Aug 5, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Four Ingredient Goodness

Four Ingredient Goodness

Okay, six if you count salt and pepper, but still.  I was expecting this Hawaiian Chicken Bake to be an acceptable dinner, but not amazing, because nothing this easy is ever actually that amazing, right?


Oh, the goodness!  The chicken was moist and flavorful, the melted, bubbly cheese was lovely in its own right, and I got rid of a can of pineapple slices that was older than at least two of my children.  What’s not to love?  I made sure to salt and pepper the chicken itself before sticking it in the pan–the Food Network has taught me that much–and I left Provolone off of one piece of chicken for my oldest, who doesn’t care much for strong cheeses.  (Why waste not-cheap, good Provolone on the unappreciative?)  Bam!  Dinner!  Everyone gave it a thumbs up, too.  Who doesn’t love four ingredient goodness?

Note:  If your chicken breasts are thinly sliced, cut the second round of cooking time down–and enjoy your dinner that much sooner.

Aug 3, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Poetry and Jazz

Poetry and Jazz

I picked up Waiting to Waltz for almost nothing at the BYU Bookstore a few years ago, because I’ve enjoyed multiple books by Cynthia Rylant AND she’s a Newbery Author.  (I pretty much couldn’t resist the deal.)  I tend to love memoirs, and Rylant’s free verse vignettes of her small town childhood were well done. All of them were interesting, and I even loved a few of them.  Overall, though, I think contemporary poetry is a lot like jazz for me; except for specific exceptions, I respect it as an art form while not truly relating to most of it.  (Except for verse novels–I love those.  Perhaps because I love novels?)  Poetry lovers should definitely give this a try, and fans of Rylant should enjoy it.  I enjoyed reading it myself–if somewhat more mildly than I expected–but I’m unlikely to read it again.

Okay, that’s a short, stilted review, but it was a short, short book.  If it sounds like your thing, it probably will be–so there you have it!

Waiting to Waltz

New From: $13.59 USD In Stock

Aug 1, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Distracted Cooking

Distracted Cooking

I was scrolling through my Pasta board on Pinterest this afternoon, looking for a dinner idea that didn’t involve thawing hunks of meat, when I came across this BLT Skillet.  Hey, I thought.  Bacon thaws quickly…and so my dinner plan was born.  I sent my oldest to cadge a garden tomato or two from our neighbors–our plants are just starting to produce, and I only had one left after Sunday’s dinner–and set the bacon outside in the shade, because it hit triple digits today.  I even scrounged up some linguine, which I normally avoid because it’s so hard for toddlers to get it to their mouths instead of all over themselves, because you can only eat so much penne and rotini, you know?  (It wasn’t whole wheat like the recipe called for, but it was linguine!)

Now, since the recipe only guaranteed two servings, I decided I’d better triple it, which is where the distraction enters in.  I cooked up the whole pound of bacon but managed to remember to save a quarter of it for another time; I cooked up the whole pound of linguine, as well, and then thoughtlessly dumped it into my skillet and stirred.  As I stirred, I noted that the pasta seemed to be overwhelming the rest of the skillet ingredients; by the time I realized that an extra four ounces of pasta was the likely culprit, I’d stirred enough that trying to remove any wasn’t worth it.

Ah, well.

The good news is that it was tasty–the two-year-old took a bite or two and proclaimed “I YIKE this dinner!”–especially with the fresh parsley and real Parmesan. It was drier and stickier than it should have been, of course, but I finally just added the rest of the lemon’s juice to mine, and even before that I was enjoying it.  If you have garden tomatoes and parsley that need using, try this for dinner.  Just pay attention to what you’re putting in as you make it!

Jul 31, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Simple Is Not Easy

Simple Is Not Easy

Only One Year is indeed a simple book in many ways; it’s under 95 pages with multiple full page illustrations, the characters are simply drawn and most are members of one family, and the scenes seem more like vignettes rather than chapters.  On the other hand, Andrea Cheng’s simple little standalone covers a topic unfamiliar to me that was almost heartbreaking for a parent to read about.

Sharon’s father is an architect and her mother works at the local junior high during the school year, which means that no one will be home to take care of her two-year-old brother, Di Di.  Rather than pay for a babysitter or daycare, Sharon’s mother takes him to China to be with their grandparents and other extended family, so that he will be with loving relatives rather then paid strangers.  At first, Sharon and her younger sister Mary pore over the pictures that Nai Nai sends, but as the months pass, their own lives continue on without their little brother.  At the end of the school year, however, Nai Nai brings Di Di home–and there is an adjustment period for everyone.

I loved Andrea Cheng’s The Year of… series, and Only One Year has many of the same characteristics; real issues dealt with in a skillful, age-appropriate way, a Chinese-American family, and illustrations that enhance the reading experience (although I vastly prefer Patrice Barton’s illustrations to Nicole Wong’s).  It’s shorter, however, and while the impact is there, I’m too old of a reader not to want more anyway (who doesn’t want more of a good thing?).  On the other hand, shorter means less intimidating to newer readers, and I’m excited to have this as an option when my younger children hit that stage.  Everything I’ve read by Cheng so far is well worth your time!

Only One Year

New From: $9.92 USD In Stock

Jul 29, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on A Good Sequel Is Hard to Find

A Good Sequel Is Hard to Find

Happily, Patrice Kindl’s A School for Brides fit the bill quite nicely (although it’s more of a cross between a sequel and a companion novel, if you want to get technical).  Characters from Keeping the Castle play important supporting roles, but the story focuses on the young ladies of the Winthrop Hopkins Female Academy, who are being trained to attract husbands in a town with virtually no eligible men.  (Except for Mr. Godalming.  He’s still single.)  Add one broken leg, several visitors, a couple of confinements, a nefarious governess, and an unprepossessing canine with a heart of gold, and you end up with an ensemble comedy that keeps you entertained to the very end.  The large cast of characters necessitates more emphasis on plot and a bit less on character development, but it works. Rather than an Austen/fairy tale blend, School feels more like Jane channeling bits of Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  Which is another win-win combo, at least on my blog!

Bottom line?  If you liked Keeping the Castle, don’t miss A School for Brides.  What’s not to love about ‘a story of maidens, mystery, and matrimony’?

Jul 27, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Generational Gaps

Generational Gaps

I told my 10-year-old that she had to read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe this summer; it’s up to her whether she wants to continue with the rest of the series, but I didn’t want her to enter 5th grade without at least that under her belt!  She’s enjoying it so far, and bedtime tonight involved a convoluted discussion of C.S. Lewis.  My favorite part?  She kept referring to him in the present tense, and I kept telling her that he’s dead now.  At one point she asked, “Do you think he has a website?”

I stared at her, and then opened up the cover to the publication date.  “Dear, do you know when this book was first published?  1950.   That’s the year Grandpa Barlow was born.  C.S. Lewis died before people had websites.”*

Her eyes widened.  “Ohhh.”

*Of course, now I’ll have to show her the C.S. Lewis website in the morning, but still.




Jul 25, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on The Agony and the Ecstasy

The Agony and the Ecstasy

That title has stuck in my mind ever since my mother read Irving Stone’s book while she was finishing up her art ed degree, and I couldn’t resist using it–because it says it all.  I rarely cook with lemon, even though I adore the flavor, because no one else in my family particularly enjoys it; my hubby’s okay when I BAKE with lemon, but not so much with the savory, and my oldest daughter has come around slightly, but only in a small way.  Last night,  however, I decided to make this Lemon Broccoli Tortellini, because I had the ingredients, and it sounded amazing, and even Mommy gets to have her favorite food occasionally, right?

It was HEAVENLY–and OH, how they suffered!  My older girls both gave it thumbs down (although to be fair, my oldest doesn’t love tortellini in general); my son went with thumbs middle, but pointed out that it was “too lemony.”  (As if there could ever be such a thing!)  My two-year-old didn’t love it either–although to be fair, she may have just been being two–and my hubby came home from work after dinner was over and didn’t try it.  (I didn’t expect him to.)

They’re all crazy, folks, because my version was amazing.  I don’t love cooked spinach, and so I opted to drain and chop up a can of artichoke hearts (not the marinated kind, the kind packed in water) and toss that in instead.  I also tossed the broccoli with a lemon’s worth of zest before roasting it–why waste the zest when you need the juice?!–and added the remaining juice of that lemon to the second lemon’s worth of juice, which gets added into the pasta.  I grated real Parmesan over mine (the kids either prefer the canned or don’t care, depending on which one we’re talking about), and let me tell you what–lemony goodness.

It was beautiful.

Jul 23, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on I’m Bushed

I’m Bushed

I really am–it’s been a good weekend, but a long one!–and so I’m totally cheating.  Instead of a composed review, well–go get Ian Lendler’s An Undone Fairy Tale for you and your kiddos.  It’s a picture book for middle to older elementary schoolers, and it’s hilarious!  Now excuse me while I attempt to get to bed at a halfway decent time tonight…

An Undone Fairy Tale

New From: $8.00 USD In Stock

Jul 21, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Before the Dawn of Time

Before the Dawn of Time

Okay, so I haven’t had The School That Was:  A School Marm’s Tale for THAT long–I just wanted the literary allusion–but still.  I’m assuming I bought it for a buck when I was working at Borders, although I can’t remember for certain.  It makes sense that it would be on a non-returnable sale, however, because I couldn’t find it on Amazon.

Seriously.  There’s something a little trippy about looking at a book that Amazon doesn’t recognize as existing.  (Goodreads does, though.  In case you were wondering.)  After reading it, however, I can’t say that I’m surprised.  I love history and I’m a sucker for educators’ memoirs, and what I can honestly say about this book is that it was interesting overall.  Not fascinating, mind you.  Just very interesting on an odd page or three and fairly interesting for about two-thirds of what was left; the rest of it was, well, NOT interesting.  Not to me, anyway.  It would appeal more to those who lived within the author’s school district, perhaps, but even then they would have to be old enough to care about the names of all of her students (in her several one room schoolhouses) and the names of the school board officials for each school.  If you’re passionate about history AND education, you’ll get a kick out of the rules for teachers in 1872 and the descriptions of what was once considered luxury plumbing, but you’re going to need both interests to make this one worth your time.  (Although to be fair, it’s 66 pages plus 10 appendices, so it isn’t as if it’s a big time commitment.)  If you happen to be passionate about both of those and feel a desperate need to read this book, let me know by Wednesday and it’s yours.  Otherwise, it’s getting donated on our next trip to the library.

Jul 20, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Preparations


This year my friend is helping me throw honest-to-goodness birthday parties for my children, because she’s really good at it.  (I’m really not.  But I enjoy gift wrapping, and she hates it.  We’re enjoying the fruits of each others’ labors.)  Last night we made the goodie bags, among other things, and I was apparently too wrapped up in that to remember to post.  Today, however, I am repenting!  Remember how I quite enjoyed Matthew Loux’s The Time Museum?  Well, when I looked into his other books, I found a graphic series entitled Salt Water Taffy:  The Seaside Adventures of Jack and Benny.  I put the first volume–The Legend of Old Salty–on hold and picked it up yesterday; I finished it this morning.

It was short.

It was a lot of fun, though.  I went on family road trips as a kid–some to coastal Maine, actually–and while I didn’t share the boys’ initial attitude, the story still made me feel all reminisce-y.  (Yes, I know that can’t possibly be a word.  Work with me.)  The story is fun and moves right along, and the art is nicely expressive and adds to the plot.  (Except for the hands.  I’ve heard that hands are very hard to draw, and it must be true–I had to stare at an early page for quite a while before I realized what those lines on his lap were.  Once that happened, I couldn’t help noticing the weirdly drawn hands, and that was slightly distracting.)  I was a bit worried at the start that the boys were going to be punks, but that turned out to be more of a “we’ve been in this car forever and we can’t take it and each other anymore” kind of scene.  Bottom line?  Middle to early elementary schoolers who like adventure should enjoy this one.