Jul 5, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on In Summer…

In Summer…

I do apologize if I’ve gotten that song stuck in your head, but really, it summed up the last week or two nicely.  In summer family comes to town…in summer we go to visit family, which involves packing and preparations and general distractions…in summer we have birthdays, and holidays…in summer we have ALL THE THINGS.   Which is, of course, why I disappeared for–well, however long it’s been since my last post.  I missed a post or two because I had family IN town and I was simultaneously preparing to go OUT of town, and then, of course, I was out of town.  We drove back from Idaho on Monday, which was my son’s birthday, but stopped to celebrate with the other side of the family and spent the night and the day of the 4th there before coming home.

We’re tired.

BUT–my sweet, stubborn boy is 5, and the kids got to bed on time tonight.  Life is good!

Now.  Before I left for Idaho–my parents and my siblings and their families are all up there now–I decided to forget trying to finish the book I was actively reading and focus on SHORT books, since vacation makes for distracted reading time.  The good news is that I’ve managed to finish three of the books I brought, and I’m more than halfway through the fourth (sure, three of the four are graphic novels, but I take what I can get!).  My first triumph was The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Romeo and Juliet, which was every bit as well done as TSZMRP Macbeth (we’re going with that abbreviation henceforth, by the way; typing the full name out is exhausting!).*  I did wonder about the casting at first–a rooster and a bear? really?–but it made sense by the end of the book.  Once again, the creators managed to keep the essence of a Shakespearean tragedy while marrying it to a comedic graphic novel, which is an impressive feat.  The difficulty may explain why only two of these have been written, but I’m holding out a forlorn hope for more.  We’ll see what happens!

*In all fairness, I have to admit that I didn’t like this one quite as much as Macbeth–but that reflects my feelings about the actual plays rather than any flaw in the book.  Who doesn’t like the Scottish play better?

Jun 21, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on So Few Ingredients, So Much Chocolate-y Goodness

So Few Ingredients, So Much Chocolate-y Goodness

Yesterday my oldest girl went to Lagoon-A-Beach (yes, I had to google that spelling) with cousins and two trading-off aunts, because my in-laws are awesome; I stayed home with my other three, and while my two-year-old was napping, I may or may not have bribed the other two to clean.

Okay, I totally bribed them.  But in my defense, it was more because they each had to clean something up ALONE, one inside, one outside; those two are not so much fans of the cleaning alone.  And really, the bribe was for making treats together; they didn’t get any until after dinner, when we all tried them.  (Although that was more because they had to cool and then be refrigerated for two hours…)

ANYWAY.  To make a long story slightly shorter, we tried these “Decadent Semisweet Cookie Bars” from 101 Things To Do With Chocolate–which is totally worth the $5 that Amazon is charging for it–and they were both easy and surprisingly delicious for a recipe with only 5 ingredients.  My daughter stirred the melting chocolate chips/sweetened condensed milk/vanilla mixture while my son counted out the Oreos and then helped pat the crust into the pan; both of them also figured prominently in the licking of scrapers after the treats were in the oven!  Here are the specifics, so that you can make your own pan of chocolate loveliness at your (in)discretion…

Crush about 22 Oreos (or knock-offs) into fine crumbs and mix with 4 T of melted butter.  Press that into a 9 x 13 pan.  Next, heat 1 C of chocolate chips, a can of sweetened condensed milk, and about a t of vanilla over low heat until the chocolate chips are melted and everything is combined; pour that evenly over the crust.  (Don’t expect it to spread nicely from the middle without picking up crumbs from the crust.)  Sprinkle another cup of chocolate chips over the top of that, and then crumble the remaining Oreos from the package over the top of that.  Bake at 325 for 20 minutes, allow to cool, and then refrigerate for a couple of hours before cutting into bars.

These were tasty, people.  I was afraid they’d be a little one-note, flavor-wise, but no.  These need to happen in your kitchen–because this will definitely not be the last time they happen in mine!

101 Things to Do with Chocolate


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Jun 19, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Lost in the Shuffle

Lost in the Shuffle

Okay, I did remember once or twice on Saturday that I was due to post, but wowsers.  I spent the day with my oldest daughter and a couple of nieces at Lagoon, Utah’s big amusement park, and then I did mad laundry and dishes and took the older two girls Father’s Day shopping and worked on a brief talk (I spoke in church) and a primary lesson (I also subbed for my oldest daughter’s class).  Sunday, of course, was Father’s Day, so in addition to the talk and the lesson there were treats to make and vegetables to chop and a present to wrap and an evening at my in-laws’.  And TODAY my friend and I took the kids on a “kid-friendly” hike that was a bit steep for the two-year-olds; there was dirt on fresh sunscreen (it STICKS) and then the waterfall and then more dirt on various-degrees-of-wet clothes.  (There were also slushies afterwards, because we were driving home during Sonic’s happy hour and managed–between the two of us–to remember where one was on the way home.)  And then there were various baths and showers, because no one was allowed inside on the carpet without them.  (Because SO.  MUCH.  DIRT.)  And THEN there was dinner for eleven.

The good news is that my dishwasher has run, I’ve done two loads of wash today, I’ve washed four things by hand (which I LOATHE doing), and I’ve read my scriptures.  The bad news is that a)after all that, I still need to practice the piano, which leaves me zero extra energy to review anything, and b)it’s supposed to hit 100 tomorrow.  (I hate triple digit temperatures.)  And so–until Wednesday, folks.  Stay cool out there!

Jun 15, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Feeling Sad

Feeling Sad

I just finished The Year of the Garden, which is set before Andrea Cheng’s other Anna Wang books, and I was glancing at the back cover before closing it when “she passed away in 2015” caught my eye.  How sad is that?  Her “Year of…” series handles difficult topics with sweetness, grace, and honesty; both of my older girls have enjoyed it with me.  This latest was actually published posthumously, which makes it one of the two finished manuscripts she left behind (according to her website).  It’s unclear whether the other is out yet, so I’m still hoping!  In the meantime, I’ll be passing Year of the Garden on to my 7-year-old.  (Incidentally, she’ll be over the moon–the plot features a baby bunny.)  In it we see Anna adjusting to her family’s move from an apartment complex to a house.  What she learns about friendship–and gardening!–are valuable lessons for any elementary schooler, so make sure your kiddoes don’t miss this one.

 

The Year of the Garden (An Anna Wang novel)


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Jun 13, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on You Need This In Your Life

You Need This In Your Life

“This,” my friends, is a 74 page graphic novel entitled The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Macbeth.  Because when the patrons have left and the Stratford Zoo is closed up for the night, what else would the animals be doing?  From the audience to the play itself, this book is purely fabulous (how could it not be?!).  My favorite lines may have been–“Double, double/Toil and/Trouble,/Fire burn and/Cauldron bubble,/Eat the king,/The plot will/Thicken,/Go on, Macbeth,/He tastes like/Chicken.”  (Macbeth is a lion.)

Really, I’m just going to leave it there.  Because you KNOW you need this in your life.

Jun 11, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Why Is This Not A Movie Yet?

Why Is This Not A Movie Yet?

I’m being completely serious.  This is a true story that feels sort of like a cross between “Erin Brockovich” and The Rainmaker, except that the details are even more compelling.  Between 1981 and 1987, 50% of the hemophiliac community in the U.S. contracted HIV through contaminated clotting factor extracted from contaminated blood.  Too many of them were children, but the casualties also included adults (and spouses, since some of the doctors treating such patients weren’t immediately forthcoming about their infection).  Vial 023 is a father’s story of his son’s death and his family’s subsequent fight for justice and recognition from the pharmaceutical companies who used blood from high risk donors for far too long.  (Because you know where you can get cheap blood?  In PRISON.)  The Crosses were willing to initiate legal action on their son’s behalf in a time when people were irrational and hateful about those with AIDS, and they became tireless leaders and supporters of those in like situations.  After a 10-year legal battle, which they eventually realized was unwinnable, Gary Cross was again the initiator, this time of a change in strategy that led to an entirely different outcome than either side expected.

This is an incredible story.

In the interest of full disclosure, Cross is not in any way a writer–but this story speaks for itself.  A great movie director could make the ultimate settlement a cinematic scene to remember; I’m truly hoping one of them does.  In the meantime, this is a book that needs to be read.

And if you happen to know Steven Spielberg?  Tell him to read it, too!

Vial 023: A Father’s Pursuit of Justice


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Jun 9, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Not The Last One Now, Thankfully!

Not The Last One Now, Thankfully!

When I first started reading Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales, there were only six; I finished the 6th one the other night, however, and was overjoyed to see that the next one has a title and a release date.  (It’s called Raid of No Return, about the Doolittle raid, and it’s coming in November–wahoo!)  Tonight, however, I get to focus on Alamo All-Stars, and I have to say–how does Nathan Hale do it?  How does he take a tragic piece of history–Texas LOST at the Alamo, and PRETTY MUCH EVERYONE DIED–and turn it into an appealing, amusing, entertaining, and yet historically accurate graphic novel?  I assumed I wouldn’t like this one as much as its predecessors, because an older biography of Davy Crockett that I read painted a fairly damning portrait of the Alamo, one of hubris and defiance of direct orders.  I came away from it feeling like it was a case of testosterone triumphing over common sense, when in reality nothing was as clear cut as all that. Texas wasn’t a part of the U.S. at the time, its leadership wasn’t firmly settled into a chain of command, and by the time the Alamo defenders knew they were doomed, surrender and retreat wasn’t a terribly viable option.  Hence–doomed.  (Although women, children, and slaves–interestingly–were spared.  Since Texas history isn’t actually a thing in Rhode Island elementary schools, I had no idea.)

The doom notwithstanding, Hale manages to focus on, not the trivial, but the long term struggle for Texan independence and the bigger picture of that struggle. Nathan Hale the spy has a Mexican counterpart who was swallowed up by El Gran Libro Enorme de la Historia Mexicana and is also telling stories from his country’s history to delay his execution.  (He comes with a three man firing squad, who immediately bond with the Hangman.)  The Mexican viewpoint provides the perfect counterpoint, perspective-wise.  Alamo All-Stars manages to focus on the Alamo while telling the story of Texan independence, and it does it with both humor and respect–all while hitting a home run on behalf of reluctant readers everywhere.

Don’t miss this one.

Jun 7, 2017 - Uncategorized    2 Comments

Why My Sister Needs A Library Card ASAP

I’ve had Keeping the Castle on my library shelf–oh, who am I kidding, ONE of my library SHELVES–for quite a while, but it didn’t occur to me until recently that it might be worth trying on the treadmill.  It’s a hardcover, which is problematic, but it’s a smaller, lighter one, and it looked like it was going to be an amusing read, so why not at least try it?

Why not, indeed!  I have since pushed my three closest friends into checking it out of the library as well–two of them have already finished it–and the ONLY reason my sister doesn’t have it in her possession at this very moment is that she moved last week and so I have to wait for her to give me a library card number before I can go online and put it on hold for her.  (Yes, I really do that.  On a fairly regular basis.)  In the meantime, you should all go out and get it for yourselves, unless the idea of a mashup between Pride & Prejudice, Emma, and Cinderella holds no appeal for you at all.  And really, if that’s the case, why on earth are you reading my blog?  (No offense, you understand.)

Anyway.  It’s a fabulously fun read.  (And since we have Amazon Prime–sorry, bookseller friends, I shop at B&N too, though–it’s currently on its way to Idaho as an in-between-houses-warming gift.  Because moving is miserable.)  On to the sequel!

Keeping the Castle


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Jun 5, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Finally Finishing

Finally Finishing

It’s a little sad when your ‘Currently Reading’ Goodreads shelf stretches to eight books, isn’t it.  Ah, well.  Happily, I have FINALLY started finishing books again, which means I have books to review!  Today’s winner is Katarina Bivald’s The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, which–while actually quite different from what I was expecting–was both an impressive and a delightful read.  I have never read a book translated into English from its original tongue with such a pitch-perfect tone; I lost track of the number of times I (literally!) laughed out loud.  The characters were quirky and fun to be with (although possibly the author’s foreignness showed a bit there–their small town quality was spot on, but not so much the actual Iowa feel), and the plot felt original from the very beginning.   Sara arrives from Sweden to stay with her American pen pal on the day of Amy’s funeral; the town, however, settles her into Amy’s house to stay anyway, because “that’s what Amy wanted.”  Such an unexpected beginning to her holiday leaves her at sea at first, but as Sara spends more time in Broken Wheel, she and the town manage to change each other in ways neither could have predicted.  If you love books, small towns, or odd people with good intentions, this book is most definitely for you.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend


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Jun 1, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Nerves

Nerves

Technically, I don’t have to post today; on the other hand, I rather like posting on odd-numbered days (it makes it easier to remember!).  And I was all set to review the book I finished two nights ago.  And THEN I remembered that I agreed to substitute for one of the Sunday School teachers, who’s going to be out of town this Sunday, and it’s not going to be an easy lesson to prepare.  Which means that instead of taking the time to compose a real book review, I’m going to leave you with two recommendations and then say goodbye until the 5th, because I’ve got a LOT going on this weekend.

My recommendations?  Prime rib and horseradish potato chips, put out by Kroger (the Smith’s brand in Utah), and the peach mango bread at Costco.  Tasty, my friends.  Tasty.

Until Monday, then.  Signing off!

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