I’ve read quite a few of Margarita Engle’s verse novels and more or less loved them all; she tells stories I know nothing about in language that sings. I think, however, that I’ve been too tired with the start of school to fully appreciate Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal. The intertwined stories were engrossing, the ‘Forest’ sections brilliant, and the story as a whole simply amazing; it was difficult, however, to focus on the plot as easily as I usually do, because she evokes the setting so poetically. (I wish I’d read this at a time in my life that I wasn’t going to bed at midnight-ish and waking up before seven.) It’s a fascinating book, mind you, and it tells quite a different side of the story than I remember learning in junior high, but Engle’s verse novels are closer to the verse end of the spectrum than the novel end. Read this one and more–they’re fabulous–but try and read them when you’re at least partially rested.
I was totally planning on reviewing a book today, but the weather changed, and it’s so incredibly beautiful! There is RAIN! And coolness! Hallelujah!
Not that the weather changing automatically edges out a book review, of course–I could wax rhapsodic about the change AND do a review–but I was pondering my dinner plan on the phone with my friend Andrea, and she pointed out to me that soup could actually be an option again. Yay soup! Onto Pinterest I went, and since my older girls have piano from 3-4 on Fridays, I went with this Vegan Lemon Chickpea Orzo Soup.
In all fairness, mine wasn’t vegan–I don’t stock vegetable broth, since chicken works for us. I also substituted half oregano, half basil for the thyme, because thyme does not so much work for us. And none of my children loved it as much as I did, because I alone in my household fully appreciate the beauty of lemon. They all ate it, however, and oh, I enjoyed it! No meat to thaw, no long term cooking–easy and fast and delicious. (Not to mention fairly healthy!) If it’s soup weather where you are, give this a try!
- I apparently have a corneal abrasion in my right eye.
- I also have a temporary contact there, to prevent my eyelid from rubbing it painfully every time I blink.
- My sister-in-law and I (one of them) made 15 pints of grape freezer jam today. Want some?
- I’m almost done with the book that’s both beautiful and, sadly, not what I’m in the mood for right now. Hallelujah!
- My son is still struggling with being away from me during kindergarten. I’m open to suggestions…
- I have to be dressed and ready obscenely early tomorrow in order to go back to the eye doctor.
- Which means I’m headed off to the shower, and then to finish my book, and then to sleep. Goodnight all!
Okay, that title was more fun than accurate, but here’s the thing. I’ve had something bothering my eye for the last 24+ hours, and I really just want to get in the shower and see if that helps. In the meantime, the Apple Pie Oreos are decent (although not amazing), but the PB&J ones not so much. My hubby and I have mostly different dessert preferences and neither one of us liked them. (The kids did, but you know how that goes.) There’s my brief review–wish my eye luck!
Does anyone else hate making dinner on Saturdays? I’m usually poopered from all of the random projects we tackle on the weekend; for a while there it felt like we were ordering pizza more often than not. In an effort to rectify the situation, I started to consciously plan crockpot meals on Saturdays. All of the work happened in the morning when I was working anyway, and then at dinnertime, poof! dinner. What’s not to love? And since today is, in fact, Saturday (right? because on Monday holiday weeks I do struggle!), I figured I’d highlight three of the recipes I’ve tried thus far.
Crockpot Cowboy Casserole: This was heavier than our usual fare, but it worked for me. I cut the ground beef down to a pound and used pinto beans instead of kidney beans (personal preference); I also heeded the warning in the comments to season the potatoes generously. I quickly sauteed the onions and garlic in a bit of oil before tossing them in, because they taste so much better that way, and we just topped our individual portions with the cheese. It’s hearty, it’s filling, and it’s surprisingly tasty. (It also completely fills a medium-sized slow cooker.)
Cheesy Ranch Chicken and Potatoes: This was tasty! I did make a homemade cream of chicken soup mixture, since it’s fairly easy and I prefer the taste, but otherwise I followed the recipe on this one. Not precisely low-fat, but we enjoyed it.
Crock Pot Italian-Seasoned Chicken with Potatoes: I really liked this one the day it was made, but the leftovers made the Italian dressing feel a bit strong. It also could have used more potatoes to feel nicely balanced. I threw a few baby carrots in, but regular carrot slices would have been tastier, and possibly more of them. (Although be warned–it was already a very full crock pot.)
There you have it–three ideas in one! And I’m sure this won’t be the last post of its kind. In the meantime, though, what do you do for dinner on Saturdays?
The reason I spaced last night’s post is actually kind of exciting; between Wednesday night and Thursday night, my hubby and I actually managed to watch an entire movie together. (I told you it was exciting. Do you have any idea how long it’s been since we did that? No? Neither do I.) By the time we finished “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” it was late and I was tired and only did the bare minimum before bed. To make up for it, here are my impressions of “Fantastic Beasts”…
- Not quite what I was expecting, but quite a ride. I liked it.
- Is it just me, or did Eddie Redmayne play his character as mildly autistic?
- So Creepy in spots.
- I want pastries!
- Colin Farrell is good at upsetting me; between “Fantastic Beasts” and “Saving Mr. Banks,” it’s kind of hard to look at him. Which, I suppose, means he’s good at his job.
If you haven’t seen it, you should. Until tomorrow, folks!
I procrastinated reading Like Carrot Juice on a Cupcake for ages. Not because I didn’t enjoy Julie Sternberg’s other two Eleanor books–because I did–and not because it was incredibly long–because it’s not. No, I procrastinated because, according to the description, it was one of those plots. The kind where the new girl comes in between a pair of friends, and the left-out friend does something mean, and oh, the drama! The good news is, once I made myself get into it, it was a lot like the first several seasons of “Castle”; it resolved a common and frustrating conflict in an unexpectedly positive, not-annoying way. Hallelujah!
In the first place, the new girl is perfectly nice and friendly to both friends. Eleanor feels left out because Pearl is assigned to be Ainsley’s buddy, which ends up taking away some of the after-school time the two usually spend together. What’s more, Eleanor’s mean thing is a spur-of-the-moment, desperate to deflect attention from herself sort of thing, NOT a premeditated act. As an adult, you know early on that there will be trouble, but everyone involved is just being a regular elementary schooler. The resolution isn’t aggravatingly drawn out, and it has some laugh-out-loud moments. What’s not to love? Carrot Juice is a good example of dealing with everyday elementary school conflict, and a great read for grades 1-3. If you’ve got a daughter that age, don’t miss the Eleanor books!
I thawed the last of a bag of frozen chicken breasts from Costco the other day, so I went looking for a chicken recipe to make for dinner. EXCEPT that I already had a loaf of applesauce oatmeal bread planned as the carb (I’ll get to that recipe another day, I promise), so I needed a recipe that didn’t involve potatoes, pasta, or sauce that begged to be served over rice. (I had NO IDEA how hard that would be, by the way.) What I came up with–after some searching, I tell you what–was this Bruschetta Chicken.
And it was TASTY.
It’s possible that I loved it a bit more than anyone else in my family did, but oh, it was delightful! If you love bruschetta–and you have lovely garden tomatoes and a neighbor with fresh basil to share–make this for dinner. The only changes I made were to sub in flavored bread crumbs for the croutons and to generously season the breasts with garlic pepper seasoning before dipping them in the flour, since several comments noted that the chicken was bland. That absolutely did the trick, making for a flavorful dinner that screamed fresh summer flavors.
I actually tried to post yesterday, believe it or not. I got as far as the title and then my cursor wouldn’t allow me to start the actual post. My eyes were so miserably itchy, however, that instead of asking my hubby about it I hopped in the shower and finished my book instead. I did ask him this morning; he had me deactivate the ad blocker (is that two words?) on this site. (He activated it on my computer a day or two ago because I couldn’t handle the constant Arby’s ads on Goodreads–there’s no way to close them, they bump you down to the comments instead of letting you read the summary you’re looking for, and they play over and over. If I’d had to hear “WE HAVE THE MEAT!” one more time I might have gone over the edge.) That solved the problem, and so here I am! (Sadly, still with the miserably itchy eyes. Prescription eye drops cost an arm and a leg, and anything that’s not eye-specific is likely to make me sleepier than I already am, which is NOT a good thing.)
Anyway. I was going to review a recipe yesterday, but since I stayed up later than I should have to finish my book last night, you get that review instead. Or rather, you get a choice; I can offer you a long review or a short.
Long Review: Oh, how I loved this book! Listen, Slowly is by the same author as Inside Out & Back Again, which was an incredibly deserving Newbery Honor book in 2012. (I’d tell you the author’s name, but now I’m self-conscious about all the diacritical marks necessary in Vietnamese and I have no idea how to properly depict it on this blog.) I was expecting it to be sort of similar to its predecessor, but not so much. IO&BA was beautiful and made me cry, whereas Listen was fabulously funny with moments of near-perfect poignancy. The former is a verse novel with a narrator I related to, while the latter is in prose with a narrator I didn’t always like at first. (I didn’t necessarily relate to her for any of the book, but I did like her by the end. Mostly.) The thing is, I didn’t have to like her. Her voice is strong and funny and outrageous from the get-go, and her journey is a real one. I laughed out loud enough times that I stopped counting, and yet Listen has depth to spare. Mai’s reluctant mission in Vietnam is to help her Grandmother accept that her Grandfather, lost in the war, is truly gone; she wanted to spend the summer on the beach back home in California, working up the courage to talk to her crush. The outcome, from a general sense, is predictable, and yet the story itself is fresh and unexpected and delightful. Bottom line? Everyone from 5th or 6th grade on up ought to read this book.
Short Review: Listen, Slowly is $3.84 on Amazon, for Pete’s sake. Go buy the book. (Unless you’re my sister, because then you’re buying a house and so officially moving again, which means it’s already on its way.)
Every once in a while I pick up a block of Monterey Jack, thinking hey, I’ll make a bunch of those recipes I always see that call for it. Only once I actually have the Jack in my fridge, do you think I can find any of those recipes? That’d be a big fat NOPE. In desperation, then, I did a search of my pins on Pinterest for ‘Monterey’ and came up with this Monterey Chicken Pasta Bake.
It was tasty.
Of course, it’s hard for pasta, chicken, and bacon in a homemade sauce not to be tasty, but still. I completely ignored the amounts listed for the chopped tomatoes and cilantro, because seriously–how can you use them as toppings if you have such small amounts of each for an entire 9 by 13 pan? (It’s baffling, I tell you what.) I also didn’t bother to measure the Parmesan, because who measures Parmesan cheese that just gets sprinkled on top in the last 10 minutes of baking? (Also baffling.) Other than that, though, I followed the recipe*, and while the rigatoni was a bit on the awkward side for my younger kiddos, we all enjoyed it. If you’re looking for some cheesy, chicken-y, bacon-y pasta goodness–and who isn’t?–make this recipe. And go wild with the garden tomatoes on top!
*Technically, I used half an onion and part of a shallot instead of one small onion, but that was entirely a function of using what was already in baggies in my fridge–and I doubt it changed the flavor significantly.