Archive from March, 2015
Mar 29, 2015 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on There Goes the Mascara

There Goes the Mascara

Remember how my oldest has been going through the ‘Sarah, Plain and Tall’ series–and I’ve been going through them myself before returning them to the library?  Well, SHE finished Grandfather’s Dance several days ago, and today I finally got around to going through it myself.

Oh, My.

Patricia MacLachlan writes beautiful books, and this one didn’t disappoint; in it, Anna (the narrator of the first book, if my memory serves) is getting married, and Sarah’s family comes from Maine for the occasion.  I, too, lived far away from my extended family growing up, and I could relate exactly to Cassie (the narrator) as she reveled in their visit.  That might have been enough to draw tears from me, really–I remember having to say goodbye when family left–but I am also the mother of a small boy who has a special relationship with his grandfather, and it was that part of the story that pushed me over the edge.  I shan’t spoil the story for you.  Let’s just say that I cried, but I’m glad I read it.  (For the record, I also laughed out loud.)  It was a worthy end to a lovely series of books, folks.  If you’ve read some but not all, I suggest you remedy that immediately.

Grandfather’s Dance (Sarah, Plain and Tall)

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Mar 27, 2015 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on A Progress Report

A Progress Report

As I’m sure my legions of faithful readers are waiting with baited breath for my next book review, I thought I’d let everyone know the sad truth.

You’ll be waiting a while.

Here’s the thing…my book club is very casual about when we actually read the books we pick.  We’re all moms, and it’s hard to get together, and so we pick books, and try to get around to each others’ picks eventually.  I opted to pick up a belated book club book this time around, and while the font is on the large side and the pages on the small side, Bram Stoker’s Dracula is still 612 pages long.

Have I mentioned that I have a 6 week old?

I have yet to average more than 20 pages a night.  And yes, I’ve done the math.  Which is why I just wanted to warn you all that I may be posting about food, or my family, or kids’ books, but Dracula is going to take me a while.

Just letting y’all know.

Mar 25, 2015 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Really? No One But Me?

Really? No One But Me?

I was looking for a breakfast recipe last weekend, since the girlies and I really prefer homemade breakfasts on Saturday mornings whenever possible, and I opted to try these Baked Oatmeal Trailside Treat Bars.  What’s not to love about chocolate-y oatmeal goodness, right?  And while the initial preparation took some time, once it was in the oven, I didn’t have to worry about it, which was nice.  When it came out, I put pieces in bowls, added some milk, and we went to town.

Sort of.

My oldest said she liked it.  My middle was non-committal (I’m amused by that unintentional rhyme, by the way).  And my son, well…he’s two.  I had to feed it to him, but he ate it willingly, so make of that what you will.  By the time I was done feeding the boy, though, my middle had committed (tee hee!) and was NOT a fan, and my oldest had decided that by liking it, what she really meant was that she’d eat it this once but had no interest in the leftovers.

Did I mention that we had 3/4 of a 9 by 13 pan left over?

The funny thing, though, is that I haven’t minded eating the leftovers.  I think it’s tasty!  The only change I made was to substitute Craisins for raisins, because I really prefer Craisins; oh, and I may have been too hasty putting the chocolate chips on top, realized how poorly distributed they were, and added some extras to make up for it.  (Oddly enough, though, it’s almost too much.  I would stick to the recipe amount and just be more careful about spreading them evenly next time.)  The texture is a little interesting–a bar with the texture of cooked oatmeal–but I heat up a decent-sized square, add milk, and go at it.  I’m not sure why my kids aren’t fans, other than they haven’t liked rice pudding or other texturally similar things.  They aren’t, however, while I have willingly eaten over half of the pan myself by now.

I’ll let you decide where to go from here.

Mar 23, 2015 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Trying New Recipes the Old-Fashioned Way

Trying New Recipes the Old-Fashioned Way

Back in the years B.P.–before Pinterest–I got the new recipes I tried from either friends or family, cookbooks, or Taste of Home.  And I started getting that particular magazine a year or so after I got married (my 17th anniversary is coming up this December!), so I’ve still got a lot of recipes saved up to try.  I don’t get to them much anymore (because Pinterest!), but the other day I decided to go through the ‘entree’ stack of ‘clip and keep’ recipe cards with an eye to what could be useful to me in my current stage of life.  This meant that anything requiring firmly out-of-season ingredients got the ax, as did anything requiring too much work right before dinner or too much thought about substituting undesirable ingredients.  Oh, AND anything that no one in the family besides me is going to eat well.  This left me with quite a small stack to be going on with, and so I looked through that stack the next time I needed a meal plan.  Success!  This Barbecue Beef Taco Plate was (shockingly!) a hit with everyone.

Of course, anything in the ‘Cooking for a Crowd’ section needs to be reduced in size for MY family, but this one was very easy to cut into fourths.  I didn’t bother with the chopped green onions, partly because I browned the ground beef with chopped regular onion (it makes the smell SO much more appealing), but I did add chopped olives to about half of the plate, since three of us love them.  I didn’t have honey barbecue sauce, so I used a ‘sweet and tangy’ variety of Bullseye, which was just fine.  And it was tasty!  Only my hubby scooped it up onto chips; it’s my preference (and much easier for the kids) to crush the chips underneath to make taco salad.  And the only complaint I got was that the cream cheese layer was a little much.  (I think that was more because I didn’t spread it out thinly enough, honestly.  My plates weren’t the best size for this.  I’m thinking a 9 by 13 pan would be better.)  The barbecue sauce made a nice accent, but I forgot about it when we ate the leftovers, and while it was absolutely nice to have it, we didn’t necessarily miss it.  (The flavor was a bit different,  but good either way.)  I was afraid the green chilies might add too much heat for some of us–we’re wimpy at our house–but they were actually a nice addition.  What was ESPECIALLY nice about the recipe, though, was that you built the taco salad on the plate.  By the time I served it, it required minimal effort to be ready to eat, and that is a fabulous thing when you’re used to building three separate servings of anything with a lot of toppings.  (My eight-year-old can do a lot of the building herself, but she’s short, with short arms, and can’t reach everything.)  The bottom line?  We are definitely making this again, which means that you should try it.  Because EVEN MY PICKY MIDDLE loved it–and you can’t get a better endorsement than that.

Mar 21, 2015 - Uncategorized    2 Comments

A Much Needed Giggle

A giggle is always welcome when you’re seeing the tail end of 35 and still getting up in the middle of the night to feed a baby; I really, REALLY don’t do lack of sleep as well as I used to.  (My baby girl is worth it, you understand.  I’m just sayin’.)  I don’t remember how I introduced my friend Brittany to Quinoa–star of ‘My imaginary well-dressed toddler daughter,’ which is a rather impressive Pinterest board–but she discovered that Quinoa had a book.  She read it, and then she bugged me until I put it on hold at the library as well (or until she just put it on hold for me, which happens sometimes).  I pulled it down the other day when I was looking for something light and fast, and oh, my.  How I laughed!

If you have no children, you may or may not find Quinoa hilarious.  I don’t know.  For me, the fact that I purchase kids’ clothes and look at parenting magazines means that I see the kid models in over-the-top outfits and settings, and that’s part of why I find her so funny.  Quinoa is the imaginary child of Tiffany Beveridge, who decided her two sons and lack of a daughter didn’t have to prevent her from pinning girls’ clothes that she thought were cute.  That’s where the Pinterest board mentioned above was born; when it went viral, it eventually turned into a gift-type book entitled How to Quinoa:  Life Lessons from My Imaginary Well-Dressed Daughter.  In it, Beveridge includes her own captions for those child model stills as well as text aimed at helping aspiring girls and parents in becoming almost as trendy as Quinoa (but not quite–never that).  I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end.  (My husband, however, seemed to be equal parts amused and disturbed at the tidbits I insisted on sharing.)  If you are looking for a laugh today, look no further.  Quinoa and her never-ending string of preposterously-named friends–think ‘Xanax’–are here to oblige.

Mar 19, 2015 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Once Upon a Time, on 40% Off Day…

Once Upon a Time, on 40% Off Day…

Back in the magical Borders days of yore, employees used to get a 40% off day once or twice a year.  I spent a fortune there over years’ worth of 40% off days, but one of my best investments involved the ‘Newbery Authors’ series of books, published only occasionally but priced at $2.99.  Forty percent off of $2.99 is a fairly insane price for a book by an established author; I have quite a few of these editions on my shelves, and I opted for one of them for my latest Fourth Book.

Avi is an established author with three Newberys under his belt–one Medal and two Honors.  I read his Something Upstairs in 7th grade English (with Mrs. DiDonato), although whether that was because it was right around the time his two Honor books were published or because he was living in RI at the time and therefore local, I have no idea.  (If I knew where she was now, I’d possibly ask her, because now I’m curious.)  I encountered The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle in college, as well as a few others by him, and I’ve read Nothing But the Truth and Crispin:  The Cross of Lead as part of my Newbery quest.  Avi isn’t, in fact, one of my very favorite authors–his writing style isn’t so much my thing–but he tells interesting stories and keeps you hooked while he’s telling them, so he’s never been a hardship to read either.  The Avi book I just finished, The Good Dog, is no exception.

The Good Dog feels like an intermediate fiction cousin to The Call of the Wild; the main character is a malamute named McKinley, and the plot revolves around what happens in his Colorado community when a wolf comes to town.  Lupin has come down from her northern wilderness to recruit dogs for her dwindling wolf pack.  McKinley is head dog in Steamboat Springs and finds himself trying to protect Lupin from the humans hunting her, prevent his human pup (a fan of The Jungle Book) from trying to run away to live with her, and prohibit a rival, Redburn, from using her presence to take over as head dog.  How he manages it all makes for a consistently fast-paced read.  And while neither the topic nor the style are what I’m normally drawn to, this is a great adventure (and animal) story.  (I’m keeping my copy, because while I’m unlikely to reread it, I really need to up my quantity of “books especially likely to appeal to boys” for the sake of my son.)  If I were teaching, I’d be tempted to use it as an intro to The Call of the Wild, or have my kids read this while I read the other to them, or something.  The possibilities in the shared themes are endless.  Since I’m not teaching, however, I will stick it on the bookshelf in one of the kids’ rooms, and wait for it to be chosen so we can talk about it.

I’ll be looking forward to it.

The Good Dog

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Mar 17, 2015 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Focusing on the Good

Focusing on the Good

I’m trying to, at least.  Which means I’m trying NOT to think about how disappointing the BYU/Ole Miss game was (for a BYU fan, you understand), and focusing instead on what we had for dinner last night.  (Dinner being a loose term, in this case.)  I had a bunch of strawberries that needed to be eaten, and I had some canned whipped cream; I considered making up some oatmeal pancake mix, decided to go the easier route and make waffles, and then thought–wait.  What if I made dinner the Family Night treat this week?  Because my friend Britt has this recipe for Brownie Batter Pancakes

Yup.  That was dinner last night, folks.  I halved the recipe she posted there and used slightly over half whole wheat flour; I also substituated 1/2 c of applesauce for that much of the oil.  That amount fed my whole family right about perfectly (they were filling!).  I also went ahead and cut up ALL of the strawberries I had left, which means that we got to be generous in that department.  Not exactly the healthiest dinner in the world, I grant you, but believe you me–if your team loses in the next week or two, having this for dinner will help cheer you up!

Mar 15, 2015 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Easy and Delicious

Easy and Delicious

Which, let me tell you what, is EXACTLY what I need right now in the recipe department.  I think this version of Pasta e Fagioli Soup actually caught my eye a few weeks ago; it’s been kind of a crazy few weeks,  however, which is why it took me until last Wednesday to actually make it for dinner.  I have to say, though–it was totally worth the wait.  I wouldn’t have thought such a simple recipe could be so flavorful and lovely, but I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed it.  All of my kids ate it without complaint (which is incredibly impressive).  And all I did to finish off dinner was to pull a loaf of homemade bread out of the freezer!

I didn’t even make significant changes to the recipe (wonder of wonders!).  I substituted small white beans for the canellini beans, true, but that was a practical decision–your basic Utah grocery store doesn’t always stock canellini beans.  And I used canned Parmesan instead of fresh, but that’s only because it was dance night and I was fresh out of time.  I LOVED the fresh parsley on top, and I was generous with mine, but I’m the only one who misses it if it’s not there, so I didn’t bother putting it on the other bowls (again, no time).  I may also have used an extra strip of bacon, but really, who doesn’t want an extra strip of bacon?  (Other than my friend Andrea, that is, because she doesn’t.)  With those minor exceptions, friends, I followed the recipe and adored the result.  My only warning is that the pasta in the soup does what pasta in soup does best–that is, continue to absorb liquid until the leftovers are more of a goulash-style dish and less, well, soupy.  Since that didn’t affect the taste, I wasn’t bothered.

Seriously though, folks.  Add this one to your dinner rotation today!

Mar 13, 2015 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on More Appropriate Than I Realized

More Appropriate Than I Realized

I just finished reading Sharon Creech’s The Great Unexpected, and while I didn’t realize it was partly about Ireland (nor did I anticipate just how long it would take me to finish it, thanks to my current stage in life), it was.  And I finished it less than a week before St. Patrick’s Day.  Talk about timing!  (Much better timing than El Deafo, which I finished only a day or two before my baby went into the hospital with RSV, spiked a fever, and needed a spinal tap to rule out meningitis.  Did I mention that the main character in El Deafo loses most of her hearing  because she had meningitis as a young child?)

Anyway.  I quite enjoyed The Great Unexpected, although it wasn’t quite what I thought it would be at first.  The dialogue in the opening scene was so entertaining that I started expecting more of a poignant but humorous friends story; as the book progressed, however, it became obvious that it was more poignant than humorous–and more of an ensemble story than anything else.  I wasn’t disappointed, mind you, but my perception of the story certainly changed.  (I possibly feel that my initial expectation might have more appeal for young readers, but I can’t guarantee that, given how very old I’m feeling at the moment!)  At the end of it, I was briefly reminded of Sarah Addison Allen’s The Peach Keeper; the two books share a theme of ‘what women shouldn’t let come between them.’  That isn’t all that the book is about, however…it also does an excellent job of contrasting how people are publicly perceived with who they really are.

Which all sounds rather philosophical, doesn’t it?  And yet The Great Unexpected is really a fairy tale, about more than one pair of friends (and sisters!), at least two boys named Finn, and several strange twists of fate.  The ending is a version of every young girl’s dream come true–mine included!–and the middle involves an interesting mix of characters, very few of whom register on the normal-to-boring end of the spectrum. It’s an enjoyable journey with a satisfying ending; the plot meanders slightly, but it does tie together in a lovely way at the end.  Grab this one and read it in honor of St. Paddy’s Day!

The Great Unexpected

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Mar 11, 2015 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Well Worth Your Time

Well Worth Your Time

By now you all know about my Newbery quest and how excited I get when the ALA Awards are announced, and while I don’t have goals that involve any other award-winning books, I still like to take a look at some of those titles every year.  One of my favorite other winners this year was Separate is Never Equal:  Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation, which was both a Pura Belpre Illustrator Honor Book and a Robert F. Sibert Honor Book.  (Googling those awards will get you a more concise description of them than my tired brain can currently provide.) It gives a picture book view of the mid-1940s legal battle that ended segregation in California; I was fascinated in part because of the differences between how segregation ended there and how it ended in the south, and in part because I didn’t know there was segregation in California.  (It isn’t that I necessarily assumed there wasn’t, you understand, but I grew up on the East coast.  I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about schooling in California.)  Interestingly enough, my five-year-old is also a fan, although I would say she’s a bit younger than the ideal target audience.  She wanted me to read it to her again today, and so I obliged at bedtime, when her eight-year-old sister was there as well.  She is a born artist, and so pointed out to me that the illustrations incorporate pictures of real things (as in, the jeans one of the workers wears are an outline filled with an actual picture of denim, and I hope this makes sense to you, because I was up too many times last night to find a better way to word it).  Both of my girls thought that was really cool.  And so, whether you are looking for creative illustrations or a fascinating true story, this book is well worth your time.