Sep 5, 2017 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Like the Early Days of Castle

I procrastinated reading Like Carrot Juice on a Cupcake for ages.  Not because I didn’t enjoy Julie Sternberg’s other two Eleanor books–because I did–and not because it was incredibly long–because it’s not.  No, I procrastinated because, according to the description, it was one of those plots.  The kind where the new girl comes in between a pair of friends, and the left-out friend does something mean, and oh, the drama!  The good news is, once I made myself get into it, it was a lot like the first several seasons of “Castle”; it resolved a common and frustrating conflict in an unexpectedly positive, not-annoying way.  Hallelujah!

In the first place, the new girl is perfectly nice and friendly to both friends.  Eleanor feels left out because Pearl is assigned to be Ainsley’s buddy, which ends up taking away some of the after-school time the two usually spend together.  What’s more, Eleanor’s mean thing is a spur-of-the-moment, desperate to deflect attention from herself sort of thing, NOT a premeditated act.  As an adult, you know early on that there will be trouble, but everyone involved is just being a regular elementary schooler.  The resolution isn’t aggravatingly drawn out, and it has some laugh-out-loud moments.  What’s not to love?  Carrot Juice is a good example of dealing with everyday elementary school conflict, and a great read for grades 1-3.  If you’ve got a daughter that age, don’t miss the Eleanor books!

Like Carrot Juice on a Cupcake (Eleanor)


New From: $4.76 USD In Stock

Sep 3, 2017 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Mmm, Bruschetta…

I thawed the last of a bag of frozen chicken breasts from Costco the other day, so I went looking for a chicken recipe to make for dinner.  EXCEPT that I already had a loaf of applesauce oatmeal bread planned as the carb (I’ll get to that recipe another day, I promise), so I needed a recipe that didn’t involve potatoes, pasta, or sauce that begged to be served over rice.  (I had NO IDEA how hard that would be, by the way.)  What I came up with–after some searching, I tell you what–was this Bruschetta Chicken.

And it was TASTY.

It’s possible that I loved it a bit more than anyone else in my family did, but oh, it was delightful!  If you love bruschetta–and you have lovely garden tomatoes and a neighbor with fresh basil to share–make this for dinner.  The only changes I made were to sub in flavored bread crumbs for the croutons and to generously season the breasts with garlic pepper seasoning before dipping them in the flour, since several comments noted that the chicken was bland.  That absolutely did the trick, making for a flavorful dinner that screamed fresh summer flavors.

Mmmm, bruschetta…

Sep 1, 2017 - Uncategorized    1 Comment

My Eyes! My Eyes!

I actually tried to post yesterday, believe it or not.  I got as far as the title and then my cursor wouldn’t allow me to start the actual post.  My eyes were so miserably itchy, however, that instead of asking my hubby about it I hopped in the shower and finished my book instead.  I did ask him this morning; he had me deactivate the ad blocker (is that two words?) on this site.  (He activated it on my computer a day or two ago because I couldn’t handle the constant Arby’s ads on Goodreads–there’s no way to close them, they bump you down to the comments instead of letting you read the summary you’re looking for, and they play over and over.  If I’d had to hear “WE HAVE THE MEAT!” one more time I might have gone over the edge.)  That solved the problem, and so here I am!  (Sadly, still with the miserably itchy eyes.  Prescription eye drops cost an arm and a leg, and anything that’s not eye-specific is likely to make me sleepier than I already am, which is NOT a good thing.)

Anyway.  I was going to review a recipe yesterday, but since I stayed up later than I should have to finish my book last night, you get that review instead.  Or rather, you get a choice; I can offer you a long review or a short.

Long Review:  Oh, how I loved this book!  Listen, Slowly is by the same author as Inside Out & Back Again, which was an incredibly deserving Newbery Honor book in 2012.  (I’d tell you the author’s name, but now I’m self-conscious about all the diacritical marks necessary in Vietnamese and I have no idea how to properly depict it on this blog.)  I was expecting it to be sort of similar to its predecessor, but not so much.  IO&BA was beautiful and made me cry, whereas Listen was fabulously funny with moments of near-perfect poignancy.  The former is a verse novel with a narrator I related to, while the latter is in prose with a narrator I didn’t always like at first.  (I didn’t necessarily relate to her for any of the book, but I did like her by the end.  Mostly.)  The thing is, I didn’t have to like her.  Her voice is strong and funny and outrageous from the get-go, and her journey is a real one.  I laughed out loud enough times that I stopped counting, and yet Listen has depth to spare.  Mai’s reluctant mission in Vietnam is to help her Grandmother accept that her Grandfather, lost in the war, is truly gone; she wanted to spend the summer on the beach back home in California, working up the courage to talk to her crush.  The outcome, from a general sense, is predictable, and yet the story itself is fresh and unexpected and delightful.  Bottom line?  Everyone from 5th or 6th grade on up ought to read this book.

Short Review:  Listen, Slowly is $3.84 on Amazon, for Pete’s sake.  Go buy the book.  (Unless you’re my sister, because then you’re buying a house and so officially moving again, which means it’s already on its way.)

Listen, Slowly


New From: $1.08 USD In Stock

Aug 29, 2017 - Uncategorized    No Comments

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: $11.16 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: $13.65 USD In Stock
Release date August 8, 2017.

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!

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