Archive from January, 2015
Jan 30, 2015 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Wishing This One Would Win a Newbery

Wishing This One Would Win a Newbery

I finished Saving Lucas Biggs the other night–staying up WAY too late to do it, I might add–and I have to say, I really did love it.  And yes, I checked it out of the library precisely BECAUSE it looked good, but it was better than I’d hoped for all the way through, and how often does that really happen?  I was a bit worried at first about some of the subject matter–some things are hard for me to read about pregnant–but it did such a good job of moving along that I was okay with it.  Not that it was constant crazy action, mind you, but it was always moving forward with purpose. If that makes sense.

The basic plot  revolves around thirteen-year-old Margaret, whose father has been framed for, convicted of, and sentenced to death for a crime he didn’t commit.  In a desperate attempt to save him, she uses her family’s “quirk”–the ability to travel through time–to try to change history back in 1938.   To tell you more seems unfair, really; one of my favorite parts of the book was its ability to go places I wasn’t actually expecting.  After all, who doesn’t love an unpredictable but entirely satisfying ending?  You’ll just have to read this one yourself.  It’s poignant, original, and says amazing things about friendship and love, so I promise you–it’s worth it.

Saving Lucas Biggs


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Jan 27, 2015 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Another Quick Post

Another Quick Post

This is what happens when you’re 8 1/2 months pregnant, right?  Anyway.  Remember the Apple Pumpkin Gingerbread Muffins from the other day?  I opened up a big can of pumpkin for those, and since that left me with more than half a can, and we had soup last night, I went looking for a recipe for pumpkin bread that would use up a bunch of it (because who doesn’t love bread and soup as a meal?).  When I found this Healthy and Delicious Pumpkin Bread, I decided it was the winner–it made two loaves, which was perfect (I wanted an extra loaf to give to a friend), and I had all of the ingredients.  I even mostly followed the recipe!  I made the applesauce substitution she suggested, and I went with a little less than half whole wheat flour instead of just a third; I also went heaping on the nutmeg measurement (I’m nuts for nutmeg!) and used regular vanilla yogurt instead of Greek (it’s what I had).  I did have to extend the cooking time, which wasn’t surprising to me.  I know my oven is somewhat slow and using glass pans exacerbates that, but 50 minutes still seems unlikely.  Mine took more like an hour.

It was an hour, however, that was well-spent.  Everyone was happy to eat it, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The pumpkin flavor was milder, which (as I’ve said before) is what I prefer, and it was moist and tender.  It crumbled a little when cut, but that may well have been that it got into the oven on the late side and was still warm (the slightly melt-y quality that warmth gave the butter MORE than made up for the crumbliness).  Bottom line? We’ll be making this recipe again.

Jan 25, 2015 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Breakfast Fail

Breakfast Fail

It’s true that a more-savory-than-our-usual-recipe cornbread was possibly not the best choice for breakfast on Saturday, but since we’d had sweeter muffins for dinner the night before, I opted to try this Creamed Corn Cornbread anyway.

We were underwhelmed.

To be fair, my picky middle mentioned several times that something smelled “really good,” and she claimed to like it initially.  My oldest, however, is the one who usually likes new recipes, and she was unimpressed from the first bite.  (My son, to be fair, did eat most of it without prodding.  One can’t really expect a two-year-old to do that again with the same recipe, though.)  And my middle stopped liking it about 2/3 of the way through.  (I may have made a tactical error in pointing out that it had actual corn in it, but I don’t think that was all of her problem.)  As for me, well, I probably need to accept that I don’t love the texture of actual corn in my cornbread.  I love cornmeal, you understand–love the grittier feel it brings to bread–but the creamed corn…nah.  Not for me.  Add to that the fact that there was less sugar (I do like sweeter cornbread) and the cooking method browned it more than I prefer, and well–shoot.  It’s probably not the recipe’s fault, but this is not the sort of cornbread that is going to work for our family.

 

Jan 23, 2015 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Two Thumbs Up from the Middle!

Two Thumbs Up from the Middle!

And that’s saying something, folks, because she’s my pickiest.  I opted for breakfast for dinner tonight because, well, it’s what sounded good, and my energy level isn’t exactly impressive at the moment.  I picked two recipes and gave my girlies the choice; I didn’t ask the boy, since he’s guilty of choosing something and then not eating it on an almost daily basis.  They voted for these Apple Pumpkin Gingerbread Muffins, and let me tell you, they were lovely.

I didn’t actually change them up much, either.  I subbed maybe 3/4 cup of whole wheat flour instead of using all white; since it gave you a range on the amount of chopped apple, and I had barely over two cups when I’d peeled and chopped one old tiny one and one big Costco one, I stopped there.  (I probably would have been happy with more, but I was feeling lazy and I’d met the minimum.)  I opted to use up the last of my dark brown sugar instead of using light, but that was a ‘it’s drying out, there’s not much left, and it fits the flavor profile’ kind of decision.  And I put sugar on top of some and not others as a ‘is it worth the extra sugar?’ kind of experiment.  (Oh, and I used salted butter.  Because I didn’t care and I haven’t found that it matters.)

Okay, that sounds like more changes than it felt like, but I promise you, they weren’t significant.  And the muffins were tasty.  I could have chopped the apples into smaller pieces, but they were still good the way they were.  I enjoyed them so much partly because the pumpkin was mild–I want to like the taste of pumpkin better than I do, really–and partly because there was a nice mix of spices.  I love cinnamon and nutmeg and cloves, and I’m okay with smaller amounts of ginger and allspice.  (I don’t particularly care for strong ginger flavor; I’m fine with allspice, but it seems like such a weak and vague sort of spice to me.  Really, I’m just nuts for nutmeg.)  These proportions were perfect.  My friend Britt pointed out that she’s not in the mood for pumpkin anymore–the time has come and gone–and my friend Andrea would likely agree, but the New Englander in me is up for fall flavors pretty much all the time.  (And like I said, the pumpkin was mild.)

In summation–because that’s a fun phrase to use now and then–I liked these muffins better than several other recipes of a similar type that I’ve tried.  They’re worth making.

If you’re in the mood, that is.

Jan 21, 2015 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on For Mothers Of Little Girls

For Mothers Of Little Girls

I’m pretty sure I’ve talked about Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s picture books before, but I really had to give a shout-out to Uni the Unicorn as well.  Uni, you see (OH, the alliteration!), is a perfectly normal unicorn, except for just one thing.

She truly believes that little girls are real.

Have I mentioned how much I love Rosenthal’s way of changing up a familiar theme?  It’s the same technique she used in Little Pea, Little Hoot, and Little Oink, really, but Uni the Unicorn looks completely different.  The art has a medieval feel to it–at least for me–which is in fairly stark contrast to the style of the other titles.  And whereas the other titles certainly ought to appeal to both genders (although now that I have a son and he is SO COMPLETELY OBSESSED with all things wheeled, I’m not quite as confident about that), this one is all for girls.  I wasn’t a particularly girly girl myself, you understand, but I have two of them, and I’m about to have three, and I can still appreciate the book’s appeal.  I don’t know that 4-8 is quite the right age range for this one–I think my 8-year-old liked it fine but wasn’t ecstatic–but my five-year-old has certainly enjoyed it.  If you’ve got a girly, unicorn-loving 3-6 year old, consider this one a must-read.

Uni the Unicorn


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Jan 19, 2015 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on It’s Not About the Pizza

It’s Not About the Pizza

When I was little, I remember my parents being loyal Pizza Hut fans.  Every once in a while we would go as a family; what I remember is sipping root beer for what seemed like FOREVER, waiting for our pizza to be done.  When I got older, they discovered a place in Connecticut called (if I’m remembering correctly) ‘Ye Olde Kikapoo Pizza.’  My mother especially loved it; I just remember that yes, they were extremely generous with the toppings, but that wasn’t exactly a plus if you didn’t like them.  (Keep in mind, as a child I disliked onions, mushrooms, pepperoni, and green peppers.  I’ve made my peace with onions and mushrooms (cooked), and I’ll willingly eat pepperoni if there are no other choices, but bell peppers and I will never mix happily.)  It wasn’t horrible, but it was an occasional outing that my parents loved that I, well, didn’t.  (I didn’t hate it.  I just shrugged and went along, generally.)  And so pizza went–until college.

In college I discovered the beauty of Pizza Pipeline, a place in Provo that delivered for free until 1 am.  The pizza wasn’t bad–I probably did prefer it–but what really got me were the Tricky Stix.  The garlic and Parmesan variety were lovely in and of themselves, but the sweet cinnamon ones? Real cream cheese frosting to dip in, baby.  My roommates and I became definite fans of the place, and my husband and I had been married for years before our free plastic Pizza Pipeline cups–we had multiple designs–stopped being our by-the-bed water cups.  Up until a couple of years ago, nothing had really replaced the Pizza Pipeline in my heart.

Until Domino’s.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking.  Didn’t they build a whole ad campaign around the concept of “hey, we changed our recipe, our pizza’s good now?”  I believe they did, although I can’t fully trust my memory for anything right now.  I don’t care.  It doesn’t matter.  Because it’s not about the pizza.

Oh, don’t get me wrong.  I sort of like the garlic butter stuff they brush on the outside of the crust.  If I disliked the pizza, it’d be one thing.  It’s not about the pizza, though.  Because friends–Romans–Countrymen?  Have you TRIED the chocolate lava crunch cakes?

If you haven’t, this is serious.  Get thee to a Domino’s–posthaste–and order a box of two.  The crunchy, rich loveliness of the outside mixes with the warm, gooey chocolate center in a way that makes me sigh every time.  They are divine.  They are beautiful.  They are a hundred times better, in my humble opinion, than a piece of pizza could ever be.

And so that’s it, folks.  I guess what it comes down to is that I’m not an avid enough pizza aficionado.  I like it, and I definitely like the ease of ordering it on a certain kind of night, but it’s the extras that sell it for me.  We had chocolate lava crunch cakes with our pizza on Friday.

But dang it all, now I want some Tricky Stix.

Jan 17, 2015 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on I’m Being Opinionated Again

I’m Being Opinionated Again

Warning:  Opinionated Post

I was catching up on Facebook the other day and saw this article someone had shared, called 5 Reasons to Choose a Midwife.  I didn’t actually click on it initially–I knew I wasn’t going to agree with it, so why bother?–but curiosity got to me.  And so I clicked on it, and read it, and as I sorted out my response to it, I debated whether it was worth going there on this blog.  After all, I doubt my opinion is going to change anyone’s mind, and I truly do believe that moms (and dads) have the right to choose how to parent, right from day one, without me criticizing them for it.  I get to make my own decisions.  As an adult, I ought to respect theirs.

Here’s the thing, though.  First of all, as I’ve said before, it’s my blog.  I get to be opinionated when I want to be, and sometimes, I confess, I really, really want to be.  Secondly, I believe one can respect other people’s decisions (and in so doing NOT give advice where advice is not requested or desired) while not agreeing with them.  It’s not wrong to have an opinion about what someone else is doing (and frankly, for me it’s often impossible).  What’s wrong is to judge them, because it is not my job to judge.  (It may be my job to use my opinions of other people’s actions to help me plan out my own course, but that’s an entirely different thing.  And no, “them” and “someone” do not grammatically agree, and it’s incorrect, but it sounds so stilted to be correct.  I was over it tonight.)

On that note, here’s my problem with Jessica Mason’s article.  It’s one thing to present an alternative course of action as a positive experience–there’s nothing wrong with that.  And if she grew up feeling that hospital births = pain and unpleasantness, well, okay.  It’s another thing entirely, however, to paint that alternative course of action as comfy and cozy and wonderful because of the differences between it and the traditional option.  And it’s quite a different thing to ignore history altogether.  Here are my thoughts for someone who read Mason’s article and is considering making the same choice.

1)It’s totally up to you.  I get that.  You may even have a lovely experience, I don’t know.  But for someone who hasn’t yet experienced childbirth to paint it as “joyful, spiritual, and natural” is a bit of a crock.  You may find it spiritual and empowering; you may not.  What I can tell you from experience is that it is messy (and can be VERY messy) and it IS painful.  I had an epidural with my first, but the contractions certainly hurt before it took effect.  Childbirth is painful.  “Natural” childbirth–here meaning “drug-free”–is going to be painful.  Nothing a midwife can do is going to erase that.  (And by the way, I agree with Mason about not opting for a home delivery.  I bled so much I could feel my legs splashing in it. That’s not something I want in my home, and that’s certainly a possibility for more people than just me.)  Childbirth is also tiring, and in my case, the exhaustion numbed the joy.  (It occurred to me later that the blood loss would have exacerbated the exhaustion.)

2)Your birth experience can’t be controlled by a birth plan, or choosing a midwife, or choosing a hospital (for that matter).  In my case, I have narrow pelvic (pubic?) bones that force my babies out at an unfortunate angle–unfortunate meaning I tear.  (Badly.)  When my doctor mentioned that he was on the fence about recommending a c-section for my second because of that, I felt actual peace about having a second child for the first time since my first was born.  (He also told me that research is showing that those muscles, if they tear that badly a second time, don’t completely recover.  In that case, you may be–and I quote–incontinent with stool for the rest of your life.  This is not something pleasant to hear in your twenties.)  Once cannot control a baby that insists on being breech.  One cannot control any one of a thousand possibilities that make the resources of a hospital important.  My husband has always been impressed at how little my doctor pays attention to our babies once they are out.  The nurses are there for the baby, and they take full and complete care of her (or him); my doctor is there for me and focuses on stitching me up well.  (My only vaginal birth involved an hour’s worth of stitches, by the way.  My c-sections have required fewer, and I feel SO MUCH BETTER after them than I did after the other.)

3)How do you note that midwives were “driven out of practice” in the early 20th century without admitting that childbirth was, I believe, THE LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH FOR WOMEN UNTIL ABOUT THEN?  (I couldn’t find a date for when that shifted; if someone knows for sure, please enlighten me.)  Giving birth was the MOST DANGEROUS thing a woman could do for centuries upon centuries.  And midwives have been around about that long, yes?  I’m certainly not blaming midwives, you understand; I don’t doubt that they did the best they could with the knowledge they had.  I’m well aware that the influenza pandemic and WWI combined helped get the medical knowledge ball rolling, and I imagine that that made the difference.  My problem is with the tone of the article; it implies that hospitals and doctors made something scary out of childbirth.  Friend, it’s always been scary.  It’s a whole lot less scary now.

And there you have it–my opinionated post for the month.  If you want the experience and environment Mason mentions, that’s your decision. The line between that and how she describes the hospital, however, is likely a lot finer than she realizes.

Jan 14, 2015 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Song Covers

Song Covers

I’ve been watching (in bits and pieces) the–what do you call it?  Concert?  Presentation?  Whatever it’s called, the hour-plus Youtube video of Billy Joel receiving the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.  Billy Joel has been my favorite singer/songwriter for years; I was actually really bugged at an article slamming him that one of my high school friends shared on Facebook.  I have no issue with people’s tastes differing,  you understand, but how can you categorically ridicule an artist if you are only commenting on his greatest hits album (and only the first two volumes of it to boot!)?  In my experience, what’s popular and what’s best often don’t intersect at all as you’d think, and I know that some of my favorite songs by him are not on the albums the reviewer mocked.  (I certainly wouldn’t want to be judged only on my most publicly known accomplishments.)

I digress, however, from my stated topic.  Several of his songs were covered by other artists–some I was familiar with, and some I wasn’t–with (in my humble opinion) varying degrees of success.  I will freely admit that I’m a creature of habit and don’t love changes to things I enjoy; on the other hand, I can at least respect some changes.  Tony Bennett’s cover of “New York State of Mind,” for example, isn’t exactly my style, but I can appreciate that the song works for him and he made it his own in a way I can honor, even if I wouldn’t choose to listen to it again.  Gavin DeGraw’s “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” worked for me pretty well, and I didn’t so much have problems with J-Gro’s version of “She’s Always a Woman” as I have problems getting past the lyrics of that song regardless of the singer.  (Bob, a fabulous music seller from my Borders days, gave Josh Groban that nickname after a year of his being part of our overhead music selection, and it still makes me giggle.)  I thought he was an interesting choice to cover anything of Billy’s, but that song was probably a good one for him.  I didn’t enjoy LeAnn Rimes’ version of “Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)”; it may be that I just don’t love her, but she took a gentle song and belted it out like a (slightly deranged) diva instead.  As for the Dixie Chick–Natalie Maines?–I didn’t mind her singing, particularly, but the country-ish guitar in the background was a step down for “She’s Got a Way” as far as I’m concerned.  (I also read a review of the concert before watching her, and the reviewer pointed out that changing the lyrics to third person seemed unnecessary.  This also bugged me, but I can’t swear I would have been as bothered had I not gone into it with that in my head.)  I wanted to like Boyz II Men singing “The Longest Time,” but I just didn’t.  (I’m not really sure why, though.)  My mind almost threw up during John Mellencamp’s cover of “Allentown”–it was physically painful for me.  Just–WHY?  I don’t hate him–I enjoy some of his music–but why do that to a song?  (I don’t like Garth Brooks or country music, but his cover of the same song at the Kennedy Center in 2013 was unobjectionable.)  The most interesting cover of the night, certainly, was the group effort on “Piano Man,” which was–interesting.  Not necessarily my preference, mind you, but certainly memorable and impressive.  I quite enjoyed the surprise of Kevin Spacey–I really didn’t know he sang at all, and his harmonica was the icing on the cake–and while I thought Michael Feinstein looked kind of ridiculous when he sang, I can’t really quibble with his performance.  (I just felt like he was about to sob.)  My opinion of the other artists involved was pretty close to my opinion of their other performances of the night, now that I think about it.

In summary, it’s been an interesting experience for a fan, although I wouldn’t buy a recording of it.  And lest you think that I am incapable of appreciating a good cover, I actually like U2’s version of “Helter Skelter” (from Rattle and Hum) quite a bit better than the original.

Sorry, Beatles fans.

Jan 12, 2015 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on The Last of the Hashbrowns

The Last of the Hashbrowns

Not forever, you understand.  I just finally used up the last of the Costco box of shredded hashbrowns I bought months ago, and happily it was on a recipe that everyone seemed to enjoy.  This past Friday I changed my meal plan at the last minute and went looking for more hashbrown recipes; I found this Easy Breakfast Casserole on one of my Pinterest boards and thought–hey!  I have ham!  I halved it because I wasn’t sure how it would go over–my hubby and my oldest are iffy with eggs–and it fed our family of five with one good-sized portion left over.  I didn’t make any other recipe changes, and I have to say, it went over better than I thought it would.  The suggested salsa or hot sauce would have been good with it, but I didn’t bother, since my hubby and kids are unlikely to care.  (Also, I habitually cook with sharp cheddar, and that adds flavor to this sort of thing.) I’ve avoided trying breakfast casserole recipes with this many eggs in the past, but my family’s response was encouraging.  (Which is nice, because I like eggs.  So does my generally picky middle.)  To sum up a really short post, it was absolutely worth making again.

 

Jan 10, 2015 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Unforeseen Execution Issues…

Unforeseen Execution Issues…

I bought a head of cabbage a week or two ago so that I could try this Roasted Cabbage with Lemon, and I decided tonight was the night.  I apparently had no idea what my pregnant brain and body were getting me into.

My first issue was relatively minor; I didn’t want the cabbage to stick, but I didn’t want that yucky sticky residue that comes from using Pam (or Kirkland’s comparable product), so I brushed the bottom of my pan with canola oil.  It wasn’t until I was halfway through that I thought–dang. What’s wrong with me?  I have PARCHMENT PAPER.  This oil was completely unnecessary.  And since I think it did give it a greasier feel, I’m still bummed at that mistake.  Although it pales in comparison to what happened next…

I used my 10 by 15 pan to put the cabbage wedges in, since there were 8 of them; it was actually kind of a perfect fit.  Here’s the thing.  It seems mostly like a 9 by 13 pan when you’re using it.  I have no trouble lifting a 9 by 13 pan by the corner, and so I didn’t think  much about the fact that the 10 by 15 is heavier, and my hands are small, and pregnancy makes all of your muscles relax…

You see where this is going, right?  Yep.  I couldn’t save it.  The entire pan of half roasted cabbage (I was taking it out to carefully flip the wedges) got away from me, bounced off the oven door, and fell upside-down onto my anti-fatigue kitchen flooring.  (Did I mention that it had been in a 450 degree oven?)  The positive?  I was not burned, and I am actually really, really grateful for that.   The negative, well…I scooped the cabbage leaves that weren’t dirty back into the pan, stuck it back in the oven, and then had to clean up the remaining leaves.  And the grease.  I then had to just stir the pan contents instead of flip, because there were certainly no wedges at that point–just most of a cabbage’s worth of loose leaves.  Here’s the thing, though.

I still liked it.  Even without the added lemon juice (no one else is as mad for lemon as I am, so I put in the called-for amount and reserved the rest of the juice the lemon yielded for my personal use), it had flavor; my husband said it was better than cauliflower, which means it wasn’t the worst vegetable he’d ever had, and my oldest said she liked it.  The boy was so tired at dinner he was angry at everything, but my middle gave it a thumbs middle and acknowledged that it would have been better warm.  (She was too transfixed by the educational Youtube videos that were distracting her brother enough for him to eat willingly; she ate very, very slowly.  No roasted veggie tastes fantastic cold.)  I want to try it again and see how proper execution affects the texture, but I was really fairly pleased.  (The surprise in that sentence isn’t for me–I figured I’d probably like it–but for my family.  I was honestly expecting it to bomb.)  There are other recipes for roasted cabbage on my Pinterest boards, and I’m thinking they are worth trying as well.

Next time I’ll get two hot pads and use both hands.

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