Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty

The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty
In The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty, Louise Brooks is a young free spirit who doesn’t care what society thinks of her. Cora Carlisle, on the other hand, is a middle-aged married woman with unflinching morals. In 1922, Louise makes an important trip to New York with Cora as her traveling companion. It is a journey that will profoundly change both women forever.

In the late 1920s, everyone knew Louise Brooks as a world-famous silent film star. She was beautiful. She was troubled, and she was the woman who made the “bob” haircut a cultural phenomenon. 

But in 1922, Louise was a 15-year-old girl who hated living in Wichita, KS, because it was old-fashioned, restrictive, and one big dead end. It was a feeling that Cora Carlisle didn’t share. She mostly found Wichita comforting with its small-town attitude and sense of community. 

That summer, with Cora as her chaperone, Louise escapes to New York to attend classes at the Denishawn School of Dance. Louise's ambition is to become a member of the Denishawn Dance Company so that she does not have to return to Wichita. 

Cora's purpose, however, and real reason for coming to New York is to find the identity of her birth parents. As a small child, Cora had been dumped at the Home For Friendless Girls in New York, residing there until she was eventually put on an orphan train and shipped off to Kansas for adoption. 

As an eight-year-old girl, the trip had frightened Cora, and now as a thirty-six-year-old grown woman, she wanted answers. By the end of the summer, both women are successful at reaching their goals, but things will not turn out as either woman planned. 

Before you begin reading The Chaperone, you should know that the novel mostly focuses on the fictional character Cora with Louise as almost a secondary character. The Chaperone is not a biography of Louise's life, but author Laura Moriarty does do a great job of blending Cora's fabricated life with fascinating details of Louise's true story. 

The Chaperone, which was published in 2012, has also been divided up into three chronological sections that easily flow into each other, and the writing style has an elegant ease that makes the book feel seamless when reading it. In fact, it is that easy writing style that makes the book hard to put down. 

The author of The Chaperone, Laura Moriarty, lives in Lawrence, KS, and teaches creative writing at the University of Kansas. She is the author of several other novels including The Rest of Her Life and While I'm Falling.

So, if you are still looking for an absorbing novel to round out your spring reading list or perhaps looking to read a novel by a local author, then The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty is it. 

Additionally, if you want to learn more about Louise Brooks, check out LuLu In Hollywood, which is the autobiography of Louise Brooks.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Stephenson's "Old Apple Farm" Restaurant Potato Soup Recipe

Stephenson's Potato Soup
For many years, Stephenson's Old Apple Farm Restaurant was a dining institution in Kansas City.  As a kid, I always found it  fun to go there for a fancy dinner, including having one of their delicious apple fritters for dessert.  

The Stephensons opened their original restaurant at 40 Hwy and Lee's Summit Road on April 16, 1946, with ten booths.  They fed 38 people that first day.  Sadly, after 61 years, the business closed in February 2007, ending a culinary era in Kansas City. 

Even though the restaurant no longer exists, many of their recipes live on.  One of my favorite Stephenson's recipes is their potato soup which I continue to make for my family.


(Makes 6 servings)
6 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
2 T. butter
1 medium carrot, diced
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 T. flour
4 cups milk
2 T. finely chopped parsley
1 T. salt
1/2 t. seasoned salt
1/4 t. Accent
1/4 t. red pepper
1 chicken bouillon cube

Cook potatoes in boiling, salted water until tender.  Melt butter in 3-quart kettle until golden brown.  Add carrots and onions.  Cover and cook until tender.  Remove from heat.  Blend in flour.  Stir in milk.  Add half of potatoes.  Mash rest of potatoes and add with rest of ingredients.  Heat until steaming hot.

NOTE:  This is an easy recipe to alter. You can add cheese and bacon bits for a topping, or if you really like veggies, add celery or zucchini.  


Friday, March 15, 2013

Is Everyone In Kansas City Irish?

Browne's Irish Market - A K.C. Treasure
What is one of the biggest holidays in Kansas City?  Anyone who lives here will tell you it's St. Patrick's Day.  With a huge parade through the heart of town and big celebrations throughout the city, the entire area turns into a sea of frenzied green on that festive day.

If one of your favorite parts of St. Patrick's Day in Kansas City is eating Irish food, consider trying Browne's Irish Marketplace.  Through St. Patty's Day, they are offering a traditional Irish breakfast for $12.95 which includes rashers (bacon), bangers (sausages), eggs, potatoes, tomatoes, Irish soda bread, toast, coffee, Bewley's tea, and orange juice.  They also have several yummy holiday lunch choices like corned beef and Irish potato soup.  

Located at 3300 Pennsylvania, Browne's is only a block away from the St. Patrick's Day parade route, so it is a perfect place to start your holiday fun or to grab a bite to eat after the parade.  Even better, on St. Patrick's Day, Browne's is providing a large outdoor heated tent, live Irish music and dancers, bagpipers, a children's Irish village with inflatables, games, vendors and a bar for the crowds that are sure to be in the area. They will also be open expanded hours on Saturday, March 16, and Sunday, March 17.

Opened in 1887, Browne's Irish Marketplace is a Kansas City cultural and historical treasure.  Walk through their doors, and it feels like you have stepped back in time a hundred years (in a charming way).  At its current location since 1901 and still run by the family of the original owners, the worn oak planks on the floor creak as you step inside and try to absorb everything crammed into the store and on its walls (even in the bathroom).

The main room consists of an old-fashioned meat counter, tables and chairs for dining, and shelves of various Irish gifts and packaged foods.  If you decide to pop in at Browne's you will notice many "regulars" occupying seats in the eating area.  That's because their deli has such tasty food - and by the way, their egg salad sandwiches and chocolate chip cookies are delicious.  

Besides the main room, Browne's has expanded so there are now several more rooms stuffed to the rafters with Irish hats, home decor goods, kilts, hoodies, scarves, baby clothing, and so much more for the person who wants or needs anything Irish!

Browne's Irish Marketplace is usually only open through lunch, but once a month, they host "Third Thursday" and offer an Irish dinner, cold beer and live music from 5-9 p.m.  In June, they also host a street fair event.  

Whatever you decide to do for St. Patrick's Day, be safe, have fun, and consider checking out Browne's Irish Marketplace for a fun, tasty and traditional Irish holiday experience.

Monday, March 11, 2013

JJs Restaurant Trying To Pick Up The Pieces

The remains of JJs Restaurant
On February 19, 2013, the entire Kansas City community was shocked and horrified when JJs restaurant, a local dining institution near the Country Club Plaza, was destroyed in a natural gas explosion.  Sadly, more than a dozen people were injured and a JJs employee was killed. 

I visited the site of the former restaurant a few days ago and snapped the photos shown below.  The man in the gray shirt is restaurant owner JJ Frantze.  

My prayers go out to everyone affected by this tragedy.

Video of JJ's Restaurant Explosion


Video of JJs Restaurant Burning After The Explosion


Monday, March 4, 2013

Record Snowfall Hits Kansas City

In the last half of February, Kansas City was socked with two snowstorms.  In my part of town, we received approximately 22 inches of snow.  Below are some pictures of what our neighborhood looked like after the Gods of Snow dumped on us!