Tag Archives: Shauna Niequist

Bread and Wine: A Review

Bread and Wine: A Review

As you know, I’m a fan of Shauna Niequist. So I was over the moon when I was asked to read her new book and review it on my blog. Freaking out might be a more accurate description. The email notification came when we were in New York at our intensive two-week training for our new business and I did the happy dance in our hotel room on Long Island; the book arrived in the midst of our crazy chaotic first weeks of being business owners. I opened the package after our fifth or sixth twelve-hour-day and then just let the book sit on my nightstand for a few weeks. I knew I just didn’t have the space to take it in right at that moment and I would be disappointed to read it in the fragmented way I would have to during those insane days.

But finally, it began to feel like we had our feet under us again and I sat down two weeks ago to read it. I loved it. No surprise there. And I will happily recommend it to passers-by on the street. But now that I’ve been anticipating this and excited to share about it with you I find myself somewhat hesitant to put the words on the page. Maybe I’ve built it up too much in my mind?!? But I run the risk of not fulfilling my part of the advanced reader’s bargain if I don’t get something up here within the allotted time so I am finally making my attempt. {If you want a short and to-the-point review, here’s my review on Goodreads.}

Her books are written in an essay style…which I really like. If you have limited reading time {before your dinner burns, your baby cries, or whatever else is demanding your attention demands it back} this is the perfect format. Her humor and wit are a nice balance to some challenging subject matter. This is true of all three of her books. What’s new in this edition are the recipes. So each chapter still contains her thoughts and reflections on some kind of life experience, often around the table, and almost all of them end with a recipe. The first few chapters seemed a bit stiff to me, kind of like she was writing an essay to introduce the recipe, if that makes any sense. But it wasn’t long before the book developed a momentum of its own and I found myself finishing it in two sessions. Since I’m always on the lookout for menus and recipes, this was a win/win for me. The writing can definitely stand on its own without the recipes but I’d be wishing for them if they weren’t there.

Ironically, out of all of the super-yummy looking recipes: flourless brownies, risotto, cassoulet and dark chocolate mousse, the only one I’ve tried so far is for a basic vinaigrette. (But I’ve made it twice…once with the recipe, once by memory. You’ll get it when you read the book.) I am absolutely planning to try some more and I promise to write about them here when I do.

And now, the part where I sound like a stalker…

Here’s the thing: Shauna {is it okay to call her by her first name? I know we’d be friends if we ever met!} has a lovely voice. When I read her books I feel like we’ve just finished a really great conversation. I love that about her writing but I think it’s to blame for the way I come off a little creepy, wanna-be-your-friend-ish. It really feels to me like we’re friends. Her fault. Entirely.

And of course, beyond the food and the shared value of  a communal table and friends, I also agree wholeheartedly with what she has to say. Every time I’ve read one of her books, its spoken directly to me in that season of my life. I think I underlined two thirds of the book, honestly. I know I laughed out loud and I know I cried and I know I wished that I could read it aloud to several of my closest friends. {Did, in fact, read a major portion of one chapter to a friend over the phone. Seriously.}  So I will share one tiny snippet with you here. I’m not certain if I’m allowed or not supposed to do that or what so just a small taste…and you’ll see why this spoke to me in my current season of trying to figure out how to be a business owner and a wife and a daughter and a caregiver and sister and a friend and also take care of myself a little in the bargain. This is from Chapter 26: On Scrambled Eggs and Doing Hard Things

“I tend to think that when everything is going well, I have the margin to do hard things, to make good choices–to read instead of watch TV, to eat well instead of eat poorly, to engage in deep conversation instead of chatter about other people.

But it’s really the opposite, isn’t it? It’s the making of those harder, better choices right while everything’s a mess that makes the mess a little more manageable. I wanted nachos upon nachos last night like, a wheelbarrow full. But this morning I would have had to add a sense of failure to my already bruised spirits. I’m not saying I woke up feeling all better. But I do know I could have made it so much worse, that I could have added self-loathing to my tiredness and that wouldn’t have made it easier to bear.

I’m realizing this after what seems like a lifetime of saying to myself, ‘Well, you can’t be expected to something hard on a day like this, can you?’ I did expect more from myself, and I did do something hard, and I’m thankful.”

See what I mean? Like we’re just talking, right? And see what I mean about being on the same wave length? She’s absolutely right though, friends. We can make choices that fill us up and move us toward healthy…even in the midst of hard. Because we can do hard things.



I am a Broken Record

I am a Broken Record

I know I’m a broken record lately. (Do people even say that anymore?) You may be feeling a bit like it is a Shauna-fest around here because I keep quoting her…referring to her…citing her…claiming to be her best friend. But I read a recent post on her blog and had to send you all there to read it to because it captures so well what I was trying to say about my time in Bend and my precious friendships there: “friendships that are so dear to you, when you feel so seen and loved and connected and thankful for what these amazing people bring you.” Right?

Here’s the whole post:

Wish We Were Neighbors