April 23, 2015

A Tribute to Gilbert Blythe

A Tribute to Gilbert Blythe
Dear Gilbert,

Before I could even read, I often found my mom lying in her bed late at night reading Anne of Green Gables. I remember the dictionary she kept on her night table because the author, Lucy Maud Montgomery, had an extensive vocabulary. What I didn't know at the time, was that those books would be made into a television film adaption in 1985. What I also didn't know was that you would enter my life and I would never be the same.

A tribute to Gilbert Blythe
First Edition of Anne of Green Gables
The first time I watched Anne of Green Gables, I coveted red hair and I was somehow jealous that those scarlet braids found there way into the hands of a dark-curly-haired-hazel-eyed boy. I didn't care that you were a bully. Those of us who read Montgomery's words, knew that wasn't your intention:

"Gilbert Blythe was trying to make Anne Shirley look at him and failing utterly... Gilbert Blythe wasn't used to putting himself out to make a girl look at him and meeting with failure. She SHOULD look at him, that red-haired Shirley girl with the little pointed chin and big eyes that weren't like the eyes of any other girl in Avonlea school. Gilbert reached across the aisle and picked up the end of Anne's long red braid, held it out at arm's length, and said in a piercing whisper: 'Carrots! Carrots!'" 

#Ihateyou #I'mgoingtomarrythisgirl

Though it took Anne several movies/books to figure it out for sure, I always liked you. Your intelligence, witty comments, willingness to give up Avonlea school because you thought Anne needed it more after Matthew died, and never stopping to earn Anne's forgiveness and trust  - those qualities basically gave me high standards to look for in a future partner. 
"Gilbert had also sprung from the boat and now laid a detaining hand or her arm. 'Anne,' he said hurriedly, 'look here. Can't we be good friends? I'm awfully sorry I made fun of your hair that time. I didn't mean to vex you and I only meant it for a joke. Besides, it's so long ago. I think your hair is awfully pretty now - honest I do. Let's be friends.'"

Thank you for rescuing Anne from her re-enactment of the Tennyson poem before she drown. Every girl needs a hero.

I will be always grateful for you showing me that movies can be just a good as books. Jonathan Crombie will forever be in my heart as the only actor who could ever be you on screen. The world will never be quite the same without him.

Last of all, Gilbert, thank you for teaching me that the best things in life are worth the wait. You never gave up on Anne and your willingness to fight for her and love her despite her turning you down so many times, is something we all wish we had. You taught Anne that she didn't need to look for her dreams outside of herself. You helped her discover "it's not what the world holds for you, it what you bring to it."
Your Kindred Spirit,

Robin (with an "i")

April 22, 2015

DON'T BREATH! The Devil in the White City Book Club Game

To start off our The Devil in the White City book club night, I thought it would be fun for the members to experience what Burnham and Root went through to build the "White City" under such a short amount of time.

I spoke with book club member Ashley who mentioned a Ted Talk that she had seen that might be perfect for what I was looking for and she was right!

Each team received this packet with their supplies and instructions,

THE GAME: The Marshmallow Challenge is fun design exercise that allowed our teams of two, to experience collaboration, innovation and creativity as they built their marshmallow towers!

THE RULES: The task is simple: in 15 minutes, teams must build the tallest free-standing (not taped down) structure out of 20 sticks of spaghetti, one yard of tape, one yard of string, and one marshmallow. The marshmallow needs to be on top.

The room became quiet and focused as all the members worked to delicately create their unique spaghetti towers. Eyes narrowed, brows furrowed, concentration and luck became necessary as each team prayed their tower wouldn't break or fall over before the time was up.

Hold your breath and hope it holds!

Groans were heard through out the room when I called time because only half of the members were able to complete their tower in the allotted time.

It just proves how hard Burnham and his team of designers and builders had it when they did the impossible of creating the 1893 world's fair in such a short amount of time.

Kellie and Brooke WON the game with their tall tower that beat out all the rest 
(Though, we were all instructed NOT TO BREATH around it lol!)

I gave the winning architects a bag full of old fashioned candies that were either popular or invented in 1893 for their hard work in creating their structure.

This game was the PERFECT way to start our evening and provided a lot of fun to all the members and what's awesome is that this activity will work for any team building activity, not just book clubs so try it for yourself!


April 20, 2015

Book Club Ideas for "The Devil in the White City" {by Erik Larson}


The Devil in the White City has two different but parallel story lines going on throughout the entire book. 
The first plot is that of  H.H. Holmes, serial killer and all around CREEPER. The second plot follows the creation of the Chicago Worlds Fair and all involved. Towards the end of the book the two plots tie together.

For the H.H. Holmes serial killer plot, Kelly got an old suitcase to look like a doctors bag where she displayed old bottles, an old notebook and surgical tools that she found at an antique store. She had posters printed from the actual 1893 fair AND of a newspaper article showing Holmes horrifying "murder castle" that she found online and then framed.

Kelly's husband is a big hunter so she didn't have to look any further than her own garage to find loose animal teeth and a coyote skull to use for decoration representing the animal cruelty Holmes displayed as a child. She even found a picture of  H.H. Holmes himself  to frame for everyone to see and be creeped out by (mission accomplished!)

H.H. Holmes

H.H. Holmes

For the Burnham, worlds fair plot line, we used all things related to the World's Fair to bring the magic of the White City to life!

PS don't forget to check out ALL of our food ideas for this book!

Cupcake Ferris Wheel
Popcorn Machine

Eiffel Tower

I found a super helpful tutorial on The Style Sisters blog that inspired me to create these three beautiful paper lantern hot air balloons which were so fun to make and turned out great! (which is saying something since I am NOT crafty.)

paper lantern hot air balloon tutorial

Paper lantern hot air balloon

paper lantern hot air balloon

The World in the "worlds fair" portion of the book was represented with these country flags found on Mr. Printables blog which were then attached to the hot air balloons and on a garland strung above the food table.

printable county flags

Pin wheels, American Flags, and a festive garland all added a touch of the fair to the mantel.

Kelly printed the actual tickets used on Manhattan Day for the World's Fair and had them placed here and there on the tables. It would even be cute to give each member a ticket to "enter" book club.


Printable Chicago worlds fair ticket

Kelly put together some great discussion questions and a ton of pictures that she found online including everything we would ever want to see or know about The Devil in the White City!


Kellie Hall also put together a wonderful CHARACTER LIST that helped our entire group keep the many, many characters straight in our minds as we were reading

{Black and White}
Kelly asked everyone to dress up in Black and White attire because the World's Fair was nicknamed "The White City" since all the buildings were painted a beautiful bright white.
On the flip side was a dirty Chicago thought of as a "Black City" with it's crime, grime and dark alley ways.
So our attire to wear Black and White seemed well suited.

{Murderers and Victims Oh My!}

Check back on Wednesday to see what activity Kelly had us do that had everyone holding their breath!!


April 17, 2015

Book Review for "Devil in the White City" by Erik Larson

Book: The Devil in the White City
Author: Erik Larson
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
Number of Pages: 464
Year Published: 2004
Reading Level: Adult
Genre: Non-Fiction

Book Summary: Two men, each handsome and unusually adept at his chosen work, embodied an element of the great dynamic that characterized America's rush toward the twentieth century. The architect was Daniel Hudson Burnham, the fair's brilliant director of works and the builder of many of the country's most important structures, including the Flatiron Building in New York and Union Station in Washington, D.C. The murderer was Henry H. Holmes, a young doctor who, in a malign parody of the White City, built his "World's Fair Hotel" just west of the fairgrounds - a torture palace complete with dissection table, gas chamber, and 3,000-degree crematorium. Burnham overcame tremendous obstacles and tragedies as he organized the talents of Frederick Law Olmsted, Charles McKim, Louis Sullivan, and others to transform swampy Jackson Park into the White City, while Holmes used the attraction of the great fair and his own satanic charms to lure scores of young women to their deaths. What makes the story all the more chilling is that Holmes really lived, walking the grounds of that dream city by the lake.

Our Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Our Group Review: Kelly D. did such an amazing job moderating this book! She prepared an intriguing powerpoint presentation to help guide us along in our discussion of this book complete with fabulous pictures from the ACTUAL Columbian Exposition (World's Fair) held in Chicago in 1893. It also helped that we were eating "fair" food among the themed decor that completely set the mood for our discussion.

Picture of the Court of Honor (the main centralized area of the Columbian Exposition)

We as a group, began by discussing the fair itself and here are some facts that we found interesting...
  • In the late 1880s, Chicago, St Louis, New York, and Washington D.C. all submitted bids to host the 1893 fair but the race was soon narrowed to New York and Chicago. In the end, Chicago won the race to host the fair while also earning it's nickname "The Windy City" for boasting so much big talk during the race. 
  • 1 in 4 Americans saw the Columbian Exposition in 1893, Which is astounding when you consider that it was only open for 6 months.
  • More than 26 million visitors would flock to the 600-acre fairgrounds and 200-plus buildings full of art, food, entertainment and technological gadgets. 
    • Among the well-loved products that made their debut at the Chicago World’s Fair were: Cream of Wheat, Juicy Fruit gum, brownies, Hershey’s Chocolate, the #2 yellow pencil, Aunt Jemima Pancakes, Shredded Wheat, Cracker Jacks, the zipper, and the world's first “Skyscraper”. Technological advances such as the dishwasher were introduced as were commemorative coins put out by the US Postal Service. 
    Food Invented at the world's fair 1893

    Some "firsts" from the World's Expo
    • A Ferris wheel saved the fair from financial ruin.  The Ferris wheel featured 36 enclosed cabins, which hosted weddings and private parties as well as individual passengers. It pulled in over $725,000 over the course of the fair, making it the only profitable element of the whole show.
    Pittsburgh-based bridge builder, George Washington Gale Ferris Jr.'s "Ferris Wheel"     
    It was the first exposition to have national pavilions, bring the world to Chicago. 
    • The architecture was by far the most astounding element of the exposition, combining the genius of the nations best architects to create the 600 acre fairgrounds with 200+ buildings in UNDER THREE YEARS!
    As a group, we thoroughly enjoyed discussing the two main characters that the plot is centralized around. 

    Daniel Burnham- Burnham was lead architect for the World's Fair and was a very talented man. To us it seemed that the fair was more about pride and honor to him than money. He devoted three years of his life to building the fair and even went as far as to move away from his family in the suburbs of Chicago and live on the fairgrounds in what was know as "the shack." Now that is dedication to your craft!

    Herman Webster Mudgett aka H.H. Holmes- WOW... What a character. First off, we as a group were shocked that we were not familiar with Holmes's story considering its historical significance. He  is considered the worlds first Psychopath serial killer who came just five years after "Jack the Ripper" who seems be who everyone knows even though Holmes killed dozens, possibly HUNDREDS more. Holmes was ahead of his time when it came to his financial schemes and always looking into the future before planning his move to not get caught. Even the construction of his "murder castle" (where he performed his murders) was thought out with extreme care and attention to every detail including a hidden chute down to the basement, an air tight room with a gas pipe leading into it and a human size kiln in the basement. He was extremely charming and manipulative and even though he was thought of as very handsome, we as a group did not find him to be particularly attractive. In our opinion it was his cunning nature and immense charm that won over his victims along with the business of the Chicago fair that allowed him to kill so many without it going noticed.

    Photo of H.H. Holmes

    Conclusion- Overall, we as a group thoroughly enjoyed this book although MANY of our members would say that it is not for the faint of heart! There is enough detail about Holmes's murders to give you bad dreams if you pick up this read before hitting the sheets! We felt that it was very informative for a non-fiction book but also very entertaining which is not always the case in this genre and makes for a PERFECT book club book!


    MILD (Casual Drinking)

    Check out our post for FOOD IDEAS from The Devil in the White City as well as our BOOK CLUB and DECOR IDEAS

    April 15, 2015

    Food Ideas for "The Devil in the White City" {by Erik Larson}

    The Book we read this month was "The Devil in the White City" by Erik Larson. Many of us started reading this book without knowing what it was about. About a third of the way through it some of us thought, "Is this fiction or non fiction?" The H.H. Holmes plot was like something out of a fiction novel, truly an unbelievable story that unfortunately, really happened.

    This book is about the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago and about the infamous serial killer H.H. Holmes. Since this book was about a fair we decided to do a FAIR THEMED MENU! Voila, what a great idea. We had not done a fair theme yet and this worked perfectly for the book.

    First up is the Drinks. We had bottled Cokes and Rootbeer with also a very yummy Strawberry Lemonade that we drank out of mason jars.
    P.S. Don't forget the bottle cap opener if you get bottles that don't twist off. (Note to Self) Sorry Julie, it will not happen again and maybe I'll sneak you a Dr. Pepper next time to make up for it ;)

    {Side Dishes}
    We nibbled on Sweet Corn, individual Veggie Cups with dip already in the bottom of the cup (this is genius and I think it should be a staple for future book club meetings) we also couldn't get over how divine these Strawberries were!

    We couldn't have a fair without POPCORN and the lovely Whitney had a popcorn machine we used. If you don't have a friend like Whitney whom you could borrow one you can also buy one here.

    Kelly found these cute popcorn boxes on Amazon. We love Prime.

    {Main Dish}
    We had Carnival Corn Dogs and Chicago Style Pizza!

    On to the sweetest thing of the night, all the yummy treats!

    We tried The original Palmer House Brownies which were INVENTED at the 1893 Chicago Worlds fair which is the fair we read about so we HAD to try them right? (Let's just say they didn't taste like any brownie I'd ever had.)

    Cotton Candy with a twist. They are Cotton Candy Suckers!
     Personally I could have eaten all of them. I LOVE Cotton Candy.
    Kelly bought premade cotton candy in a tub that you can find at most stores and reformed the pieces around sucker sticks. She then put a small bag over the top and tied it off with a bit of string to keep the cotton candy fresh.

    Don't forget the authentic Cracker Jacks Boxes with real prizes inside that each member got to take home.

    Robin, one of our fabulous members, is SO talented in the kitchen and she created these adorable mini pies! These Country Fair Style Mini Apple and Cherry Pies were the perfect addition to the table and I find myself craving them daily now!

     You can make these perfect pies for yourself or next event with Robin's step by step tutorial  found here.

    We couldn't get over how cute this Mini Cupcake Ferris Wheel was. I mean, come on!
     It was perfect for our Fair Themed Night as well as the delicious mini red velvet and coconut cream Cupcakes  that were provided by Dippidee bakery. If you're local you all NEED to check out their new location by Thanksgiving Point in Utah to try their sinfully good treats, thanks Dippidee!

    The fair food was perfect for this book club meeting. Thanks Kelly D. for moderating and coming up with such a great menu.

    Enjoying our Delicious Read and Dish!

    I hope this gave you some inspiration for your book club night.
    To see more inspiration and magic from another fair theme book club, take a look at our photos from THE NIGHT CIRCUS meeting. 



    * All Picture were taken by book club members Robin, Kelly and me. Thanks for helping out ladies!*

    My friend and fellow book lover Elle Jauffret creates the most DIVINE dishes based on books she's read and enjoyed and guess what, she just read "The Devil in the White City" and you can see from the photos below that she is one talented woman! 
    Elle is graciously sharing two of her recipes that she created for this book with us and I can't wait to try them for myself!
    Now, who am I going to get to make them for me....

    Potatoes à la Duchesse

    2 pounds potatoes 
    2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    3 egg yolks
    1/3 cup heavy cream
    salt, pepper, nutmeg – according to taste

    Directions: Peel, and cut potatoes in cube. Cook in boiling water.
    Drain and mash potatoes. Add other ingredients and mix until well combined.
    Place “purée” in a piping bag and pipe on a cookie sheet. Cook at 425 degrees F for 15-20 minutes.


    3 tbsp truffle oil (or vegetable oil)
    4 shallots
    1 tbsp flour
    1 cup dry Madeira wine
    1/2 cup concentrated beef stock, fat skimmed off
    truffles shaving/slivers
    Salt and pepper

    Directions: Cook the filets mignons for 20-25 minutes in a 425°F oven (or more depending on their sizes and the desired on well done you want them).

    Meanwhile, peel and chop shallots. Sauté them in 1-2 tbsp of truffle oil in saucepan over low heat. When they are soft, add the flour and the Madeira wine. Mix well and add the beef stock. Stir well and cook until reduced by half (the sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon).

    Remove the filets mignons from the oven, and dress it with sauce and truffles shaving/slivers.

    "Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood." D.H. Burnham
    "I was born with the devil in me. I could not help the fact that I was a murderer, no more than the poet can help the inspiration to sing." Dr. H.H. Holmes

    Menu (Paperback Edition p.98): Filet Mignon à la Rossini; Fond d'Artichaut farci (stuffed artichoke heart); Potatoes à la Duchesse.


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