Archive from August, 2017
Aug 29, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Last Night’s Dinner

Last Night’s Dinner

Every once in a while I pick up a block of Monterey Jack, thinking hey, I’ll make a bunch of those recipes I always see that call for it.  Only once I actually have the Jack in my fridge, do you think I can find any of those recipes?  That’d be a big fat NOPE.  In desperation, then, I did a search of my pins on Pinterest for ‘Monterey’ and came up with this Monterey Chicken Pasta Bake.

It was tasty.

Of course, it’s hard for pasta, chicken, and bacon in a homemade sauce not to be tasty, but still.  I completely ignored the amounts listed for the chopped tomatoes and cilantro, because seriously–how can you use them as toppings if you have such small amounts of each for an entire 9 by 13 pan?  (It’s baffling, I tell you what.)  I also didn’t bother to measure the Parmesan, because who measures Parmesan cheese that just gets sprinkled on top in the last 10 minutes of baking?  (Also baffling.)  Other than that, though, I followed the recipe*, and while the rigatoni was a bit on the awkward side for my younger kiddos, we all enjoyed it.  If you’re looking for some cheesy, chicken-y, bacon-y pasta goodness–and who isn’t?–make this recipe.  And go wild with the garden tomatoes on top!

*Technically, I used half an onion and part of a shallot instead of one small onion, but that was entirely a function of using what was already in baggies in my fridge–and I doubt it changed the flavor significantly.

Aug 28, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Food, Friends, and Family

Food, Friends, and Family

That’s why I missed yesterday, folks.  And today was my son’s first day of kindergarten.  Craziness!  He liked it, which is good, although I think it may take him a while to make friends.  (He’s not a “warm up to strangers quickly” kind of guy.)  Afternoon kindergarten will take a bit of time to feel like a habit–I registered late and it was what was left, but I think it will work for us–but it currently provides me an hour and a half or so of time to myself, because my youngest is actually still napping.  (I’ve never had a child still nap at 2 1/2 before.)  This may not last long, but I tell you what–I will enjoy it to the fullest while it lasts.

I’ll review tonight’s new recipe tomorrow, because I’m inexplicably poopered.  Goodnight all!

Aug 25, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on So Far, So Good

So Far, So Good

I finished the third installment of Matthew Loux’s Salt Water Taffy:  The Seaside Adventures of Jack and Benny tonight; it’s called The Truth About Dr. True, and I enjoyed it just as much as I have the first two.  This one veers towards the supernatural side of the fantastical, which made for some amusing scenes and lines, and manages to make what could be a corny ending work.  My only beef is the dad, who comes off as the clueless child to his sons’ strong personalities, while the mom is always the parent.  I’m hoping for better things in the next book, although I get the impression that the author may be young, single, and childless, which can limit your ability to write about parent/child relationships in a way that rings completely true.

Then again, it could be worse.

They could be the parents from “Frozen.”

Aug 23, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Last Minute Luck

Last Minute Luck

When I didn’t get to the store and thus couldn’t try the recipe I’d been looking at for dinner tonight, I browsed my Pasta board and came across a ‘one pot meals’ post.  I actually had Swiss cheese–AND frozen diced ham–and so hey presto! we ended up with this One Pan Chicken Cordon Bleu Pasta for dinner.  I just about fainted when my 8-year-old remarked, “I really like the seasonings” and had seconds (and thirds!).  My anti-Swiss-oldest (just the cheese, not the people) gave it a surprising thumbs middle, and everyone else liked it.  I’m keeping this one around, because it was tasty and easy and weirdly not as terrible for you as you’d think.

Okay, that’s just boring, choppy writing.  Sorry, folks.  The recipe was great, though–and maybe I’ll get enough sleep to do better on Friday!

Aug 21, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on The Heroes We Don’t Hear About

The Heroes We Don’t Hear About

If a 17-year-old girl from a nothing team had struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig–back to back–during an exhibition game in 1931, don’t you think everyone would know about it?

Yeah, not so much.  Because in 1931, striking out two baseball greats in a row apparently got your contract voided for your own “protection”, baseball being “too strenuous” for a woman.  In fact, I’d be willing to bet that more people have heard of the fictional Roy Hobbs than Jackie Mitchell.  Am I right?

I’d like to get on my soapbox and speak eloquently and scathingly about the unfairness of such things, but my two-year-old was up in the night, and it was my older girls’ first day of school; banal adjectives of outrage just keep floating aimlessly inside my head.  I’ll settle instead for encouraging everyone, everywhere to read Marissa Moss’s Mighty Jackie:  The Strike-Out Queen.  It’s a longish picture book, so it’s not a huge time commitment, and these are the kinds of books that need to be read.  (Recorded history still needs some balancing, not to mention the fact that reading Jackie aloud to my kiddos kept me on the edge of my seat. That’s more than live baseball has ever managed to do.)

Read it.  Heck, buy it–and share it.  More people should know Jackie Mitchell’s name.

Mighty Jackie: The Strike-Out Queen


New From: $11.86 USD In Stock

Aug 19, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on When You Momentarily Confuse Your Book Preferences With Their Television Counterparts

When You Momentarily Confuse Your Book Preferences With Their Television Counterparts

Okay, so that was a long and clunky title for any blog post, but that’s honestly what I did.  I read the synopsis of Wendy Walker’s Emma in the Night and thought Hey–two girls disappear and only one comes home? that’s kind of an interesting premise… and so I entered the sweepstakes and won a copy.*  I eventually brought it down to the treadmill to read, and I started it on Tuesday.  Which is when I realized that while I’m all over psychological thrillers when I’m watching, say, “The Mentalist” (back when it was good) or “NCIS” (it used to be better, but still), I’m more of a historical fiction/coming of age reader.  How did I temporarily forget this?

Ah, well.  Yeah, this type of book messes with my head–that’s kind of the point, right?–but it certainly made my treadmill time this week pass quickly.  I’m feeling a bit list-y today, maybe because I stayed up until 2:30 this morning finishing this book, so instead of a traditional review you get, well, a list.  Enjoy!

Pros

  1.  It was compelling.  Which is a LOVELY thing on the treadmill.
  2.  It kept me guessing.  Some of the “who”s were purposely indicated early on (although not all of them), but the “how”s were still a surprise to me.  (That’s awkwardly punctuated…sorry.  It was a late night.)
  3.  The alternating narrative styles–one first person, one third–weirdly worked for me.
  4.  Walker obviously did her homework.  I found the specifics of narcissistic personality disorder fascinating.

Cons

  1.  I personally prefer to like a certain percentage of characters in any given book, and very few of Walker’s characters were all that likable.  To be fair, though, it was certainly intentional on her part, and it is a personal preference.
  2.  The ending felt both more realistic and less realistic than what feels usual to me for a mystery, which is about all I can say without spoilers.
  3.  Some of the early scenes with the sisters and the barbie doll felt contrived for a bit of shock value.
  4.  The description on the back points out the holes in Cass’s story; I was assured that the book “sets a new standard for unreliable narrators.”  I LOVE unreliable narrators–and I think I would have enjoyed discovering for myself the extent to which Cass is–or isn’t.  Knowing her story is suspect from the get-go takes away from the impact, I think.

Could Go Either Way

  1.  How many blended families really have that many seriously-messed-up members?  For a relatively small group of people, there were volumes of potential psychiatric case studies.
  2.  Cass sounds unrealistically adult.  Then again, growing up as she did may make that inevitable.
  3.  Because my childhood was blessedly normal–at least, as normal as anyone’s childhood ever is–I couldn’t relate to most of the emotions going on in this book.  Many of them were completely believable, but some I wonder about, because I just can’t know for myself.
  4.  The ending.  Again, I’m avoiding spoilers.

Bottom line?  If psychological thrillers are your thing, absolutely go for it.  If not, well…you’ll just have to decide how much messing-with-your-head you’re up for and decide accordingly.

*My thanks to Erica Martirano and St. Martin’s Press for sending me an ARE of this book!

Emma in the Night: A Novel


New From: $12.00 USD In Stock

Aug 17, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Eight Things I Love About My Brand New Eight-Year-Old

Eight Things I Love About My Brand New Eight-Year-Old

  1.  Her smile.  With or without the correct number of teeth.
  2. Her sweetness.  She expresses love so well!
  3. Her glares.  Because they’re very impressive.
  4. Her way with younger children.
  5. Her occasional tendency to avoid contractions.  I find this ridiculously endearing.
  6. Her imagination.  Because WOWSERS.
  7. Her resigned willingness to eat all manner of things she’s not a big fan of.  (This should stand her in good stead!)
  8. Her giggles.  Even if they sometimes come with consequences.

Happy Birthday to my second girlie–I love you!

Aug 15, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on A Simple, Tasty Salad

A Simple, Tasty Salad

Who doesn’t need plenty of those, right?  What’s more, this Mandarin Salad will taste just as good year round, because everything on its ingredient list is readily available, and nothing is desperately seasonal.  (I love salads with, say, strawberries, but not so much come November.)  I candied the almonds instead of trying her ‘sweet sugared cinnamon pecans,’ because I’d like to keep my oldest daughter around for a while longer, and I used good white wine vinegar instead of plain white (because, well, because), but other than that I pretty much stuck to the recipe.  (Other than my lifelong commitment to being wildly generous with fresh parsley whenever it’s on an ingredient list.)  I enjoyed it so much that I made it twice in one week, actually; once for family night at my in-laws’, and then several days later for a funeral.  Give it a try this summer and then keep it around when it gets colder–it’s the gift that keeps on giving the whole year through!

(Please tell me you caught the Christmas Vacation reference so I didn’t just sound unbearably cheesy…)

Aug 13, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Slightly Fantastical Fun

Slightly Fantastical Fun

I finished the second installment of The Seaside Adventures of Jack and Benny the other day–Salt Water Taffy:  A Climb Up Mt. Barnabas–and it has the same fun, slightly tall tale-ish feel as the first one.  (More talking animals, a feat or two that seem outside the realm of probability, that sort of thing.  And by the way, I feel like this is a series with two names, so I’m improvising as far as the bolding vs. the italics.  Let me know if I’ve gotten it wrong!)  The story moves along, the drawings are entertaining (although still with the annoying hands), and the family dynamics ring true.  I’m getting quite the kick out of this series; it would be perfect for reluctant readers or earlier elementary schoolers in general.  Grab the first one and see what you think!

 

Salt Water Taffy: A Climb Up Mt. Barnabas


New From: $2.95 USD In Stock

Aug 11, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Another Newbery Down!

Another Newbery Down!

Not a current one, of course.  What current ones I have left are all longer than I feel up to tackling this summer.  No, I just finished The Matchlock Gun, winner of the medal for 1942 (that’s the year my dad was born!).  I have to say, it was a lovely little story–simple in the way many books about children were during the first half of the 20th century, but poignant in its simplicity.  It takes place during the French and Indian War–a name, I learned tonight, used almost exclusively by Americans–in upstate New York.  Edward’s father is gone overnight on military service, leaving his mother to wonder if the Indians will come; when they do, she and Edward together must defend their home and protect Trudy, the youngest member of the family.  The characters are simply drawn, the writing spare, and the tension utterly convincing.  (I may or may not have stayed up past midnight to find out what happened when the Indians came.)

Better yet, that simplicity and tension makes it a good story for young elementary school boys who want adventure.  At sixty-two pages, including illustrations, The Matchlock Gun is doable for earlier readers and ought to appeal to kids who want to be heroes.  AND it’s only $2.98 on Amazon!

Just sayin.’

In the interest of full disclosure, Trudy is a poorly drawn character; she’s supposedly six but is generally portrayed with the actions and temperament of a three-year-old.  It doesn’t affect the story much, however, and I found myself not particularly caring.

 

The Matchlock Gun


New From: $2.97 USD In Stock

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