Archive from August, 2016
Aug 31, 2016 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on I Wanted to Be Fascinated

I Wanted to Be Fascinated

Stubby the War Dog:  The True Story of World War I’s Bravest Dog looked like a fascinating story–after all, how many dogs got their own uniforms while basically serving in WWI?  Unfortunately, the premise was more fascinating than the book.  Part of it was most certainly the writing–Ann Bausum overdid the “it was likely/it might have been so/we can imagine such-a-thing happening” comments–but to be fair, it seemed like there may have been a dearth of primary sources during the most interesting time periods.  I’m going to give one more of her books a chance to see if it makes a difference, but as for this one…
There is interesting information here, certainly.  There are impressive illustrations that complement that information.  Unfortunately, the information would have been better presented by an author skilled in the art of writing middle grade non-fiction.  (Russell Freedman, Susan Campbell Bartoletti, and Jim Murphy come to mind!)  If you desperately want to learn about Stubby, I’d explore some other options before settling on this book.
Aug 29, 2016 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Okay


I think I grabbed Letters to Leo because we’d read picture books illustrated by its illustrator.  And hey, it looked cute–a fourth grade girl writing letters to her dog about what was going on in her life.  Right?

Here’s the thing.  It wasn’t cute in the way I wanted it to be cute, but I could see it serving a niche.  A reluctant girl reader would likely love the format, the illustrations, and subject matter.  Possibly most middle grade girls would like it.  For me, well–there were a few striking plot similarities between it and Sarah Weeks’ Honey, but the latter had more depth–and balance.  Annie’s viewpoint wasn’t mitigated much by an adult perspective, and I’d worry that some readers wouldn’t catch on to that.

Bottom line?  I thought it was okay, but it would probably be a good choice for a struggling (girl) reader.  (I doubt many boys would be interested.)  If you’ve got one, it’s probably worth a try.

Letters to Leo

New From: $5.34 USD In Stock

Aug 27, 2016 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on A Big Shout-Out to My Hubby

A Big Shout-Out to My Hubby

A couple of weeks ago my hubby surprised me with tickets to Henry V at the Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City.

This was a BIG deal.

For starters, Henry V is my favorite play.  We’ve been talking about going for almost a year, but after replacing our bathtub in the spring we’re feeling kind of poor–AND my 20th high school reunion is this fall.  I want to go to that–I miss my hometown, and it’s not as if I have the chance to see anyone I went to school with here in Utah–and that’s going to cost money.  We decided we weren’t going to be able to manage it, even though my favorite play is unlikely to be back for quite a while, and I didn’t think about it again…until I got a text from my hubby asking what we were doing the week of the 22nd.  When he didn’t give me a reason why he was asking (even when I asked him), a tiny little voice started saying what if in my head; when he told me it was a done deal, I was thrilled.

Also, by done deal, I mean COMPLETELY planned.  As in, he’d already fixed it with his mom to come to our house and stay with our kiddos, we had a hotel–the works.  How awesome is that?

Now, I admit, half of me is feeling guilty about this post, because you don’t want to be braggy in that annoying way that people get on FB.  The other half, however, says that this is MY blog, and the man deserves the recognition.  We’ve had some rough years, and we’ve both gone through periods where focusing on making each other happy was a struggle; marriage is hard. When you have a ‘nothing but net’ marriage moment, it deserves celebration, right?

I think so.

No.  I KNOW so.

Aug 25, 2016 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Close to Home

Close to Home

Last Sunday we ate dinner at my in-laws’, and while I was chopping up apples for my salad, I mentioned to my mother-in-law that I was reading a book about developing an operation to save ‘blue babies’ and was learning all kinds of things in the process.  My father-in-law, at the other end of the room, started asking questions about it, which was unexpected (he and I generally read different kinds of books).  After several questions he asked me if I knew why he was so interested, and then continued with “I had an older brother…”  I told him that yes, I knew he’d had an older brother that died, and my father-in-law nodded and responded, “He was a blue baby.  He was born in 1942 and lived for 5 days.”

I hadn’t known that.  And it blew me away, because I had already learned that the first successful operation on a blue baby had taken place in 1944.  He’s since ordered his own copy of Breakthrough!:  How Three People Saved “Blue Babies” And Changed Medicine Forever, which is just as well (my copy is getting returned to the library the next time I pass a drive-through).  He may even find it more interesting than I did–but I found it fascinating.  The surgical procedure in question was actually developed by a black lab assistant to the head of surgery at John Hopkins.  Vivien Thomas was the only black employee at the time who wasn’t in a menial position, and his journey involved a whole lot more than scientific research.  Together, however, he, his employer, and the head of the pediatric cardiac unit found a way to save the lives of countless children who weren’t expected to see adulthood.  This is a book about science, about medicine, about the history of race in this country, and–most importantly–about progress.  It’s a compelling read for anyone.

Don’t miss it.

Aug 23, 2016 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on An Emotional Journey

An Emotional Journey

I was thrilled to win a copy of Plum Johnson’s They Left Us Everything; after all, I’m a memoir-loving pack rat, and the idea of mentally accompanying someone sorting through a generation’s worth of family history was irresistible.  In reading it, however, I got more than I bargained for.  Johnson’s father died of Alzheimer’s, while my own father is currently battling dementia; Johnson’s family home was on a lovely piece of land by Lake Ontario, while my own family’s home was in the Rhode Island woods, an hour away from the ocean.  We both enjoy rich family histories, albeit rich in different ways.  As I shared Plum’s journey of discovery, I found myself wondering what it was like for my sister to help my parents prepare to move from that family home in RI to a much smaller house in Idaho.  I will probably always regret not being there, both to help and to say goodbye to a place I still love fiercely, but I wasn’t in a stage of life conducive to doing either.

It is what it is.

Ultimately, I found Johnson’s memoir poignant, humorous, and well-written; it’s difficult, however, to accurately evaluate a work that took me on a sometimes uncomfortable emotional journey.  It’s certainly worth reading, but I did–occasionally–find it hard to read.  I suppose that’s an added endorsement in its own way, really, but–well, here’s the thing.

You should read it.  You totally should.  I’m glad I did.

I just won’t be reading it again anytime soon.

Aug 21, 2016 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Feeling Lazy

Feeling Lazy

This post should really be longer, but I’m tired and we were gone all evening and it’s a school night, so you get the Reader’s Digest Condensed version.  I had to bring birthday treats to dinner at my in-laws’ for my new 7-year-old and found this recipe for Peanut Butter Caramel Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars.  Now, if that sounds like a 9 by 13 pan-full of goodness to you–why, yes.  Yes, it was.  They make you super thirsty and they’re deeper than your usual bars, so cut them into very small pieces, but oh, the goodness.

You should go make them.

I’m going to bed.

Aug 19, 2016 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on A Surprise Hit

A Surprise Hit

Every once in a while I decide to try a recipe that I’m not sure anyone in my family will like (trying new recipes is how I keep feeding my family every night from becoming a tedious chore); these Chicken & Sweet Potato Enchiladas were one of those recipes.  I had sweet potatoes as well as all of the other ingredients, and since it was Sunday, I had time to roll enchiladas with another adult in the house to police the 1-year-old.  What really surprised me was how well they went over!  My son LOVED them, and my husband had seconds, and the 1-year-old and I had a party.  I served them with sour cream, chopped garden tomatoes, and perfect pieces of avocado, and they were thoroughly delightful.  I did accidentally add extra black beans–by the time I realized that it called for one cup, instead of one can, it was too late–but we were happy with the result.  I also stacked them two layers deep in the pan I started with, rather than pulling out another one (I don’t think I’ve EVER managed to come out with the numbers the recipe calls for when I’m rolling filling into tortillas).  This involved some extra salsa verde, but it worked just fine.  I tossed the red onion in a hot pan with some olive oil for a minute or two–I don’t love the taste of near-raw onion–and the one teaspoon of chili powder became a scant half teaspoon plus a generous half teaspoon of cumin, because that’s how I roll.

Clearly I take liberties when I cook.

The end result, however, was definitely worth making again.  And since we’re heading into sweet potato season, and my youngest seems to have a taste for them, I’m sure we’ll be doing that at our house!

Aug 17, 2016 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on I Have a 7-Year-Old!

I Have a 7-Year-Old!

Today my second girlie turned 7–and started second grade.  Which means, of course, that we’re spreading her birthday meals out over a week or so, because OH, the first day of school!


Here are 7 things I love about my newly minted 7-Year-Old:

  1.  Her smile.  It lights up her entire face.
  2.  Her sweetness.  She is my child who will occasionally tell me, “You are a good Momma.  I love you.”
  3.  Her diction.  She frequently (and adorably!) eschews contractions.  (“I would not like that.”  “I do not know.”)
  4.  Her willingness to eat things she doesn’t love.  (And a good thing too, since she’s my pickiest eater!)
  5.  Her passion for Italian food.  (I like to think there’s a little bit of RI in her!)
  6.  Her gift for nurturing.  She’s a little loving mother to her younger siblings.
  7.  Her imagination.  She can pretend play with Barbies, Ponies, doll house figures–you name it–like nobody’s business.

Happy Birthday to my second oldest–I hope it’s the start of a great year!

Aug 9, 2016 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on All The Things

All The Things

Yes, I know, I missed out posting last night.  But this week has been and will continue to be fairly crazy–we have family coming into town for a wedding, appointments galore, and a birthday celebration to schedule since the actually birthday falls ON THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL.  At the very least I’m taking a break until next week starts; realistically, there will be enough going on next week that I make no promises until after the 18th.  Goodnight all!

Aug 6, 2016 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Ten Hours of Parsley

Ten Hours of Parsley

Asparagus has been available for crazy good prices lately, which never happens in August in Utah.  The last of what I purchased was still in the fridge when I found this recipe for Creamy Pasta with Asparagus and Bacon and thought–hey, I’ve got half a pound of bacon waiting to be used!  THIS CAN BE DINNER!

I’ve been strapped for ideas lately, can you tell?

Anyway.  I was generous with the asparagus (a pound and a half is a lovely way to go) and subbed 12 oz of evaporated milk and 1/2 C whole milk for the cream, but other than that I followed the recipe, and it was INCREDIBLE.  The saltiness of the bacon and the Parmesan, the crisp-tender asparagus, the hint of nutmeg…mmmm.  I even added the parsley to the whole recipe instead of just my serving, which my son and I loved, at least.  (My second girlie:  “Why did you put SO MUCH parsley in here? There’s 10 YEARS of parsley in here!”  My oldest girlie immediately wanted to know exactly how much parsley she was referring to.)  If you live in a place where asparagus is both decent and affordable right now, put this on your weekly menu ASAP.

Note:  I couldn’t find any cooking instructions for the asparagus in the recipe, so I tossed it in with the pasta during the last two minutes of cooking time.  Not cooking it might have worked for me, but my one-year-old doesn’t have, you know, molars.