Archive from April, 2015
Apr 30, 2015 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Of Sickness and Song

Of Sickness and Song

I sometimes manage to elude the bugs that cycle through my kiddos; not this time.  This one has a throat-tearing cough plus a couple of days’ worth of fever, which doesn’t often happen at my house.  My hubby has been helping out, and my girlies both prayed for me last night (which made me feel loved while simultaneously making me wonder if me whispering constantly is freaking them out).  What always kills me about being sick is how much I miss things that I take completely for granted most of the time.  Oh, to breathe through my nose and swallow without discomfort! What really kills me, though, is not being able to sing to my kiddos at night.  I don’t have a great voice, but I do like to sing them a song at bedtime.   The last two nights Middle #1 has sung to me instead.  Which is sweet, mind you.  I just wish I could return the favor.

(By the way, on the topic of singing…ever since I had children, whenever I see even a clip of “The Sound of Music” I find myself wondering how it would be to sing to my kids and sound like THAT.  Because it doesn’t get much better than Julie Andrews, friends.  It just doesn’t.)

 

Apr 28, 2015 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Of Squandering Bacon

Of Squandering Bacon

I went through my old haven’t-tried-yet recipe cards from my Taste of Home magazines after the baby was born and pulled out a small stack that I felt I could realistically make with an infant around.  They had to be relatively easy, of course, and not require a lot of work right before dinner; one of those recipes was this Bacon-Colby Lasagna, which called for relatively few ingredients and could easily be made ahead of time.  I tried it on dance night last week, which meant that my oldest didn’t try it, but the boy was a fan.  Middle number one was deep in the sleepy throes of a virus and had zero appetite, so it’s hard to say what she thought of it; my hubby liked everything but the actual lasagna noodles (“I don’t love big noodles”), and I thought it was pretty good.  I did throw some Worcestershire sauce into the sauce for added flavor, and I cut the bacon to 3/4 of a pound (I just couldn’t bring myself to use an entire package for the one pan-full I was making).

Here’s the thing, though.  If there’s meat, cheese, and a tomato-y sauce, it’s hard not to like something as far as I’m concerned; that said, my husband summed up my feelings perfectly when I told him what was in it.  “I’m not sure that’s the best use for bacon…”

I couldn’t agree more.  Sure, the taste was pleasing.  You couldn’t necessarily taste the bacon as bacon, though; instead, it just added a smokey, savory element to the sauce.  It likely made the lasagna more filling as well–meat does–but I ended up feeling that it was a lazy choice.  Why not season the sauce for the smokey/savory effect?  (Do you know how much bacon is per pound?!)  It would be MUCH more economical (not to mention ultimately more successful).  I have better things to do with 3/4 of a pound of bacon then mix it with a pound of ground beef in a tomato sauce, and Mel’s Cowboy Spaghetti sauce has better flavor.  I did like it, and it made enough that I froze a second meal’s worth, but I probably wouldn’t bother making it again.

Apr 26, 2015 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Unexpectedly Funny

Unexpectedly Funny

I’m still scarred enough from a month’s worth of Dracula that even after reading Hidden, I picked another short book for my fourth book this time around.  Ellen Conford’s Dreams of Victory is 102 pages long, at least in the Apple Paperback version (which totally took me back to childhood, by the way).  I went into it figuring it’d be an okay read and I’d probably get rid of it when I was done.

I did not expect it to be quite so funny.

By the time I was halfway through, I’d resigned myself to keeping it around; I laughed out loud (literally!) multiple times.  Victory is a likable 11-year-old with a penchant for really big daydreams, living a fairly normal life in what was then the present (it was written in 1973).  I knew I’d lost the battle over whether it will continue to take up space on my shelves around the time of her school play.  Victory is cast as ‘Litter,’ to be swept off of the stage at the end, but what really got me was the overall performance:

Smog forgot almost all of his lines and most of the time just stood there and looked dirty.  He had a very strange costume made of some                  filmy gray kind of material, and half the kids thought he was Tinkerbelle.

I was entertained.

Which is why I find myself unable to get rid of this short, kid-friendly tale of a girl who spends the whole book imagining she is good at other things before realizing what her true talents are.  It’s out of print, which isn’t surprising, but it’s available used on Amazon for a song (sadly, it doesn’t appear to be in the Salt Lake County Library system).  I think it’s more than worth it.

Dreams of Victory


New From: $58.19 USD In Stock

Apr 24, 2015 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Baby, I’m Back!

Baby, I’m Back!

As much as I kind of enjoyed reading Dracula, it was ridiculously discouraging for me to spend a month on one book; it doesn’t happen super often.  (Of course, I generally average shorter books than Dracula.  And, to be fair, I’ve had several non-fiction books that have taken me months.  I wasn’t reading them exclusively at the time, though.)  Which is why, after I finished it, I grabbed the shortest library book I had, for the sheer pleasure of finishing something else in the same night.   It was a beautiful thing!  I love reading books, but–because of my out of control library habit–I also love finishing books and returning them to the library.  And there really was a feeling of–I’m back!  I can do this!  I can finish books again!

Okay, yeah, I get that not everyone is going to share my enthusiasm.  And that’s okay.  Some people run marathons, which I cannot share any enthusiasm for.  We all have our things.

Whether or not we’re into the same things, however, doesn’t change the fact that Hidden:  A Child’s Story of the Holocaust is well worth your time.  As mixed as my feelings may be about it, graphic novels are here to stay, and they can attract kids that other formats might not.  Hidden is a graphic novel about a grandmother sharing her Holocaust experiences with her granddaughter; the details of the art aren’t my favorite thing about the book, but it’s a skillfully told story nonetheless.  It walks the line between telling the truth and not overwhelming its young target audience rather well (and that’s not a line that’s easy to find).  I tend to avoid Holocaust fiction–there are too many good memoirs out there, waiting to be read–but I made an exception for this one.

I’m glad I did.

 

Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust


New From: $8.04 USD In Stock

Apr 22, 2015 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on I Have Finished the Book!

I Have Finished the Book!

I hope you’re all hearing Verdi’s ‘Grand March’ from “Aida” in your head right now, because I HAVE FINISHED DRACULA!  I really should have picked a different stage of life to read it in, of course, but oh, well–let’s just all acknowledge that any book suffers from being read in 20 page increments and move on to the next portion of my review, shall we?

Here’s the thing.  I’m not into horror.  Even classic horror.  So I can’t wholeheartedly recommend Dracula to all and sundry, because it’s not a book I would have picked up on my own.  On the other hand, if you’re the sort of person who is interested in reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula, I would probably tell you to go on ahead–I think you’ll find it worth your time.  The sexism of the time did irritate me occasionally, but you take what you get with a novel written in 1884; it did rely on the occasional colossally stupid decision, but that’s horror for you.  (It did not draw out those decisions until you wanted to hit something, which I appreciated.)  The beginning was creepier than I expected, but the level of creepiness shifted with the story.  It was more gruesome than I expected, actually.  We live in a society where vampires are romanticized, so it was a surprise to me to find that Bram Stoker’s novel doesn’t romanticize Count Dracula at all.  He’s not appealing, folks.  This surprised me.

I was rather annoyed at Lucy’s character, I confess–the saintly girl who is universally and ridiculously adored by EVERYONE–but there is a more accessible female character, at least.  (Only a man could have written Lucy.  Call me sexist if you will.)  Van Helsing’s odd English was sort of entertaining, while the American character was obviously written by a Briton (slang and stereotypes).  And Renfield was a bit mystifying; one wonders if he only really existed to serve the one purpose, and then Stoker tried to flesh him out so he wouldn’t be so obviously a plot tool?

Anyway.  It read quickly, even when it didn’t actually move quickly.  Once again, this sort of book is not my cup of tea, but if you are interested, I’d say–go for it.

(And I’m sorry for the disjointed review, friends.  Again with the month-long reading process, and the tired from the 2-month-old.  It is what it is.)

Apr 20, 2015 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Cornbread

Cornbread

I believe I’ve mentioned that my hubby isn’t big into breakfast breads, or at least the sweet ones (he does love biscuits and bacon gravy).  The one exception here is cornbread.  True, I grew up having maple syrup on mine, and he grew up with honey, but everyone in the house likes cornbread (even if I DON’T like the crumbs that end up all over the floor every time we eat it).  I’ve been making the recipe in my Betty Crocker cookbook for years, but every once in a while I branch out and try something different–just to see what’s out there.  Last Friday I tried this recipe for The Best Cornbread–no expectations there, right?–and I’m not sure how I feel about it.

To begin with, the recipe calls for you to mix the cornmeal with buttermilk and let it rest at room temperature for half an hour; this wouldn’t have been a big deal, particularly, except that I didn’t see that beforehand.  That, coupled with the unfortunate frozen state of my buttermilk (the back of my fridge gets fairly cold), meant that we ate a bit later than I’d intended; it also meant that I didn’t feel like taking the time to let it cool, even though it specifically said to.  Sadly, it would have been better if I’d taken the time anyway; I wasn’t super impressed with it hot out of the oven. When I tried a piece the next morning I was amazed at how much better I found the flavor to be (not to mention the fact that what was gummy when hot was rather nicely moist the following day).

I’m not sure I want to replace my usual recipe with this one, though, even if I’m not likely to make egregious logistical errors again.  I rather like the coarse quality of cornbread, which this one lacked; I also like the butter/sugar flavor profile.  When you throw honey and applesauce into the mix it changes the flavor, and while it isn’t bad that way, I’m not sure it’s my preference.  This one was also flatter, which made slicing it in half to put butter and honey or syrup on top was a bit harder.  Bottom line?  This one is probably worth trying if you like cornbread, since my issues were all definitively preference issues, but make sure you plan for the resting and cooling times.

And don’t store buttermilk in the very back of your fridge.

Apr 18, 2015 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Of Pasta Pictures and Dinner Ideas

Of Pasta Pictures and Dinner Ideas

Once upon a time, when I had fewer and calmer children (as in, before the boy), I was better at trying to do crafty things with the kiddos.  Not good, mind you; as awesome as my mother and sister are at crafting, that’s not so much my thing (I’m better with reading to and baking with them, although they’re good at that as well).  I was better, though, and we went through a phase where we made pasta pictures with various pasta shapes.  (You know–you put glue on the paper, and the child arranges the pasta on top of the glue?  With the option–sometimes–of painting said pasta when the glue is dry?)  We even kept them for quite a long time, before bowing to reality, taking digital pictures of them to preserve for posterity, and throwing them away.

Anyway.  This is relevant because, when I was looking for easy dinner ideas and my sister suggested Mel’s Skillet Taco Pasta Shells, I knew I’d have to use a different kind of pasta.  (All of the non-jumbo shells in my house got crafted with, so to speak–although to be fair, I don’t know that I ever had medium.)  That’s not exactly a major change,  however, and neither were any of my other ones:  I subbed black beans for the pintos (personal preference), was a bit generous with the salsa verde (my sister’s recommendation), and added some extra water (because it really needed more liquid).  Other than that, I followed the recipe (unless you count being generous with the cheese, but really, who counts that?  In my world view, being generous with the cheese equates to driving 5 over the speed limit).  And I enjoyed it.

I’m not necessarily saying it was earth-shattering, you understand.  It made, however, an enjoyable and (blessedly!) quick-and-easy meal on a school night, and that’s no small thing.  Middle 1 didn’t love it, but she’s never loved Mexican food; Middle 2 (formerly known as the boy) ate some of it himself, which means he certainly liked it some, and the oldest was okay with it (skillet meals are not necessarily one of her very favorite things).  If it were a pain to make, I wouldn’t bother–it’s not memorable enough–but as it is, it’s going in my arsenal of “I need something quick and easy to make for dinner tonight!”

Which is what every day feels like at the moment.  Ah, life with a two-month-old!

Apr 16, 2015 - Uncategorized    1 Comment

On the Subject of Vampires

Yes, folks, I’m still reading Dracula.  I’m on the home stretch, though!  And in the meantime, I thought I’d give Robin McKinley an honorable mention.  I’ve adored this woman’s writing since I first read The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown; not being a vampire person, however, meant that I had to start Sunshine twice.  I put it down the first time because I’m just not that into vampires.  I picked it up again (eventually) because it’s Robin McKinley.  She starts off her books as if you’re picking up a rambling conversation near (but not at) the beginning, and she hooks me every time.  Even her weirdly vague denouements can’t keep me away.  And so I have to say this:  Sunshine may be a vampire book, and it may be classed as horror, but it’s still pretty solidly McKinley.  (Adult McKinley, mind.  There are, say, four sentences or so that are explicit enough that I wouldn’t actually give it to my soon-to-be-eighteen-year-old niece.  If she picked it up on her own, well, she’s probably old enough, but I wouldn’t give it to her myself.)  If you love her, you should read it.  If you have any interest in vampires, you MUST read it.  And guess what?

It’s shorter than Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

 

Apr 14, 2015 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Messy Looking Muffins

Messy Looking Muffins

Have I mentioned that we currently have 1:00 church?

For my not-of-my-faith friends, this means we are at church from 1-4 on Sunday afternoons for the year; not a big deal in a lot of ways, but when you spend the last hour of it wrestling a two-year-old, you don’t exactly come home bursting with energy with which to make dinner.  Which is why, this past Sunday, I put it to a vote–I could make cornbread (an old standby) or try a new recipe, but we were having some sort of breakfast bread for dinner.  My hubby doesn’t particularly care, not being nearly as into brinner as I am, so the girlies’ vote carried the day, and I went looking for something new to try.

My initial choice got rejected because I didn’t have enough dead bananas; these Caramel Apple Muffins, however, sounded interesting, and they used some of the OLD caramels I mentioned having in my pantry.  (They were expired, but I don’t think it made much of a difference.  I didn’t have to melt them, which was key.)  Other than using part whole wheat flour–I don’t imagine that surprises anyone anymore, does it?–I mostly followed the recipe.  (I subbed 1/2 t nutmeg for some of the cinnamon and used most of the apple, which was considerably more than the recipe called for.)  And they weren’t bad, although the streusel melted down into the muffins and the caramels melted out and they had cracks and fissures galore.  Everybody ate theirs willingly, and the girlies wanted some for breakfast the next morning; I ate at least four, which is possibly why I’m not losing the rest of the baby weight as fast as I might like.  My one beef with them was that I wanted more flavor.  The bites with the streusel in them were lovely, since they tasted of brown sugar, butter, and oatmeal, but the bites without wanted to be a little richer than they were.  I don’t love store caramels, which might be largely the problem–when you grow up eating my dad’s homemade caramels, there’s just no going back–but the spices were actually less prominent than I thought they might be.  I’m not sure why.

Ah, well.  I ended up moving it to my ‘On the Fence’ Pinterest board, so I may try them again.  If so, I’ll let you know!

Apr 12, 2015 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Re: Butter Cookies

Re: Butter Cookies

It’s been a LONG evening, and my thoughts are feeling a little scattered, but since I have butter cookies on the brain…

Last summer, when I was in my first trimester and was looking for snacks to bring to a family reunion, I picked up a small tin of Danish butter cookies at Wal-Mart.  I honestly can’t remember what brand they were, but they came in that round blue tin; I figured I was getting the real deal.

Not on your life.  You know how the best part of those butter cookies is the big sugar sprinkles on top of three of the five varieties?  The cheap Wal-Mart ones had little sugar crystals (and weren’t as buttery, either).

It was tragic.

Which is why, of course, when I saw the gigantic tins at Costco over Christmas, I couldn’t help getting myself one.  They were the real thing, and after wanting and not getting them back in July, I couldn’t resist.  Of COURSE…

My passion for butter cookies is fairly well known.  Which is why, on Christmas morning, my hubby presented me with an identical Costco tin of them.  The real thing.  They’re tasty.  And worth it.

And, on this, the 12th of April, almost gone.

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