Archive from September, 2014
Sep 29, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Willy Wonka Meets Jumanji

Willy Wonka Meets Jumanji

It’s not perfect, but it’s the best I could come up with to describe Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library.  The premise is very Charlie and the Chocolate Factory…renowned (eccentric) game inventor Luigi Lemoncello is connected to the fabulous new library in Kyle Keeley’s hometown, and it turns out the extra-credit essay that Kyle forgot to do is his ticket into the grand opening overnight celebration.  Kyle, of course, manages to overcome his memory lapse to end up as one of the 12 12-year-olds who attend the celebration; the event takes a more exciting turn,  however, when they find themselves locked in the next morning, with a set of rules governing their search for a way out.  (Don’t worry.  They have the option to opt out.)  The ensuing twists and turns are always surprising; there is also a bit of a Harry Potter-esque emphasis on friendship and teamwork over ‘every man for himself.’  My favorite thing about the book, though, was Mr. Lemoncello’s sly dropping of book titles into his every conversation.  (Newbery titles abound, but not only Newberys!)  He reminded me–very slightly, you understand–of Robin Williams’ Genie.

This book is a whole lot of fun; it keeps you guessing (mostly because of the sheer number of different puzzles and riddles involved); and it’s very easy to read.  Part of me really wants to give it five stars; the other part of me is struggling because it’s not the perfect fit for me, either topically or stylistically.  The thing is, neither of those things are anyone’s fault but mine.  It’s a good topic, and the writing style is perfect for contemporary, approachable works of intermediate fiction; it just so happens that I prefer historical fiction, with either a more formal or a more poetic style. That’s my thing.  On the other hand, I’m glad I stepped out of my box to read this one.  It was worth it.

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library


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Sep 27, 2014 - Uncategorized    1 Comment

Starting the Day Off Right–Mostly

Okay, I’m starting off with a disclaimer.  I wanted to post yesterday, and I’d be posting a longer post today, but the sad truth of the matter is, that I HAVE SHINGLES.  And it HURTS to sit at my computer.

(By the way, everything you hear about shingles being painful is, sadly, true.  Grrrr.)

I am, however, counting my blessings:  1)My hubby is taking very good care of me.  2)I have NOT the gag reflexes that two of my best friends have, which means I can swallow the huge blue pills (read:  biggest freaking things I have ever seen in my life) required to eventually stop having shingles.  (Hmmm.  I was going for 3, but I’ll have to think some more on that one.  And by the way, I originally started this paragraph with “However, I am,” and then I changed it, because despite the fact that Mrs. DiDonato’s sophomore English class was 21 years ago–am I REALLY that old?–I am still incapable of NOT neatly tucking in my howevers.)

Anyway.  To celebrate Saturday morning, since yesterday was kind of crazy even with no school, I decided to make breakfast.  I even persevered in my design after the fighting between my girlies, probably because the boy slept in and that made for a better morning regardless. (Not a good night’s sleep, necessarily.  I was up at 2:30, 3:30, 4:30, and 5:30.  Although to be fair, a LOT of people within the range of that thunderstorm were awake at 4:30, and the boy fussed at 5:30.)  Of course, it helped that these Chocolate Banana Muffins were easy and used up all of the dying bananas on my counter!  And OH, my, they were good.  They do have a lot of sugar in them for a breakfast bread, but I used a cup of whole wheat flour to a 1/2 a cup of white, and they were so good that way that I’d probably do even more next time.  At least that’s fiber, right?  And hey, it’s SATURDAY.  Which is why, despite the painful rash and fighting girlies and less-than-ideal night’s sleep, the day started off mostly right.  These muffins were moist, and chocolate-y, and banana-y, and soft, and delightful.  The salty creaminess of ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Light’ (dubbed the best tasting comparatively heart healthy butter substitute by my father after his heart attack) just made the whole experience that much better.  I didn’t even bother sprinkling the sugar on top (like we needed MORE sugar for breakfast!), and believe me, no one missed it.

These are good enough that I made them even when I realized that the power flicker last night meant I’d have to restart my computer and sign back into Pinterest to find the recipe at 8 in the morning, so please.  Do yourself a favor.  Scare up some dead bananas and go make these as soon as possible.

I promise you’ll be glad you did.

Sep 23, 2014 - Uncategorized    1 Comment

Another Hashbrown Casserole Attempt…

…Except that this one, as my sister pointed out, was more like a shepherd’s pie.  And I liked it!  My friend Andrea actually pinned this Hashbrown Hamburger Casserole with Veggies and Cheese recipe for me to look at, and I liked the idea of it for a couple of reasons.  The first, I suppose, was that it didn’t have the insane amounts of bad-for-you things in it that the lovely breakfast casserole I’ve been dreaming of did; the second was that it was a more complete meal.  I fudged a little on the 2 cups of frozen veggies, but mostly because I didn’t have any frozen mixed ones and I was NOT going to the store today.  I found a partial bag of frozen peas and carrots that my hubby bought in his “my family’s out of town and I’m going to experiment with ham fried rice” period, but I topped it off with a (drained) can of corn.  (Yes, I know it’s weird, but I have a sneaking fondness for canned corn.  Canned green beans I can take or leave, and canned peas are an abomination, but canned corn I can get behind.)

Anyway.

I used sharp cheddar cheese because I prefer the flavor, and I actually followed the recipe from there!  I thought it was tasty; my girlies both gave it a thumbs middle; and the boy, well, his attitude improved over the course of the meal.  (Never mind that it took Veggie Tales Silly Songs on my kitchen computer to get him to eat.)  The texture of the hashbrowns on top of a shepherd’s pie-style casserole was especially enjoyable for me; I think I might prefer it to the traditional mashed potatoes.  My hubby even enjoyed it, so what’s not to love?  If you want to experiment with something like a shepherd’s pie, give this one a try.

Sep 21, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on A FULL Weekend

A FULL Weekend

As you may have guessed, it was an EXTREMELY busy weekend–kind of.  Which means that we were mostly out of town and had several different things planned, but I still had time to finish a book.

Let me explain.  On Friday evening my nephew got baptized in Davis County (about 45 minutes away)–by the way, our faith baptizes at 8 (or when you’re ready, if that comes later)–and so I packed up the kids and the car to stay the weekend before heading up that way.  There was a sundae bar at my sister-in-law’s afterward, and then my girlies slept over at a cousin’s house while the boy played for a while before being caught for bed.  This later than usual bedtime, combined with no nap the day before, resulted in his very first night terror at 2:45-ish Saturday morning (NOT ideal when sleeping in a house with two visiting-from-out-of-state families staying over, plus some extra cousins).

Have I mentioned that I hate dealing with night terrors?  Because I really, really do.

Anyway, the next day I had a thing back in Salt Lake, and so my in-laws kept the boy while I went there and my hubby took the girlies to what turned out to be a very, very hot football game.  We stayed with my in-laws again Saturday night, because on Sunday the dedication of the new Ogden Temple was broadcast (at three different times) in lieu of regular church, and since you have to be 8 to attend, we tended one nephew while my hubby’s brother went with their parents, and then they tended various underage grandchildren while the rest of us went to the next session.  And then there was linner (lunch/dinner, of course!), and birthday cake and ice cream for my oldest niece on my hubby’s side, and then we hauled the kids and all of our stuff home to try to get them in bed on time and things (mostly) unpacked before the night got away from us.  (It’ll be a close call, but we’re giving it our best shot.)

Anyway.  You see where it was busy but I still had time?  Football games are long, and I was back at my in-laws’ house with the boy by the time it actually started.  We hung out all afternoon and early evening, and between that and the time I had after the kiddos were in bed, I got to finish John Boyne’s Stay Where You Are & Then Leave.  (By the way, John Boyne is the Irish (noticed that after I started the book) author of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, which has been on my list for quite some time.)

I actually picked this one up because the title caught my eye, but I checked it out of the library because L. M. Montgomery’s Rilla of Ingleside gave me a lasting interest in WWI.  (My 10th grade teacher helped me out with that, I have to say–it’s because of Mr. Bowes that I know, more or less, how WWI started and why.)  And I have to say, I did really enjoy it.  The writing style was completely different than what I was expecting, although interestingly similar to the style of the other Irish author of intermediate fiction that I’ve actually read.  Once I got past the shift in expectations, though, I found the story and the characters engaging.  There is one scene that seems rather far-fetched–what are the chances that a lower-middle-class 9-year-old would meet Prime Minister David Lloyd George and be in his company when the boy’s mother approaches him and speaks to him?  Without being noticed by said mother?–but I’m inclined to be forgiving, maybe because you don’t see a lot of fiction about the First World War nowadays.  Or perhaps it’s because the way the characters in the novel deal with shell-shock echoes, probably purposefully, the way the world is dealing with depression at the moment.  (I believe I’ve mentioned that this is a personal issue for my family.)  Either way, if WWI interests you, the book is absolutely worth picking up.  (Although I warn you–reading the last third of a book on that topic just before bed might give you some less-than-cheerful dreams.)

Stay Where You Are And Then Leave


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Sep 17, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Disappointment

Disappointment

Let me preface this by saying that I LOVE rice pudding.  Love it.  I know a lot of people who don’t, but I’ve always been a big fan.  (Provided, of course, that there are no raisins involved, because in my world, that’s just wrong.)  My Dad used to make it when I was growing up, and I was always excited about it.  Which is why I decided to try this Quinoa Pudding, because really, I was hoping I’d get what I love in rice pudding and more protein as well.

Yeah.  It didn’t work.

I should admit that my feelings on quinoa are mixed; I’ve made things I liked with it, but I often don’t enjoy the strong taste of the leftovers; I also sometimes struggle with the smell of it cooking.  (There was a quinoa/stomach flu incident a year and a half ago as well; it’s not something you want to be throwing up.)  What this recipe taught me, however, is that I probably shouldn’t try to eat quinoa in sweet recipes.  In my opinion, the stronger flavor lends itself much better to savory flavor profiles (although that strong flavor just increases when you’re eating leftovers, and I don’t love that for savory, either).  As for this specific recipe, well–if you like rice pudding and the taste of quinoa itself (a lot!), this might be the perfect recipe for you.  I, on the other hand, will not be making it again.

Sep 14, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on You’ll Die Happy

You’ll Die Happy

We went to Sunday dinner at my in-laws’ house tonight, so I opted to bring banana bread and dessert.  (Everyone else lives pretty close, and we have a 45 minute drive, so volunteering for the soup seemed impractical.  And why bring rolls when I made TWELVE DEAD BANANAS into banana bread yesterday?  Besides, it worked out–there was enough of everything.)  I looked up desserts last night, and I opted to go with these Fudgy Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe, because what’s not to love about THAT description?  And let me tell you–nothing.  There’s nothing not to love.

(Unless, of course, you count the crumbliness of the crust.  Do not be tempted to melt the butter in the pan in the pre-heating oven and toss the graham cracker crumbs in to mix them there.  It didn’t affect the taste, but they needed to be eaten on plates.  With forks.)

I do have to warn you, though.  They are totally delicious, and perfect for a get-together, but before you make them for just your family and have them sitting around your house all day, take a good look at the ingredients.  Because the bars have three layers, it’s easy not to realize just how much TOTAL there is of, well, many very delicious things that rack up the calories disturbingly quickly.  Then again, they’re pretty darn good–they got a thumbs up from the vast majority of the crowd–so do it if you want to.  Like I said–at least you’ll die happy!

Sep 12, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Peaches

Peaches

I love fresh peaches.  Love them.  And my husband?  He does not.  (Neither does the boy, actually.)  For this reason, mostly, I’ve never gotten into the habit of doing much with them when they’re in season–after all, it’s dangerous to make a dessert that I’m going to eat the vast majority of, and I’ve yet to acquire a canner and do any actual canning myself.  (I do freeze tomatoes and applesauce–separately, you understand–and I have hopes of canning once I’m out of the toddler stage.  I don’t do well undertaking prolonged projects when the danger of interruption is high.)  My neighbor, however, has a couple of peach trees in his yard, and this year he had a bumper crop.  I haven’t done as much with them as I’d like (although when my parents were visiting, we consumed rather a lot of them with Breyers Natural Vanilla ice cream), but I was looking through recipes the other night for a new breakfast bread to try for dinner (it was that kind of day), and I saw this recipe for Peach Streusel Muffins. Normally I would have had to pass it by regretfully, wishing I had  peaches on hand, but this time I thought–hey!  I know a guy!  I know a guy who’s actually trying to get rid of fresh peaches!  SCORE!

And so we had peach streusel muffins for dinner that night.  I pretty much followed the recipe, too, if you don’t count being casual about things like salted/unsalted butter.  I did sub in some wheat flour–I looked at the ingredients and decided that was the only way I could justify serving those muffins for dinner–but that’s pretty much it.  (They would have been lighter and fluffier without it, certainly, but I needed there to be a bit more substance to them.  Ah, well.)  The girlies were definitely fans, no doubt about it.  The boy, on the other hand, picked each and every peach out of his muffin before he ate it and refused to touch them, no matter what inducements were offered.  (Grrrr.)  My hubby said they were okay, which was probably high praise.

And I?  Well, my hubby liked them because “they weren’t strong peach,” and that was exactly my problem.  I LOVE FRESH PEACHES.  If I’m going to go to the trouble of peeling and chopping them, not to mention the trouble of making and adding both a streusel and a glaze on top of the muffins, I want the muffins to TASTE like peaches.  They were good muffins, yes, but the streusel and the glaze were the best part about them.  The peaches were a background note, and I wanted them to shine.

Of course, if you have your own peach tree and peaches are coming out your ears, so to speak, it’s worth it.  I mean, they were yummy.  But if peaches are a bit more of a treat to you, I’d look for a recipe that showcases them more.  Then again, it’s always up to you!

Sep 11, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Just a Few Thoughts, Here

Just a Few Thoughts, Here

I actually have two new recipes to share, but I felt like being opinionated tonight instead.  (I know, I know, that sounds nothing like me, right?) The recipes will come, I promise.  In the meantime, I keep seeing articles and opinions on Facebook about the new ‘date rape drug detector nail polish,’ and (shockingly) I have some thoughts on the subject I can’t help sharing.

1)  Can we just thank the guys who invented the nail polish?  They had an idea they thought might help and they did what I can only presume are cool scientific things in order to bring it to pass.  It’s a good invention, not a bad invention.  Let’s just thank them.  Buy the nail polish if you want to; don’t if you don’t.  Can’t we just leave it at that?

2)Yes, I think there are many appalling things about how rape is treated in this country.  I agree that writing about star athletes whose “lives fell apart” is ridiculous.  How about “kids with potential who threw it away because they felt that their personal desires took precedence over someone else’s”?  How about “violent criminals who had a community fooled”?  Isn’t that–essentially–what they are?

3)While I’m not disagreeing with the idea of a “rape culture,” I also think it’s a term that fails to fully communicate all aspects of the problem of rape in our society.  It’s hard to hear people espouse the idea of casual sex while agreeing that rape is always a violent and violating crime.  I agree that rape is always a violent and violating crime; I don’t agree that sex can actually be as casual as our society prefers to think it is.  I just think we disassociate the consequences from the act.

4)UNTIL we have successfully taught every man and boy (and, I suppose, woman and girl; I’m sure there’s a small percentage of those, too) that rape is a criminal, despicable act with severe consequences, WHAT, I ask you, is wrong with ALSO encouraging women to make safe decisions?  I lock my door because I know theft exists.  I teach my children to be careful of strangers because I know predators exist.  Ignoring the potential victims to try and prevent perpetrators isn’t going to solve the problem, either.

5)Until many, many more people in our society are outraged over the flagrant objectification of women in the media–Carl’s Jr., I ‘m talking about you–we are not going to eradicate rape.  When we encourage people to see women as sexual objects, how can we be surprised that there are people who treat them as such?  Let’s portray men and women as sexual beings, not sexual objects.  In order to do that, we need to see both men and women as PEOPLE first.  With brains and emotions.  (In order to portray them that way, you generally have to have them do more than some scantily clad cavorting while onscreen.)

6)And on that note, every photoshopped model in a magazine should just have a big, red PHOTOSHOPPED stamp on it.  How is it not false advertising to Photoshop away a woman’s rib cage?

That concludes my opinionated blog post for the week.  Tune in next time for peach streussel muffins!

Sep 8, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on A Successful Gamble

A Successful Gamble

It’s always a gamble when an author you’ve liked in the past goes someplace you don’t usually go, right?  Robin McKinley’s Sunshine is perhaps the best example of this I can think of; I had to start it twice before I got into it, because I just don’t usually do vampire novels.  On the other hand, once I was truly into it, it did captivate me in the way that only Robin McKinley can, which is impressive.  (A warning, though–it’s not YA, or at least, it’s not my definition of it.  There are 3 or 4 sexually explicit references.  We’re talking maybe a sentence or two long each time, but still.)  Eileen Spinelli’s Another Day As Emily wasn’t so much a departure from her usual style, but–like Sunshine–it went somewhere I don’t usually opt to go.  The Emily in the title is Emily Dickinson, a poet I give credit to (because really, I think the line ‘because I could not stop for Death, he kindly stopped for me’ is kind of incredible) but don’t necessarily love.  (I admit, a lot of my problem is the dashes.  I respect her right to them as a writer–I was actually appalled at a published book of her poems that took them out–but they bug me.  I’d rather read Robert Frost.) The narrator is going through a rough patch, in a very normal 12-year-old way, and decides to call herself Emily, acting out the famous poet’s life of isolation from the world.  Reading about the poet herself isn’t something I would prefer to do; there are a few too many people I care about who struggle with anxiety for that to be terribly enjoyable.  On the other hand, reading about a girl who tries to deal with problems by identifying with a famous writer for a time?  That I could do.  (I might still not have opted for it, except that it’s a verse novel.  It’s easier to gamble on a book that isn’t going to take much time to read.)

AND–to make a long story short (too late!)–I was glad I did.  Spinelli’s poetry is less lyrical and more comfortable (I enjoy both, but the two certainly have different feels), which makes it really easy to identify with Suzy.  Her family and friends are all likable people, and yet you can see how she’s feeling the need to remove herself for a while.  How she connects with her world again is an enjoyable story that can easily be read in an hour or so, making it well worth your time.  Give this one a try today!

And, in honor of Emily:

 

Because I could not stop for Death – (479)

 

Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
And Immortality.
We slowly drove – He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility –
We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess – in the Ring –
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain –
We passed the Setting Sun –
Or rather – He passed Us –
The Dews drew quivering and Chill –
For only Gossamer, my Gown –
My Tippet – only Tulle –
We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground –
The Roof was scarcely visible –
The Cornice – in the Ground –
Since then – ’tis Centuries – and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses’ Heads
Were toward Eternity –

Another Day as Emily


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Sep 4, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Why Must Things Come Bundled?

Why Must Things Come Bundled?

And I’m not actually talking about cable, internet, and phone, here.  What I mean is that you have a period of time when not much is going on, and then BAM! comes the week from you-know-where.  Except that you don’t want to wish it away, because none of the things involved are bad things; it’s just that oh, my, couldn’t I have a break somewhere?  Somehow?  (Is there a place for us?)

Behold my week of things to do.  (Admittedly, a lot of the trouble here lies with the combination of evening things plus already tired children and school nights.)

Three days ago:  The middle’s first day of kindergarten, coming after an evening BBQ the night before (held 45 minutes away).

Two days ago:  The middle’s first day of dance, which completely messed up the nap of an already exhausted 2-year-old.

Yesterday:  My oldest’s first evening of dance, which resulted in a later night for the kiddos.  And my parents arrived, which is happy, but that meant all the adults went to bed late as well.

Today:  School skate night.  It wasn’t a late night, but the effort involved in making that happen was kind of exhausting.

Tomorrow:  Doctor in the morning, church dinner and outside games in the evening, which will probably result in a late night for kiddos.

Saturday:  Baby blessing (sort of like a christening) and lunch in the late morning and a family baby shower in the afternoon.

Sunday:  I must play the piano for the women in church.  I am not a good pianist, so I’m always stressed about how I’ll do.  Some weeks go better than others.

Monday:  Extended family party on the other side of the valley.  It starts at 6:30–on a school night.  This is worse because the venue changed this year.  It used to be 10 minutes away and involve negligible traffic for us.

Tuesday:  Dance for the middle again.

And etc.

I know a lot of people have it a lot worse, but adding an extra-curricular like dance is a new step for us.  And the late nights?  My children DO NOT SLEEP IN.  Which means that after staying up an hour or two past their bedtimes, they wake up between 6:30 and 7:30 and become weepy/angry/petulant/argumentative/aggressive and other unpleasant things long before bedtime.  You cannot make up this sleep with extra naps, because naps just mean the children won’t fall asleep at their usual time.  The only thing that works is to carefully rearrange your evening so that the bedtime routine starts earlier and ends earlier.  (And that only works because I finally took numerous people’s suggestions, including my pediatrician’s, and started giving my oldest melatonin.)

Anyway.  I’m done whining now (maybe).  That IS my explanation for why no book or recipe reviews happened today, though.  I’ve been “almost done” with a really, really short book for a few days now.  This drives me insane.

Here’s hoping I’ll finish before the process becomes irreversible…

 

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