Celebrating Togetherness

You may already know that I am a sucker for certain things. These things include: books, ladies night, book clubs where books are actually discussed, excellent food, and adorable decorations. Evidence of such love can be found here, here, and here.

Sometimes when you are very lucky you are able to combine all of your favorite things in one delightful evening. This month was the one year anniversary of our little, lovely book club. It was an anniversary that went mostly unnoticed but it was wonderful to realize that our group was still going strong. Previously I’ve been in book clubs where wine trumped the book but each time I am pleasantly surprised to find that everyone has read the book and everyone genuinely wants to talk about it. My book club email chain is basically the only reason I read my personal email. Except to obsessively enter giveaways, but that’s another story.

Another one of the perks of our group is the food. It’s been a fantastic, unexpected perk that everyone likes to cook or bake. Even this week when we were “only having pizza” (delish!) the side dishes included kale chips, a fantastic kale salad (recipe here), breadsticks (be still my heart!- make your own), fresh fruit and NUTELLA STUFFED COOKIES. Since you will die unhappy without this recipe, I will provide it for you. You have been warned though- a cookie coma is possible.

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This past Monday book club was elevated to a new level when Mel of Tabled sent us some goodies to perk up our table. You may remember reading about Mel when I described how I want to live vicariously through her. Even though I only met her and her fiancé, Carson, briefly for a weekend it was such a wonderful encounter and I’ve been lucky to stay in contact with them. When Mel kindly volunteered to share some of her wares with us, I couldn’t have been more excited!  Her table accessories are all handmade by local artists and craftsmen from throughout the country. Tabled’s philosophy comes down to every meal being a celebration. I couldn’t agree more.

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Photo credit: Chrissy Hennessy

Meal times are special, whether there’s an occasion to celebrate or not. My husband and I sit down for dinner together most every night because that is our time together. It was the same with my family. Whether it was when my parents were together or after their divorce, it didn’t matter whose house I was at- we always ate dinner together. It’s also the hardest part of living in Wilmington. Our weekly supper club was family night. It was a meal time that could be fancy or could be pretty basic but it was a celebration of our friendship, of new friends and of being together.

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Having Tabled’s little touches to our book club dinner was a fun and special touch that we all really enjoyed. I’m excited to incorporate them into my every day dinners too!

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Even nacho night is looking extra fancy!

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The Most Memorable & Influential Books in the Life of Kat B.

A little less than a year ago, at a friend’s suggestion and my push, a book club was formed. It contains 75% of everyone I know in Wilmington. The other 25% of people I know are probably all coworkers. I’m pretty enamored with our book club which we call The Bookplates. We are dorky enough to have a name and a Twitter account, albeit a rarely used one. This is the sort of book club where wine actually comes second to discussing the book (it’s a close second) and so far every member has read the entire book each time (with rare exceptions).

In the eight months we’ve been meeting we’ve read:

The Paying Guests- Sarah Waters

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls- Anton Disclafani

*The Land of Love and Drowning- Tiphanie Yanique

*A Little Life- Hanya Yanagihara

*Fates and Furies- Lauren Groff

How to be Both- Ali Smith

Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl- Carrie Brownstein

Under the Udala Trees- Chinelo Okparanta

*My favorites thus far.

For January’s book club we were asked to bring a list of five books to share with one another. We could give the list any theme we wanted. Some were based on books of their youth, some were books they thought about a lot- it varied. I pondered my list for several days and asked the advice of multiple friends. Slowly my list became “The Most Memorable and Influential Books in the Life of Kat B.” I excel at titles.

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These are somewhat in chronological order.

Little Women- Louisa May Alcott

Growing up I owned a hardback version with a soft, blue, faux leather cover. Throughout the book were illustrations of important scenes in the March family’s life. Each picture was preceded by a fine piece of tissue paper. It was most likely some sort of Barnes and Noble edition but I treated like a first edition. It was sacred. Sometimes I would trace the drawings onto a piece of paper and pretend I was Amy March. Other times I would write stories and pretend I was Jo March. These girls were in a world that didn’t encourage them to be creative but they would not be stifled.

Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang- Joyce Carol Oates

If you need a writer to get obsessed with, pick Joyce Carol Oates. She’s written so many novels/novellas/short stories/plays/essays in her life that you will never run out of material. It is impossible. For six+ years I rarely read anything but Oates and it all started with Foxfire. I was sixteen working at the performing arts theater in Winston-Salem and a coworker, much cooler and older than I, gave me her copy. She let me keep it and I’ve probably read it ten or more times. It was a book about passion, anger, belonging and the fierceness of young women. I think I’m done reading and collecting Joyce Carol Oates books, but Foxfire will always be at the top of my book list.

Confederates in the Attic- Tony Horwitz

Stop what you’re doing. Read this book. If you live in the South or are interested in the South, you must read it. This book is as laugh out loud funny as it is totally disturbing. Tony Horwitz travels around to different states in the Confederacy trying to determine why the Civil War is still so important to Southerners. I was concerned when I first started this book that it would leave me feeling ashamed to be a Southerner. Not a chance. Southerners are complicated and generous with their crazy flags flying high. Also, as the book shows Southerners are not all alike, contrary to popular belief.

The Power of One- Bryce Courtenay

I can’t explain exactly why this book made my list. It’s just the kind of compelling story that never leaves you. It’s the story of Peekay, a white boy in South Africa, whose life shows us the Apartheid, South African culture, boxing and his coming of age. It’s a book I would recommend to anyone, especially someone who hasn’t been reading much and needs a compelling story to motivate them to read more. This will do the trick.

Wild- Cheryl Strayed

I’ve met a lot of people who hated Wild but when I read it, quickly and without stopping, I felt like the book had become a permanent part of me. It’s words and story stand out clearly in my mind and when I reflect on it, I first feel the story somewhere within me behind my sternum, near my heart. It is not a tale I have experienced but it’s something I read and thought, “Oh yes, I could see this happening to me or someone like me.” It also pulls me outside. No, I don’t want to lose all my toenails nor venture into the woods with an improperly packed bag and not nearly enough camping knowledge. I do; however, want to experience the meditation of a solo hike in the woods.

And so this is me, if I were a list of books.

Sometimes You Need a Whole Birthday Week

Birthdays are truly my favorite. My family always made a big deal out of our birthdays. Every year I had a gaggle of giggling girls over for some sort of themed party: Age 5- Dress as your Favorite Disney Character, Age 8- Wild and Crazy Kids, Age 9- 1950s Dance Party. Every year in Austin I would throw a party. The minimum requirements included homemade salsa, guacamole, jalapeno poppers and… jello shots. What can I say, that’s just how I like it! This year I didn’t feel like I knew enough people for a party which could have been a bummer, but instead there was birthday week.

Birthday week started with book club! I’m a big fan of book club as you know and really didn’t want to leave my Austin group. Luckily everyone I have met in Wilmington so far is a book enthusiast (to say the least). I hosted the first meeting and fixed crock pot roast chicken, cucumber salad and beet arugula quinoa salad. We discussed The Paying Guests which I chose almost solely because I heard it receive positive feedback on NPR (clearly I wanted to appear book savvy to my new friends). It received mixed reviews. Overall we were impressed by Sarah Waters’ ability to immerse us in a time period but felt the ending was overly long and unnecessary. Main thing I took from the book: Sarah Waters writes some very sultry scenes..

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Tuesday was another great day- I got a drastic hair cut! My last cut was in December (I’m a three haircuts a year kind of girl) as I had been growing my hair out pretty much since we got engaged last year. Since Castle Street is my new favorite area in town I wanted to check out Elsewhere Salon (“For Maidens and Misfits”). I’m a fan. For one there was wine, two the place has crazy artwork everywhere and most importantly, I like my haircut. I think this is the shortest I’ve had it since the first grade.

Please ignore the sunburn.

Please ignore the sunburn.

I had really been looking forward to Wednesday for several weeks. The husband and I went to Ziggy’s for Lake Street Dive. I first heard about Lake Street Dive when my friends, Loves It, talked about opening for them. After getting to see a free show during SXSW last year, I was hooked! It was an incredible treat to get to see a full show in such a small venue.

I have a very big crush on all of these people.

I have a very big crush on all of these people.

Thursday was yet another adventure! We hoofed it a whole five blocks to the Cape Fear Museum to check out the History and Science of Alcohol 2.0. The museum was covered with booths where we tried to answer questions about prohibition, matched beers to their primary ingredients and tried George Washington’s recipe for beer! Best of all was the raffle where Tyler won the grand prize: two tickets to a concert at Greenfield Lake Ampitheater.

Winning!

Winning!

On my actual birthday I didn’t get to see my fella much. He had to work. After work and a couple hours in the garden, I met pretty much everyone I know in Wilmington (please keep in mind I’m very new) at Husk for drinks (and maybe shots…), dinner at Yosake and dancing at Lula’s. Lula’s is actually a dive bar and not a dance bar, but we didn’t let that stop us.

Photocred: Christine Hennessy

Photocred: Christine Hennessy

Saturday started a little slow, as all post-birthday mornings should, but the afternoon involved picking strawberries at Lewis Farms. I’m in love with berry picking now. I brought home a bucket of the juiciest, most flavorful strawberries I have ever tasted. Apparently blackberries will be ready soon so I expect to return there shortly!

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I forgot to take pictures on Sunday but I visited the Raleigh Flea Market with my fabulous mama. The best part was when we discovered that Tupelo Honey had opened up a restaurant there. Be still my heart!

I can’t say I remember ever having my birthday on Memorial Day weekend but if the powers that be want that to happen again I would really embrace it. Three day weekends are the best kind of birthday present, especially when they involve breakfast taco parties. Have you ever been to one? I’m talking migas, bacon, veggie chorizo, salsas and guacamole galore, and cinnamon rolls (gotta have the sweet stuff too!). The highlight of breakfast taco party was surprisingly not the tacos though. It was a paint can filled with bourbon, mint, lime, orange and lemon juice! It was enthusiastically shared with all party goers.

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Babies love taco party.

Also you receive fortunes at taco party..

Also you receive fortunes at taco party..

After all of this excitement, you would think it would time to calm down but instead we headed to Austin! I have so much more to say but this post is getting a little long…

You Need Book Club

I miss college. Not papers or 8 am classes or living in houses with too many people and not enough money. I don’t miss having to take classes that didn’t relate to my major or freaking out over tests. I don’t miss the anxiety I used to feel when I wanted to speak up in class, but still I really miss college.

I miss the atmosphere of learning. In college everyone seems to have something going on in their lives. Someone’s just been exposed to a new idea and they can’t stop talking about. Another person is active in their women’s issues group or their outdoors club and invited you to check it out. Artists, activists and experts are always coming to campus to give lectures or performances. Your professor’s last class really pissed you off but in a way that has really made you think.

Post-college life doesn’t always feel like that. Sometimes life feels so routine you feel like you’re just sleeping though it. I’m planning a wedding and I still feel like that a lot of the time. Oftentimes things feel stressful but not really invigorating or challenging. In college, there’s all these opportunities, clubs, free concerts all around you. Outside of that, you really have to look for these things and even still it’s incredibly easy to become too complacent to participate.

This is why I think you should start or join a book club. Two years ago I joined a book club through a coworker. To be honest, I basically begged her to join. She was surprised that I was so excited at the very idea of book club, but I was desperate to think at a higher level. I was desperate to actually delve into something.  At the time I had just switched from a job with a high level of both customer and coworker interaction to a position where I had no customer interaction and very little reason to speak to my coworkers. My job involved fonts and margins but not much else (in case you can’t tell this was not the right fit for me- I moved departments). I wanted to really think.

And as far as discussing books go, to me this is better than college.

  • When you haven’t finished the book, there are no repercussions or judgment, just concerns over spoilers.
  • No one’s an expert on the book so it’s less intimidating to contribute to the discussion.
  • Everyone actually wants to be there. People are there because they enjoy books and people who like books.
  • There’s food and wine! Even if you didn’t read the book, there’s drinking and socializing because books always circle back around to life. They should! Books reveal parts of the world we may never see, parts of our own cultures we were not aware of, worlds that will never be and emotions that we had never before been able to articulate. Okay, and also drinking and snacks just make the world go round.

I’m just sayin…

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The Tiger’s Wife

I bought this novel from Bookpeople with the hope that I would make their book club that was discussing this book. Nope. Still working on my New Year’s Resolution to attend a book club there.

The Tiger’s Wife is a complex weaving of several stories. While I could easily go on way too long about each, I’ll concentrate on the tiger’s wife’s story. She is by far the most interesting character. The woman has no name. Her husband forgot the moment he heard it, the moment he was tricked into marrying her. She is deaf and dumb and her very presence enrages her husband, the butcher, into fits of incredible violence. Even though the townspeople are aware of her circumstances, no one interferes to help her. It is only when a lost tiger, escaped from a zoo, takes a liking to her that the town takes notice. And it is the mysterious love between a woman incapable of communication (and therefore more like an animal?) and a tiger that should present more danger than her husband but is kind and domesticated (and therefore more like a human?) that drives the novel. It is a love impossible to ignore and impossible to understand. It is frightening, disturbing and fascinating.

The novel is hard to follow in places and has a strong element of magic and mystery. Eventually you can resist its draw and will be sucked in, desperate to know more, desperate to try and understand. I would definitely recommend it.

Book Club

When I was in college, one of my professors stressed the concept of a reading journal. It would be a place where not only would I be discussing literature with myself and therefore using the parts of my brain that tend to deteriorate and die on Facebook, but I would also be writing.

I think I wrote one reading journal entry that was not required for class.

It’s not a habit to be picked up easily. There is always an internal struggle in me in regards to discussing books. Part of me wants to delve deep inside a book and pick it apart. I want to know it inside and out. The other part of me wants to protect the book from any possible injury. Through discussion and extended questioning I might find something I can no longer like about the book. I may discover the way I first read the book was a total misconception. And then I would be so heartbroken, the way you feel when a poorly done movie based on a book undoes the whole thing.

I’m going to give it a try though and talk about the books I’ve read as I work my way through them. My own little book club or book review. Maybe you’ll want to read them too..

Welcome 2012!

The last year has treated me very well. I moved to Austin in December of 2010 and while my time here has had highs and lows, it has been overall, an overwhelming success. I have a good, steady job. I’ve made some great friends. I have too many roommates but my rent is reasonable and my house location’s is optimal (read: close to multiple sources of beer).

But we’re entering a new year and the goal is always to do better, so it’s time to lay out the New Year’s resolutions for 2012:

1. Be more honest. Not just honest but forthcoming. If I am uncomfortable with something, or lacking something, I need to bring this topic up. I can’t just wait for it to become too much.

2. Fitness, fitness, fitness! Where did all my yoga time go? Every since the boy came back from Alaska, I have replaced morning yoga time with morning cuddle time. I also noticed I now rush home from work to make plans with him rather than puruse possible yoga class options. I went to my first yoga class of the year yesterday and really enjoyed it. Yoga combined with bicycling will hopefully bring me back to the fitness level I’d like to be at.

3. Write more. This is a resolution every year. I’ve let this blog fall to the wayside, my romance novel stopped at 15 pages and my daily journaling is nonexistent. Time to pick up the slack.

I also am going to take better advantage of living in Austin. This involves joining a Bookclub at Bookpeople and finally using my Groupon that I bought for Brass Ovaries Pole Dancing. Watch out y’all!