Jul 21, 2017 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Before the Dawn of Time

Okay, so I haven’t had The School That Was:  A School Marm’s Tale for THAT long–I just wanted the literary allusion–but still.  I’m assuming I bought it for a buck when I was working at Borders, although I can’t remember for certain.  It makes sense that it would be on a non-returnable sale, however, because I couldn’t find it on Amazon.

Seriously.  There’s something a little trippy about looking at a book that Amazon doesn’t recognize as existing.  (Goodreads does, though.  In case you were wondering.)  After reading it, however, I can’t say that I’m surprised.  I love history and I’m a sucker for educators’ memoirs, and what I can honestly say about this book is that it was interesting overall.  Not fascinating, mind you.  Just very interesting on an odd page or three and fairly interesting for about two-thirds of what was left; the rest of it was, well, NOT interesting.  Not to me, anyway.  It would appeal more to those who lived within the author’s school district, perhaps, but even then they would have to be old enough to care about the names of all of her students (in her several one room schoolhouses) and the names of the school board officials for each school.  If you’re passionate about history AND education, you’ll get a kick out of the rules for teachers in 1872 and the descriptions of what was once considered luxury plumbing, but you’re going to need both interests to make this one worth your time.  (Although to be fair, it’s 66 pages plus 10 appendices, so it isn’t as if it’s a big time commitment.)  If you happen to be passionate about both of those and feel a desperate need to read this book, let me know by Wednesday and it’s yours.  Otherwise, it’s getting donated on our next trip to the library.

Jul 20, 2017 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Preparations

This year my friend is helping me throw honest-to-goodness birthday parties for my children, because she’s really good at it.  (I’m really not.  But I enjoy gift wrapping, and she hates it.  We’re enjoying the fruits of each others’ labors.)  Last night we made the goodie bags, among other things, and I was apparently too wrapped up in that to remember to post.  Today, however, I am repenting!  Remember how I quite enjoyed Matthew Loux’s The Time Museum?  Well, when I looked into his other books, I found a graphic series entitled Salt Water Taffy:  The Seaside Adventures of Jack and Benny.  I put the first volume–The Legend of Old Salty–on hold and picked it up yesterday; I finished it this morning.

It was short.

It was a lot of fun, though.  I went on family road trips as a kid–some to coastal Maine, actually–and while I didn’t share the boys’ initial attitude, the story still made me feel all reminisce-y.  (Yes, I know that can’t possibly be a word.  Work with me.)  The story is fun and moves right along, and the art is nicely expressive and adds to the plot.  (Except for the hands.  I’ve heard that hands are very hard to draw, and it must be true–I had to stare at an early page for quite a while before I realized what those lines on his lap were.  Once that happened, I couldn’t help noticing the weirdly drawn hands, and that was slightly distracting.)  I was a bit worried at the start that the boys were going to be punks, but that turned out to be more of a “we’ve been in this car forever and we can’t take it and each other anymore” kind of scene.  Bottom line?  Middle to early elementary schoolers who like adventure should enjoy this one.

Jul 17, 2017 - Uncategorized    No Comments

THIS.

Shannon Hale’s graphic memoir was already on my list, simply because it’s Shannon Hale, and it’s a memoir, and what’s not to love?  Then my friend Britt told me that I needed to read it sooner rather than later because it was going to speak to me, and so I put it on hold on my daughter’s card.  (Because really, she was going to want to read it too.)  It took forever to come in–it’s new, and it’s Shannon Hale, and every other library patron in the valley seems to have ALSO put it on hold–but come in it did.

And my friend wasn’t kidding.   This spoke to me, people–the uncertainty of not fitting in as an elementary schooler; the difficulty of finding true friends, as well as of being one; even the difficulty of siblings being too wrapped up in their separate adolescences to realize how to be friends to each other.  (And the redhead struggles!  Even those!)  When I read the Author’s Note, I just thought yes! a thousand times yes!

What more can I say?  If you have a girl between the ages of 6 and 16, get her this book–and then read it yourself.  And then, as Shannon Hale says, “we can say to each other, ‘Hey, me too!  Isn’t that something?  To realize I’m not the only one?”

Real Friends


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Jul 16, 2017 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Late Night Review

This still counts as the 15th, right?  I mean, yes, it’s after midnight, but I’m still up!  I thought about not posting, but I’m not yet sleepy, and I’ve missed too many times this summer already; still, since it IS so late, this is going to be a short review of a short book.

So–The Poet’s Dog, by Patricia MacLachlan.  I’ve already talked about how much I love her–the woman can say more with less than almost anybody else writing intermediate fiction at the moment–but I suspect I would have loved this particular book more if I loved dogs.  (Or liked dogs.)  She does, I know; this isn’t the first of the books I’ve read by her that has a prominent canine component to the plot.  As a definite cat person, however, I found this book to be a sweet little story that just wasn’t quite as relatable for me as her books usually are.  That said, it’s still a lovely vignette on grief, rescue, and love, and I’m absolutely going to see if my second girlie wants to read it.

See?  A short review of a short book.  There you have it, folks.  Here’s hoping our tired family all survives the day tomorrow!

The Poet’s Dog


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Jul 13, 2017 - Uncategorized    No Comments

‘A Sucker Born Every Minute’

I started The Giant and How He Humbugged America quite a while ago but set it aside to read some other things; I finally finished it last night, and I’m still basking in the glow of bringing a long project to completion!  (Which is silly, really–it’s got less than a hundred pages.  But still.)

I’ve read at least five other Jim Murphy books, including two Newberys.  I’m in a stage of life where adult nonfiction requires more time and focus than I’ve got, and so intermediate nonfiction affords me the opportunity to indulge my passion for history in a way that seems, you know, possible.  When I grabbed this one from the library I knew very little about the topic, other than that the Cardiff Giant was a thing–and a hoax of a thing.  Interestingly, I think I enjoyed this somewhat less than Murphy’s others (at least the ones I’ve read) for precisely that reason.  In general, I like reading about people, and the Cardiff Giant being a ‘thing’ meant fewer details about people (not to mention that what details there were to be had are close to 150 years old!).  It’s still a fascinating story, however, and a bit mind blowing as well.  What kind of person puts that kind of time, money, and planning into such a hoax?

One of the best features of Murphy’s book is how he ends it, in my opinion; instead of leaving the Giant to be an isolated incident in his readers’ minds, he takes us through a history of hoaxes and frauds that continues into the 21st century.  Historical context and relevancy are invaluable in a good piece of nonfiction, and Jim Murphy does a fine job of both.  If the idea of an elaborately planned 19th century hoax interests you, try this one; if not, check out his other titles.  You’re bound to find a few that grab your attention.

The Giant and How He Humbugged America


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Jul 11, 2017 - Uncategorized    No Comments

As Converted As I’ll Ever Be

I’ve been saying for more than a year that graphic novels aren’t my thing, but I have to say–I really enjoyed Matthew Loux’s The Time Museum.  I don’t read much fantasy or sci-fi anymore, but it occurs to me that graphic novels may be a way for me to occasionally do it without an overwhelming time commitment; The Time Museum was an enjoyable read and a complete plot that took me less than a week (of crazy July time, no less!) to read.  What’s not to love?  The idea of a museum outside of time and the time travelers who seek out exhibits of value for it is a neat one, while Delia and her competitors (friends?) feel like a group the book’s target audience should enjoy.  (I assume.  I enjoyed them, certainly.  At almost 38, however, I suppose I’m just guessing at this point.)  My only complaint was Delia’s reticence where the Grey Earl is concerned, but that’s probably not unrealistic.  On the other hand, the friendships, the time-missions, and the twists were far more engrossing than I expected them to be, which is why I’m telling those with latter elementary schoolers or junior highers (we’re just going to call that a word, okay?)–don’t miss this one!

The Time Museum


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Jul 9, 2017 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Back to Normalcy–Maybe!

I was absolutely going to review another book on Friday, but that got swallowed up in the last minute “what do we wear for the family picture” confusion, and then we were staying with one of my hubby’s sisters overnight so that we could be in said picture and then head out for the family Amazing Race afterwards.  If you’ve never had such an event, by the way, I highly recommend it–although it’s hard to imagine anyone doing a better job than the sister- and brother-in-law who plan ours. (It’s actually another one of my hubby’s sisters and her husband.  Now I wish I’d asked their permission to use real names on here, because he’s got four sisters altogether, and getting the plurals and pronouns right–or at least clear–is giving me fits at the moment!)  I wish I had the time and energy to give you a full rundown, but since both of those are lacking, I’ll content myself with applauding the winning team, which included my oldest.  My team was third, my hubby’s was sixth, and it was both a fun and a very full day.

Anyway.  While we’re on the topic of fun things, you should really grab the The 3-2-3 Detective Agency:  The Disappearance of Dave Warthog for your elementary schoolers.  I put it on hold because my kids really liked a picture book by the same author, and while the writing is not as clever and fabulous as it could possibly be, the plot is hysterical and the illustrations complement it nicely.  Have you ever wondered what would happen if a hyperactive sloth, an insignificant rat, an aspiring actress/penguin, and a dung beetle/gourmet chef met each other and a donkey detective-to-be on a train?  Well, my friends, wonder no more.  Jenny Donkey convinces the others to join her at her new detective agency offices, where they begin investigating the disappearance of animals from all over Whiska City.  Their investigations lead them to a hair salon, a gated poodle community, and a great deal of cotton candy–all in the course of a 74-page graphic novel.  It flirts with a bit of bathroom humor in one spot but doesn’t fully commit, and the rest of it is just bizarrely funny.  Give it a try, because your kids are going to laugh–and so are you!

Jul 5, 2017 - Uncategorized    No Comments

In Summer…

I do apologize if I’ve gotten that song stuck in your head, but really, it summed up the last week or two nicely.  In summer family comes to town…in summer we go to visit family, which involves packing and preparations and general distractions…in summer we have birthdays, and holidays…in summer we have ALL THE THINGS.   Which is, of course, why I disappeared for–well, however long it’s been since my last post.  I missed a post or two because I had family IN town and I was simultaneously preparing to go OUT of town, and then, of course, I was out of town.  We drove back from Idaho on Monday, which was my son’s birthday, but stopped to celebrate with the other side of the family and spent the night and the day of the 4th there before coming home.

We’re tired.

BUT–my sweet, stubborn boy is 5, and the kids got to bed on time tonight.  Life is good!

Now.  Before I left for Idaho–my parents and my siblings and their families are all up there now–I decided to forget trying to finish the book I was actively reading and focus on SHORT books, since vacation makes for distracted reading time.  The good news is that I’ve managed to finish three of the books I brought, and I’m more than halfway through the fourth (sure, three of the four are graphic novels, but I take what I can get!).  My first triumph was The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Romeo and Juliet, which was every bit as well done as TSZMRP Macbeth (we’re going with that abbreviation henceforth, by the way; typing the full name out is exhausting!).*  I did wonder about the casting at first–a rooster and a bear? really?–but it made sense by the end of the book.  Once again, the creators managed to keep the essence of a Shakespearean tragedy while marrying it to a comedic graphic novel, which is an impressive feat.  The difficulty may explain why only two of these have been written, but I’m holding out a forlorn hope for more.  We’ll see what happens!

*In all fairness, I have to admit that I didn’t like this one quite as much as Macbeth–but that reflects my feelings about the actual plays rather than any flaw in the book.  Who doesn’t like the Scottish play better?

Jun 21, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on So Few Ingredients, So Much Chocolate-y Goodness

So Few Ingredients, So Much Chocolate-y Goodness

Yesterday my oldest girl went to Lagoon-A-Beach (yes, I had to google that spelling) with cousins and two trading-off aunts, because my in-laws are awesome; I stayed home with my other three, and while my two-year-old was napping, I may or may not have bribed the other two to clean.

Okay, I totally bribed them.  But in my defense, it was more because they each had to clean something up ALONE, one inside, one outside; those two are not so much fans of the cleaning alone.  And really, the bribe was for making treats together; they didn’t get any until after dinner, when we all tried them.  (Although that was more because they had to cool and then be refrigerated for two hours…)

ANYWAY.  To make a long story slightly shorter, we tried these “Decadent Semisweet Cookie Bars” from 101 Things To Do With Chocolate–which is totally worth the $5 that Amazon is charging for it–and they were both easy and surprisingly delicious for a recipe with only 5 ingredients.  My daughter stirred the melting chocolate chips/sweetened condensed milk/vanilla mixture while my son counted out the Oreos and then helped pat the crust into the pan; both of them also figured prominently in the licking of scrapers after the treats were in the oven!  Here are the specifics, so that you can make your own pan of chocolate loveliness at your (in)discretion…

Crush about 22 Oreos (or knock-offs) into fine crumbs and mix with 4 T of melted butter.  Press that into a 9 x 13 pan.  Next, heat 1 C of chocolate chips, a can of sweetened condensed milk, and about a t of vanilla over low heat until the chocolate chips are melted and everything is combined; pour that evenly over the crust.  (Don’t expect it to spread nicely from the middle without picking up crumbs from the crust.)  Sprinkle another cup of chocolate chips over the top of that, and then crumble the remaining Oreos from the package over the top of that.  Bake at 325 for 20 minutes, allow to cool, and then refrigerate for a couple of hours before cutting into bars.

These were tasty, people.  I was afraid they’d be a little one-note, flavor-wise, but no.  These need to happen in your kitchen–because this will definitely not be the last time they happen in mine!

101 Things to Do with Chocolate


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Jun 19, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Lost in the Shuffle

Lost in the Shuffle

Okay, I did remember once or twice on Saturday that I was due to post, but wowsers.  I spent the day with my oldest daughter and a couple of nieces at Lagoon, Utah’s big amusement park, and then I did mad laundry and dishes and took the older two girls Father’s Day shopping and worked on a brief talk (I spoke in church) and a primary lesson (I also subbed for my oldest daughter’s class).  Sunday, of course, was Father’s Day, so in addition to the talk and the lesson there were treats to make and vegetables to chop and a present to wrap and an evening at my in-laws’.  And TODAY my friend and I took the kids on a “kid-friendly” hike that was a bit steep for the two-year-olds; there was dirt on fresh sunscreen (it STICKS) and then the waterfall and then more dirt on various-degrees-of-wet clothes.  (There were also slushies afterwards, because we were driving home during Sonic’s happy hour and managed–between the two of us–to remember where one was on the way home.)  And then there were various baths and showers, because no one was allowed inside on the carpet without them.  (Because SO.  MUCH.  DIRT.)  And THEN there was dinner for eleven.

The good news is that my dishwasher has run, I’ve done two loads of wash today, I’ve washed four things by hand (which I LOATHE doing), and I’ve read my scriptures.  The bad news is that a)after all that, I still need to practice the piano, which leaves me zero extra energy to review anything, and b)it’s supposed to hit 100 tomorrow.  (I hate triple digit temperatures.)  And so–until Wednesday, folks.  Stay cool out there!

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