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Literature is my Utopia. - Helen Keller

A place to contemplate books, life, and never ending peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
A Reading Worm Hole

A Reading Worm Hole

Claimer: There are a lot of links in this post, but none of them are affiliates. I’m linking to them for your convenience.

I’ve unintentionally fallen into a worm hole in my reading in the past few weeks. Apparently, it’s a  worm hole that leads directly into 1930s Britain. I don’t know why I enjoy this setting so much, because I’m pretty sure I’d hate to live in it. The food, the weather, the drafty homes, the Great Depression, it all sounds pretty bleak when looked at as a whole. But for whatever reason, judging by the books I’ve randomly selected over the past two weeks, I really enjoy books set in 1930s Britain.

The Young ClementinaThe worm hole opened with D. E. Stevenson’s book The Young Clementina. Stevenson is one of my new old favorites, as I’ve mentioned before. This one popped up on my Riffle book email last week for only $2.99. Clementina was just what I would have expected of Stevenson, though not much like the cover. I enjoyed it thoroughly. With the misunderstood love plot and the resigned spinster theme, it was actually kind of reminiscent of Montgomery’s The Blue Castle, one of my favorite books ever.

Diary Of A Provincial LadyThen Diary of A Provincial Lady finally came available through my library. E.M. Delafield is always on my list of recommendations on Goodreads.com, but her work is hard to come by around here. Rachel over at Book Snob often mentions Delafield and I usually enjoy her recommendations, so I was excited to finally get my hands on this one. On the surface, it seemed kind of boring to read about the everyday housewife details of a British woman in the 1930s, but it was actually witty and sometimes hilarious. Think Bridget Jones’s Diary tones but on totally different subject matters. I thought it was amusing and fun to read. Today I downloaded a free copy of The Provincial Lady in Russia, so we’ll see if The Provincial Lady remains amusing or if one book by her is enough.

Her Royal Spyness (Her Royal Spyness Mysteries, #1)Though the book I read next isn’t written in the 1930s, it is set in that time. Her Royal Spyness is about Lady Georgiana, 34th in line for the throne, penniless, and skill-less. She decides to provide for herself by being an undercover house cleaner, but finds herself an undercover spy. Written by Rhys Bowen, it is a fast paced mystery with some pretty likable characters. I thought the plot was a bit too easy to figure out. I knew who had committed the crime by about 1/4 through the book. But it was still a good, light read, without any of the gory details I’m not too fond of in mystery novels. I could have done without all the “you’re still a virgin, what’s wrong with you?” talk included between Lady Georgie and her best friend, but I guess that’s par for the course in a modern novel. This is the first book in a long series. I may give one more a try, but I wouldn’t say that I’m hooked. I’m much more likely to go for something actually written in the 1930s, as I’ve mentioned before in a post about Downton Abbey Look Alikes.

The Daisy ChainNow, I’m climbing out (or falling further in?) the worm hole and reading The Daisy Chain, a book written in the 1850s that was very popular in its day but is neglected now in lists of classics. I hope I can get into it and write a review when I’m done, but the fact that the author apologizes for its length before the first chapter has me a little worried. =)

 

 

July 14, 20141 commentRead More
The Tenth of July

The Tenth of July

I’ve officially reached that point–the one where you’ve been pregnant for so long, you’re sure the baby is just not going to come out. It’s true, I’m not due for four more days. For some reason, I have had it in my head that July 10th would be a great day to have a baby. July 10th just has this nice ring to it. But it’s not looking like that’s going to happen. I don’t know why I feel much more in a hurry for this baby to be here than I was with my second child. I think I may have been wiser three years ago than I am now. In those days of waiting for Isaac, I was only two years removed from the newborn stage of mothering and I remembered how hard it was. I valued my sleep. I valued my time without having to constantly hold a fussy baby. Maybe because Isaac was such a happy baby or maybe because it’s been three years, but this time I can’t seem to keep the “I’m fine waiting patiently” perspective I had when Isaac was ten days late. I cherished the golden days of normalcy with my two-year-old daughter and simply enjoyed the waiting.

But this time, my ankles are swollen, my legs are jumpy with RLS all the time, my back hurts, and I don’t sleep much. This time, I’m just plain uncomfortable. This time, I so badly want to stop the maddening weight gain! Just end it! I want my husband to be able to take some time off work now. And I want to meet my little baby girl! But I can’t make it happen. My timing isn’t so much the thing here. (Why am I surprised?) I know God’s timing is perfect. I remember how great Isaac’s labor was compared to Ella’s, when I was induced on her due date because of a complication. I know I need to trust.

So today, I will do my best to enjoy the waiting. I will enjoy the MOPS play date I crossed off my mental list weeks ago. I will relish the twenty games of Uno I will inevitably play with a five-year-old who just learned how yesterday. I will cook dinner without a baby crying in the background. Hey, maybe I’ll even get around to buying a baby book for this baby. (Sorry, dear third child, it just slipped my mind…). Maybe I’ll finish the painting project I started two weeks ago. I’ll be thankful for the fact that I have time to clean the bathrooms, wash the sheets, vacuum the carpet. I will be thankful that I can hold Isaac and Ella in my arms with no distractions. Today, I will rest in the happy and hard moments of now, even as I excitedly hope for the joy of the new baby to come.

July 10, 20144 commentsRead More
Blackberry Winter, by Sarah Jio

Blackberry Winter, by Sarah Jio

Blackberry WinterA few nights ago I looked up from a book and said to my husband, “Remind me to never read sad books about children when I’m pregnant.” He looked at me in exasperation and said, “Gah! When is it ever a good time for you to read sad books about children?” That’s a fair question. But I chose to read Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio because I loved her writing and story telling style in The Violets of March. Somehow, I trusted Jio not to plunge me too deeply into the depths of despair. Yes, it was a mostly blind decision, but it turned out to be a good one in the end.

Here’s the synopsis of the book:

Seattle, 1933. Single mother Vera Ray kisses her three-year-old son, Daniel, goodnight and departs to work the night-shift at a local hotel. She emerges to discover that a May-Day snow has blanketed the city, and that her son has vanished. Outside, she finds his beloved teddy bear lying face-down on an icy street, the snow covering up any trace of his tracks, or the perpetrator’s.
Seattle, 2010. Seattle Herald reporter Claire Aldridge, assigned to cover the May 1 “blackberry winter” storm and its twin, learns of the unsolved abduction and vows to unearth the truth. In the process, she finds that she and Vera may be linked in unexpected ways. -Goodreads.com

If you’ve read many of my posts, you know I’m not a big fan of the back-and-forth between history and present day narrative. However, I think there are some writers who do a good job with it and Sarah Jio is one of them. The difference maker is Jio’s ability to make both times and all characters involved come to life. Each character in the two books I’ve read by her faces circumstances that are really, really, hard. Jio brings in the everyday tragedies of the human experience – miscarriages, losing a parent, unhappy marriages- the things that are always happening to someone, somewhere, into her writing and still manages to leave readers with a brightened outlook on life. I also appreciate how Jio can deal with some messy, true-to-life themes in her writing without feeling the need to drag readers through the muck of every detail. In other words, there is no hint of erotica or violence in her writing. That’s something I really appreciate.

When I finished Blackberry Winter, I wanted it to keep going. That odd friendship between a reader and book characters formed that only really good books can create. I’m eagerly awaiting Jio’s latest book, Goodnight June, to become available at my library. Until then, you might find me at the library in the J Fiction section, because apparently I’ve missed quite a few Jio novels in the last few years. Perfect for summer reading!

So whatchya’ reading this summer?

July 9, 20140 commentsRead More
Why Nesting Needs To Be About You

Why Nesting Needs To Be About You

I’m two weeks away from my due date, looking bigger than a house, and getting a lot of questions about my preparedness for our third baby’s arrival.

“Are you feeling ready?”

“Got the nursery all set?”

The answer is “yes” to both questions. We are really ready to meet our new little one, and there is a space in our house for her to sleep, eat, and be dressed. However, her nursery will never be on Pinterest. This is about as good as it’s going to get:

photo (15)

The whole nesting thing has changed for me since my first child. It used to be about the baby, but now it’s all about me.

If you don’t know what nesting is, or you’re rolling your eyes, let me tell you, it’s a very real thing. It’s this strong feeling in a pregnant woman’s body and soul that if what-have-you does not get done, she will not be able to enjoy her baby’s birth or her first few days of life as a mother. It’s powerful force that can be used for good, and sometimes, for craziness.

With the first child, nesting is predictable. It’s all about the nursery. Even I, with zero interior decorating tendencies, had specific ideas about what I wanted my first baby’s room to look like. I went to every fabric store in town, looking for the perfect material so I could sew bumpers and quilts for my little bundle of joy. Do I usually sew things for my home? No. I have made curtains, and they have been mostly dreadful. But I was optimistic. However, I couldn’t settle on any of the fabric I was finding, even online (I was craaaazy), so I registered for a bedding set that was close to perfection from Babies R Us. From handmade with love to Babies R Us? Yes. But I am happy to report that I still love that bedding. And that I found the perfect paint color for the walls to go with the bedding. I’m sorry to report  I nearly had an internal melt down when my husband and I found a solid oak crib for sale for $30 and bought it instead of the white furniture I had set my heart on. I knew that crib was solid and would last forever (and it has) but it didn’t fit into my ideal nursery. Nesting is real, and it’s a bunch of weirdness.

But things change. When I was about to have our second child, we decided to downsize. The housing market wasn’t great, but we put our house up for sale anyway, knowing we were doing the right thing for our family. I was fully prepared to wait months for someone to buy our house. It took just a few weeks. So nesting for my second child didn’t look like it did with my first; it looked like a pile of boxes surrounding a pack-n-play with a cute blue blanket on it.

Now we’re on our third child, and what did I spend last week doing? Painting the trim and the walls in my own bedroom. What kind of selfish mother am I? Yes, maybe I’ve grown selfish in my nesting all of a sudden. Or maybe I’ve come to grips with the fact that nesting is all about the mother anyway. What all moms know, deep down inside, is nesting is really for us. We know our babies don’t care if their rooms are pink or blue or beige. We know they don’t know the difference between a blanket needle pointed by hand or machine monogrammed or from a pack of six bought at Target.  Our babies care about this: sleeping, eating, and feeling comfortable. What I didn’t realize is how much just providing those three requirements for my baby would take out of me. Sleeping sounds like the easy part, but my first child seemed to get the hiccups every single night. How do you get a baby to sleep with hiccups? And babies don’t need you to cook complex food, but they do need a lot of food all day and all night and if it isn’t just right, they can be in a world of hurt in their little tummies. “What did I eat today that is causing you so much pain?” was a question I agonized over for the first few months of my daughter’s life.

When you’re heading into the newborn phase of motherhood for the first time, you don’t realize how exhausting and emotionally draining it will be. Wonderful and joyful, yes, but also a very trying time. And that is why nesting needs to be about you. Because while our babies can’t even begin to know whether the Winnie the Pooh wall paper is from the classic Winnie the Pooh or the Disney Winnie the Pooh (this is such an important distinction), they can tell when our voices reach a new level of stress. They can sense the frazzled-ness of our arm motions as we try to hold the baby and stir the oatmeal and tell the five-year-old “No, I haven’t washed that dress, please just pick another one.  Please.” Your baby hears all that and doesn’t know what it means, but will probably cry a little harder. This is not scientific fact, just my experience. Babies are most comfortable when their mamas are comfortable. And mama’s comfort can get pretty low on the list. At some times in life, comfort translates into a spa day. For a new mom, comfort translates into a five-minute shower and three hours of uninterrupted sleep.

So when you’re about to have a baby, go ahead and enjoy the decorating of the nursery, if that’s what brings you comfort. Or, do what I did last week and stop ignoring the fact that your bedroom still only has primer on the wall and make it into a place where you feel relaxed and calm. Put away some meals in the freezer or pantry that will make life easier in three months. Hide a few new puzzles or books for the children you already have. Organize your laundry area so that your kind friend who offers to help will be able to find the detergent. Do not, I repeat, do not worry if there is nothing hanging on the walls of your baby’s room. But do consider buying extra sets of sheets for every family member’s bed, including your own, because laundry every day is not always going to be a given and middle of the night messes are. Give yourself lots of time to be way less than perfect, but also give yourself a chance to succeed in making your home a comfortable place for everyone, not just the new baby. It may seem a little counter intuitive, but I think our babies will thank us if we make nesting more about what will sustain us as moms as we care for our babies and our families. Whether what will sustain you in the newborn days is a beautiful nursery, a pot of flowers on the back porch, really clean baseboards and ceiling fans, a well stocked pantry, or a subscription to Netflix is entirely up to you.

More thoughts on having a third child here!

July 1, 20142 commentsRead More
What To Do With Watermelon: Saturday Cooking, It Is Hot Edition

What To Do With Watermelon: Saturday Cooking, It Is Hot Edition

It’s June. It’s 100 degrees. You walk in from the sweltering parking lot to the coolness of your local grocery store. You were only in the car for three minutes, but your back is sweaty, your flip flops are like hot tin shingles on your feet, and you wish to plunge your entire self into a mountain river. You grab a cart, pull out your list, and suddenly stop. Because there, right in front of you, practically blocking the whole produce aisle, is a giant cardboard box brimming over with ripe, juicy watermelons. You think, “Mmmm, what could be better than watermelon today?” Nothing. Absolutely nothing. It’s $6.99 per watermelon, so you pick the biggest one you can find and heave-ho it into your cart. You take it home, get out your biggest knife, slice into it, and eat it. For three days. And then you still have half of it left. Your family will have nothing more to do with it. You even take it to a cookout; you and three other women bring watermelon to the cookout.

Let’s face it: watermelons are just too big. They are tempting and delicious and bring summer to our mouths, but they are huge. So what do you do with all that leftover watermelon? Here are my discoveries from the last two weeks.

First, put on some music. Then, chop up all that watermelon into chunks and get rid of the seeds. Next, find a good watermelon popsicle recipe. I used this recipe and it was delicious. I didn’t have the light corn syrup it called for, so I used honey instead. Also, I only used 2 Tablespoons of sugar instead of the six it called for, because good grief, people, it’s already sweet. My husband said he didn’t enjoy the slight honey flavor, but my son and I loved the taste. My daughter isn’t a big watermelon fan, so I just discounted her vote entirely. I think next time I’ll substitute lime juice for lemon juice just because I like the lime flavor better. Also, the recipe could do with more strawberries. But that’s my philosophy on life in general.

Next, you’ll probably still have some watermelon left over after you make your popsicles. Making sure it’s all de-seeded, throw it in the food processor or blender pulse it a few times. Then, pour your pureed watermelon into an ice cube tray or two. Cover them with plastic wrap, stick them in the freezer, and pull out as many as you need at a time to make fruit smoothies on those hot summer days when the thought of actual food is unbearable. (Note: make sure you add some yogurt to your smoothie, or you’ll be hungry within minutes of consuming it).

Finally, if you still have watermelon, dice it up even smaller than you did before and sprinkle it with a tiny bit of sugar. Put it in an airtight container and the next time you hear that guilty voice in your mind saying “You should really be buying plain Greek yogurt instead of that sweetened stuff,” you can say, “Yes, you’re right!” Then you can go home and mix your sweet watermelon and watermelon juice (thank you, tiny bit of sugar) into your yogurt and you actually enjoy that yogurt. Can you tell I’m not a big fan of Greek yogurt? But I know it’s extra good for me, so I put in smoothies and other stuff whenever I can bring myself to buy it at the store. Seriously, the watermelon helps.

There are also lots of recipes for Watermelon Gazpacho/Cold Soup out there. I am not very fond of foods that have no crunch or chew to them (exception: ice cream), so that watermelon food idea doesn’t appeal to me. But if you find a good recipe for it, let me know; I might be brave enough to try it!

So, now you can go to the grocery store and wrangle that watermelon into your shopping cart with the peace of mind that you will actually use the entire thing. Pick one up for me while you’re at it.

June 21, 20140 commentsRead More
The Daring Ladies of Lowell Review

The Daring Ladies of Lowell Review

I am a fan of Kate Alcott. I’m afraid I was predisposed to be a fan because of her last name…but I’m pretty sure there’s more to it than that. Her first book, The Dressmaker, is one of the most enjoyable historical fiction novels I’ve read as an adult. As soon as I noticed Alcott had a new book out, I snatched it up.

The Daring Ladies of Lowell The Daring Ladies of Lowelltells the story of several factory girls in the 1830s. Alice Barrow, the main character, comes to Lowell, Massachusetts to make a new life for herself. She joins many girls who are part of this shiny, new industry. Reading about their boarding house camaraderie reminded me of Little Women. As Alice lives and works longer in Lowell, however, she becomes aware of the troubles rising between the mill owners, The Fiskes, and the workers. Not only that, but she becomes entangled with the Fiske family in a way she never would have expected.

I have to admit that Alcott’s strength is in her story telling and her characters. The writing in this book and some of the plot developments seems a little trite at times. This is especially true when it comes to the romantic parts…”he couldn’t help but notice her hair…” yes, that’s going to get an eye roll. But I enjoyed the story, and the fact that much of the plot is based on actual events in Lowell. I appreciate a writer who does her research.  And there were some glimpses of brilliance in Alcott’s wording at times -playing on words related to the textile industry, such as weaving and threads.  Once again, I appreciate how Alcott has put out another book without feeling the need to include any sex scenes. Can you call it a scene if it’s in a book? Well, you know what I mean.

Also, this book is a modern American counterpart to one of my favorite classics, North and South. Written by Elizabeth Gaskell, it centers on the industrial revolution in England and the strikes between workers and owners. There is romance, a strong heroine, tragedies…besides the writing styles being from different eras, North and South and The Daring Ladies of Lowell are like international twins.  I prefer Gaskell’s  genre (Victorian British Lit) to almost any other, but The Daring Ladies of Lowell is a great literature companion in the topic of industrial revolution. I’d give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.Put The Daring Ladies of Lowell on your TBR list if you like historical fiction and are in the mood for a light read.

June 18, 20140 commentsRead More
Mice and Rats We Actually Like- Rodent Children’s Books

Mice and Rats We Actually Like- Rodent Children’s Books

You know what grown ups don’t like? Mice and rats. You know what children love to read about? Mice and rats. There’s a definite disconnect there, but we just ignore it as much as possible. The hugely popular If You Give A Mouse A Cookie is proof of that.

One of these rodent books is actually treasured in my family. In fact, it has recently been read aloud at a family gathering, to a 883055group of adults, just to make sure the whole family and all its additions appreciate its greatness. Yes, that’s the kind of awesome family I married into. =) And when we borrowed the treasured book and it met with an accident and some Scotch tape, we called and apologized because it is that beloved. Hooway for Wodney Wat is a book about a pitiful little rodent who can’t say his ‘r’s. As a result, he is shy and hides in his jacket as often as possible. He deals with some mild teasing and it looks like he’s doomed to be at the bottom of the rodent chain forever. But when a new bully comes to class who makes everyone miserable, Rodney’s stutter takes a turn from curse to blessing. Read it to your kids and cheer for the underdog…err, rat, and make sure to talk about how it feels to both be bullied and be the bully.

The kids and I stumbled upon the sequel to Hooway for Wodney Wat last week at the library. We had no Wodney Wat's Wobotidea it existed and I can’t tell you how excited my children were to show their daddy. The story line in Wodney Wat’s Wobot is pretty similar to the first book, but it goes a step further in the bullying theme to address how changing whatever it is about yourself that people like to make fun doesn’t really fix any problems. Wodney’s Wobot is supposed to allow him to say his ‘rs without any trouble, but it’s when it stops working that Wodney becomes a hero again.

1997712We’ve also been reading lots of Angelina Ballerina, specifically Angelina’s BirthdayThe original books illustrated by Helen Craig are beautiful. I have to say, Angelina ends up in tears a little more often than I enjoy, but thanks to my own five-year-old daughter, I’m beginning to understand that tears are more of a daily thing than I anticipated when I started mothering a girl. But that’s a whole new post for another day. What I love most about Angelina is that she always figures things out in the end and the illustrations are so detailed. In Angelina’s Birthday, there is a two-page illustration of Mrs. Thimble’s General Store that has so many details, it’s mesmerizing to me. Interestingly enough, my 3-year-old son appreciates Angelina Ballerina as well. Life with sisters, I guess. =)

Those are our favorite mice and rat books these days. Do you or your children have any rodent reads they love?

June 16, 20140 commentsRead More
The Final “May I Tell The Truth” Post…in June

The Final “May I Tell The Truth” Post…in June

I think it’s safe to say that I started the month of May in a bad place when it came to my housekeeping mindset. I was unmotivated and tired. I wanted to write about my struggles in the hopes that some others of you would be encouraged to be honest about what our everyday houses look like. I hope I’ll always laugh at the day when three- THREE – people on blogs I follow (and I only follow a few) complained about the dust bunnies in their house, and it set me off on a whole blog series about how we’re all liars if dust bunnies are our biggest housekeeping problem. It was kind of a low for me in wife and mother self esteem. But seriously, the Pinterest generation I live in is hard on us all.

The result of all of this thinking about how I keep my house has surprised me, though. I thought I would come to a place where I could laugh at my shortcomings and commiserate with others. While that’s sort of been the case, the  truth is I’ve wanted to improve more than I ever have before. I’ve realized that my problem wasn’t inability, but just plain being unmotivated. I realized this when I was telling someone “Congratulations on graduating from college!” Maybe a weird time to think about housecleaning? Well here’s my final “May I Tell The Truth?” moment on the blog: I am straight up jealous of students.

Students get grades. I love getting grades.

Students have assignments. Please, give me a concrete assignment.

Students get GPAs. ::insert sigh of longing::

Housework ecardYou know what full time moms get? No measurable feedback. Not that I am bemoaning the fact that no one tells me “you’re doing great work!” Because people certainly do. I have encouraging people in my life, as I hope all moms do.

But what I want to tell graduates is “Congratulations, you’ve graduated! Get used to never having any definite gauge of personal success again.”

In our society, we get a lot of mileage out of tests, exams, what have you, when it comes to motivating kids ages 5-22, and then it’s time for everyone to just innately know when we’re doing a good job. Of course, there are the reviews if you’re in that kind of work position, or the raises and promotions and things like that. But even then, how many of us raised in this society are able to step back and independently evaluate what we’re doing with our efforts? We’re not trained to do that. We have tests for that. And I like academic tests! Love them. What I don’t appreciate is areas where it’s more of a pass/fail endeavor, and your work is only noticed when you’re failing. That’s the nature of housekeeping.

Is any of this a good excuse to do a poor job in endeavors without measures? No, of course not. Just because no one is going to give me an A+ or C- on the state of my floors doesn’t mean I should become apathetic about how I take care of what I’m entrusted with. As I’ve recovered from that apathy a little over the past month, I’ve wondered, “where has my work ethic and pride in what I put my hands to been?” The discovery I made through my honest month of May was that my house actually does reflect my state of mind. That is not true for everyone! But it is true for me. So when my house gets chaotic and cluttery, dusty and grimy…well, watch out family, my brain is on the crazy side. Or I’m just exhausted, and my work ethic is gone for the time being.

The past month or so has been one of many improvements. I’ve realized that I do actually care about the state of my house. The fact that three mentions of dust bunny problems made me laugh psychotically was not a reflection on the dishonesty of the writers. It was a reflection of how far I had sunk in my housework mentality. Please note: I still don’t really care about dust bunnies. But I do care enough to wipe off the table after every meal. I do care enough to keep the bathrooms clean, not just tidy. And that’s a movement in the right direction. There’s a new baby coming in four-ish weeks and my house will get very messy for a few weeks after that (or months). It just will. But it will get better and I will refuse to dwell in “a house that appears to be at the bottom of a toaster.”  There are times when housekeeping takes a back seat. A back seat in a school bus. In fact, it should always kind of be in a back seat, right? But it should still be on the bus. So there’s what I’ve learned in May/June.

So while my tendency is still this:

Ecards | Library book deadline takes priority over housework

…I’m working on it, and enjoying my cleaner home. I really do have to finish that library book, though…

 

June 13, 20141 commentRead More
Saturday Cooking, Edition 5

Saturday Cooking, Edition 5

I like cookbooks. I know that the convenience of online recipes is staggeringly in favor of never opening a real cook book again, but photo (14)I still have a shelf full of them. The fact that I am not a foodie is something my husband discovered PWD (post wedding day) and he is still getting over his disappointment. No, not really. But it is a distinct difference between us. I have come a long way in the cooking realm, but I don’t view dinner time as this wonderful opportunity to make something new and breathtakingly delicious. On his part, he’s come a long way in appreciating the fine qualities of granola. Because I don’t have ideas for dinner just fly into my head at random, I like to have a physical book to flip through and follow. I have to admit, though, I use allrecipes.com as much as anyone. So here are two cookbooks and two online recipes to whet your appetite and maybe give you a few menu ideas for the summer months:

The Cookbooks:

Grilling, Williams-Sonoma Collection: the recipes for grilled potatoes, grilled pizza, and hamburgers are stellar. Especially the grilled pizza one–that herb crust is delicious!

Monday to Friday Cookbook: My MOPS group had the privilege of having a guest speaker who both loves food and understands the crazy busyness of life. She shared some recipes and also told us about this cookbook. It has so many great ideas for quick meals! I have this on my “to buy” list, but for now, the library copy is great.

Williams-Sonoma Collection: Grilling Monday-To-Friday Cookbook

 

The online recipes:

Baked Pesto ChickenBaked Pesto Chicken: The other day I planned on leftovers for dinner but found out my husband was coming home instead of working late at the last minute. He had already had leftovers for lunch, so it was time to think of a plan B fast. I opened the fridge and for once in my life, saw a potential meal instead of a bunch of food items. If you have chicken, a jar of pesto, parmesan or mozarella cheese, you can make this main dish in minutes. It’s supposed to be low carb recipe, but I served it over pasta. I really love carbs. My kids still ate leftovers because “that chicken is green!” but my husband and I have added it to our top 20 recipe list.

Strawberry BreadStrawberry Bread Recipe: This is what you do when you go strawberry picking and your eyes are bigger than a strawberry’s expiration date. I made it with frozen sliced berries as well as fresh berries, and it was great both times. (Thanks, Janice, for introducing me to this now staple of spring baking in our house!)

Cooked anything good recently? Share it with me in the comments!

More bookish cooking here!

June 7, 20140 commentsRead More
Novellas for Your Beach Bag (Or Nightstand)

Novellas for Your Beach Bag (Or Nightstand)

This week was a successful reading week, finally! The previous weeks were filled with book busts. I’ve discovered one of the best things ever for a beach reader, weekend reader, or a busy mom: novellas. The novella, a short novel or long short story, is a great form of literature because it gives a succinct plot, fewer characters to get to know, and the opportunity to be powerful and poignant without getting bogged down in details. I finished two last week.

The Uncommon ReaderThe Uncommon Reader was delightful. It’s written by Alan Bennett, much better known for his plays and screenplays than his novellas, but I wouldn’t mind if he writes more literary fiction. The Uncommon Reader is an imaginary account of Queen Elizabeth’s discovery that reading is a pleasure. From the beginning when she steps into the travelling library (we call those bookmobiles here in SC) parked at Buckingham Palace, to the end of the book, Bennett gives his readers a fun and witty glimpse into how books and reading changes lives, even uncommon ones. Of course, it’s all made up. But it’s still a fun read and even insightful at times into how reading widens a person’s ability to empathize or notice the small things.

Stella BainIn Stella Bain, a very short novel that I am classifying as a novella, author Anita Shreve ventures into the historical fiction realm, and does a decent job of telling the story of an American woman in World War I. Stella Bain wakes up in an army hospital in Marne, France in the middle of The Great War, not knowing how she got there or who she actually is. All she knows at the beginning is that she has the abilities of a nurse and ambulance driver. Going only on a strong feeling that she needs to make her way to London, she unravels the mystery of her past and finds the strength to put together her present. Warning: this plot is implausible. If you read books because you want them to be as close to real life as possible, don’t read this book. But if you read because it’s fun to go on an imaginary adventure and maybe learn a thing or two, this is a good book. I liked it better than Shreve’s other novels I’ve read, though I can see by the reviews that most of her fans prefer her other work. I was reminded strongly of the book Maisie Dobbs while reading Stella Bain. There were many similarities in themes relating to the horrors of the field hospitals and soldiers’ recoveries during The Great War. When I’m immersed in a book or even movie (Downton Abbey, Season 2, for example) set during that time, I actually get nightmares about it. May trench warfare never occur again. But that’s only a small piece of Stella Bain. If you enjoy historical fiction, it’s a good read written by a good author.

Other notable novellas I’ve enjoyed:

Ethan Fromme – not so much in a “what a delightful book sense” but in a “that is a fine piece of art” sense

The Blue Castle – a “grown up” book from the author of Anne of Green Gables

Breakfast At Tiffany’s – yes, it’s as good as the movie

Happy Summer reading!

 

 

 

 

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