Archive from February, 2017
Feb 27, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Easy Reading, Emotionally Satisfying

Easy Reading, Emotionally Satisfying

Seriously.  Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie may be short (I read the whole thing today), and the vocabulary may be relatively simple, but it sure made teary.  Eight-year-old Eleanor’s babysitter-since-she-was-born, Bibi, is moving away to take care of her sick father, and Eleanor misses her and misses her.  Ultimately, however, her parents, her new babysitter, and her friends (old and new!) help her deal with her very real grief.  This is a poignant, humorous, lovely little book, and while it’s going to be technically easy for my seven-year-old, it’s emotionally just about right!

Oh, and the illustrations only add to it.  I love Eleanor’s mad faces!

Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie (Eleanor)

New From: $4.76 USD In Stock

Feb 25, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on New On The Junk Food Front

New On The Junk Food Front

Since the Beer ‘n Brats Lays have beer in some form on the label, I’m not going there; the Southwestern Queso chips, however, taste astonishingly like, well…queso.  As for the Kettle Cooked Garden Tomato & Asiago flavor…hmm.  They taste garlicky with some black pepper and indeterminate cheese going on, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad.  They’re just not as good–or as successful in nailing their stated flavor–as they want to be.

On the sweet front, the Carrot Cake Hershey Kisses are kind of tasty–cream cheese-y with cinnamon going on–and the Peeps Oreos are weirdly, shockingly delicious.  I cannot abide Peeps, folks, but these are–I don’t even know.  They do leave your tongue shockingly, neon-highlighter pink, but who cares?

I won’t be trying the Fruit Punch Peeps, by the way, because that’s a double NOPE! for me.  Anybody know of anything else new this spring that I should try?

Feb 23, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on A Worthy Second Installment

A Worthy Second Installment

Yesterday I finished Rebel Magisters, which is an impressive second installment in what is obviously going to be at least a trilogy.  Sequels can disappoint, but this one doesn’t; besides including the Boston Tea Party in its alternate history, it introduces some interesting issues that promise to have significant impact on the coming revolution.  (I found myself wondering about the kinds of problems the post-revolution government is going to face, which is a neat trick for a fantasy novel to play on me.)  Verity and Henry further much of the plot of this one–each in their own way–but there are other characters who blossom in the meantime. All in all, I couldn’t have asked for a better followup to Rebel Mechanics.  You really ought to give this series a try!

Rebel Magisters (Rebels) (Volume 2)

New From: $14.53 USD In Stock

Feb 21, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Hoppin’ John Is A Thing–I Know This Now

Hoppin’ John Is A Thing–I Know This Now

Thanks to my Food Network magazine, that is.  I saw this recipe for Hoppin’ John Salad an issue or three ago and it’s been on my radar ever since; I finally got around to making it for lunch today.  And I have to say–it was tasty.  The ham and the hot rice gave it a depth of flavor that I wouldn’t have expected to get instantaneously–I was afraid it would end up having to chill overnight, but there wasn’t any left to chill!  My carpool friend enjoyed it as well, and my son enthusiastically finished off the last of it.  I was generous with the parsley (I find it completely impossible not to be) and I used raw coconut vinegar (which we have because of my daughter’s science fair project) instead of apple cider–I don’t love apple cider vinegar–but other than that I followed the recipe exactly.  (I even bought the frozen brown rice at Trader Joe’s.)  It had crunch, it had chewiness, it had smokiness, it had acidity…it was lovely.  And now it’s gone.  BUT–the frozen brown rice was part of a three-pack, so…

Feb 19, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on To My Junior High Self

To My Junior High Self

Dear Alyson, Allie, Al, Sid (yes, my brother called me that for years), whatever–if I had a time machine, I’d bring Frazzled:  Everyday Disasters and Impending Doom back to 1990 for you to read.  The format would seem weird, since graphic novels weren’t a thing then (at least as far as I knew!) and it’s really more like half doodles and half doodle-y text anyway, but it’s exactly the kind of book you need.  You’d relate to Abbie Wu, who is always in a state of crisis over something, and you might actually believe what she learns by the end about perspective (anything’s possible!).  It’s completely appropriate, unlike the Piers Anthony books you’ve been reading and the V.C. Andrews books your sister’s friend recommended, and you’d finish it off in a day or so.  You might want more concrete closure than you’ll get, but hey–life is like that!  Since no time machines seem to be forthcoming, however, I’ll content myself with recommending it to parents of junior high/middle school girls everywhere.

Nostalgically, Alyson

P.S.  You’ll figure your hair problems out sooner if you embrace the puberty-ignited curl, scrunch in some gel, and leave it down.

P.P.S.  Since you like to be warned of bad news in advance, the presidential election of 2016 is going to be a trainwreck.  Brace yourself.

Feb 17, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Who Doesn’t Love a Good Impression?

Who Doesn’t Love a Good Impression?

It feels like most people have heard the incredible Brian Hull singing “Let It Go” in all the different Disney/Pixar voices; if you haven’t, click here and prepare to be delighted.  Tonight, however–thanks to the friend of a friend on Facebook–I discovered Christina Bianco’s cover of “Let It Go.”  Her impressions started off a little slowly for me, partly because I’m not particularly familiar with Demi Lovato, but oh, her Julie Andrews!

I’m just going to leave y’all to enjoy these, because it’s late and I have miles–well, yards at least–to go before I sleep.  Who else does impressions that I should be listening to?

Feb 15, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on An Informal Review

An Informal Review

I actually skimmed through Martin Bridge:  Ready for Takeoff! on the treadmill quite awhile ago before passing it off to my seven-year-old; she just finished it tonight, however, and I’m happy to report that she thoroughly enjoyed it.  Martin is a lovable elementary schooler facing elementary school dilemmas, and author Jessica Scott Kerrin manages to lead him to resolutions sans bathroom humor, with a sweet sort of sensitivity that is often lacking in books about boys this age. My second girlie loves the emotionally complex, and this book fit the bill nicely!  She and I are both looking forward to the sequel.*

Bottom line?  Get this one for your 1st-3rd grade boys, people.  Martin deals with a cranky bus driver, a friend’s pet’s mortality, and some sticky friend conflict, all in ways that earn my parental stamp of approval.  I’m getting the first one for my 4-year-old in a year or two.

*For unimaginable reasons, Goodreads doesn’t list these books as a series.  Here’s the link I found giving the order:


Martin Bridge: Ready for Takeoff!

New From: $4.76 USD In Stock

Feb 13, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Stuff


After I finished Full of Beans a few weeks ago (or thereabouts) I was looking idly through the Jennifer L. Holm titles in our library system, which is where I came across Eighth Grade is Making Me Sick:  Ginny Davis’s Year in Stuff.  Because I have a serious library problem–um, I mean, because it looked interesting–I reserved it and checked it out, and since it was a short, easy read, I finished it shortly thereafter.  AND–on the one hand, I quite enjoyed it.  On the other hand, I didn’t realize that it was a sequel to Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf:  A Year Told Through Stuff until after I finished it.  (I didn’t realize that the first book existed until after I finished the second.  Believe it or not, I generally try pretty darn hard to make sure that doesn’t happen.)

That being said, it doesn’t stand too badly on its own, although I’d read the other first if I had it to do over again.  It’s amazing what a good writer can show through grocery lists, notes to teachers, brief text exchanges, hospital bills, report cards…you get the idea.  Ginny’s family is experiencing significant but relatable upheavals, and Holm does an excellent job of conveying what she needs to convey with no actual traditional text.  (It’s not a graphic novel, but it will likely have similar appeal to readers.)  She also stays within fairly appropriate bounds while dealing with real issues, which is an impressive feat in this day and age.

Bottom line?  A good book–one with substance belying its size–for your middle schooler, and one you’ll enjoy as well.

Feb 11, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on The Year’s First Newbery

The Year’s First Newbery

Since my reading time has been limited of late, I figured I’d get 2017’s only short Newbery out of the way; Freedom Over Me:  Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan is, essentially, a text-heavy picture book.  (Also title-heavy, when it comes right down to it!)  The illustrations are not necessarily my style, but I’m not a student of art, so I can’t offer an informed critique there.  Unfortunately, I can offer a more informed critique of the text, and while I wanted to love this book–I really did–the sad truth is that I just didn’t.  I loved the concept–the concept was certainly worthy of a Newbery–but the execution fell flat.

To be perfectly honest, I loved the concept more when I thought it was a bit more factually based.  I didn’t realize that the only facts the author had to work from were the names and prices of the slaves; he created not only the occupations of each one but the ages as well.  The title was a problem for me here, honestly.  The phrase ‘brought to life’ implies more of a factual basis than Bryan had.  Switching it out with ‘imagined’ would suit me better, because really, isn’t that exactly what he did?

The bigger problem, however, was the unevenness of the writing.  Some of it was fine for the setting, if not as sparely powerful as I would have preferred.  Some it it, however, was frankly jarring.  We aren’t all Mark Twain, so I’m not faulting Bryan for not attempting to write in dialect, but am I really supposed to believe that slaves born in Africa, who learned English as slaves without benefit of any formal education, thought statements like this?

Hearing the slaves

singing the songs

Mulvina and I created

reminds me

of the rich musical world

so integral and natural

in African daily and ceremonial life.

Or this?

My work has made this house

a model of beauty and comfort.

I’m loaned to other estates

to design their gardens

and bring style to their parlors.

Or this?

I am thinking

if I were free,

I would acquire my own

acres of land.

I would hire

men and women

from cities and farms

to work and study the land

with me.

Earnings from our labor

would benefit all of us,

the workers.

Those are not the believable voices of slaves.  Even some of those sentiments feel modern, frankly, but the language–the language is that of a lecture given on what those slaves may have thought or believed or known or felt.  Bryan could have created a powerful book using simple language and kept the first person; he could have created a fascinating book using more of the language he used if he’d switched to third person and altered the semantics to make that work.  Instead, he put modern-feeling lectures into the mouths of people who could never have expressed themselves that way.  They could have expressed themselves eloquently, mind–you don’t have to be or sound educated to be eloquent.  They just couldn’t have expressed themselves the way Ashley Bryan imagined in this book.  Ultimately, that problem kept me from connecting with the book in any meaningful way.  I wanted it to be a different–a better–book than it was.

Feb 9, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on So Happy Together

So Happy Together

I bought some avocados a few days ago when they were 3/$1 at Ream’s, because as my friend Andrea pointed out–didn’t EVERYONE buy avocados when they were 3/$1 at Ream’s?  (Except our friend Britt, who’s not a fan.)  They’ve been sitting and ripening quite nicely on my counter, and so today I looked over my recipe choices and went with this Avocado, Tomato, & Feta Dip.  (A pause while I gaze contentedly at my Oxford comma and my ampersand side by side.  I took the liberty of adding the former, because her blog is her blog but my blog is mine.)


I halved the recipe, more or less, but I was fairly cavalier about ingredients.  No red onions in the house?  Eh.  I prefer green onions when I’m eating them raw, anyway.  No cherry tomatoes?  A diced small-ish regular one ought to do it.  Measure the parsley?  Not in MY house.  I did use fresh lemon juice and good red wine vinegar, and I actually measured those.  (Although next time I’ll be more generous with the lemon juice, because when SHOULDN’T you be generous with fresh lemon juice?  Never.)  I wondered about the tortilla chip bit–in fact, I almost just broke out the wheat thins instead–but they worked just fine.  Because when you marry avocado, tomato, feta, lemon juice, and parsley, friends, they’re just so happy together that they don’t really care where they are.  A spoon would have been just fine, too.

I may or may not have eaten the entire bowl myself.

Ok, fine, I absolutely did eat the entire bowl myself–in one sitting.  But only because Britt didn’t want any.