involved.

Amelia’s mother, Kate, gets a call that her daughter had been caught cheating at her exclusive Brooklyn school. By the time she reaches the gates, her daughter is dead. An apparent suicide. Then Kate receives an anonymous text: “She didn’t jump” Flashbacks, texts, and facebook postings tell alternating stories of Amelia, her friends, and her “friends”. Only her mother’s sheer determination can figure out exactly what happened to her beloved daughter.

And then there’s Jacob. Jacob’s Dad, Andy, is an assistant DA called in when a local kid is found dead. It’s the end of the innocence for this bucolic New England town, and Andy vows to find the boy’s killer. Until his own 14-year old son is charged with the crime. The more Andy uncovers, the more he wonders how well he really knows his own son – and himself. Suspense, betrayal, loyalty…I smell a potboiler!!!

THE NEWLYWEDS by Nell Freudenberger

What would’ve been called a mail-order bride is now an e-mail order bride when a young Bangladeshi woman moves across the planet to marry a man in Rochester NY. Their newlywedded bliss is soon interrupted as secrets from both sides come pouring out. Will they keep it together, together? Should they? A quiet, moving, extremely well-written book that captures the experience of strangers in a strange land. Even in their homelands….

THE DINNER by Herman Koch

Theatre alert! This one reads like a play. A dramatic, sibling-rivalry-ridden, angsty, dramatic play. A morality play. Two families get together over dinner to discuss a spot of trouble their sons have got in together. And shit happens. Lots of it. Parenting values, politics, and family “values” are examined – and skewered. Great bait for dinner party conversation…

Z: A NOVEL OF ZELDA FITZGERALD by Therese Anne Fowler
This is exactly what it says it is! It’s the Jazz Age. Rebellious debutante and southern belle Zelda is plucked from her small Alabama life by dashing army captain F Scott Fitzgerald and the rest, is history. Crazy, bittersweet, legendary history. The depiction of the “Jazz Age”, the international literary world and the passionate and destructive personalities within it makes it tragic and gripping even though we know the ending right from the start.

LIFE AFTER LIFE by Kate Atkinson

We all have those Sliding Doors/Groundhog Day moments: how would you live your life differently? Does each moment, each decision, and each chance encounter colour your future? Kate Atkinson deftly explores these themes in this best-selling novel. If you could live your life over and over again, how would it turn out? Good question. I liked, didn’t love, this one. But I may be alone in that consensus.

ME BEFORE YOU by Jojo Moyes

High-flying, great looking, successful banker has it all – until a fluke motorcycle accident shatters his life. And his spinal column. Needless to say, he is miserable. When a young local girl is hired as his caregiver, she finally breaks through and devises a plan to help him actually enjoy his life. Will it work? Will you care? Readers are obsessed with this book so I daren’t omit it from my list! But, truth be told, it left me kinda cold.

Happy rest-of-summer! Happy reading! And please – recommendations are always welcome!

August 19, 2013   No Comments

KIWI CRATE

Kiwi4

As many of you know, I am often sent stuff to review on my site. As many of you may not know, I only review the stuff I actually like. Yes, I’ll diss something lame, but not if it’s sent over gratis. That’s just rude.

Last week a box arrived from Kiwi Crate.. Y’know when you’re done? You don’t want to play, you don’t want to fight over not-playing, and you don’t really want to reach for the remote (even though you know you will)? This is for those times. Kiwi Crate sends your 3-7 year old a monthly activity box filled with environmentally-friendly, crafty projects your child can do – with or without you.

Ours came addressed to my almost-5 year old and he was immediately intrigued. As well he should be! When we opened this little shoebox a world of wonder – no joke – lay inside. And by “wonder” I mean a serious time killer, in the best possible way.

My guy immediately got to work on decorating a reusable bag. Everything he/we needed was the box: flower/leaves for printmaking, washable ink, the reinforced paper bag, putty to make his own stamper. He wouldn’t let me help even if I wanted to.

Box o fun!

Box o fun!

This wasn’t your ordinary do-it-yourself stamp pad. With this he actually fashioned the stamper and – get this – when he was done he peeled off the tiny wildflower, poked a hole in the top of the “stamp” and let it dry. Voila: a necklace!

But the fun didn’t stop there. He was obsessed. And this is a boy who doesn’t sit still. Ever. Unless there are animated characters on a screen in front of him. The next morning he was up early, making his own paper.

Kiwi 2

Kiwi 1

While the greeting cards didn’t quite work out – because he refused to let me help him – making a mess of coloured stuff that looked and felt like paper was equally exciting. There’s a handy help-o-meter attached to each project, just so you know what you’re getting into. In our case, there was minimal adult involvement required (and none available) and it still worked out. And just when you think you/your child is done, they even throw in some extra low-maintenance ideas if you’re ever looking to get crafty.

Kiwi3

They do single crates, party favor crates, even a “no-fight” sibling add-on option. And, until May 12th, they do discounts! Take advantage of our very own special MOAM reader offer: 25% off the first month of a new subscription (not valid on sibling add-ons) by entering Promo Code “maven25” at www.kiwicrate.com

At $220 for an annual subscription, or $19.95/month, it ain’t cheap. But having your child amuse him/herself in a creative way for a solid couple of hours? That’s priceless.

May 8, 2013   No Comments

MOAM BOOK CLUB

Readers, I apologize. It’s been many months since my last Book Club. But don’t fret. We’ve had a long Canadian winter, and I’ve read a shitload of books. Herewith, quite a few of the faves.

(and yes, Virginia, you can buy them directly from this site, right here, right now. Simply click on the image of book!)

BRING UP THE BODIES
WOLF HALL
by Hilary Mantel
These are two massive historical novels. These are two Booker winners. These are two beyond brilliant stories about Thomas Cromwell before and during the reign of King Henry VII – and Anne Boleyn. They’ll have you puzzled: everyone’s named Thomas. They’ll have you intimidated – page count is way past what’s comfortable. They’ll have you googling up a storm – unless you know your Tudors from your Stuarts. They’ll leave you breathless.

CANADA by Richard Ford
The year is 1960. When his parents are arrested after a bank robbery gone wrong, a 15-year old boy goes on the lam…to Canada. Fans of Richard Ford will love this epic sweeper of a story. And those who aren’t fans yet, will be when they finish this lyrical novel about a family falling apart.

THE ART OF FIELDING by Chad Harbach
A baseball novel about a surprising college star. Twists, turns, and so much more than bats, balls and gloves.And boys. It was a riveting read and I couldn’t put it down. (And yes, I’m surprised I loved it too!)

THE SONG OF ACHILLES by Madeline Miller
Who doesn’t love a good Greek Myth? To know and love the Greek Gods is to know and love all their infighting and sexual escapades. This is a new twist on the story of Achilles and the Trojan War. Modern tone, classic tale. Fabulous.

WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE? by Maria Semple
15-year-old Bee’s mom is a freak: an artist, a genius, a Seattle-loather. When she disappears on the eve of a trip to Antarctica to celebrate Bee’s straight-A average, Bee is determined to track her down. Hilarious. Original. Quirky. Unconventional. Don’t wait for the film (yes, it’s being adapted).

SWEET TOOTH by Ian McEwan
It’s the ’70’s. A love-torn Cambridge student drops out to join British Intelligence. Espionage. Cold War. Romance. Seduction. Cultural warfare?? It’s a page-turner. And it’s Ian McEwan. It can’t get much better than this.

ONE LAST THING BEFORE I GO -Jonathan Tropper
Jonathan Tropper kills me. And while this isn’t his best, he has such a way with words. And his characters? Too much. This time it’s a rock star. Or, rather, a has-been drummer, who is now broke, down on his luck and require life-saving surgery. The man who can save his life is his ex-wife’s fiancee and his somewhat estranged Princeton-bound daughter is pregnant. He’s got a lot to deal with. If he makes it.

THE SUBMISSION by Amy Waldman
An anonymous submission process for a memorial to victims of a terrorist attack results in the selection of a mysterious Muslim-American architect. A timely post-9/11 novel for a divided country. It divided readers too, though I thought it was fantastic, moving and super sharp.

THE END OF YOUR LIFE BOOK CLUB by Will Schwalbe
When journalist Will Schwalbe’s extraordinary and dynamic mother is diagnosed with cancer, they bond over books during during her chemo treatments. Sounds hokey, but this is a truly inspiring and lovely memoir about a mother, her son, and the power of reading.

THE TWELVE TRIBES OF HATTIE by Ayana Mathis
Hattie escapes Georgia for a better life up north. This book starts in the 1920’s with the birth of her first children. It’s a devastating start to a devastating life. Each chapter is told from the point of view of subsequent children. Bleak, dark, and beautifully written, Oprah claimed it for her book club, and I’m claiming it for mine.

TIGERS IN RED WEATHER by Liza Klaussmann
Two cousins, so close they’re like sisters. Or are they? One follows her WW2 vet husband to steamy Florida. The other heads off to Hollywood. Over the course of 12 years we follow them as their dreams unfold and disappear, until they eventually reunite, children in tow, at the family beach house where there’s been a murder. Melodrama at its finest.

THE WORLD WITHOUT YOU by Joshua Henkin
A clan gathers to remember a fallen son, a journalist killed in action in Iraq. Identity crises abound and secrets spill as the parents try to deal with the future of their marriage, the sisters try to understand who they’ve become and the widow tries to contemplate her future. Classic American family drama…at the cottage.

And, for those looking for some simple beach reads, these are a sliver above the usual cheese. Fluffy, yes, but a little over-identification goes a long way when it comes to quick ‘n easy reads!

BEAUTIFUL RUINS by Jess Walter
Starts in Italy in the ’60’s, where a young Italian fisherman meets falls a glamorous American actress. Meanwhile, 50 years later, the story, and several others, continue in Hollywood…

PROSPECT PARK WEST by Amy Sohn
Cheating parents. Klepto Oscar winners. Sexually confused mothers. Real estate obsessives. Just another day in the life in Prospect Park. White people’s problems? You betcha. And if you’re really into it, there’s even a sequel: Motherland….

Meanwhile, over in Tribeca….

TRIBURBIA by Karl Greenfield.
Mommy fiction. For dads. These are hipster Daddies, sorting out their shit. Rich people’s problems? Absolutely. So?

May 1, 2013   No Comments