Mar 7, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Not Tonight!

Not Tonight!

I have a late service project tonight, folks, and I’m going on an all day field trip with my oldest tomorrow.  I’ll be back Thursday!

Mar 5, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Every Bit As Good As I Remembered

Every Bit As Good As I Remembered

We had soup for dinner on Friday, and I was going to make banana or apple muffins to go with it; easy peasy on a day that I had to get the older girls to piano and hit the grocery store, right?  After piano, however, all four kiddos ended up playing outside together for a good long time, and it occurred to me that I could possibly try something different instead.  I grabbed some old Taste of Home magazines (as well as a couple of not-so-old Food Network magazines) and ended up happening across this Apple Cheddar Scones recipe.  I remember making it years ago and enjoying it, so I thought–why not?

Why not, indeed.  It isn’t often that something is just as delicious as you remember it being, but oh, these were lovely!  A bit salty, a hint of sweet, and lovely pieces of apple throughout, not to mention crisp on the outside and moist and tender and flaky within.  I subbed in half a cup of whole wheat flour, but I didn’t make any other changes.   I used my last Rome apple, because it was older and because it was NOT crisp, and it was just about the right amount (although next time, I’ll probably take another couple of minutes and dice a bit smaller).

Go make these, people.  Seriously.

They’re that good.

Mar 3, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on It Only Took Me A Year…

It Only Took Me A Year…

Okay, I haven’t been reading Pam Munoz (PLEASE imagine the tilde over the “n”!) Ryan’s Echo for a year, precisely, but it was a Newbery Honor book for 2016, so I’ve had it checked out of the library for that long.  My friend Andrea picked it for our book club as well, which means I’ve officially killed two birds with one stone, so to speak.  Wahoo!

More than that, however, I’ve managed to finish a book that took me more than a month to read ONLY because of my current stage of life.  It did have 588 pages, yes, but the font wasn’t small and it flowed rapidly.  I just can’t concentrate when the kiddos are awake, and I have too much to do when they’re asleep.  (To be fair, I also finished off some graphic novel-ly books in that month because I did manage to concentrate on those during the day, but still.)  Stages of life pass, however, and I have to say–Echo held up to the ickiness of reading in very small snatches better than most.  Really, it’s more three books in one than anything else; three different characters, in totally different settings, are connected to each other by a very special harmonica.  Friedrich finds it in Germany in 1933; Mike buys it in Pennsylvania in 1935; Ivy receives it in California in 1942.  The three share a gift for music and a dedication to family–and the necessity of facing down serious challenges in their lives.

Thankfully, Andrea warned me that there is NO RESOLUTION WHATSOEVER until all three stories have been mostly told–until then, we’re left with cliffhangers that rival West Wing‘s first season finale.  The ending, however, weaves all three stories together into a satisfying conclusion.  Interestingly enough, my college classmate/teacher/librarian friend Abbie didn’t like the three cliffhangers in a row as much as she wanted to, while my one complaint was with the ending.  Having been warned, I found that the cliffhangers sort of worked for me (which isn’t to say that they aren’t cruel!); the ending, however, while satisfying, ties up so much in such a short amount of time that it felt a bit tell-not-show.  I hesitate to say that a 588-page book should have been longer, but I wouldn’t have minded if Ryan had spent more time with the weaving at the end; on the other hand, that didn’t stop my thorough enjoyment of the book.  (It’s more of a technical critique.)  At the end of the day, it’s a fabulous book that I’d recommend to just about anyone.


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Mar 1, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Installment 5

Installment 5

Nathan Hale’s 5th hazardous tale is about Harriet Tubman, and it’s another fabulous blend of research and humor.  It did take me a few more pages to get into–possibly because I’ve read a few books about Harriet Tubman, and I wanted to just get to the exciting stuff–but ultimately, it was just as enjoyable as the previous four.  My favorite part was possibly the bit about Frederick Douglass (make sure you read through to the very end!), but really, the whole thing is a great read.  If you haven’t tried your 9-12-year-olds on these books, folks, delay no longer!

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)

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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)

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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?