Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thank goodness for another book . . .

I just didn't see the point of Spanking Shakespeare.  I did finish it, although it was touch-and-go for a while.  I know it was supposed to be funny, but I didn't get the whole "misfit" scenario.  I don't think Shakespeare WAS a misfit.  I think the things he felt were the same things 80 percent of 16-year-old boys feel.  I agree with what his therapist said, "It sounds to me that you like to portray yourself as the victim of crazy parents, unsympathetic peers, and unlucky circumstances, because you are afraid to admit that your unhappiness might be your own doing."   I just didn't sympathize with him.  I also thought the constant discussions of masturbating and trying to find someone to have sex with were overdone.  I didn't see the humor and really didn't get the point of the story.  I've never not purchased a book for my library that was nominated for the Abraham Lincoln High School Book Award, but I'm not going to purchase this one.

I'm going to start Paul Volponi's Rucker Park Setup.  I've read several of his books and enjoyed them all.  I believe his books have a great message and are very appealing to teen readers.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Another stir fry

I made Peanut Broccoli Stir Fry last night and I thought it was really good.  My husband isn't a tofu fan, so he ate leftovers.  The problem I always have, is browning the tofu.  In this recipe you drain it well, then you put it in liquid before you brown it.  It seems like it needed to be DRY to brown it.  The recipe says 5 minutes and I think it took more than 10 for it to dry and then brown.  Another recipe I tried previously had you dredge the tofu in cornstarch and then brown it.  This made it crispier and easier to brown -- although I don't know how you would give it the soy/peanut flavor as in this recipe.  It was tasty . . .

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Book about Shakespeare?

Artichoke's Heart is a really touching book about a high school teenager who is overweight and eventual happiness and even romance.  She does lose some weight, but also becomes comfortable with herself, even though she's not a skinny model-type teen.  She is bullied at school and learns to deal with that also.  It's a very happy, feel-good book. I wish all teens who have trouble fitting in had such positive role models and found such genuine friends.

Now I am going to read Spanking Shakespeare a humorous book about a teen named Shakespeare who also doesn't fit in. He's also a writer . . .

Monday, April 26, 2010

Another audio book completed

I finished another audio book in record time!  Just a few car trips, and I was hooked and anxious to finish it.  I listened to Sacred Hearts, by Sarah Dunant, a book about a convent in the mid-1500s in Italy.

The main character, Serafina, is sent to the convent against her will (which seemed to be the case much of the time) and is desperate to return to her lover.  The other main character is Zuana, who has been in the convent for 17 years since her father, a doctor, died.  Zuana runs the convent's apothecary and is, in every sense, the convent's "doctor."  She becomes Serafina's mentor.  The descriptions of 16th century medicine, convent life, and the political world of the church in the 1500s is compelling.  This novel is rich in details, and I found every detail interesting. 

I was glad I had the audio version; the narrator was very good and helped make the story come alive, which is what an audio book narrator should do!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Vegetarian French Dips

I made Portabella Mushroom French Dips last night.  They turned out good!  It probably wasn't totally vegetarian, because I used Lipton's french onion soup mix, but close enough for me.  I also added a piece of provolone cheese and I didn't put in the liquid aminos (what are those anyway???)  I used a whole wheat french bread, and we would have liked a different bread -- something sourdough, maybe?  It makes a lot of au jus, so I really don't think the seven cups of water are necessary!  If I cut down on the water, I would also cut down on the vinegar and use only one package of onion soup mix.  I put the rest of the juice in the fridge, so I can use it for vegetable stock (and we are going to put some of it on Mollie's food for a treat.)

Friday, April 23, 2010

The next read . . .

Oh, what a sweet, sweet romance Scrambled Eggs at Midnight is!  Wonderful details of the different feelings during "new love."  I thought the authors captured the teen romance theme perfectly.  Both kids come from unusual families, some would say "dysfunctional," but not extremely so.  It says right on the back of the book that it has a happy ending, so I'm not giving anything away.  I would say a somewhat far-fetched happy ending, but by the time you get there, you don't care.

Next, I'll read another Abraham Lincoln Nominated Book called Artichoke's Heart.  It's about a compulsive overeating teenager.  There is apparently some romance, too.  I'll let you know . . .

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Back to YA Fiction

I finished The Minotaur.  I liked it, but didn't love it.  When I read a mystery I guess I think "suspense."  Maybe those are two different things.  But this crime didn't even happen until about 350 pages into the book (the last 100 pages.)  The rest was all character development, background, and setup.  There was much foreshadowing of what was to come.  The resolution was not a surprise, even though blurbs on the book said it would be.  She writes well, and describes things so it is very easy to picture them.  So, it wasn't a bad book, just not "my cup of tea."

Now I've started Scrambled Eggs at Midnight, by Brad Barkley & Heather Hepler.  This book has been in my library for a couple of years, but I recently read a review that made me put it on my list.  Of course, I don't remember what the review said any more.  It's about a girl and her mother, who works at Renaissance Fairs.  I think there's going to be some romance involved.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Another Tortilla Soup recipe

This Southwestern Tortilla Soup is from a new website I've been looking at called  It was very good.  I don't think I made any changes, except added some black olives, cheddar cheese, and avocado for garnish.  I didn't use very much cayenne, since I think the tomatoes with green chilies are plenty spicy.  Oh, I almost forgot, I did add some chopped up fake grilled chicken patties from Morningstar Farms at the very end.  These had been in the freezer for a while so I wanted to use them up.  They are really good and added a smoky flavor.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A fun weekend . . .

Had a great "Mom's Weekend" with my daughter.  I made shirts for us -- here's some pictures.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Minotaur . . .

I finished House Rules, and for a memoir, it was very good. I really don’t like these dysfunctional family books very much. I feel that most of them are repetitive, and one can figure out pretty much the entire book by reading the first few chapters (sometimes by just reading the flap!) It does help when the book follows a chronological order. With House Rules, this was the case. There are many flashbacks, but they don’t take over the chronological progression of the story. Another thing that I don’t like about these books is that there isn’t an ending. It’s just written to a certain point in the narrator’s life, and then we are to hope that things are OK, or get better. I understand that this is the nature of a memoir, but this is my personal opinion.

House Rules is a very well-written book. Sontag’s descriptions of her situations and her parents allow one to almost see and feel what is happening. It was easy to read and I think is a realistic portrayal of her life – of course, not totally objective, but without an emotional, “you should feel sad for me” tone.

I’m now going to read The Minotaur, by Barbara Vine, who has a quote on the book that says she’s “one of the finest practitioners of her craft in the English-speaking world.” The “craft” being writing mysteries. I like to try to remember why a book is on my reading list, and I can’t always do that. But I know that this one was on my “book a day” calendar last year. I kept the pages of the books that sounded interesting that I wanted to read. I’ve only read a few, but it at least gives me ideas when I’m in the mood . . .

Very good dinner!

I made Salmon Chowder last night.  Not a vegetarian recipe, but I did use soy milk instead of dairy milk and vegetable stock.  It has lots of veggies in it, and my husband and I BOTH liked it!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Antipasto-Style Penne

This recipe was very good.  I left out the prosciutto, of course.  I used an orange pepper instead of red, which added another color to the dish.  My husband thought it was squash (which he doesn't care for.)  He also isn't crazy about sun-dried tomatoes -- too tangy.  So if I made this again, I think I would chop them a lot finer and use about half the amount.  As far as I'm concerned, this was a great dish as it was.  I think it would be good cold, too.  Some little pearl onions would be great in this!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Next on the list . . .

Unwind was awesome.  I will be thinking about this book for a long time.  I think it would be a great book for an English curriculum read.  There is so much to discuss about morals and religious beliefs. How do you define "life."  Do we have a soul?  Does everyone have a soul?  When do you get a soul -- in the womb?  What is death?  When a child gets "unwound" all their parts are used to help someone else.  So, are they "dead" or not?  The characters in the book discuss these issues, and it would be easy to get a discussion started.  It's all very chilling and thought-provoking.  A very unique plot and a well-written book. I highly recommend it.

Next, I will start Rachel Sontag's House Rules. It's a memoir, and is another book on the Abe Lincoln High School Book Award list.  There are a few memoirs that I have enjoyed, but mostly I'm not a fan.  We'll see.

Monday, April 12, 2010

A New "Lasagna"

I made Spinach-Black Bean Lasagna last night.  I really liked it.  My husband, not so much.  He said it was bland.  I think a lot depends on the spaghetti sauce you use.  I used and organic brand that I had never tried before (it was on sale) so maybe that would make a difference.  I thought it was good -- my husband isn't a spinach fan, but I didn't really think I could taste or even "feel" the spinach in this one.  I used low fat cottage cheese in this instead of ricotta -- I always do that in lasagna because I like the taste better.  I guess this is considered "healthy," but it uses a whole pound of pepper jack cheese (which makes it a somewhat spicy dish!)

It made a lot -- so I will have leftovers for a while!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Ready for a new book already!

It was a quiet day, so I've already finished Wake.  It has a somewhat predictable plot, but an interesting premise, and is a feel-good teen romance.  I would recommend it to my teen readers.  It isn't "supernatural" (which is a good thing in this era of the vampire) but the main character has an unusual ability -- she can see other people's dreams.  That doesn't seem like such a bad thing, except that when she's seeing another's dreams, she is sometimes convulsing on the floor, and this can happen anywhere, anytime.  The plot is helped along by the fact that there really aren't any parental influences in ANY of the characters' lives.  A bit far-fetched, but these are "good kids" so they don't need any adults ;)

I'm still working my way through the last couple of Abe Lincoln nominated titles, so my next read will be Unwind, by Neal Shusterman.  A supernatural thriller -- imagine that!!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Told you it was a quick read . . .

Right Behind You was an intense, riveting, and quick read.  What a tortured youth.  The story ends hopefully, but not before many events occur that continue to affect not just the young kid, but his entire family.  I know that I am one who has always believed that even a young person should be held accountable for the heinous crimes he commits -- but then, there are many extenuating circumstances that we as "the public" are unaware of.  So, I guess we shouldn't judge to hastily.  Everyone has a story -- it's whether they are willing or able to explain it that can be a problem.

Now I'm going to read Wake, by Lisa McMann. The subtitle is "Your Dreams are Not Your Own."  Sounds spooky.  I'll let you know . . .

Another book on the Abe Lincoln List

Little Bee was a great book, as expected.  The thought processes of the characters so wonderfully described, keep you entranced.  The books starts out in present day, and the author does a great job of slowly explaining the background story.  It was heartbreaking, but really a joy to read.

Now for something completely different -- I've started Right Behind You, by Gail Giles.  Also a very sad story of a boy who killed his little neighbor by burning him.  He spent many years trying to be rehabilitated and put his life back together, but apparently his past will catch up with him.  It's a short, quick, read so I'll let you know soon.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

New Casserole Recipe

I saw this recipe for Mrs. Geraldine's Ground Beef Casserole on the home page of recipezaar.  I used veggie meat crumbles instead of the ground beef.  I also used fresh mushrooms, added some garlic, and didn't put in the celery (didn't have any.)  I would have made my own cream sauce from soy milk instead of the cream of mushroom soup -- but I didn't have any milk left either (I have been to the grocery store since I had dinner!) This was GOOD.  Has a a tangy yummy flavor.  Even my son liked it.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Mag Bags!

I saw some cute little bags at Borders called "mag bags."  Just the size to carry a few magazines.  I thought they would be fast and fun to make.  Here's the first two I've made -- I have plans for a couple more.  They are a lot of fun, and a good place for some fun embroidery, and a good way to use up some scraps.  I did buy the striped fabric but the lining and embroidery fabric are from my scrap stash.

I linked to this post from Tea Rose Home.  It's a fun blog -- you should check it out!