THE BEST BIG, FAT, CHEWY CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES EVER
from John Rudy
It is hard to find chocolate chip cookies that have enough chocolate, the right taste (thus the brown sugar), and are chewy-soft. Do not stint on getting the proper chocolate. I use Ghirardelli 60% Cacao. For starters, they must be large because the outer edge will always cook faster, and if the edges are most of the cookie you have a problem. Second, the cookies continue to cook as long as they are hot and sit on a hot pan. So they must be removed from the oven when not fully cooked. My suggestion is to make a small pan first, do what you think is right, and then adjust from there.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter (1½ sticks), melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg yolk
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 325°. Grease cookie sheets
Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.
In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and extra egg yolk until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon.
Drop cookie dough 1/4 cup at a time onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about 3 inches apart. They really should be that far apart or as they cook they will merge together.
Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the edges are lightly toasted. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.
It is fine to freeze them for later–and they even taste great when frozen.
John says that it was his mother who inspired his love of cooking and baking at an early age. (She cooked exclusively vegetables in boilable packages.)
When old friends die, we try to remember the happy times, the jokes and laughs, the parties and vacations. Sometimes, though, that’s a stretch—as it was with Bill.
A year or so after my divorce, I dated a man who had grown up with my ex-husband. Bill was a carpenter with a young daughter, two interesting and diverse sisters, and parents who lived down the street. Unlike my ex-husband, he loved to dance and be social. His friends welcomed me, including some that I knew from my job at the Town Hall. But Bill had a problem.
Bill loved a beer (or three) at noon on Saturday, whether he was watching a ballgame or working. One of his favorite social venues was the Knights of Columbus Hall. Not because of the Catholic connection but because what this group of Knights were good at in the early 80’s was drinking–a lot.
On Tuesdays, the Knights went bowling (and drinking) at an alley within spitting distance from my house. On one of those Tuesday nights in the spring, a nice breeze blew in from the west, and I opened my windows to catch the fresh air. Around 2 am, a noise woke me up. Not the girls. Nothing electrical or mechanical. Must be an animal in the backyard, I thought. I rolled over and went back to sleep, but within minutes, the noise woke me again.
This time, I turned on the light. And when I did, something flew across the room. I screamed, turned off the light, reached for my robe, and rushed to close the doors to the girls’ rooms. That bird was not going to crap all over my house! So, with flashlight in hand and a large towel over my shoulder, I began my search for my intruder. Hearing the noise again, I realized it wasn’t a bird. It was a bat–and he was scared. With the window fully open, I flapped the bath towel around in an attempt to chase the darn thing back outside, but my efforts were in vain. I called Bill.
After at least a dozen rings, he finally picked up, and soon, his truck pulled into the driveway. He came to the door with a plywood box which proved to be of no help. Finally, Bill grabbed my chenille bathmat, quietly sneaked up on the creature, threw the mat around him, tossed him—mat and all—outside, and slammed the window shut. He headed for his truck, waved good night, and I tumbled back into bed.
Within what seemed like ten minutes, the alarm went off, and the day began. I didn’t tell the girls about the bat, nor did I mention it to my co-workers at the Town Hall. Mid-afternoon, as I drank another cup of coffee to stay awake, Bill arrived in my office and told me he had had a weird dream. He said he dreamed he came to my house during the night and followed a bat into my bedroom through an open window. Then he said that he was going to stop drinking. Somehow, with a straight face, I replied that, yes, that was a weird dream and that abstinence was probably a good idea.
Bill never heard the true story, but I shared it with his sisters at his funeral, and they laughed along with me. Funny, the laughs that bond us.
There has never been another bat inside my house. The few that fly around the back yard at dusk don’t give me a second glance. Maybe the story about that long ago warm Tuesday evening in the spring has been passed down through the bat generations and–remembering Bill the Bat Man–they keep their distance.
Renaissance woman Lydia Bogar has been English teacher, health care professional and more. She joined BOLLI in the spring of 2016 after returning home from a stint in South Carolina where she dipped into another OLLI program. “It’s good to be here!” she exclaims. (And it’s good to have her.)
My Aunt Sally died a few days ago.Today was her funeral.She was 95 years old.
I am not sure if she really is my aunt any more because, you see, my “real” Uncle Sam, my mother’s kid brother,divorced her about 5 years ago.They had been separated for 20 or 30 years bythat time, but Aunt Sally would never let him go.She refused to divorce him.They lived separately.He supported her.He dated other women and began living with Jane at least 20 years ago, and Jane finally became his second wife about 5 years ago. Still, Sally took her rightful place at all family functions, luncheons, Thanksgiving Day dinners, birthday parties.I even invited her to my son’s wedding 18 years ago in New Orleans along with Sid and Jane.After all, she was still my aunt, and she and my Mom had fun together, despite the fact that Mom always considered her an airhead.
Sally and Sam were a gorgeous couple when they first met in their early 20’s.Sam was a decorated war hero.He’d been shot out of the sky with his crew and was one of the two out of twelve who survived.Ronnie was curly haired, pretty, and very curvey.I was about 8 or 9 years old when they were engaged and came to visit my family.I was enthralled by their movie star gorgeousness and glamour.They married and lived together in Florida for about 30 years — far from our home in Brooklyn.They had 3 children together.My cousin Sarah, their oldest child, died from cancer a long time ago.Sam searched everywhere with her for a cure–all over the U.S. and Mexico to Germany–and was broken by her death.He still seems broken.
I understood, I thought, why Uncle Sam no longer wanted to live with Sally.He was a complex man–intelligent, well traveled, well read, an athlete, interested in Chinese art.Sally was simple.She liked buying $2 and $3 “tschochkes,” according to some who eulogized her today, and then giving them away.She never recognized a rebuff, so she went through life perpetually cheerful and resilient.Most people, it seems, went out of their way to help her, and they liked her.Was she insensitive?obtuse? or loyal and forever loving?She lived with her son and his wife, both of whom adored her.Her daughter-in-law wept from the pulpit as did her son, her grandson, and two other grandchildren.Clearly, Sally lavished her love on them, and they cherished her.
People are complicated.We can’t know what is in their hearts and minds.Weguess.We tell ourselves stories that we believe.Some of us are quick to judge others.We become locked into our own opinions (or are they the opinions of others?).We overlook, we simplify, and we think we know.We take sides. And yet, we can never know the whole story.How can we?
I felt very sorry for my Uncle Sam today. I love him and respect him.He sat next to Jane, his second wife, and listened to almost everyone in his family speak of their love and praise for their adorable and adored mother and grandmother—without a word aboutthe father and grandfather who sat two rows behind his first wife’s coffin, which was blanketed by an abundance of roses.
As I grow older, I am more interested in the conditions, changes, services, culture, and even politics affecting me, my husband of 53 years, my friends, and my 102 year old mother. To satisfy my ever growing curiosity about what it means to grow older in our society, I created and taught three BOLLI courses on this topic. My experiences as a high school English teacher and social worker plus a lot of reading about aging and loss (and, of course, living, so far, to 80) have prepared me to write this blog.
Please share your own thoughts and feelings by commenting below–
MEET MEMBER STEVE GOLDFINGER: BEST FRIENDS FOR LIFE
Born and raised in Brooklyn, Steve Goldfinger enjoyed a long and distinguished career as a doctor and professor of medicine at MGH and Harvard Medical School. His wife, a modern dancer and educational administrator, died ten years ago. His four sons inherited both of their parents’ genes and have varied careers–Hollywood script writer, radiologist, psychotherapist, and business executive–coupled with creative musical talents they display in their respective bands and bluegrass group. He has nine grandchildren. In addition to writing, Steve’s interests include classical music and theatre. He was also an ardent golfer “before skill deserted me.”
Steve joined BOLLI in 2016 and says that he has found it to be “a huge resource in my retirement which has fulfilled my desire to return to the humanities in my later years.” The fine and varied program has also brought new friends.
As a member of the Writers Guild, Steve has treated the group to everything from poetry to memoir, short fiction, and creative nonfiction. This piece, an example of the latter, was written in response to the prompt: “Best Friends Forever.”
BEST FRIENDS FOR LIFE
by Steve Goldfinger
He was born in China in 1898, the son of Presbyterian missionary parents. He died 69 years later, leaving behind an estate worth a hundred million dollars. Along the way, he was voted the most brilliant member of his Yale graduating class. An ardent anti-communist, he urged Kennedy to attack Cuba, even saying to him, “If you don’t, I’ll be like Hearst,” meaning he’d use his magazines to push him to it. He was a strong proponent (and rare user) of LSD. His physical awkwardness, lack of humor, and discomfort with any conversation that was not strictly factual was starkly at odds with his glamorous wife’s social poise, wit, and fertile imagination.
Henry Luce embarked on a career in journalism, and before he bought Life magazine in 1936, he and a partner had already taken on both Time and Fortune. His yen to own Life was based purely on its name and how well it would couple with that of Time. His wife Clare saw a grand opportunity to found an entirely new media genre: photojournalism. Before they purchased it, Life magazine had been a declining vehicle for the kid of light-hearted, sophisticated, clean humor that it’s readers had outgrown. Under the Luces, its new mission statement opened with “To see life, to see the world…” How it succeeded!
Within four months, Life’s circulation rose from 380,000 to over a million, and it eventually exceeded eight million. It became the most popular magazine of its time. Renowned photographers captured riveting images for the eyes of the nation: the D-Day landings, aerial views of the remains of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, faces of the Nazis at the Nuremberg tribunal, and, most famous of all, the iconic kiss the sailor planted on that nurse in Times Square to celebrate the end of World War II. And as more print invaded the magazine in the form of essays and memoirs, viewers became readers. Life’s continued popularity brought great acclaim and great profits for more than three decades before it began its gradual fade in the 1970s. Issues became less frequent and staggered to total cessation in 2000. Rising costs were one reason. Television was undoubtedly another.
In contrast to Henry’s somewhat colorless persona, Clare Boothe Luce led a stunning public life. She was an early feminist, an actress, a successful playwright, and then a war reporter, journalist, politician, congresswoman, and ambassador. Attending opening night of one of her plays were Albert Einstein and Thomas Mann. Among the quips attributed to her are, “No good deed goes unpunished” and “Widowhood is a fringe benefit of marriage.” While ambassador to Italy, she was poisoned with arsenic. Initially suspected to be Russian espionage retaliation for her outspoken anti-communism, the cause was eventually found to be arsenate in the paint flaking off her bedroom ceiling. “Broadway’s New Faces, 1952” famously portrayed her illness at Toothloose in Rome. Clare Boothe Luce died in 1987. By the end of her life, she had become a fervent supporter of Barry Goldwater and a Nixon appointee to the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.
Arguably the most influential and envied power couple of their time, Henry and Clare Boothe Luce made numerous friends for life. They were also the best friends for ,
It used to be that, whenever I wanted to take a trip, I drove into Lexington and visited Colpitt’s Travel where Marilyn would help us make reservations. Unfortunately, she often had to deal with airlines that didn’t answer the phone and hotels in places she hadn’t visited. The situation today is very different, and most of the readers of this blog already probably take advantage of some of the tools out there. The purpose of this entry is to provide you with some ideas you might not be familiar with—and, of course, what I provide here is just a small piece of what is available. Be sure to use the comment box at the end to add your ideas and/or ask questions!
Where/when do I want to go? Do I want to arrange for airfare or a package with car and/or hotel? Do I have flexibility for travel dates, times of day, locations? What am I willing to give up for the lowest price out there? Do I want trip cancellation insurance?
Pick one of the travel tools that are available online. Various review sites contrast the different tools, but there is some consensus that www.booking.com is the best overall site and www.Priceline.com is the best for last-minute deals.
These sites allow you to 1) search across many different airline or select specific ones; 2) deal with specific or flexible travel dates; 3) sort information by date, price, time, and number of stops.
Be sure to look carefully at car rental information, especially at drop-off fees. Also be sure to note whether or not the site will alert you if there are price changes and if you will be able to take advantage of that information. Be aware, too, of the busiest airports. Smaller airports (like Providence) may be available near your destination—prices, though, might be higher, and they might have less availability.
Get Money for Change Flights
Airlines overbook assuming that they will have no-shows. Many times, they provide offers for volunteers willing to take different flights. Offers go up when there are no takers. But be sure to ask questions.
Sometimes, the offer provided can only be used with a full-fare ticket. The offer may not apply to your whole group. What if the next flight is also fully booked? Ask for a flight guarantee within X hours. If the delay to a substitute flight turns out to be X hours long, will they reimburse an overnight hotel bill?
Many years ago, I met someone who located the busiest American Airlines flight to LA and booked it to visit the grandchildren. He always got bumped.
When Should I Fly?
Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the least expensive days on which to fly; then Saturday. Fridays and Sundays are the most expensive. Very early morning, late night, red-eye, and mealtime flights are cheaper than other flights.
When Should I Book?
According to FareCompare.com data, the best time for booking in the U.S. is on Tuesday at 3 p.m. Many airlines release their weekly sales late on Mondays or early on Tuesdays. By mid-afternoon on Tuesdays, then, the competing airlines have matched the lower prices.
U.S. domestic tickets: Shop between 3 months and 30 days before departure. International fares: Shop between 5 ½ months and 1 ½ months before departure. Peak travel: During peak seasons such as June, July and August or the December holidays, purchase tickets two months in advance.
One last item: Google is pretty good. If you type in, say, “American Airlines 145,” you will get the status of that flight. If it is already airborne, you will get its ETA and the arriving Gate Number–some airlines even make it possible for you to track their in-air flights!
John, a long time computer expert and guide, provides his helpful hints in this monthly BOLLI Matters feature. In the comment box below, provide questions on this month’s or any other computer/tech topic that you’d like to know more about in future Tech Talk articles.
Here we are at Logan Airport on this not-so-quiet weekend morning. Hundreds of women, some with daughters, some with mothers, some with both, some with strollers, and even some with husbands. This first taste of our strength is powerful but not intimidating. It is, in fact, heartwarming.
As newbies to National Airport, we walk through the baggage claim area and a construction zone to reach the Metro station which looks, strangely, like an egg carton. Emerging at Foggy Bottom, we see a mass of signs. Hundreds of signs.
WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON?
We walk forward. Democrats and Republicans–black, brown, red, white and grey–faith in our hearts.
Music surrounds us–old folk songs that I know, some gospel that I learn along the way, songs of protest, songs of hope. Walking from the Ellipse, past Treasury and Commerce. The Washington Monument over our shoulders. We can no longer see the Potomac or the magnificent Lincoln Memorial.
KEEP HOPE ALIVE!
“He has to go,” people chant. Whether it is in song, chant, or cheer, we draw strength, courage, and pride from this community of united voices.
All around us, marchers take pictures. Of everyone. Of each other. Of us. Some have camera trouble and ask us to “Take one for me?”
Under an enormous oak on the Mall, I meet a woman I worked with in 1984. Joy spreads through our hearts and across our faces as we recognize each other. A blessing in this sea of faces and signs. Time stands still for five minutes.
WOMEN ARE ANGRY– NATIVE WOMEN, WOMEN IN UNIFORM, RURAL WOMEN…
As we walk back to the Metro, we stop at the Smithsonian Castle to use the bathrooms. Men and women hold doors open for each other, deposit pockets full of trash in barrels set up by the National Park Service, and wish each other a safe trip home. A lady from Arizona doesn’t seem to mind that she will miss her flight. “There will be another,” she smiles.
Our courage and determination have been energized by the men and women around us. We feel blessed by the challenges and friends that this day has given us. We talk about the friends and family we will educate when we get home. We aren’t even tired. Our hearts are strong, and our feet are focused on the path ahead. The date is April 5, 1992.
Twenty-five years later, marching again, we are surround by signs again. Hundreds of signs.
WE WON’T GO BACK!
Former English teacher and health care professional, Lydia Bogar says she’s still not used to this retirement thing. She joined BOLLI in the spring of 2016 after returning home from a stint in South Carolina where she dipped into another OLLI program.
In 1998 we went to China, and I noticed that General Tso’s Chicken was never on the menu. I asked and was told that they never heard of it, and anyway, who was General Tso? Since then, I have done some research, and it seems that it was named after Tso Tsung-t’ang (1812–1885), a Qing Dynasty military leader who suppressed the 1862–1877 Dungan Revolt. Now you can impress your friends.
This recipe came off the net many years ago, though I have fiddled with it. It tastes exactly like the best version I’ve ever had out. Remember that the Cayenne pepper powder can be very hot. Presumably dried peppers can also be used, but I couldn’t find them. Make sure that you use Asian sticky rice, and not something like Uncle Ben’s. If you haven’t used Sticky Rice, be careful with the amount of water. It usually takes about 50% more than what the bag says, so check it periodically as it cooks the 20 minutesm to make sure that it doesn’t burn.
This recipe is for a small amount of chicken. White meat dries out, so always make it with boneless, skinless thighs. That also makes it possible to reheat it without turning it into cardboard.
1 lb Chicken (best with dark meat)
3 tbs cornstarch (for coating)
1 egg, beaten
1 tbs cornstarch (to thicken)
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tbs sugar
1/4 cup vinegar
1 small onion, sliced thin and in half
spicy red pepper, as desired
1 tsp ginger, minced
1 1/2 tbs water, cold (for cornstarch)
1/4 cup pineapple juide
1 clove garlic (sliced thin)
peanut oil (about 3/4 cup, add more as needed)
Note: If tripling the recipe (to serve 6-8) you need only double the egg/cornstarch mixture, but triple the sauce.
Depending on where you buy the thighs, there might be some tough strands attached that you have to remove with a sharp knife. Cut the chicken into chunks. One thigh might be 4 pieces, but it depends on the size of the thigh.
Mix cornstarch and egg and coat the chicken. Once mixed, it will separate after about 5 minutes, so you might have to re-stir it.
Heat oil very hot in a wok, electric fry pan, or regular fry pan and fry chicken. This will take about 5 minutes and chicken should be turned. If there is a lot of chicken, do it by turns. The pieces of chicken should not be touching, or they will attach to one another. Don’t overcook the chicken.
Remove chicken to a side tray, keeping it warm in the oven at 200° which will not continue to cook it.
Remove all but a few Tbs. of the oil and cook the onion, covered, along with the pepper. You may need to add some water to keep it from burning. I like the onions to be soft but not mushy, and certainly not blackened. The best way to slice an onion is to cut it in half, from north to south pole, and then using a very sharp knife, make the slices.
Mix the juice, vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, garlic and ginger and add to the onion mixture. Cook until it boils and the sugar is dissolved. This takes 1-2 minutes.
Add the cornstarch/water mixture to thicken the sauce, and add the chicken, stirring constantly. Serve immediately. Reduce the cornstarch if you want a thinner sauce.
Serve over sticky rice (about ¾ cup per person) with steamed broccoli on the side.
Though I have never seen it in a restaurant, I like to cut celery stalks ½“ thick and cook in butter about 5 minutes (in a separate pan) and add them in.
THE CHEF’S CORNER: John says that it was his mother who inspired his love of cooking and baking at an early age. (She cooked exclusively vegetables in boilable packages.)
“How to Become a Superager,” (a recent NY Times article) gives added credence to the well-known phrase, “Use it or lose it.” The author, Lisa Feldman Barrett, recommends that we elders work HARD at intellectual and physical challenges. She writes, “If people consistently sidestep the discomfort of mental effort or physical exertion, this restraint can be detrimental to the brain,” since, “all brain tissue gets thinner from disuse. If you don’t use it, you lose it….so work that brain.” What is more, she says, “The discomfort of exertion means you’re building muscle and discipline….superagers excel at pushing past the temporary unpleasantness of intense effort.” (To access this article, click here)
This is great advice that we BOLLI members follow in our course work—right? But we are, after all, “seasonal learners” with long interruptions between semesters. When I started to think about how to keep building brain muscle during BOLLI’s course breaks, I discovered that even vacation can keep us superagers going.
EXERCISING MY SUPERAGER BRAIN WHILE ON VACATION!
I’d like to think that the luxury of being able to purchase and outfit a new vacation condo in Florida has given me and my husband a multitude of opportunities to exercise our superager brain muscles. The challenges of setting up a new apartment are multiple, even to experienced hands like us. Here’s what I mean:
Let’s see. First of all, how shall I equip my now empty condo?
I start by making a floorplan and a color chart. Next, I decide what furnishings we need and make a master list. It doesn’t take long before I have to look for the often misplaced list, but when I find it, I tend to revise it. Then, I take it with us when we go shopping. Back home in Boston, I dig up unbreakable furnishings (linens, trays, small rugs, etc.) that we could use in Florida. I pack them up and ship them down. (I should have made a list of them…)
Next, I explore the resources my new surroundings have to offer. What stores carry the things I will need? How do I find those stores and websites that reliably provide “stuff”? I consider the advice of the other newcomers we meet about how they achieved the same goals. I learn about “consignment shops” where “lightly used” used items of often good quality are sold. Sarasota has about 35. And this kind of shopping offers adventure! You never know what you may find—or how quickly someone else will spot that terrific bargain. I’ve learned to be prepared to purchase on the spot. I’ve also learned to schedule deliveries so that I will be at home when these purchases arrive.
But furnishing a new space isn’t all that this kind of relocating involves. Our superaging brains get lots of exercise as we memorize lots of new code numbers: beach locker number, house entrance number, security number, cell phone number, etc., etc., etc. I have to write them down. (And then look for this list later, too.) We also have to learn directions: east, west, north, and south–especially difficult for me since I am–and always have been–“directionally challenged.” We have to learn the names and locations of new streets, highways, restaurants, movie houses, parks, beaches, etc.
And, of course, probably most important of all, we need to think about how to create a new social life.
We make lists of activities that seem like they will be fun or worthwhile. We locate the best lifelong learning center in the area so we can continue to do classroom learning. And all along the way, we make new friends. (The challenge, of course, is to remember their names.) And, of course, we make sure that we stay in touch with old friends—they are the best.
We also need to schedule visitors. And that takes special planning—how many and how often is too much? Of all my tasks, this one seems to be the most challenging to me.
I am reminded of a hint from the renowned psychologist, B.F. Skinner. He said that as we age, we forget a lot, and we ought to routinely equip ourselves with a pad that we wear around our necks that contain our “lists.”
Do you think pads around the neck could become the new fashion accessory for us “superagers”?
Eleanor says that, “As I grow older, I am more interested in the conditions, changes, services, culture, and even politics affecting me, my husband of 53 years, my friends — and my 102 year old mother. What does it mean to be growing older in today’s society? To satisfy my growing curiosity, I created and taught three different classes about aging issues over the past several years at BOLLI. My experiences as a social worker and as a high school teacher of English–plus a lot of reading about aging and loss—and, of course, living to 80 (so far)–have prepared me to write this blog.
During the final week of our Fall Term, BOLLI’s “Book Group” engaged lunchtime attendees in a BOLLI-wide discussion of Philip Roth’s novel, Indignation.
Roth’s book is set in the 1950s and features a butcher’s son from Newark who escapes the family ties that bind by enrolling at a small, traditional college far from home in the rural Midwest.
The BOLLI Book Group’s co-organizers, Abby Pinard and Charlie Marz, moderated the event. “I think the One Bolli, One Book conversation went extremely well,” Charlie says. “I’m not very good at estimating the number of people in a crowd, but I would say there were at least 3 or 400 people in the room.” Abby suggests that 30-40 were actively engaged in the conversation circle, and mentions that another 10-20 observed from the tables.
Charlie points to the conversation as having been lively and substantive. “Rosalie Fink told me that, although she hadn’t read the novel, she found the discussion so interesting that she went out and bought it and read it, and, since that time, she’s become a bit obsessed by Roth, recommending that we do another one of his novels–American Pastoral or Nemesis. Another ‘silent’ participant, Marty Kafka from The New Yorker Fiction Salon, told me that, although he hadn’t read the book, he found the discussion so interesting that he stayed just to observe/listen.”
Both Charlie and Abby believe that the event may become an annual one, but, whether that happens or not, the BOLLI Book Group offers excellent reading and discussion opportunities on a regular basis.
Watch The Bulletin for specifics about the group’s upcoming reading and discussion plans.