Apr 5, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Trying to Start a Tradition!

Trying to Start a Tradition!

For any readers out there not of my faith, we Mormons have something called General Conference twice a year (in April and October).  Which means that our church leaders speak to the entire church, and we get to listen via satellite or internet or whatever, depending on where you live.  When I was a kid, this meant going to the nearest church building with a satellite dish.  Now that I live in Utah, it means I get to watch it on TV in my pajamas, which is kind of awesome.  There are sessions of Conference on Saturday and Sunday, which is why you’ll often hear it referred to as ‘Conference Weekend.’  Quite a few people I know have Conference weekend breakfast traditions, and while I was WAY too tired last night to think about something like cinnamon rolls, I decided I’d try and work on that particular tradition in our family.  (It’s been an on-again, off-again thing with us thus far, partly because there are very few breakfast foods that my husband enjoys as much as Golden Grahams.)  And so I ran to the grocery store (SO glad it’s only 5 minutes away!) at 10 last night, put this Overnight Peaches and Cream French Toast together when I got home, and with a touch more work this morning, bam! there was breakfast.

And dang, it was good.  Only 2 of the 5 of us loved it, but that’s only because the boys in the family won’t eat peaches–baffling, I know–and my oldest has egg issues.  (You’d also have issues with it if you don’t like the French toast-y, bread pudding-y kind of texture, I suppose.)  The taste, if you like peaches, was FABULOUS.  The only change I made was using light brown sugar instead of dark, and that was more of a lazy choice than anything else.  (Really, who wants to dig around for and open a brand-new bag of dark brown sugar for half a cup of it? because the rest is going to dry out before I bake with it again.  It’s not so much of a springtime ingredient.)  I followed the recipe otherwise, although I did see a comment suggesting you break up the bread for the sake of more edges, and that’s definitely worth trying.  Mmmm, peaches and cream.

Of course, 6 months from now, I’ll have to pick something that more than two of us are likely to enjoy, but I really, really wanted to try this one.  (Go on.  You know you want to try it, too…)

Apr 4, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on A Newbery Darling

A Newbery Darling

The other book I finished while I was visiting my parents was by one of those authors, and by that, I mean someone whose name comes up multiple times on my Newbery list (as in, 4 or 5).  People like Laura Ingalls Wilder (quite a few ‘Little House’ books won), and E. L. Konigsburg (one of my very favorites, and the only one to win the medal and have an Honor book in the same year), and Meindert De Jong (I want to love him, but…), and, well, Scott O’Dell.  Who wrote The Black Pearl, which I finished a few days ago.  (Who also wrote Sing Down the Moon, and Island of the Blue Dolphins, and The King’s Fifth.)  (I haven’t read the last one yet, by the way, and I remember NOTHING about Island of the Blue Dolphins, which means it’s slated for a reread for the purposes of my project.)

It’s a short book–a hundred pages even, in the edition I read.  And it’s simply written.  It is, however, a powerfully drawn coming of age story, which succeeds in being compelling and complete, despite the length.  From what I have read, Scott O’Dell seems to be partial to coming of age stories involving native peoples and tradition, and I have to say, he does it well.  There’s enough melancholy in what he writes that he’s not quite MY thing, but I respect and admire what he does.  (I have to say, although The Black Pearl was a very masculine coming of age plot, I found it almost more enjoyable than Sing Down the Moon.  I handle personal tragedy better than cultural tragedy.  Sometimes.)

Anyway.  I find it difficult to try and summarize such a short book–any summary online will give you what I could give you–so here’s my summation:  not my thing, but totally worthwhile for all that.  Which makes it a perfect example of the personal value of my Newbery project, because I doubt I ever would have read it otherwise.

The Black Pearl


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Apr 3, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on I’m BAAACCCKKK!

I’m BAAACCCKKK!

(I’m sure you were all waiting with bated breath, right?)

I left Idaho at about 6:15 this morning, hoping to make it an hour or two before Carter woke up for good and got fussy…a hope that was cruelly dashed by the Elmore County Sheriff’s Department, who did not appreciate me making quite such good time in that particular quest.  Ninety dollars later…

I actually finished two books while visiting my parents and brother (and his family)–short books–but I’d better review just one tonight and call it a night, because I am beat.  My very awesome county library system does a monthly reading challenge on Goodreads, and March’s challenge was to read a book with ‘an art theme or an artist as a character.’  The visual arts are out of my comfort zone, but I decided to rise to the challenge (instead of using a musician or a writer, both much more my thing) and read an older Newbery (who doesn’t love to kill two birds with one stone?  Metaphorically speaking, of course).  And so I read one of the 1970 Honor books–“The Many Ways of Seeing:  An Introduction to the Pleasures of Art.”

It was interesting, certainly.  I now understand numerous art terms that I didn’t before, and I saw works of art with which I was not familiar. That said, this felt more like a textbook than a layman’s guide to the visual arts.  And the author was quite obvious about which artists and masters most impressed her, which I found somewhat off-putting.  (Is that really how you write that word?)  For me, a truly unbiased book would state characteristics of painters, sculptors, etc., but avoid making value judgments.  Let the viewer decide how great a painter is–a guide of this sort should spent its time giving me reasons why I should admire an artist, not informing me when I should.  It perhaps wasn’t quite as bad as that sounds, but still.  (By the way, I’m sure this is showing my ignorance and all that, but I find much of Picasso’s work WEIRD.  I respect the man’s talent–I found Guernica impressively powerful–but he’s often just too bizarre for me.)  The best part of the book was the artistic exercises at the end, meant to encourage the reader to see things in different ways.  Some of those would be fun to try with the kiddos.

At the end of the day, however, the ideal book for March’s challenge would have been “I, Juan de Pareja” (only I read that one months ago).  It’s sort of historical fiction laced with autobiography, taking a stand against slavery–and it’s excellent.  If you have a hankering to read something to do with art, I recommend that one instead!

 

Mar 27, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Just to Let You Know…

Just to Let You Know…

For all of my thousands upon thousands of loyal readers out there, I’m taking my kids to visit my parents for my oldest daughter’s spring break.  I hope you are all able to get along without me…somehow…

Mar 26, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on 112 Left to Go!

112 Left to Go!

That’s Newberys for my Newbery project, by the way.  I just finished To Be a Slave, an honor book from 1969, and I’m feeling of two minds about it. The premise is fascinating; the author used excerpts from actual slave narratives (most of them a paragraph or two long) and, adding some narration of his own to bind it together, wrote a book about what it was like to be a slave.  (Hence, you know, the title.)  There are some chilling bits in here, make no mistake.  My biggest issue was reading it as an adult; it would be a great book for a child just starting to think about the idea of slavery, but at 34, I read

“The prayer meetings, the parties, and the holidays did not make being a slave pleasurable. Nothing could do that…”

and I thought–well, DUH.  There was a noticeable portion of similar commentary, geared very simply toward a younger audience.  I also didn’t quite love the tone of the summation, but that’s probably because I read it in 2014.  It was published in 1968 by a black man who spent his teenage years in the pre-civil rights south; given the timing, he was probably doing an admirable job of keeping his anger in check.  I respect that. I have a tendency to feel slightly defensive in such situations, I suppose, because my ancestors weren’t owning slaves.  They were emigrating from Europe and being driven across the plains by a government that didn’t particularly want them.  Will I start a firestorm of controversy if I say that I feel a great and terrible grief at the thought of slavery, and the Holocaust, and the Cultural Revolution, and any other instance of unbearable oppression, but I don’t feel that I should feel a personal racial guilt because I am white?

Anyway.  Like I said, it’s a great book for kids.  It has fascinating material for adults as well, don’t get me wrong.  It’s just that the tone works best for kids.

112 left to go.

To Be a Slave (Puffin Modern Classics)


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Mar 24, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Just Call Him Buzz

Just Call Him Buzz

Tonight my hubby and I gave the boy another haircut, since the sides of his head looked sort of like they were trying to take flight.  He’s actually not too bad for them (although that may be because Daddy sits with him to hold him (sort of) still and he ADORES Daddy); what kills me is the forehead cowlick.  No matter what we do to his hair, it’s just more and more visible the older he gets.  This is a boy that will be forever denied a choice in the ‘on which side shall I part my hair today?’ question.  On the other hand, with his daddy’s blue, blue eyes and the killer grin (complete with dimples!), I don’t know that anyone needs to go off the deep end where sympathy is concerned!

The really good news in this boy’s life, however, is that he actually devoured dinner tonight.  He’s working on at least one of his bottom eyeteeth, which means his appetite has been really sporadic of late, but tonight he just went to town, and I was thrilled.  The funny thing is that I just got a little bit creative with an old standby, and I have to say, it tasted better to me than it has for a long, long time.  My friend that I used to cook with a lot–I might just have to make that into an acronym!–brought this recipe for Cowboy Quesadillas to my attention, because while her family isn’t wildly into BBQ sauce, I have more than one family member who loves just about anything within that flavor profile.  I tried it several years ago and everyone loved it, so it became part of our regular meal rotation, and then–I got tired of it.  For two reasons, really (neither of which reflect badly on the recipe).  The first is the classic ‘made too much and ate too many leftovers’ that happens to the best of recipes from time to time; the second is that my methods for cooking chicken for recipes like this weren’t too fabulous (flavor-wise) a few years ago.  (It doesn’t matter so much if the chicken is going to simmer in a sauce for at least 5-10 minutes, but this recipe needs stand-alone chicken.)  Anyway.  The girlies hadn’t loved it as much the last couple of times we had it either, but tonight I had the requisite leftovers in my fridge and I decided to see what happened.  Here’s what I did:

1)It calls for white rice, but I always just use my white/brown mixture, and it works just as well.  Honestly, the last time I made them I used leftover quinoa, and that worked just as well, too.

2)It calls for cooked chicken, and while I had enough of that in the fridge, I had OLDER crockpot BBQ/pineapple pork chops.  I used those first, dicing them very small so that it wouldn’t be a toughness issue from the kids; it ended up being half that and half chicken.  I thought it was fabulous.

3)I left out the corn, mostly because the kiddos were having minor tummy troubles yesterday, and I thought beans and corn might be a bit much.

4)I upped the cheese by almost a third of what it calls for.  It helped with the sticking together.

5)I used whole wheat tortillas.  Sometimes I really prefer regular, but you really don’t notice in this recipe.

Anyway, the boy devoured his, and the girlies ate happily as well.  Dinner success!  And I used several things that have been taking up space in my fridge, which is always a bonus.  Give this one a try, folks.  Enjoy.

 

Mar 23, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on The Unforeseen Consequences of Assigned Reading…

The Unforeseen Consequences of Assigned Reading…

Tonight my oldest–the food lover–was expounding on things we could have for dinner in the near future.  She was by far the most hopefully animated when she pointed out that “we haven’t had BLTs in a while!”  (This is true, by the way.)  I pointed out to her that BLTs are a hot weather meal, not so much a “getting warmer” weather meal, and that tonight’s meal was using up the last of a package of bacon.  BLTs for the family now require at LEAST an entire package of bacon.  Her response?

“I know!  We can get a pig, and it can have babies, and we can sell all of the babies but one, and we’ll raise that one, and then we’ll have more bacon!”

After a second or two of bafflement, I remembered.  Oh, yeah, she’s reading Charlotte’s Web in school.  At which point I pointed out that we may not be zoned for pigs in our suburb, and also, daughter with my freakish sense of smell, pigs are smellier than the horses up the road.  (I did NOT say that Mommy has NO DESIRE to raise a pig, but Daddy helpfully pointed out that it might be problematic to raise something as sort of a pet and then eat it.)  What really killed me, however, is the fact that THIS is what she’s taking from Charlotte’s Web.  On the bright side, as my sister pointed out, she’s a problem solver, right?  But…but…come on!   The whole point is that Charlotte is trying to SAVE Wilbur from getting eaten!  And ultimately succeeds!  (I suppose that counts as a spoiler, and if there is ANYONE out there reading this blog who has never read Charlotte’s Web, I offer my abject apologies for not alerting you beforehand.)  You’re supposed to want the pig to live, right?

Not my daughter, apparently.  At least, not enough to give up BLTs.

Charlotte’s Web (Trophy Newbery)


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Mar 22, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on A Slightly Multicultural Day

A Slightly Multicultural Day

Very, slightly, really.  But I did just finish The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon, which is Alexander McCall Smith’s latest addition to his ‘No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency’ series, and I quite enjoyed it.  It can be enchanting to fall into a culture that is quite distinctly different from your own, and that is what this series does for me.  Africa is a different world, and it’s fascinating to see the differences in how people talk with each other, how people view the world, and what people do on a daily basis.  Who doesn’t love to travel by book in the evenings, especially when you’re not exactly in a stage of life conducive to doing the real thing?  (And really, if I listen to my skin and my inner thermostat, I may never get to Africa.  I DO NOT like to be hot, and the stronger the sun, the more I hate it.)  If you haven’t read this series, give it a try!

Anyway, my other slightly multicultural experiences barely qualifies, and it didn’t go over as well as I really think it should have!  I tried Mel’s Cheesy Chicken Quesadilla Pie for dinner, and none of the kiddos loved it.  It’s true that they all had a late lunch, and the boy’s appetite is on the fritz again, but still!  My hubby and I both liked it, and it’s really quite rare for us both to like something that none of the kids eats well.  It’s a simple recipe with basic (but yummy) flavors, and I still recommend it.

(To be fair, we had brunch at a friend’s house to celebrate her now-four-year-old’s birthday, and it might just be hard to salvage the day when you start off with brownie batter pancakes topped with strawberries, Cool Whip, and jimmies.  (That’s chocolate sprinkles to the rest of the world.)  I’d post that recipe, but I haven’t gotten it from her yet.)

 

Mar 20, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Haystacks

Haystacks

To the best of my knowledge, Hawaiian Haystacks are not a thing in Rhode Island…although really, I’m only basing that on the fact that I sure never had them growing up.  (RI friends, were you having them on a regular basis?)  I didn’t have them until I moved to Utah, and I didn’t make them myself until the last year or two, when I had a small amount of cooked chicken left over and was trying desperately to turn it into a dinner plan.  At which point my friend that I used to cook with a lot suggested I make Mel’s recipe for Hawaiian Haystacks, which is really just a recipe for the chicken sauce, since everything else is a topping.  I thought to myself, hey, why not, and there it was–a new staple at our house.  I love it.  I mix white and brown rice for the base, and after the chicken sauce, we top ours with grated medium or sharp cheddar, crushed pineapple, chopped celery, chopped tomatoes, chopped olives (for those of us who prefer olives), chopped green onion (ditto), and coconut (of the shredded and sweetened variety).  My girls, I think, would prefer that I buy chow mein noodles, which Grandma has on her haystacks, but I confess–since I don’t miss them, I haven’t gotten around to it yet.  (Sorry, kiddos.)

A word about the chicken, though.  My leftover chicken didn’t provide nearly as much flavor as either 1)using raw chicken and following Mel’s directions for cooking it as part of the sauce or 2)buying a rotisserie chicken at Costco and using the entire breast for one recipe.  I usually go for number 2, ever since I figured out that my 1st grader loves the dark meat from said rotisserie chicken on sandwiches in her lunch (with mayo, lettuce and tomato, or, if you happen to be out of lettuce like I was this morning, mayo and bread and butter pickles).  Grilled chicken would, I’m sure, also be delightful, but not the sad, poached, “I need chicken cooked quickly for a recipe” chicken I had way back when.  (I’m a bit better with plain cooked chicken now.)

Anyway.  I love haystacks and they go over well with all of my kiddos; if you use rice flour for the roux, this recipe is also easily gluten-free!

Enjoy!

Mar 18, 2014 - Uncategorized    1 Comment

Cauliflower

When I was growing up, cauliflower was pretty much simmered until soft and eaten with butter.  End of story.  And I liked it fine.  I’ve never liked the smell of it cooking, mind you–really, who does?–but I was fine eating it that way.  Once I got married, I went years eating it hardly at all, because my husband can’t stand it, but I used to buy it now and then intending to steam some for myself.  Sometimes I actually managed to do it, and I discovered that I liked it a bit firmer than my mother used to make it.  (To be fair, so does she.  It’s my dad who objects to cooked yet “crunchy” vegetables.)  It wouldn’t have been a big part of my life again, though, except that my friend and I used to cook together a lot, and once upon a time we tried a recipe she found for Butter Roasted Cauliflower.

And Oh.  My.  Gosh.

Seriously.  I have been known to make this recipe–a good-sized head of cauliflower’s worth–and eat the entire pan myself.  (It makes a great lunch, by the way.)  It is AMAZING.  Unfortunately, no one in my family loves lemon and capers and parsley as much as I do, and so in the interest of branching out a bit I tried this Cauliflower with Tomatoes recipe.  And it’s also very tasty.  My husband was pleasantly surprised, which is incredible praise from him for a vegetable.  My sister experimented with it and uses canned diced tomatoes in the wintertime.  (If I’m lucky, she’ll even comment on this post to say exactly how she does it!)

I will freely confess, though, that I don’t always have that much time to spend on a side dish, and so our most common cauliflower method is also the easiest.  Here goes:

You take your cauliflower and cut it into florets.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper (the clean up is SO much easier), toss the cauliflower with some olive oil and salt and pepper, and place it in a single layer on the cookie sheet.  (Don’t stress if it’s crowded, just make sure the florets aren’t on top of each other.)  Preheat your oven to 400 and roast for an hour.  Voila!  (Please pretend you see an accent on that “a”!)  My kids and I dip the florets in ketchup, as a sort of cousin to a French fry.  (I did actually see this recipe online first, but I never look at the recipe anymore.  It’s just that easy.)  You do have to serve it with a non-oven main dish, and it wouldn’t be so tempting on a hot day, but it’s yummy!  (A warning, though–eat it straight out of the oven.  It cools quickly and wouldn’t reheat well!)

How do you like cauliflower?