Archive from July, 2016
Jul 31, 2016 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on An Unexpected Pleasure

An Unexpected Pleasure

I’m pretty sure I checked Friends with Boys out of the library because the title caught my eye while I was looking for something else; I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about it, but graphic novels are such quick reads that I figured–why not?  And lo and behold! I was pleasantly surprised.  Ghost stories are not so much my thing, but this was less about the ghost (although there IS a ghost) and more about Maggie entering high school after nine years of homeschooling; she has to find her way.  She’s used to hanging around with her brothers, but the twins are fighting more than usual and Daniel has a startling number of admirers of the opposite sex.  How do you go about finding friends when you’ve never needed them before?  As Maggie finds her people and grows more comfortable in her new reality, she also learns more about what can–and can’t–be fixed.

I liked this one enough that I’m contemplating recommending it to my 13-year-old niece; there’s a bit of language, but not much, and the message is perfect.  My 9-year-old’s not ready for it yet, but if you’ve got a junior high-er or high schooler, check this one out.

You’ll be glad you did.

Friends with Boys

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Jul 29, 2016 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on An International Effort From Lays

An International Effort From Lays

Have you SEEN the latest from Lays?  (Yes, that was a Chandler Bing moment.)  I was at Wal-Mart yesterday and noticed them as I passed by the display, so of course I had to buy them.  (Must.  Try.  All.  The.  Things.)  We opened our four new bags of potato chips after dinner tonight, and OH my.  Here’s the breakdown by flavor.

1)Brazilian Picanha (Steak and Chimichurri Sauce):  By far the most popular.  I wanted the flavor to be stronger, but the kids and I all liked them; my hubby, however, maintains that meat-flavored potato chips don’t really work for him.

2)Chinese Szechuan Chicken:  The spiciest of the bunch, which I was expecting.  I’ve never had the real thing, but I didn’t think these were bad–just too spicy for me.  (And the girls.  I think my hubby felt more or less like I did.)

3)Indian Tikka Masala:  These did, in fact, taste like tikka masala (more or less), which is completely bizarre in a potato chip.  Also, making this flavor (and only this flavor) kettle cooked was a strange choice.

4)Greek Tzatziki:  The only wavy chip in the bunch.  I think the flavor could have been stronger, honestly, but what I could taste was fairly tzatziki-like.  These were weird because they sort of tasted like dip-flavored chips.

The girlies seemed to be Brazilian or bust, by the way, while my son told me he thought they were all good.  He’s not always reliable, but he may well have been serious, especially since he’s the only one of us who seems to enjoy spiciness.

Well, there you are.  Overall, another original effort from Lays, but I wouldn’t buy any of them again.  Have you tried them? Will you try them now?  Tell me what you think!


Jul 27, 2016 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on The Possibility of Purchasing Red Bean Paste

The Possibility of Purchasing Red Bean Paste

Remember Andrea Cheng’s The Year of the Book?  I had picked it up thinking my second girlie might be up for it, but it was just a bit much for a six-year-old, so I passed it on to her older sister?  Well, my nine-year-old enjoyed the book and followed the directions for making a drawstring bag that were included in the back; she gave the finished product to my hubby for Father’s Day, and I was honestly impressed.  I would never have tackled a project like that without help or supervision, and she asked for none–she did it all on her own, and it looks like a serviceable drawstring bag instead of a nine-year-old’s craft project. How awesome is that?

Fast forward to the next Anna Wang novel, The Year of the Baby, which I finished the other day.  Besides being fully as delightful as the original (Anna’s family has adopted a baby girl from China who is happy but doesn’t want to eat and therefore losing weight; Anna and her friends are able to help in an unexpected way), it also has directions in the back–this time for making “Steamed Red Bean Bao Zi,” for which you need red bean paste.  (You also need a steamer, but we’ll see if the one in my rice cooker manages.)  Now that I’ve finished the book, it goes down into my oldest’s pile, and I’m fairly confident that when she reads it we will end up buying red bean paste at an Asian food store and giving the recipe a try.

In the meantime, if you didn’t give the first book a try when I reviewed it, you really ought to do it now.  Cheng does a lovely job of creating three dimensional characters, drawing even her snotty girls with balance and compassion.  The series is thoroughly enjoyable so far, and the illustrations add a delightful touch.  Don’t miss these books!

The Year of the Baby (An Anna Wang novel)

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Jul 25, 2016 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Better in Smaller Doses

Better in Smaller Doses

When I discovered that The Honest Toddler:  A Child’s Guide to Parenting existed, I put it on hold without hesitating; bits from it show up on my Facebook feed occasionally, and they always make me laugh.

So did the book.

Make no mistake about that, friends.  Honest Toddler has more than a few laugh-out-loud moments.  (On Survivor:  “Being left to your own devices with a group of strangers who wouldn’t hesitate to steal your last bread crust:  Yep, sounds like a playdate to me.”)  I found, however, that I couldn’t read too much in one sitting; it was far more enjoyable in small bits.  (To be completely honest, I thought it needed to be a tad shorter.  Some of those small bits were trying too hard, and pruning those would have increased its overall impact.)  That didn’t surprise me, though–I often feel that way about this type of book.  My one true criticism has to do with voice.  The author vacillated between “toddlers as lovable but completely self-absorbed” and “toddlers as disdainfully gleeful sadists,” and I didn’t enjoy the latter bits as much.  Overall, however, it was still awfully funny, and parents of small children will have a blast looking through it.

Jul 23, 2016 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Memoirs in Verse

Memoirs in Verse

We all know I adore a good verse novel, yes?  AND that I love a well-written memoir?  So here’s my question–why haven’t I loved and adored the last two verse memoirs I’ve read?  Anyone?



Okay, now that I’ve dated myself there, I’m serious about verse memoirs.  I read Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming when it became a Newbery Honor book, and I enjoyed it, but I remember wondering how it would fare with its intended audience.  Memoirs usually don’t have story arcs in quite the same way novels do, and I found myself thinking that I might have enjoyed Woodson’s experiences more in a traditional format.

Flash forward to Margarita Engle’s Enchanted Air:  Two Cultures, Two Wings:  A Memoir, which I finished the other day, and I found myself thinking the same thing.  (By the way, in case you’re wondering, there really are two colons in that title.  I checked.)  While shorter and held more successfully together by its theme, Enchanted Air still lacked–for me–the impact of a verse novel. I enjoyed it, you understand–at least as much as Brown Girl Dreaming–but I wanted to love it more than I did. After all, Engle was half Cuban and just old enough to remember the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis rather vividly; I should have been spellbound by this book.  And I did totally enjoy it, remember.  But.

Here’s my theory.  A good verse novel is a story stripped down to its essence; every word, every punctuation mark, and every phrase plays a deliberate part in telling that story.  Think of an arrow leading to the conclusion–a streamlined, tidy-looking arrow.  Every bit of a verse novel contributes to the plot, and the plot is central to the verse novel.  Memoirs, on the other hand, can be messy.  Memoirs wander.  Plot tends not to be central to memoirs, at least certainly not in the same kind of way. Memoirs aren’t meant to be streamlined arrows, and that’s okay, because that’s not what we look for when we read them. Ultimately, in my opinion, memoirs want words–more words than verse novels have to offer.

To sum up, as Inigo Montoya would say, I enjoyed Enchanted Air–quite a bit; I just don’t see myself reading a lot of verse memoirs.  What do YOU think about the genre?

Jul 21, 2016 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Happy Birthday To Me!

Happy Birthday To Me!

Okay, technically my birthday was Sunday, but we mostly celebrated today.  My hubby grilled chicken, my sister grilled vegetables, my mother showered my older girlies while I cut up fruit, and we had three fabulous varieties of jam to go with our Great Harvest bread.  Arguably the best part,  however, was the rhubarb custard cake.  Be still my beating heart!

I am, however, fairly poopered from the exertions of the day, and so I’ll have to get you the marinade recipe–a family trademark!–another time.  Goodnight all!

Jul 19, 2016 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Worry


I got the worry gene from both sides of my family–in a big way–and I’ve passed it on to at least my oldest daughter.  She worries, I worry about her worrying, I worry about the things I worry about, and there’s just a lot of worry all around.  I’m in charge of my nephew’s fiance’s bridal shower this Saturday, and I want it to be lovely for her, and I want to do a good job, and so I worry.  I have a thing tomorrow for my kids that I’d rather not go to because it’s hot and in an annoying place to get to, and I worry.  I worry about ALL THE THINGS.

Whew.  It actually helped to say that.  In the meantime, I still need to practice my hymns and shower and get to bed at a not-terrible time, and so I’m signing off for the night, before I start worrying about that as well.  Sleep well, world!

Jul 17, 2016 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on A Serious Honor

A Serious Honor

You know those no bake cookies with oats, chocolate, peanut butter, sugar, and butter in them–the ones that involve boiling ingredients for a certain amount of time?  The ones that you drop onto waxed paper to harden and then hide in the freezer to prolong the fantasy that you have an entire batch all to yourself?  (And it IS a fantasy.)  The ones that I am INCAPABLE OF NOT EATING CONTINUOUSLY IF THEY ARE PRESENT?

Ahem.  Well.  My point is that there are authors like that–authors I have to read, authors I crave, authors I cannot resist and that never disappoint me.  Robin McKinley is one, even if she occasionally gets strange, and I grieved for her when her husband died.  Gary D. Schmidt is another–his latest is sitting on my shelf waiting for me.  Joan Bauer, author of (most recently) Soar, is a third.

Bauer is a shining example of how my Newbery project has managed to bring me joy.  (Come to think of it, McKinley and Schmidt are two more examples of exactly that.)  I came across her Hope Was Here years ago, read everything out by her at the time, and started popping over to her website occasionally to make sure I didn’t miss a new release.  I thought I’d done that fairly recently, in fact, which is why the sight of a new Bauer book on display at the library in May stopped me in my tracks. (Quite literally.)  My own card was maxed, so I checked it out on my second girlie’s card–shameless, I know–and I’ve been looking forward to it ever since.  (It’s been a busy summer.)

It was worth the wait.  Jeremiah Lopper is a baseball fanatic with a complicated history.  He can’t play at the moment–his heart transplant didn’t go quite as smoothly as would have been preferred–but when his dad gets a brief consulting job in a town famous for its love of baseball, he’s determined to come along for the ride.  Hillcrest’s relationship with baseball, however, is changing–struggling, in fact–and Jeremiah’s involvement changes right along with it.  As it turns out, his heart is just what the Hillcrest community needs.

I savored this book, folks.  Jeremiah is delightful and had me frequently chuckling, and the big game at the end kept me riveted. (Why reading about fictional baseball games can do that when watching actual baseball games generally bores me to tears, I’ll never know.)  Several popular Bauer themes make an appearance, and that’s not a bad thing–they’re part of what makes her books so delicious.  She is a true literary no-bake cookie, and that is a serious honor.

Don’t miss this one, people.  It has something for everyone.


New From: $6.89 USD In Stock

Jul 15, 2016 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on I’m That Mom

I’m That Mom

What kind of mom is that, you ask?  Well, today I was the kind of mom who:

–Got up at 5:35 with a 1-year-old

–Made whole wheat chocolate chocolate chip banana muffins for breakfast (SO GOOD!)

–Put the screaming, overtired 1-year-old in her room and closed the door for a couple of minutes until I found the gumption to deal with her screaming more patiently

–Allowed the 1-year-old to gnaw on a watermelon rind outside in order to make dinner in peace  (There was totally some pink left on that thing!)

–Joined forces with a neighbor to stick the 1-year-old into the bathroom sink to wash the mud off of her hands and feet before dinner

–Survived the day

I love my 1-year-old, folks, but some days are hard, and most days see a mix of stellar and not-so-stellar parenting for all of us. Here’s hoping you all survived the day as well!

Jul 13, 2016 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Waffles, Waffles, and More Waffles

Waffles, Waffles, and More Waffles

Since we were at a family reunion last week and didn’t really do any grocery shopping until Monday, I had to figure out a Sunday dinner using only what we already had in the house.  My solution was to try this recipe for Sweet Potato Walnut Waffles–without the walnuts, of course, since my oldest is allergic.  I cooked up a couple of sweet potatoes and measured the wet ingredients and the dry ingredients separately, but I wasn’t sure it was going to be quite enough.  I still had leftover cooked sweet potato, so I started to half the recipe and add it to what I had already measured out; I was right in the middle of that when my nephew and his fiance called to see if they could come hang out with us for the evening (because when you’re engaged, the roommate experience grows old quickly).  “Don’t worry about feeding us, we ate a little!”

Seriously, guys?

I was a college student once.  I was engaged and broke once.

I also inherited the feeder gene from both sides of the family.

I told them to come on over and I’d whip up some more waffle batter, and then I ran down to shower my girls so they’d be free to play with their cousin(s) when they arrived.  When I came back up I started to add another half batch to what I had measured–there was still sweet potato!–before realizing that I hadn’t actually finished measuring out the previous half.  Darn it.  Perhaps I was blessed for feeding the hungry or attending church on Sunday, because I’m pretty sure I actually ended up getting all of the ingredients measured correctly.  Hallelujah!

The best part was that the waffles got a fairly universal thumbs up.  I left out the walnuts and subbed wheat germ (which I had) for the ground flax meal (which I didn’t); I was also fairly generous with the vanilla and the nutmeg, because that’s how I roll. The only thing I’d do differently would be to add less liquid to the sweet potatoes in the blender, because while they were easier to puree with more, I think the waffles would have been crispier with less.  We had not a waffle left over from what amounted to a double batch, and my oldest announced that we should make them again after eating her first waffle.

I’d call that a success.