Archive from January, 2017
Jan 31, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on My Go-To Banana Bread

My Go-To Banana Bread

My family LOVES banana bread.  ALL of them.  And while I’m experimented with different recipes and liked many of them, this Classic Banana Bread is my basic, tried-and-true, everybody-wants-a-second-(or-third)-slice recipe.  I don’t make many changes; I do half wheat flour and half white and I leave off the brown sugar (I just don’t need extra sweetness on top of my banana bread).  I’ve made it with both sour cream and plain yogurt and there’s not much of a taste difference, so I generally go with the healthier option.  OH, and I don’t measure the vanilla.  I just, you know, pour until it feels generous. And EVERYONE LOVES IT.  I used to serve it as our carb for a whole lot of meals when my second was a toddler, because I could get her to take bites of–horror of horrors!–new foods when I was offering bites of this banana bread afterward.  (I’ve made the chocolate variation, by the way–tasty but more work.)

Anyway.  To make a long story short, this is good banana bread.  Try it.

You’ll thank me.

Jan 29, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on A Very Belated Review

A Very Belated Review

Loathe as I am to admit to such a level of procrastination, I confess–I finished Civil Rights Childhood sometime in November, and I’m just now getting to its review.  How bad is that?  It’d be worse, of course, if I hadn’t taken time off for the holidays, but still.  Two months?  Seriously?

The thing is, I did have a few reasons.  It felt like a more complicated review to write, partly because of the book itself and partly because of its format.  The two months’ wait will, of necessity, simplify the review, but it’s still not an entirely easy one.  I put off reading the book itself for a year because of the font size, because OH.  MY.  GOSH.  My eyes may not be young anymore, but I have friends who wouldn’t have wanted to read that font in high school–it’s evilly small. When I took a good look at the publisher, however, I realized that the font and the general format were likely functions of being put out by a university press.  My dad was a professor at RIC for decades, and I remember some of the travails he went through to get his book published.  He ended up going through a university press as well, and I especially recall him lamenting the size of the maps.

Format aside, I thoroughly enjoyed most of the book.  Jordana Shakoor had a fascinating childhood, and the contrast between her mother’s and her father’s families and situations give her book balance.  I learned things I hadn’t known and gained additional perspective on the issue of race in this country, which I imagine was part of her purpose.  My only real problems with the book are the title and the ending.  Civil Rights Childhood is an acceptable title for a research paper, but for a published book, it’s clunky.  (I tried to think of a better one and couldn’t, but I’m terrible at coming up with titles.)  It’s also not entirely accurate, because while the balance of the book is about Shakoor’s childhood (and the relevant aspects of her parents’ before her), the last 20 or 30 pages morph into something else.  When the Jordan family (Shakoor changed her name as an adult) moved to Ohio, their lives diverged from the main stage of the civil rights movement; her own life becomes more generic (so to speak).  The very end of the book, moreover, reads like a biography of the author’s father, and while his Ohio teaching career and later family life aren’t un-interesting, they belie the title.  Ultimately, though, this was a worthwhile read.  In an ideal world, it would be picked up by a major publisher and Shakoor would work with an editor to make the book a tighter finished product; in this world, however, its good points still outnumber its imperfections.  Get yourself some reading glasses and give it a try!

Civil Rights Childhood


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Jan 27, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on The Plate Is Empty!

The Plate Is Empty!

Okay, okay, so the pun might be slightly lame, but I have finally finished The American Plate:  A Culinary History in 100 Bites.  It’s the sort of book that lends itself to being read in small chunks, so it’s been residing in my bathroom drawer for, well, months.  (Judge me if you will, but when you’re a stay-at-home mom, stealing enough time for a page or two a few times a day can do wonders for your sanity.  In retrospect, perhaps that’s why my parents always took longer in the bathroom than it seemed like they should have…)

My sister actually recommended this one to me, and overall, it was an enjoyable read.  O’Connell is sometimes heavy-handed with her social commentary, but the occasional hilarity of her regular commentary balances that out decently well.  (The section on beaver tail made me laugh out loud.)  Some of her “bites” were more general than I might have preferred, but much of her information was fascinating.  Ultimately, it’s a great book for a food lover to read in snatches.  And if you try any of the recipes, let me know how they are!

Jan 25, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Inter-Novel Relationships

Inter-Novel Relationships

I started Full of Beans because I assumed it was a sequel to Jennifer L. Holm’s Turtle in Paradise (which I thoroughly enjoyed).  It was quickly apparent, however, that that wasn’t really it at all, and so I spent most of the book considering it a companion novel.  Different protagonists, same setting–it looked like a duck (so to speak), and so I assumed (which, of course, one should never do) that that’s what it was.  It took until the very end for me to realize that it’s actually closer to a prequel, which tempts me to re-read Turtle in a quest for new insights.  (Because, you know, I need more books on my to-read list.)

I have no issue with varying relationships between and among books at all, mind–I just didn’t look closely enough at this one initially.  Thankfully, it didn’t make much difference to my enjoyment of it.  Beans is a prickly but (ultimately) lovable character, and the story intertwined with his–the salvation of Key West during the Depression–was a fascinating one about which I knew absolutely nothing.  Jennifer L. Holm’s genius lies, in part, in her ability to use her family history as literary inspiration, and it’s won her more than one Newbery Award.  If you like historical fiction, make it a point to read hers.

You won’t be disappointed.

Full of Beans


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Jan 23, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Huzzah for the ALA Youth Media Awards–And More!

Huzzah for the ALA Youth Media Awards–And More!

It’s been a full day, actually, but kudos to my hubby for giving our toddler her second dose of ear drops himself, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my RI friend Kim, my UT friend BethAnne, my wonderful father, and my gone-but-never-forgotten friend Lisa, who is probably winning Monopoly games by the score up in heaven (under slightly suspicious circumstances).

AND, of course, hooray for the ALA Youth Media Awards!  The full list of winners is here, and I’m sorry to say that I’ve only read two books on the entire list. Never fear, however–all four Newberys are already on hold, and I’ll load up on some of the kids’ books as soon as I can return all of the books on the Donner Party I put on hold for my oldest girl’s History Fair project.  In the meantime, take a look yourself, give something new a try, and let me know what you think!

Jan 22, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Important Notice!

Important Notice!

Tonight’s regularly planned post will be postponed until tomorrow, because the American Library Association’s annual Youth Media Awards webcast is tomorrow morning at 8:00 am–Eastern.  Watch it here!  I myself am torn between wanting to watch it and hoping to still be asleep…

Jan 20, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on I Get To Them Eventually

I Get To Them Eventually

Last night I finished The Camelot Caper, a mystery Britt lent me that’s been sitting on my shelf for years.  (At least five, probably more.)  I don’t read many mysteries any more, but I have to say–this one was a lot of fun.  It sticks you right in the middle of quite the menacing atmosphere, but the comic relief shows up quickly enough to balance that; luckily, that same comic relief and the quirkiness of the characters rescues it from its dips into gender stereotypes.  (I’m not overly picky about that sort of thing, mind, but some of the dips did make me roll my eyes.  I suppose one must make allowances for a book first published in 1969!)

Overall, if you’re fond of an English mystery, this one is definitely worth checking out.  I find myself wondering if there are sequels…

The Camelot Caper


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Jan 18, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Still Sick, But Hey

Still Sick, But Hey

I was tempted to be lazy about everything today, but if I’m just laying around sick (except when my children need me), then I might as well review a book and get it out of my house, right?  Anyway.  My friend Andrea picked Shanna Swendson’s Rebel Mechanics:  All is Fair in Love and Revolution for book club a few months ago, and I finally grabbed it as I hopped onto the treadmill.  I figured I’d do an in-depth skim (so to speak), since it’s less my thing, but–surprise surprise!–I ended up very much enjoying it.

The premise is intriguing; what if the British upper classes had magic, and what if that magic had squashed the colonies’ rebellion in 1776?  And what IF, in 1888, a new rebellion surfaces, based upon the use of new inventions (like the steam engine!) that will ease the colonists’ dependence on magic?  Enter Verity Newton, newly hired governess for a somewhat atypical magister (magical upper class) family who happens to meet some of the rebel mechanics on the way to her (successful) job interview.  Drawn by both their cause and the interesting political leanings of her employer, Verity must work out her own path in the midst of the turmoil.  (Just so you know, we’re blaming any and all cliches in this post on the cough syrup with codeine.)

I have to say, the book had me worried for awhile; I was afraid it was heading too far down the rabbit hole of immediate connection young adult romance.  The plot went a bit differently than I feared, however, and I ended up being quite satisfied with the ending.  Bottom line?  If this sounds like your thing, read it.  If it doesn’t but you have a passion for history, give it a try as well.  You may well be as pleasantly surprised as I was!

Jan 16, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Writing In Sick

Writing In Sick

I’m thinking my littlest and I both have the flu–as in influenza,  you understand–and it stinks.  The aches, the fevers and chills, the slightly upset stomach, the tired (oh, the tired!), and yet my children still want to eat, and laundry must be done if we want clean clothes…ugh.  And since there’s a limit to what I can just not do when I feel icky, I’m making cuts where I can.  You’ll get the review of my latest book another day, friends.

Signing off.

Jan 14, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on A “For Me” Recipe

A “For Me” Recipe

You know how it is when you’re feeding a family–it’s rarely worth making recipes that no one loves as much as you do.  Rarely,  you understand.  Sometimes, however, a mom’s gotta do what a mom’s gotta do.  None of my children enjoy this Bacon Tortellini Bake as much as I do, and my hubby is a potato rather than a pasta man, but since I love it, and no one actually despises it, it came up in the dinner lottery this week.  And seriously–it’s creamy, it’s cheesy, it’s bacon-y, and it’s got broccoli–what’s not to love?  (My oldest would say the cheese tortellini, my second would say the broccoli…whatever!)  I use half of a Costco double pack of frozen tortellini, which is more than the recipe calls for, so I up the broccoli to 4-ish cups and measure the sauce ingredients generously.  I’m also pretty stingy on the cook time for the broccoli, because where broccoli cooking is concerned, less is almost always more, right?  And I use whatever milk I have on hand, which lately is 1%.  And it works.

And it’s yummy.

You should try it.

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