Peanut Butter Pie Recipe

My daughter Catherine can’t get enough of this super simple pie that’s easy to prepare for a mother-daughter book club meeting. Catherine loves just about everything with peanut butter, but she’s not alone. Every time I make this recipe the pie disappears so fast I think I should have made two.

Peanut Butter Pie

  • 1 8 oz. package of cream cheese at room temperature
  • 3 to 4 tblsp. milk
  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • about 1/2 cup (or slightly more) peanut butter
  • 1 tub (8 oz.)  Cool Whip, thawed

Blend all ingredients together and spoon into a graham cracker crust. Refrigerate. You can purchase a pre-prepared graham cracker crust, but making one is easy too. I make a chocolate graham cracker crust.

Chocolate Graham Cracker Crust

  • 1-1/2 cups chocolate graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 6 tblsp. melted butter

Mix all ingredients together and press into a pie tin. It will be loose and crumbly, so refrigerate until cold before spooning the pie filling in. You can bake it at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes, but my family prefers it unbaked.

It’s that simple. I got the recipe from my mom, and she also finds that the pie is gobbled up quickly every time she makes it. Enjoy!

Book Review: A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

A Northern LightLast night my daughter Catherine and I met with our mother-daughter daughter book club. We had read A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly. The girls are in eighth grade, and this book addresses more mature subject matters than we’ve addressed before. The girls were ready for it.

Most of us thought A Northern Light was a beautifully written book with well-developed, complicated characters who made difficult choices. It was a great entrée to discuss the limitations put on women by society in the early 1900s, and to talk about how the girls’ choices in life are so different now from when the characters were living or even from when the moms were growing up.

Set in upstate New York, A Northern Light weaves the real-life story of Grace Brown into the fictional story of Mattie Gokey (Mathilda Gauthier). Mattie’s mother has died, exacting a promise from Mattie to take care of her younger sisters and her father and brother. But Mattie’s father is isolated from his family emotionally, as he works non-stop to eke out a living on his farm. Mattie’s brother has left, after a blow-up with his father, and no one expects to see him again. Mattie’s sisters need parenting, but not from an older sister.

And Mattie has dreams of her own. She’s a talented writer who’s been accepted with a scholarship to attend Barnard College in New York. But how will she ever get the money to live while in school or permission from her father to leave? Told in flashbacks between a time when Mattie’s story intersects with Grace Brown’s, a young girl who drowned on a lake at a summer camp in the Adirondacks, and Mattie’s life leading up to that point, the story moves along at a comfortable pace until we ultimately reach the point of Mattie’s biggest decision. Donnelly flawlessly weaves in vivid details of life in the Adirondacks – lumbering camps for logging, isolated farms, summer camps for wealthy tourists, supply boats, and one-room schoolhouses – that transports the reader back to that time in history.

It also deals frankly with several sexual situations. While the passages dealing with these situations were a little awkward to read out loud, they were appropriate for readers eighth grade and older, and they also gave us a chance to discuss some issues that are tough to talk about if you’re not discussing a character in a book. Highly recommended for older mother-daughter book clubs.

Add a Little Poetry to Your Mother-Daughter Book Club Meeting

npm_2008_poster_thb.gifIn honor of National Poetry Month, which is coming up in April, I offer this recommendation for a mother-daughter book club meeting. Instead of everyone reading a book to discuss, you can designate a meeting dedicated to poetry.

Everyone can choose their own poets to read, and here are some ideas for you to start with:

  • Emily Dickinson—multiple collections of her poems, many of which are about flowers and nature
  • Robert Louis Stevenson—who wrote A Child’s Garden of Verse, which was popular with both children and their parents when it came out.
  • Shel Silverstein—best known for Where the Sidewalk Ends, but other collections are worth a read too.
  • Jack Prelutsky—author of more than 50 poetry collections, including the laugh-out-loud It’s Raining Pigs and Noodles, and A Pizza the Size of the Sun.
  • Alan Katz—a former writer for the Rosie O’Donnell Show, whose new collection is titled Oops!

You can also have everyone try their hand at writing a poem or two to read aloud at your next meeting. Any form will do: haiku, limericks, free verse, sonnets, tanka, odes…the list offers lots of flexibility.

One of the most interesting assignments I’ve ever had for book club was a poetry month. Everyone in the family got into it. My husband, two daughters and I made a trip to the library together and checked out different books of poetry. At dinner every night, we would each read aloud a poem from one of the books that had special appeal to us. Sometimes they were thoughtful, sometimes they were funny, but they all made us think about something differently.

And writing the poems wasn’t as difficult as we thought when we first got the assignment. In fact, it was probably more challenging for the adults than the kids, who get practice writing poetry in school. And it was a blast to read what we had written out loud at the meeting.

For more ideas, check out the Scholastic, Inc. website, which lists activities appropriate for different age groups.


Newbery Club—An Idea for Your Mother-Daughter Book Club

A librarian I know who leads a book club for kids at her school recently told me about a Newbery Club that several schools in the district participate in. Here’s what she had to say:

“There are over 10 schools where we collaborate and all lead Newbery Clubs. We love getting together as adults and discussing/reviewing books. We then bring them to the students who narrow down the selection and begin reading and also blogging between schools about the books. It is my favorite program I participate/manage.

“Their favorites this year were:

  • The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart—fabulous mystery, long read but the kids loved it. Enjoyed the surprises.
  • The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt—my favorite, laughed all the way through. Historical fiction. I was thrilled to see this win the Newbery Honor.
  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick—impressive visual book, won the Caldecott recently.
  • Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass—very interesting realistic fiction book, enjoyed the adventures and discussions that came from this one.
  • Peak by Roland Smith—excellent adventure. The boys liked this one quite a bit, girls almost as much. This led to reading Into Thin Air which is a great biography.”

newbery.gifThanks to Deborah Alvarez for the recommendations. This also sounds like a good way for mother-daughter book clubs to pick books. Particularly since there are so many titles to choose from. To check out what’s on the list, visit the American Library Association’s Newbery Medal Home Page.



Book Review and Mother-Daughter Book Club Meeting Idea: Awesome Plays for Teens and Tweens by Christina Hamlett

Here’s an interesting and fresh idea that was passed on recently from a mom who’s in a book club with girls ranging in age from 12 to 15.

“One of the girls (in her group) likes drama a lot and has been reading a playwright she likes and whose plays she’s been in. We thought it would be fun to buy an anthology of one-acts, assign parts to read out loud like a readers theater, and talk about the stories. Most of us have been to theater performances but weren’t familiar with what a play looks like on the page.

“The anthology we read is Awesome Plays for Teens and Tweens by Christina Hamlett, and we’re now completely hooked! This is a collection of 15 one-act comedies and each one is short enough that we could read several of them in each meeting. It was great fun to assign roles to one another, plus this experience was invaluable in terms of encouraging our daughters to speak clearly, enunciate, experiment with different accents…and not trample on each other’s lines! It was also a wonderful spotlight on our young actress in the group who led discussions afterwards about what it’s like to be in a play.

“The girls all loved “Lessons of Oz” which is a humorous take on what happens when Dorothy comes back and becomes a best selling author but her pals from Oz aren’t so happy with the gifts they received. With “Lessons of Oz” fresh in our heads now, we’re thinking of going as a group to see “Wicked” when it plays here. I recommend playreading to mother and daughter clubs who are looking for something fresh and fun to do and Awesome Plays for Teens and Tweens is a great introduction to the world of the theater.”

What an interesting idea to liven up a meeting and let both girls and moms try something new. If you’d like to read the full reviews from Inez of Arizona and Marci of Hawaii, here’s the link.



Book Review: Amazing Grace by Megan Shull

amazinggrace.jpegLast night Catherine and I met with her book club (8th grade girls) to talk about Amazing Grace by Megan Shull. Amazing Grace is the story of a teenage tennis whiz/model/endorsement celebrity who wants to get off the roller coaster that her life has become and live the life of a normal 15-year-old. So her mom arranges for her to be whisked off to a remote island in Alaska to live with a friend under an assumed name for a few months until she can decide how she wants to continue.

Discussion centered around these questions:

  • How does Grace’s story of wanting to leave the celebrity behind strike you in relation to real-life celebrity stories of problems with alcohol and other issues?
  • What did you think about Grace’s romantic relationship with Teague?
  • What did you think of the advice Grace received from Theona?
  • Do you think you’d like to live in an isolated small town?
  • How do you think Grace should have handled herself at the party where she drank alcohol?

While no one in our group particularly liked the book, we didn’t dislike it either. Mostly we felt the characters weren’t developed well enough for us to know enough about them to understand them. We didn’t get a feel for the people or things they liked or disliked. But our discussion about the issues in the book was very interesting. We talked about the current events and woes of young superstars like Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton. We talked about the reasons that teenagers drink at parties even when they know they shouldn’t. We talked about the benefits of having someone to talk to – like a counselor at school or someone else’s mom – when things in your life are difficult. We talked about romance, and being attracted to someone as well as being friends with someone you date. The girls and the moms both talked for over an hour, and we only stopped because it was getting late.

All in all it was a good book to discuss, and it was a good transition book for groups where the girls are about to enter high school. I’d love to hear from anyone else who read this book and has a different opinion or had a different experience.

Book Review: The Mother-Daughter Book Club by Heather Vogel Frederick

motherdaughterbookclub.jpegI just finished reading The Mother-Daughter Book Club by Heather Vogel Frederick, and I found it delightful. The structure of the fictional book club was very different from either of the clubs I’m in with my daughters, and I liked reading about how the girls and their moms worked to help their group gel. The book is told from the perspective of the four different girls who are in the club, Megan, Jess, Cassidy and Emma. The girls don’t all have good opinions of each other when their moms “force” them to create the group, and it’s very interesting to watch the girls and the moms deal with conflicts as the club continues. I found myself thinking, “I don’t know if I could ever handle conflict as directly at these girls and their moms do. And I liked the fact that the club chose one book to read for their first year, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. By reading a few chapters at a time, the book club members were able to go more in-depth into the book as they went along.

The stories relating events in Little Women to similarities in the lives of people in the group tied in really well, illustrating how timeless Little Women is. And I loved the setting—Concord, Massachusetts, where Louisa May Alcott lived and wrote. It made me want to pack my bags and drive through little towns all over New England.

The Mother-Daughter Book Club would be great to read with your own book club, because you can discuss similarities and differences between the fictional club and yours, as well as possibly find things you’d like to incorporate into your own group.

Book Review: The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages

the-green-glass-sea.jpegI just finished reading The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages. It’s been highly recommended from friends, and the recommendations are warranted. The Green Glass Sea is about two girls who live in Los Alamos in the closing days of World War II where their parents are working on a “gadget” that will help to win the war. It’s very top secret, and their community doesn’t even appear on a map. Dewey is a whiz at building gadgets of her own from scrounged parts that she finds in the dump and Suze is a budding artist. Neither fits into the inevitable hierarchy of kids in their community, and they don’t like each other either. But when they’re forced to spend time together, their relationship grows in ways that neither of them expect.

While the relationship story may be familiar, the way the girls interact and the way the story progresses is anything but formula. And the historical background of the story provides a fascinating glimpse into the world of Los Alamos and life in that desert complex. This book doesn’t shy away from tough issues dealing with family, friendship and the moral dilemma of the bomb. I highly recommend it.

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