Based in Los Angeles, Savour Fare is the home of Kate, a working mom who is low on time but high on life. I hope this site helps you find ways to make your life richer, easier, more beautiful and more delicious. You can read more about me and the site here and feel free to email me with any questions or feedback!
The Nuni, lucky child that she is, gets read to every night before bed. We started with board books, then moved on to picture books. Right around the time she was three, I decided that if I had to continue reading Fancy Nancy every night, I might actually die of boredom. At around the same time, the Nuni was commuting with me to preschool for over two hours a day, and had grown tired of Broadway musicals. I turned to chapter books – a great love of mine in both childhood and adulthood. We listened to audiobooks in the car, and read a chapter (or half a chapter) at bedtime. Picture books are wonderful, but chapter books are where the love of literature is really born. These are some of our favorite series to listen to and read together. Since the Nuni is a girly girly girl, she likes hearing stories about girls, and all of these feature strong, independent and interesting girls to draw in my fearless daughter. (NOTE: Links are Affiliate links which means I may get about 4 cents from Amazon if you click on them. You know the drill)
I’ve been writing Savour Fare for nearly four (FOUR!) years, and while it reflects my love of food and family, I feel like there’s a whole side to me I’ve been neglecting in these pages. I love to read. It’s as essential to me as breathing. If I am trapped in a space like a doctor’s office with nothing to read I will start reading the small print on the ibuprofen bottle in my purse. But I usually prefer books. People are often shocked when I tell them that I read over fifty books last year (and none of them were Fifty Shades of Grey. I started it, but the writing was so atrocious I really couldn’t finish it. Also, it did not push any of my buttons.) I read every night before bed, and usually a little when I get up. I listen to audiobooks in the car (which isn’t exactly reading, but it still counts). I read after my kids are in bed and before they wake up in the morning.
All the readers I know are constantly looking for book recommendations. So if you’re a reader, or you’d like to become one, the following are a few books I’ve read and enjoyed recently. (You can also follow me on Goodreads, a great social reading site that’s also a good way to keep track of what you’ve read and want to read. You are not, however, allowed to laugh at me. We can’t always be reading War and Peace.)
(Note, links are affiliate links. That means I might get, like, a nickel if you click on them. I’ll buy a tootsie roll and think of you.)
The story of a teenage boy nerd, told by another teenage boy nerd. The narrator perfectly captures the teen boy voice without condescending, and tells the story of his friend Eric, who never, ever has to sleep. The novel twists and turns with sci-fi elements – it reads like a comic book without the graphics. It’s funny, fast-paced, suspenseful and poignant, and unlike anything else I’ve read recently.
This book goes back and forth between an aging British actress (think Maggie Smith – that’s what I did) dealing with her dying mother, and her mother as a young woman during World War II in London. Part historical fiction, part family drama, part mystery – this one kept me riveted. I listened to it on audiobook, and found myself driving around the block to finish chapters.
This is a modernization of Jane Eyre, which might just be my favorite Gothic novel (it beats Wuthering Heights by a long shot). Mr. Sinclair doesn’t quite match the smouldering intensity of Mr. Rochester, but the lush descriptions of Scotland and its scenery are pretty wonderful.
I’m not really a sports person, but this novel – about a virtuoso shortstop at a third rate college and the people in his life – made me a believer. Ken is always telling me that the power of baseball is the story, and in this book, the story is pretty powerful. This one has parallels to Moby Dick (though it isn’t as close a match as Gemma Hardy is to Jane Eyre) . It’s also a book about finding your place in the world and embracing your talents – whatever they may be.
I’m not always a fan of fantasy, thinking that it often falls into the cliches invented by Tolkien. This book, however, set in a smartly-imagined medieval world where dragons co-exist with humans in a diplomatic truce, proved the exception to the rule. The title character, a half dragon who is forced to hide her past because of the prejudices of the world around her, is nevertheless eminently human, and vulnerable. Worth reading.
The premise of this book – Kansas matron chaperones a teenage Louise Brooks (silent film star) through a summer in jazz age New York, has a personal epiphany, and is forcefully dragged into modernity – is charming, and if the book ended there, it would have been a charming and entertaining read. What brought this book to the next level is that we see what Cora (the aforementioned Kansas matron) does with her epiphany, and her maternity, and how it changes her life. If you always wonder “what then?” after a book finishes, this is the book for you.
I, along with every freshman enrolled in English 129 at Yale, which was roughly a third of us, was forced to read the Iliad by freshman year. It was long. There were a lot of spear fights, and pierced nipples. This is a much more entertaining perspective on the story. Miller doesn’t lose the poetic edge, but her story is that of Achilles, the famed warrior, as told through the eyes of his closest friend, Patroclos. It’s a familiar story, made fresh.
I adored My Life in France which many people are familiar with through the movie Julie and Julia. This comprehensive biography goes far beyond the period described in that movie. I particularly loved the story of Julia’s childhood in Pasadena (we attended the same elementary school!) but was also fascinated by her time in China and Sri Lanka during World War II, her career in television, and her growing influence in the food world. An interesting life, told by an able biographer.
As part of my Lenten obligation to give up stuff (I’m going through our house and trying to reduce our load of things in an effort to focus more on what’s important), I’ve been doing a sweep of bookshelves. Books are particularly hard for me to cull — I am a bibliophile and a re-reader. I also grew up with two professors of English, and I want my bookshelves to be the resource for my kids that my parents’ bookshelves were for me. Still, we had plenty of books that will never be re-read (and some that were never read in the first place — ahem, I’m looking at you, college Sociology texts!) and that I have no need to pass on to my kids. So, four banker’s boxes later, out they go. Then I tried to do the same with the Nuni’s bookshelves, and this proved even more difficult. I took the opportunity to adios a few books I considered twaddle to begin with (too many princess books), and ones that neither the Nuni nor I particularly liked (children’s Bible stories are not a fave in our house. My favorite nativity story has the actual text from Luke).
The plus side of this exercise is that I was able to rediscover some of my favorite books from her babyhood, that were read over and over again and beloved by both mother and child. Right now most of our reading together time is spent on chapter books (right now we’re enjoying The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton), and her solo reading time is spent on early readers, like Mo Willems’ excellent Elephant and Piggie Series. So it was fun to revisit these old board books (from the time when chewing was a very real possibility) that I’m looking forward to reading to Roo.
A twist on your classic “animal noises” book, this one never failed to elicit a toddler laugh. All Boynton’s books are silly and delightful, but this one, with its simple words and lilting rhythms, is my favorite.
This is a wonderful “I spy” book containing multiple nursery rhyme and fairy tale characters. Babies will love the rhythms and rhymes (Cinderella on the Stairs I spy the Three Bears!) and toddlers love finding the hidden characters in the detailed illustrations. This was one of my favorites from childhood, and I’ve loved sharing it with my child, too.
There are a million and twelve ABC books out there, but this one is just BEAUTIFUL. The words are simple (A is for apple, B is for Balloon, etc.) but the illustrations, done in Jay’s signature folk art style, are gorgeous and intricate. Each page is its own “I spy” game, with B standing not only for balloon, but also for beehive, butterfly, and ball (and can you see the C cows?) The pictures also tell a charming story, making this a wonderful book for children to look at on their own, as well.
While we’re on the subject of ABCs, I would be remiss if I didn’t also point out Dr. Seuss’s wonderful version. There’s a reason the good doctor is beloved, and this book, full of bouncing rhythms, nonsense words, and a secret lesson in phonics, pretty much sums it up.
I was given this as a gift at my baby shower with the Nuni, and I love the message (mothers give unconditional love) and the execution (EVEN if you’re a green alien who eats bugs instead of peanut butter). My girlie girl found it hilarious, and I’m sure this little boy will be just as tickled.
Every parent of a girl must own this princess tale, in which the princess in question exhibits bravery and a can-do attitude and demands respect in return. Every parent of a little boy should read it too — we could all stand to benefit from the lessons about gratitude and what’s important (hint: it’s not wearing a nice dress).
One of my girlfriends gave this to me before I was even pregnant with the Nuni, and it quickly became a fast favorite. How could I not love this whole series (which includes Yum Yum Dim Sum and Hola, Jalapeno!)? The brightly colored collage pictures are fun, here, and the rhythms are addictive (Miso in my sippy cup, tofu in my bowl. Crab and avocado fill my California roll). What a great way to introduce tiny kids to a variety of foods!
THE classic baby book. But classic for good reason. Nothing beats the soothing rhythms of Good Night Moon for talking a child down to sleep. You’ll read it so many times you’ll have it memorized, which comes in handy when you’re driving and trying to calm an excited child in the car seat behind you. Baby hypnosis of the best kind.
My father did not do many of the things dads do. He did not tinker with tools, or fish, or play golf. He did not manage the household finances, or take me to baseball games, or mow the lawn. My dad did crossword puzzles. He read mystery novels, and most of all, he planned vacations.
My dad was a great traveller, which is a particular accomplishment for someone who had the attachment to comfort that he did. For someone who thought camping was a hotel room without a coffee maker, he managed to cover quite a bit of the world (at least, if you saw the world in the way an Edwardian nobleman around 1906 did, which is to say, outposts of the British empire, Europe, and bits of North Africa.) He sailed the Norwegian fjords, saw the Egyptian pyramids, visited glaciers in both Alaska and Switzerland, sunned on the French Riviera, did his Christmas shopping in New York, and climbed the Acropolis. Despite all these adventures, my dad’s most favorite vacations were the months he spent, nearly every summer, renting an apartment in Paris and pretending he lived there.
Every time he was home, he spent all of his time planning the next vacation, whether it was 1 months away or 11. (Never more than 11, natch). He obsessively researched hotels, planned packing systems, and booked airline tickets (and upgrades) well in advance. My mother kept pretty much every other part of our household spinning, but when it came to vacations, my dad was king
This summer we’re planning a trip, to London and Paris, a trip I’ve dubbed the “Mike Wheeler Memorial Tour.” The trip is happening in part to take a piece of my dad with us — he would want to spend eternity in Paris; that is certain. It’s also happening because my father, true to form, had already bought plane tickets and booked a Parisian flat for him and my mother, and those things aren’t refundable.
(London is on the itinerary because Ken and I met there and fell in love there, so we stop in whenever we can. It’s also less expensive to fly to London and take the Eurostar to Paris, especially since Nuni now travels on the trains but not the planes for free.)
Of course, the minute Ken confirmed his work schedule I started PLANNING. I am, after all, my father’s daughter. I began with the planes and trains, then booked the London hotel (we’re staying in the flat in Paris), and moved on to dinner reservations for London (you can use opentable!) and a rough sketch of things to do in London and Paris (both are cities in which I’ve spent a lot of time, but there are always new things to discover).
Once the things are booked that I can book, then I start in on the books. After all, anticipating a vacation significantly contributes to your enjoyment of said vacation, and I must get in the mood. In addition to guidebooks (my favorites are always the Dorling-Kindersley Eyewitness Guides) I start inhaling, essays, fiction, nonfiction, food books and travel memoirs. By the time I actually leave home, I both feel like I’ve been on vacation for a month already and am stuck reading the Twilight books while I’m actually ON vacation.
That said, if you’re planning a trip to either London or Paris, here are some of my favorite related books:
London Travel Guides) The best guidebook series for practical information plus historical background
The Camomile Lawn
Set partly in a country house, this wonderful novel really captures life in London during WWII.
God Is an Englishman
Not all about London, per se, but embodies the Victorian ethos that you still see traces of all over the city.
Notes from a Small Island
This book is about England as a whole, but Bryson, with his trademark wit, manages to lovingly eviscerate all of English culture. Also worth reading is his biography of Shakespeare.
London: The Biography A literary biography and semi-chronological history that really unpacks London from its earliest days.
In the Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin sets out to spend a year increasing her personal happiness. Being a Yale graduate and a former lawyer (and oh, could I relate), she started with the only logical path: research. Followed by lots of notecards and to-do lists. And a STRATEGY. Each month Rubin focused on one step or building block to her happiness, beginning with energy and moving through marriage, family, career, fun, and spirituality, among others. Each month she created “resolutions” or habits she hoped to build, and the successive months built upon the work she had done the previous month. Through the book, she described not only her own personal happiness quest, but also snippets of her research, her methodology, and stories she got from readers of her companion blog (set up during The “career” month.)
Now, I will say that the book is not without its flaws. The genre of stunt nonfiction (“I spent a year doing xyz”, possibly most famous in Julie Powell’s Julie/Julia project, which was turned first into a book and then into a movie) is growing a little tired. How many of us plebes have an entire year to devote to a specific and esoteric pursuit? Also Rubin, with her ivy league education and Upper Westside Manhattan existence hardly seems like someone who should be happiness-challenged. Still, Rubin candidly addresses both of these issuess, and admits that her journey may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
Despite the faults, I found this book to be inspiring. The idea of happiness as something measurable and achievable was one that resonated with me, particularly this spring. And the advice Rubin gives about achieving happiness is fairly universal and also concrete. “Get more sleep.” “Build connections.” And reading about the effects her project had on her life inspired me to seek happiness as a personal goal in my own way. Of course, not all of Rubin’s specific goals are applicable to me. I’m far to anxious to read disaster narratives (part of the “contemplating eternity” month), and keeping an empty shelf in my house is just not an efficient use of space. Even her methodologies don’t really work for me. I fully admit that I decided to embark upon my own happiness project, came up with resolutions, printed up charts, and promptly ignored it after a week. Apparently I’m not a chart kind of girl. I kind of knew that. One of the pieces of advice that Rubin gives is “What’s fun for other people may not be fun for you — and vice versa.” Wise words to remember.
Still, the book is still affecting me and making me think. In addition to her personal resolutions and goals, Rubin comes up with some “Secrets of Adulthood” and “Splendid Truths” which do seem to have a broad application. When I’m making choices, I think about how the choices will make me happy or not. I remember that even when I feel like holing up at home (which does, sometimes, make me happy), I’m better served by building connections and relationships, even as an introvert. I remember that my environment does affect my mood, and that if I have a headache, an ibuprofen really will help (a “secret of adulthood.”) I think about how my attitude is affecting my family (“One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”) and I try to stop and notice those moments that are what happiness is made of.
The Happiness Project didn’t fix my grief. It’s not literary prozac. I’m still sad a lot. But it helped me look for my inner core of happiness. To choose the sunshine. To let springtime in.