Monday, January 30, 2017

Amberly's 40th Birthday Dinner

We took Amberly out for dinner to celebrate her 40th birthday this weekend. Her birthday is not until next month, of course, but February is strangely really busy for all of us. We had a hard time finding a meeting date for February, so we sneaked her birthday celebration in at the end of January instead. 

We picked a restaurant that was on our to-eat-at list and that was new to all of us except Dara:  Ida Claire in Addison. 

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We all loved the quirky, cozy dining room and the fun menus that looked like hard cover books. Love that cover art and the vintage-looking dishes!

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For starters, we ordered the Fried Green Tomatoes (not pictured), which were divine. We also ordered the biscuits with bacon gravy, herbed butter, and jam - amazing. Yum. And for dessert, we ordered two slices of Vice cake. was so much better than we expected from the description in the menu. Delicious. We also all had a round of cocktails from their fun, vintage-inspired drink line-up. They were all great. 

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This was just one of our entrees. It's the Chicken in a Biscuit. Dara had the Shrimp and Grits, Amberly, Christina and Lindsay all had the Red Snapper, and Stephanie had the pork chop. There were no complaints about dinner, that's for sure!

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We had a fun and very tasty meal celebrating our Amberly and her milestone birthday!

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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Small Great Things (January 2017 Meeting)

Author: Jodi Picoult

One-sentence summary: A veteran labor and delivery nurse is put on trial for the death of a baby after she was asked by her supervisor (and the baby’s parents) not to touch the baby because she is black.

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 9

Our favorite thing about it: Everything. It’s just so well done.

Our least favorite thing about it: It’s a tough topic and parts of the book were really uncomfortable to read.

Main Topics of Discussion: Racism, Grief, Justice System

Our favorite quote: “What if the best thing for Ruth isn’t winning this case?...What if the reason this is so important to her isn’t because of what she’s going to say…but rather the fact that she is finally being given the chance to say it?”

Notes: The thing that impressed us most about this book is just how well researched it seemed. Picoult must have done her homework because we thought each of the three main perspectives presented in the novel were so honest and spot-on. Of course, that’s the opinion of 6 white women, so we can definitely speak to Kennedy’s perspective. For the other two – they seemed very real to us. This whole book is tough. You cannot dodge the social commentary that Picoult is throwing out. So, at times, it was hard to pick up. On the other hand, we could not put it down. It goes without saying that Picoult knows how to write. But the fact that she chose this topic and did it SO well is just fantastic. We finished reading and felt much better off for having read the book. Here’s a few points of our discussion:

  • One minor criticism about the ending – it was almost too neat. Almost. Having Turk do a 180 and encounter Ruth again was nice to see because it gives us hope that change really is possible. Brittany’s ending is enough of a downer that we guessed having a hopeful and full-circle ending for Turk is allowable!
  • The insight into the white power movement, while hard to read, was interesting and enlightening. Choosing young people who have terrible family lives and then taking them in, indoctrinating them, and giving them a place to belong made so much sense.
  • Kennedy’s perspective was possibly the most interesting to us because she could have been us. Her sometimes selfish motives, her obliviousness, but also her desire to help and to change. Walking through this trial with her and learning with her along the way was probably our favorite part of the book. This is just a novel, but man does it teach!
  • Picoult doesn’t let Ruth off the hook either. She learns and grows as well. She has her assumptions challenged and she makes a brave decision about the direction of her trial that could have changed her life forever.
  • As much as we didn’t want to sympathize with Brittany or Turk, we did. When their baby died. Picoult does an excellent job of shining a light into the dark world of grief. It’s shattering and also hard to read about. But so real.
  • One thing we realized about Turk and the white supremacists in general was that theirs is largely a story about anger, not hate. They choose to channel their anger (about many things – this time the death of a baby) into hate instead of actually dealing with it. When Turk figures this out, he’s finally able to let go of his hate and tackle his anger in more productive ways that don’t destroy himself, his family, or others.
Memorable Meeting Moments: This was Rachel’s birthday month so she got birthday books, cards, and a balloon drop. 

What We Ate: Amberly made us a huge crockpot full of chili with all the toppings we could want. And three types of Fritos. Sweet potato slices topped with avocado, bacon and other yummy things were our appetizer. She also got us Nothing Bundt Cupcakes for dessert!

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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Light Between Oceans (December 2016 Meeting)

Author: M.L. Steadman

One-sentence summary: A lighthouse caretaker and his wife decide to keep a lost baby as their own instead of seeking out its mother and that choice dictates the course of the rest of their lives.

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 8

Our favorite thing about it: This is a really great story with lots of nuances that cover the gamut of human emotion.

Our least favorite thing about it: This is a really sad story.

Main Topics of Discussion: Parenthood, Infertility, Isolation, Grief, War, Separation

Our favorite quote: “Oh, but my treasure, it is so much less exhausting (to forgive and forget). You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day. You have to keep remembering all the bad things.”

Notes: We all really liked this story, despite the fact that it is overwhelmingly sad. It’s a story that dives head first into real human emotions and explores them ruthlessly. We appreciated the perspectives of all the main characters and got caught up in the story itself. Some of us had a hard time getting into the book, but we all loved the theme of forgiveness in the second half. Some other notes:
  • Isabelle, while mostly very realistic for a mother experiencing never-ending infertility and infant loss, was sometimes hard to identify for us. On the whole, though, her character was raw, complicated, and mostly well-done.
  • It was interesting how a terrible secret between two people could eat away at Tom in the same way that the fertility ate away at Isabelle.
  • The setting of the lighthouse was really important to the story because of the isolation. We all agreed that the same story could not and would not have happened on the mainland. It was an interesting, almost alternate-reality setting.
  • The characters were really well-rounded. You liked and hated them at different points, but there was no one you could point to as a villain. They were all in impossible situations.
  • A side-theme – the effects of war on the soldiers, a country, a community, and those left behind – was also a large factor in the book. Also separation – mostly between mother and child, but also in other ways.

Memorable Meeting Moments: This was our Christmas meeting, so we gave Christmas gifts to each other and played our jeopardy game. We also did our annual Christmas book exchange. This year we decided to start our meeting a few hours early since it was a Sunday, and we all watched White Christmas in Rachel’s newly furnished media room. It was a first time to watch that movie for half of us!

What We Ate: Rachel made her family’s traditional Christmas dinner: curried meat pies served with toppings (banana, peanuts, and chutney), roasted potatoes and Brussels sprouts. She made gingerbread cupcakes with cinnamon frosting for dessert. We also had pomegranate and champagne before-dinner drinks along with cheese dip and crackers for an appetizer while we waited for the meat pies to bake.

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Monday, November 07, 2016

The Sin of Certainty | (November 2016 Meeting)

Author: Peter Enns

One-sentence summary: Enns lays out an alternative to gripping what we believe about God so tightly and makes an argument for trusting Him and letting go of certainty. 

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 9

Our favorite thing about it: So much of this book really resonated with us.

Our least favorite thing about it: A couple of instances of the “familiar” style of writing being too familiar (using “like” like valley girls). (Again, we’re having to be really picky to find something here.)

Main Topics of Discussion: Bible, Trust, Doubt, Change, Turning Points, Recovery

Our favorite quote: “When we reach that point where things simply make no sense, when our thinking about God and life no longer line up, when any sense of certainty is gone, and when we can find no reason to trust God but we still do, well, that is what trust looks like at its brightest - when all else is dark.”

Notes: We unanimously loved this book. We all highlighted at least half of all the text. It echoed so much of what we’ve been thinking and feeling and moving toward the past 5-10 years. Despite the fact that we were pretty much already on board with all Enns had to say, we still learned some things and appreciated how he presented the “sin of certainty.” Our observations/discussions:

  • We loved how the issue of trusting God was put forth as the solution to dropping certainty. This argument is threaded throughout the book and was really well done.
  • We loved also how Enns recognized the whole human – mind and heart. Neither parts of our humanity work against us. We must use them both in our faith and when trusting God. Good stuff.
  • We talked about all the disparity that he brought up about the Bible and other texts, scientific discoveries, etc. We described how holding the Bible with open hands – and lightly – has helped us here.
  • One of our “ah-ha” moments came when he talked about how he and his Jewish friend had different views of the Adam and Eve story. Enlightening, to say the least!
  • We really, really loved how he talked about God being close in the darkness. And also how he featured the lamenting Psalms, Ecclesiastes, and Job. Pointing out the bit about trusting God, or moving toward God anyway was perfect. He also tied this into some insights into how our suffering helps us die with Christ.
  • Most of all, we appreciated how Enns didn’t pretend that he had any or all of the answers. He talked about trust, God being near in suffering, etc, but he never attempted to explain anything that our rational minds have trouble reconciling. That wasn’t the point and we loved that.

Memorable Meeting Moments: Lindsay unveiled her “nasty woman” tshirts for all of us and we took photos with them and our witch hats.

What We Ate: We had our annual Thanksgiving potluck dinner. Here’s what we all brought:

Lindsay: Ham with pineapple
Christina: Cauliflower casserole
Stephanie: Green Bean casserole
Rachel: Creamed Corn
Amberly: Sweet Potatoes
Dara: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies with Pumpkin Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child | (October 2016 Meeting)

Author: J.K. Rowling

One-sentence summary: Harry and Ginny’s son, Albus, comes into contact with a time-turner with almost disastrous results.

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 8

Our favorite thing about it: It’s a Harry Potter story. The End. (Just kidding – we really did like the plot and further exploration of the characters.)

Our least favorite thing about it: The painful father/son dynamic that Harry and Albus had to work through.

Main Topics of Discussion: Fathers/Sons, Time Travel, Plays vs. Novels, Various Harry Potter characters (almost all, but notably Snape and Dumbledore)

Our favorite quote: “In every shining moment of happiness is that drop of poison: the knowledge that pain will come again. Be honest to those you love, show your pain. To suffer is as human as to breathe.”

Notes: It was really fun to discuss a Harry Potter book (even though it was a play) with each other. We loved that it was a play, too. It took some of the pressure off of the story for it to be a different format than the original 7 novels and it was fun to read a play for the first time as a group. Other things we discussed:
  • We thought it was so interesting seeing Harry, Ron, and Hermione not only as adults but as parents. We resonated so much with their thoughts and feeling as parents since we are obviously parents as well. But it was also interesting to get a glimpse into their futures and what they were doing as well as glimpses into their alternate futures when Albus used the time turner.
  • We thought the unfortunate father/son relationship between Harry and Albus was sad, but realistic. And it made us think about how Harry didn’t really have a father figure as an example for himself. And it also made us think about the fact that we all make mistakes as parents – even Harry Potter!
  • We loved how we got to see more of Dumbledore’s wisdom - and just to see him again. We felt the same about Snape. It felt to us like closure to have more dialogue with him in this play.
  • The issue of time travel and time turners was, as always, an interesting plot device. Of course it brought up so many fascinating what-ifs in the world of Harry Potter. The alternate pasts were really fun to see even when they were not as they should be.
  • We loved the humor and the exploration of humanity and relationships that J.K. Rowling sneaks into all of her works. We thoroughly enjoyed it.

Memorable Meeting Moments: Dara decked out her house in Harry Potter decorations for our meeting. So fun! And we had a traditional English Pub meal as if we were dining at The Three Broomsticks or The Leaky Cauldron. And we celebrated Lindsay's birthday with birthday cards and books...AND a balloon drop!

What We Ate: Onion crostini, Bangers and Mash, and Butterbeer Cupcakes…and Butterbeer and Hot Pumpkin Juice

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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Love Warrior | (September 2016 Meeting)

Author: Glennon Doyle Melton

One-sentence summary: Glennon chronicles several obstacles in her life and how she has come to see herself as a Love Warrior.

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 9

Our favorite thing about it: The honesty.

Our least favorite thing about it: Insight into the mind of an addict can be frustrating if you’ve never been an addict. (This is being very picky – there wasn’t really anything we didn’t like.)

Main Topics of Discussion: Addiction, Marriage, Parenting, Body Image/Eating, Religion

Our favorite quote: “You are not supposed to be happy all the time. Life hurts and it's hard. Not because you're doing it wrong, but because it hurts for everybody. Don't avoid the pain. You need it. It's meant for you. Be still with it, let it come, let it go, let it leave you with the fuel you'll burn to get your work done on this earth.”

Notes: The first things we said about this book besides that we all loved it was that the writing and organization was excellent and it was Honest. Brutally honest. Next, we all commented that it was a rare look into the mind of an addict and someone who has body issues. That was enlightening for those of us who do not fully understand those things. Other than that, here are some things we discussed:
  • We found it interesting and true to our own lives that children who grow up in the same house can have vastly different experiences and lives. Parenting matters, but sometimes kids are hardwired to view themselves and the world in such a way that makes life harder for them.
  • We discussed the ways that Glennon said friends should NOT react to another friend who is going through something hard or who is in pain. These were helpful.
  • We discussed how “religion” gets in the way of Jesus’ message to those in pain or who are struggling. We talked about specifically how to avoid that in our own lives.
  • We marveled at how real, courageous, and raw parts of this book were. We really appreciated Glennon opening up these parts of her life to teach all of us important truths about life and love.
Memorable Meeting Moments: We had our first birthday balloon drop for Dara’s birthday. We also brought her birthday books and cards as usual. Also, Rachel found out during our meeting that her credit card number had been stolen and used fraudulently. Boo.

What We Ate: We met at Chuy’s for dinner and several of us had the pork taco special. We all had margaritas or frozen sangrias. Then we moved to Henry’s Homemade Ice Cream to discuss the book and have some birthday ice cream dessert for Dara’s birthday celebration!

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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Ms. Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children | (August 2016 Meeting)

Author: Ransom Riggs

One-sentence summary: A boy with a unique gift digs into his grandfather’s past and finds a group of children and their mistress who know him better than he knows himself.

B.A.D. Girls Book Rating: 8

Our favorite thing about it: We loved the dark mystery of the story.

Our least favorite thing about it: The story seemed more juvenile to us than we expected.

Main Topics of Discussion: Photos, Mystical, Time Loops, Secrets, Family

Our favorite quote: “Can you imagine, in a world so afraid of otherness, why this would be a danger to all peculiar-kind?”

Notes: We liked this story very much. The way the story enlightened you as it went along and unfolded aspects of the past and present simultaneously was very interesting. Here are some specific things we discussed:

We thought the photos included in the book were cool and we loved how they informed the story – they got written in as the author chose. Some of them seemed forced into the story a little, but most fit in seamlessly

We loved the dark and mysterious feel to the story. There were always sinister things lurking just beneath what we (as readers) and the narrator currently knew about the world and the children. It was a macabre feel, which was fun for a change.

Most of us didn’t see the time loop coming – it was a bit of a surprise as a way of explaining some of the incongruities that the narrator was discovering. We also thought this was a fun and inventive part of the story.

The whole story was predicated on the narrator knowing nothing because his grandfather kept huge secrets from him even though he suspected that his grandson was uniquely gifted too. Though we realize the story couldn’t have happened in the same way if the grandfather had divulged his secrets, it was nonetheless kind of annoying that he didn’t.

The story ended on a cliffhanger, which surprisingly didn’t lead all of us to go out and buy the next book to read. Some of us may, and some of us are content to leave the story where it ended.

If there was one general criticism it’s that the book did seem more geared toward kids, which it is. But often books are written so well that adults don’t even notice or care about that – this one showed it’s intended audience a little bit somehow.

Memorable Meeting Moments: Stephanie brought us all hand-drawn animals for our very own “lunch notes!”

What We Ate: Moscow Mule cocktails, baked zucchini “fries” with garlic aioli, Pulled pork sandwiches, roasted corn and potatoes, coleslaw, and individual cheesecakes in mason jars.

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