And now it's May. Strange to say, but this new normal is starting to seem normal. I hardly remember my last meal in a restaurant, pedicure, carefree shopping trip, or neighborhood gathering. My greying roots, however, tell me exactly how long it's been since my last visit to the hair salon!
Oddly enough, it has been a good couple of weeks. I've managed to carve out at least an hour of reading time every afternoon (thanks for the inspiration, Judith!), tried quite a few new recipes, walked on the beach at least once every day, and even scored some toilet paper at the pharmacy. Most importantly, we all remain healthy.
by Barbara Kingsolver, narrated by the author
Our library book club was supposed to read Animal Dreams last month but, obviously there was no April meeting. Rather than rereading an older title, I opted for one of Kingsolver's more recent books instead. I've read and enjoyed most of her novels over the years and have come to expect themes of environmentalism, feminism, and social justice. While present here, the novel did not feel especially heavy-handed.
Unsheltered, published in 2018 and set in Vineland, NJ, features dual timelines, over a hundred years apart, centered around the same house. This format doesn't always work for me. One story often grabs my attention while the other seems to drag. The modern story here was slightly more appealing, but I loved how Kingsolver included historical figures (Charles Darwin, Mary Treat) and events in the older timeline. Of particular note, these two narratives fit together better than any dual-narrative novel I can recall.
This was a read/listen combination for me. Kingsolver narrated the audio version herself and, as with Flight Behavior, I increased the speed slightly but thoroughly enjoyed her performance.
by Anne Tyler
There is something comforting and familiar about an Anne Tyler novel. I fell into her world - with slightly off-beat characters, set mostly in Baltimore - and my world melted away. Nothing too heavy or too taxing, I breezed through this book in a couple of days, enjoying every moment.
by Margaret Atwood, narrated by Kimberly Farr
Judy's recent review of The Robber Bride inspired me to revisit a favorite Margaret Atwood novel. I loved both The Robber Bride and Cat's Eye back in the 90s and let library availability determined my ultimate selection. This started a read/listen combination, but I'm mostly listening now as other ebook library holds have arrived.
I'm a third of the way through and still love the book... despite experiencing feelings of dread and anxiety along with the main character as she "reminisces about a trio of girls who initiated her into the fierce politics of childhood and its secret world of friendship, longing, and betrayal."
by Anne Tyler
I wasn't expecting to read another Anne Tyler novel so soon, but my library hold of her latest arrived Friday. This one is very short (under 200 pages) and also features unusual characters in Baltimore.
In the kitchen//
As I've mentioned before, my kitchen has been extremely busy during this pandemic. My challenge is to prepare three meals per day for five adults, with limited availability of certain ingredients and infrequent trips to the grocery store. Here are some new favorites:
I've been looking for the perfect bolognese recipe for years. The updated Weeknight Bolognese vfrom Barefoot Contessa is the best one yet. Next time I'll dial back the black pepper, maybe by a third.
Dinner doesn't get much quicker or easier than this Taco Salad Casserole from Taste of Home. I made it twice last month to rave reviews all around.
If I can get a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store, this Asian Chicken Rice Bowl (also from Taste of Home) will be on the menu again this week. My husband mostly tolerated it, but all three girls loved it!
Ground turkey has been plentiful. Tonight we're having Turkey Black Bean Enchiladas from Diethood for the second time. Easy to make and so good!
I'm also baking more than normal (so happy to find a bag of flour last week!) and usually make soup a couple times each week, too. Nothing I'm preparing has been especially fancy or involved... we're mostly craving comfort food these days.
The week ahead//
More of the same for us. The state of Florida is moving ahead with phase one reopening, but I'm happy our island/city decided to extend the ban on rental accommodations and keep beach public parking lots closed until May 15. Restaurants will reopen tomorrow at 25% capacity indoors and outdoor seating with appropriate social distancing. I will not be among their first customers... and am worried about a spike in two or three weeks.
How are you holding up? Is your state opening up again? What have you been cooking and reading?
The Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz.
It's Monday... What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.