Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sunday Salon & Weekend Cooking: February Book Club Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson

Work, Health & Cooking:

Life has been busy and my blog has been a bit quiet lately. Work has been busy as those who work in the schools  know, IEP's (Individualized Education Program) are completed annually on all students who qualify. As I am an  Occupational Therapist working in the schools, the IEP's are coming due fast and furious. Therefore, much of my time has been spent writing up reports at home which takes away from my free time, which includes blogging and reading. I am trying to keep a balance and I have some great reviews and  giveaways coming up. I am doing well on my lifestyle change towards improved health and healthier eating. I've lost 10.5 lbs in 6 weeks following the Weight Watchers Points Plus program online. It's working well for me. This week was a challenge as I hosted book club and there is always wine and appetizers as well as dessert. I planned to make a flourless chocolate cake that I got a recipe from the Sunday Parade magazine a few weeks ago. It was a flop! Oh well, it was supposed to be a souffle like cake but I don't think that the temperature or time were correct in the recipe and it was raw, even after cooking it extra time. I had to go out and buy a prepared chocolate chip coffee cake which I served with raspberries and whipped cream which worked out fine. I did try a new recipe that a friend on the Weight Watchers board shared and it was excellent, it looked similar to this picture:

Chunky Avocado and Feta Cheese Guacamole:

3-4 medium avocados, cut up - NOT mashed!
3-5 roma tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup of red onion, chopped 
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp oregano
8 oz feta cheese, crumbled into little pieces

Combine it all. If you make it ahead, add the avocado
as late as possible so it doesn't turn brown. Add some
lime juice if you aren't serving it right away.

Serve with baked tostito scoops (or any tortilla chip) . 

Book Club & Review:

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson

This is a charming, delightful story that is entertaining and filled with deeper themes than I expected. I love a good British novel set in a village with great characters, the setting was superb. Ms. Simonson created a loveable and endearing character in Major Pettigrew and I adored him. The Major is a widow and lives alone in the small village of Edgecombe St. Mary in the English countryside. He has a grown son who lives in London but is on the path of materialism and wealth that is quite different than the values of the Major. He lost his wife a few years prior to the opening of the  novel in which he just heard the news of the sudden death of his brother. He befriends a local shop owner, Jasmina Ali who is also a widow and their friendship develops over cups of tea and conversations about literary books they've read.  Mrs. Ali is Pakistani although born and bred in England. The Major and Jasmina develop a relationship that is not accepted as the couple are of different races. There are many themes throughout this novel that are worthy of great discussion; racial differences and acceptance, parents and their adult children, community and what it means to be a neighbor, social status, honor and loyalty, religion and the value of money and materialism. My book club had a great discussion of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, most of the group liked the book and there were a few that did not care for the book. They felt that the Major was a bit annoying and that the novel was not well layered. We had a great time discussing their views and other perspectives.  I think that having different opinions about a book makes for a more interesting book club discussion. For me, I highly recommend Major Pettigrew's Last Stand as it took me into a village in England full of fascinating characters and a story that had layers and themes that develop into an endearing story. I've heard that the audio book version is also great with an excellent narrator. 

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, go to Beth Fish Reads.


  1. I'm glad you enjoyed Major Pettigrew so much - I gave it to my sister for Christmas. That guacamole looks wonderful! I hope your life slows down soon.

  2. Wow congratulations on your weight loss. The recipe looks fabulous -- so pretty and I love the flavors.

    I can vouch for the audio version of Major Pettigrew -- and it really is a charming book. I'm so glad you liked it.And I totally agree that a better club meeting is had when not everyone agrees.

  3. I thoroughly enjoyed Major Pettigrew. I'd agree that there were certainly annoying things about the Major--that was part of what made him such an interesting character. But books that have differing opinions do make the best book club choices!

  4. Major P is very charming. He was one of my fave characters for 2010, hands down.

  5. The Major is a good book and was a great audio! I LOVE listening to audios when they are spoken with accents. It gives the story something extra.


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