Thursday, December 30, 2010

Road to Tater Hill

by Edith M. Hemingway
210 pgs

      I brought this one home from my recent large library book order that came three days before holiday break.  I knew, from the description on Titlewave, it was one I wanted to read and it was worth it.  My husband went to school at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, NC and he often regales us with interesting tales of living in this part of the South.  Set in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina in 1963,  Edith M. Hemingway draws on her own family's experiences to create this tale.
     Annabel (Annie) and her mother are spending the summer with her grandparents while her dad is stationed oversees.  Her mom is pregnant but the baby, born early, dies.  Annie spends the summer missing this baby sister, Mary Kate, wondering what her days would be like if things had gone differently.   She finds a nice sized rock and holds it like a baby, cuddling it,  as she sits by the creek.   Her mother struggles and cannot get past the baby's death, reeling in grief, forgetting she has a living daughter.   As Annie spends time by the creek, away from home, she meets a mountain women, Eliza McGhee who helps her come to understand her mother's depression.
     Eliza  is a most fascinating character and she slowly reveals her history to Annie.  Through Miss Eliza's revelations we learn of her abusive husband and death of her own child years earlier.  Their relationship leads to Annie's ability to help her own mother and also allows Annie to understand the other people in her life. 
     Perfect Quote: 
I was close enough now to see the woman sitting on the back stoop of her house with the door open behind her like a narrow slit leading to a dark cave.  She reminded me of a character in some fairy tale I had read years ago-not a scary person, but someone who had lived through hard times.  Her head was bent over an instrument that lay across her knees, and her face was hidden by the floppy folds of her sunbonnet.  She bobbed her head to the rhythm of the music that she plucked from the strings.  (58)
   I loved Miss Eliza's ability to envelope Annie into her life even though, previously, she shunned close relationships.  Ostracised  in her own community Miss Eliza deftly steps in and fills the gap in young Annie's life.  Annie leans on Miss Eliza for understanding and learns what it takes to be friend during difficult times; standing up for what is right and true.  These two share a love of reading which is a wonderful connection-I loved Miss Eliza's recollections of the librarian who brings books to her in prison. 
When I get back to school I know I will be able to book talk this one right into an eager student's hands.
Edith M. Hemingway's website
Here is a good book trailer video.
Sherry at Semicolon liked it too!
Buy it for someone you love at an Indiebound store near you-Road to Tater Hill

Sunday, December 26, 2010

What a holly, jolly Christmas so far

     The holidays started officially for us yesterday (thursday) as we hosted 6 young girls, ready to do some holiday baking.  Groovy Girl had her first cookie bake-off.  They poured, measured, cracked the eggs, learned the "scoop and sweep" flour method as she took them through her mini-baking lesson.  This is the same girl who two years ago "hosted" her own cooking show, which I taped but never got uploaded to a computer because the dog ate the Flip camera.Yes, that was not a very merry moment.  Her friends had a wonderful time as they made cookies and watched The Polar Express while they cut out,  baked and decorated the cookies.  Decorating and eating ranked the highest in fun factor.   I think gumdrops were being eaten as fast as I could cut them up.  I love to listen to children talk; they are generally so uninhibitated and yesterday was no exception as they shared their own baking experiences and knowledge with each other!  Hopefully, we've begun a new tradition with this holiday party.

    Four days ago I needed to make a treat for my daughter's school party;  luckily we still live in a school district that allows homemade snacks and that no one in her class is allergic to peanuts because we whipped up these delicious Double Peanut Butter Cups thanks to Kathy at Bermudaonion.  I didn't take a photo of mine (there is one with the recipe at Bermudaonion) but the Christmas platter came home empty and she told me several students had seconds. 

     In my family it is tradition to have oyster stew on Christmas Eve but my husband is allergic to certain types of shellfish so when I got married I had to throw the tradition out. We've done clam chowder for the last few years but I'm never quite satisfied with what my clam chowder tastes like compared to what I've eaten on my travels to the East Coast. This year I tried a brand new recipe from Clinton St. Baking Company Cookbook, which I also discovered thanks to a Weekend Cooking post at Bermudaonion.  As soon as I read her post about this cookbook I knew it was the perfect Christmas gift for my mother-a cookbook collector and brunch lover.   I found one last copy sitting on the shelf at my local Barnes and Noble, which, sadly, is our own local bookstore.  Local trumps indie when your making that last dash for gifts.   My family is totally okay with receiving books for gifts that have been "test" read by the giver so I spent hours  perusing the contents of this fabulous book.  I still plan to give it to my mom with the straight up knowledge that I may have to borrow it from time to time.  I've already tried two recipes from it-both were delicious and I just ooooh'd and aaahhhh'd as I looked through it.  This will be on my list of must-eat eateries when I visit NYC.  Thank you Kathy for brightening my holiday cooking TWICE!

If you missed out on getting yourself something merry this season, buy it here-Clinton St. Baking Company Cookbook

Enjoy the video (never did get the video to upload after three days of puttering with it)now, photos of the baking party.  Merry Christmas to all and to all a good day, filled with roasting fires,  a few perfect presents, time to read and a dinner table filled with good food.  Don't you just love a young girl who bakes in a huge string of pearls. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Fanny would make a great gift!

Fanny and Annabelle
by Holly Hobbie

We loved Fanny after our friend, V introduced us to the book awhile back.  With all the hoopla on expensive and more-is-better, Fanny was like a breath of fresh air.  This next one makes us love Holly Hobbie even more as she makes Fanny a writer girl, willing to tell her own story.  The story unfolds:

Saturday was drizzly and dreary, so Fanny decided it was an excellent day to make her very own picture book. 

At the top of the first page she wrote Annabelle's Adventure.  Annabelle was Fanny's favorite doll.  Fanny had made her, after all.  She didn't know what the adventure was yet.  She only knew Annabelle was going to have one. 

"Here goes," she said.

     The illustrations are a mix of Holly Hobbie's and Fanny's as they discover an adventure just waiting around the corner from Ted's Deli and like most, very unexpected.  This has just enough moral dilemna without being too didactic~just a pinch of honesty thrown in to the mix as Fanny finds an envelope with money in it on the sidewalk and must debate just what to do with her find.  Fanny is a well-drawn and likeable character and her mother is filled with soft, good sense advice.   
      We enjoy Fancy Nancy's escapades but Fanny just seems more our style.  Thank you Holly Hobbie! Groovy Girl and I highly recommended both books for a young lady on your gift list at this special time of year.

This copy is from our very own public library.
Great review by Energizer Bunny's Mommy.
Read my review of sorts of Fanny.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Weekend Cooking-Is it still the Weekend?

     Here it is the evening of the weekend and I'm just getting to my food-related post for Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads.  I look forward to this event all week and I have been online a lot this weekend, Christmas shopping on Shutterfly, building calendars for my Mom, my in-laws and my other parents in AZ.  They are gorgeous, combining a wide variety of photos from this past year-our trip to Michigan, their visits here, and Teenage Boy's Alaskan fishing trip as well as all the usual Halloween costumes, and a few of the cute cousins thrown in!!  According to Shutterfly they should still make it by the 24th.  Considering I started assembling them on Wednesday night that's not bad but I'm really hoping it's true.  I hate to have worked so hard on something only to have them come December 31st.  I am joyful they are finished and that part of my "shopping" is done!!

Weekend Cooking:

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day is one of my most treasured recipe books-you can tell by all the sticky notes fanning out from the book.  I love making fresh bread 'cuz it goes with every meal, especially in the winter when many of my meals are soup-related or hearty. 

Here is the general  recipe so you can try it too:

The Master Recipe: Boule (Artisan Free-Form Loaf)  [edited down just a bit]

3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 T. granulated yeast  **did you know you can buy yeast in bulk at your local organic store-how great is that**
1 1/2 T. kosher, coarse salt
6 1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour, measured with scoop-and-sweep method
Cornmeal for pizza peel [I do not have a pizza peel~I put the cornmeal on my baking stone; I have one stone in the oven and one I use as the peel]

Mixing and Storing Dough

1. Warm the water slightly: It should feel just a little warmer than body temp., about 100 degrees F.

2. Add yeast and salt to the water in a 5-qt. bowl or, preferably, in a resealable, lidded but not airtight plastic food container or food-grade bucket.  Don't worry about getting it all to dissolve.  [My mom just gave me an early Xmas gift, at, this square dough container from King Arthur Flour-Thank You, Mom

3.  Mix in the flour-kneading is not necessary.  Add all the flour at once, measuring it in with dry-ingredient measuring cups, by gently scooping up flour, then sweeping the top level with a knife or spatula;  don't press down into the flour as you scoop or you'll throw off the measurments.  Mix with a wooden spoon, until it gets to difficult, then use your own wet hands.  Don't knead-just incorporate the flour so everything is uniformly moist. 

4. Allow to rise:  Cover with a lid (not airtight).  Do not use screw-topped bottles or mason jars, which could explode as dough rises.  Allow the mixture to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse, approximately 2 hours.  Longer rising will not harm the result.  You can use a portion of the dough now if you like.  Fully refrigerated wet dough is less sticky and is easier to work with than dough at room temperature.  Best to refregerate a day first before working with it. 

5. Baking Day:  Sprinkle pizza peel with cornmeal.  Sprinkle the surface of your cold dough with flour.  Pull up and cut off a 1-pound [grapefruit-size] piece of dough, using a serrated knife.  Hold the mass of dough in your hands and add a little more flour as needed so it won't stick to your hands.  Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.  Most of the dusting flour will fall off; it's not intended to be incorporated into the dough.  The bottom of the load will seem a bit bunchy but it will flatten out during rising time.  The correctly shaped final loaf will be smooth and cohesive. 

6. Rest the loaf and let it rise on a pizza peel:  Place shaped ball on the cornmeal-dusted pizza peel.  Allow the loaf to rest on the peel for about 40 minutes.  Depending on the age of the dough, you may not see much rise.

7. Twenty minutes before baking, preheat oven to 450 degreesF., with a baking stone placed on the middle rack.  Place an empty broiler tray for holding water on any other shelf that won't interfere with the rising bread.

8. Dust and slash: Unless otherwise indicated for another recipe, dust the top of the loaf liberally with flour, which will allow the slashing knife to pass without sticking.  Slash a 1/4-inch-deep cross, "scallop", or tic-tac-toe pattern into the top, using a serrated bread knife.  [This is where the photo in the book really helps...]

9.  Bake with steam:  After the 20-minute preheat, you're ready to bake, even though your oven won't yet be up to full temperature.  With a forward jerk, transfer loaf from one stone or peel to the hot stone in the oven.  Quickly but carefully pour about 1 cup of hot tap water into broiler tray and close the oven door.  Bake for 30 minutes or until crust is nice and brown.  Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

10.  Store remaining dough back in your refrigerator in lidded container and use over the next 14 days.  That means each time you make a delicious dinner-it just takes a few minutes to have fresh bread with your meal.  YUM!!  It looks like a lot of steps but it is really quite easy.  If I can handle it; anyone can handle this recipe.  Make this part of your holiday baking. 

Shop Indie Bookstores

Friday, December 17, 2010

New Books!

Two days ago 10 boxes arrived from Titlewave-my big shipment for the year and it is a little like Christmas here.  I don't plan to put them out until we come back from holiday but my volunteer, Janice and I have had a blast going through them, reading and stamping and just holding them!! 

Just a short run down of the many titles I now have:

Picture Books

Children Make Terrible Pets by Peter Brown
Disappearing Desmond by Anna Alter ( Abigail Spells is a favorite of mine!)
Thunder Boomer by Shutta Crum (Amazing illustrations by Carol Thompson)
The Enemy; a book about peace by Davide Cali
Guinea Pigs Add Up by Margaret Cuyler
The Travel Game by John Grandits
Mind Your Manners, Alice Roosevelt by Leslie Kimmelman
1 Zany Zoo by Lori Degman (Cheerios New Author contest winner)
Tacky Christmas by Helen  Lester
Shadow by Suzy Lee
Thank You Bear by Greg Foley (winner of the handsome author award*wink*)

Chapter Books

The Magic Thief series by Sarah Prineas
The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz
The entire Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull (now I can finally finish reading the last two!)
Road to Tater Hill by Edith M. Hemingway
Palace Beautiful by Sarah DeFord Williams
The Problem with the Puddles by Kate Feiffer
The Secret of Zoom by Lynne Jonell
Neil Armstrong is my Uncle and other lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me by Nan Marino


The Red Hen by Emberley and Emberley
Do Bees Make Butter by Michael Dahl
Mirror, Mirror by Marilyn Singer
and three new cookbooks for all my little cooking patrons including this one.

I did get a lot of nonfiction but I get less excited about it but these are my top choices-  I know that's bad as a librarian but I am a fiction fan.

My top two questions now

1. How am I going to get them all home to read and share with Groovy Girl over break?
2. How can I get a holiday extention so I can finish reading all that I want to read over my break?

I am glad we are staying here for the holidays so I can do lots of reading!!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Crazy to Calm-Bedtime Reading 101

     Groovy Girl and I had a few picture books to read for story time and she likes to put them in order of how we are going to read them.  No random just-pick-fro- the-pile for her-she puts them in calming order-the most vibrant first and the most soothing last, perfect to then fall asleep.  She's makes me smile!  Two nights ago this was her order:

1. Paulie Pastrami Achieves World Peace by James Proimos.  It has an exciting cover, bold words and was a lot of fun to read.  Groovy Girl now has her very own Goodreads acct. and she dictated in her review that she loved this one so much she read it aloud to everyone in her family.   True enough, I heard her beg her dad if she could read it to him and he was on Sunday during a football game and she stood right in front of him and read the whole thing.  Good for her!  It is a very cute book with a good message that kids will relate to.

2. Sugar Plum Ballerinas; Toeshoe Trouble by Whoopi Goldberg.  We enjoyed the first one in this series and like this one even more as we get to know the characters.  Brenda's cousin comes to stay and the cousin, who has money and is a bit snobbish about it, causes Brenda to make a terrible choice.  Lots of uh-oh moments in this one.  This series has a lot to say about friendship. We read two chapters and then moved on to my daughter's third reading choice:

3. Forever Friends by Carin Berger.  Calm, Japanese-style illustration on cover, Groovy Girl said this makes drifting off to sleep so much easier.  The inside pictures are beautiful, all natural, subdued colors, gracious cattails highlighted by one bird and one rabbit playing together.  I love how perfectly she put these in order-she is not organized about all things (her room) but about bedtime book reading she's got her own cool method!

Good Night, Sleep Tight.

Found this great interview
with Whoopi about Sugur Plum Ballerinas; Toe Shoe Trouble.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Spinach and Feta Lasagna wins over chicken

        The chicken was tender and good but the hands-down favorite at last night's dinner was The Grit Restaurant's lasagna so I decided I would share the recipe here so everyone else could make it too!  Today was our day to eat leftovers and my husband and son both ate the leftover lasagna, which I had planned on taking for lunch tomorrow-that's how good it was. I was really incredulous since they are the big meat eaters!!   Now I will be combing through this cookbook looking for other delicious recipes to tantalize them.

Spinach and Feta Lasagna

6 ozs lasagna noodles, freshly cooked
4 quarts water
1/2 block firm tofu, crumbled
1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups crumbled feta cheese
1 pound frozen spinach, thawed and drained
4 cups Grit Marina (I used two jars of organic sauce-no time to make the sauce, this time.)
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
3/4 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp dried parsley, oregano, and basil

Preheat oven to 350.  Oil a 9 x 13 in.baking dish. 
Boil lasagna noodles in water until barely tender; Drain and seperate the noodles, set aside.
Combine tofu, soy sauce, mustard, pepper, feta cheese and spinach in a large mixing bowl.
Lightly coat bottom of prepared pan with marina sauce.  Cover the sauce with layer of noodles, running the long way.  Spread 1/2 of spinach-feta mixture, 1/3 of the marina sauce, and 1/2 of the mozzarella.  Cover with second layer of noodles and on up, repeating but this time put the noodles crossways (so you have to cut them to make them fit).  Cover with a third layer running the longway and top with remaining marina.  Sprinkle with Parmesan and parsely mixture.  Bake for 40-50 minutes or until well browned on top.  Cool slightly before serving. 

     I do usually make my own sauce when I make other lasagnas but this time since I was preparing another meal practically with the chicken/roast potato combination from Jamie Oliver, I just didn't have the time.  I also used fresh parsley mix on top and I did not have any dry mustard so I just squirted in some stone-ground mustard from my refrigerator-it worked out fine.  I never preheat my oven until I'm almost finished with a recipe-it just doesn't make sense to have it on for  the 30 minutes or so it takes me to make a recipe.  Viola-it was easy to put together and even easier to eat!
     Our evening with friends was great even though it was snowstorming outside. We were toasty warm inside with our wine, food and holiday music playing.  Our Christmas entertaining is off to a fantastic start.  Through the weekend I did manage some reading;  I finished Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay and stared the Everafter by Amy Huntley, which I am fascinated by!  I need to review Sarah's Key as well as A Curse as Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce. 

 Buy The Grit cookbook at their website-you won't be disappointed!!

     I am an IndieBound affiliate and some of my links will take you there.  I've earned nothing as of yet from this association but one can always have hope.

     In other news-we have a two hour school delay so I wll be sleeping in and reading in my toasty bed.  I may pad down to the kitchen and whip up some German Pancakes for my children if I feel up to it.  I would love it if they would just cancel the whole day-it is FREEZING out there!
Next week's topic-fresh bread!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Holiday Traditions

Teenage Boy, Groovy Girl and two friends, after tree search.
     We always get our tree the Saturday after Thanksgiving at a lovely tree farm, Kris Kringle's, and they serve hot cider and have a fire in an outside pit.  It makes for a lovely few hours and two years ago we invited another couple and their children to join us, so we've added to our celebration. 

     That is what I love the most about the holidays-it seems we make more time for friends and family.  We are having friends over tomorrow night just because we ran into them recently at my husband's play and decided we needed to get-together for dinner and before Christmas is really upon us.  They are coming for dinner tonight and I'm making a chicken.  If you've ever read my sidebar list it says I'm a vegetarian that eats locally-raised meat (Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver changed my mind) but not frequently.  I met a farmer (through a friend) who raises chickens and other cute farm animals as well.  He started doing it 10 years ago for just the same reason I didn't eat meat-he didn't trust what was happening to our corporate- produced meat sources.  I've only been back to eating meat about a year now.

     I digress-this post is supposed to be about food and friends-not cute farm animals, who might be friends also.  My mother used to make this rosemary and goat cheese chicken so I searched around a little last night, looking for something similar and came up with a roast chicken recipe at Jamie Oliver's website.  He, like Kingsolver and Alice Waters, is making a difference in how people eat and I admire the work he's doing with the British school lunch program.  That would be my dream dinner party-cooking together with Barbara, Alice and Jaime!  Thrilling!!

     Tonight will have the roast chicken, mashed (home grown) potatoes, spinach and feta lasagna, brussell sprouts and a small salad.  Half the group is vegetarian thus the reason for the lasagna which comes from this fabulous cookbook from The Grit, in Athens, Georgia.  We're starting off with champagne, with pomegranite seeds tossed in and will move on to a lovely bottle of red, which I haven't purchased yet or I'd mention its name as well.  Thinking about wine makes me think I should check my old version of The Wine Trials to find a perfect (and reasonable priced) wine! 

     Could I mention any more food links?  Well, most definetely Yes!, but I'll stop there.  This is how things go at my house-inviting two people, one couple, for dinner has led me to all these dining spots, recipes and brought up all these whirlwind ideas.Like now my mind is thinking about a post debating hard copy cookbooks vs. online. My mind on food.  Don't ya just love the holidays!! Tonight will be filled with good conversation and good (hopefully) food and my mind will chill.
  Happy eating and reading! Cheers. 

p.s. last week's Morrocon-Style Lentil and Chickpea soup was a huge hit with my family.  We ate it simply, soup and fresh-baked bread.  Yum.
***This food-related post is linked to Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads.  Pop over there and read about Crescent Dragonwagon, a writer of children's books and cookbooks, and her new Cornbread book.  My husband might need this for a Christmas gift.  He loves cornbread but makes it from a box.  Hmmm.

Seriously, Have a Happy Saturday! 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Muliticultural Winner!

     Oh, okay so I'm a little behind in my life but I eventually get around to it.  I recently finished Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by the amazing Grace Lin, which was a Newberry Honor Winner in 2010.  Even though it took me a long time to get to it, it was definetely worth reading.  I loved the mixture of folktales into this family/friendship story.  Reading this book could make you a better person, really and the message of being true to yourself  will come through even for elementary students.  The message is subtle though even with the wonderful fairy tale-like ending. 

Book Synopsis:

In the Valley of Fruitless Mountain, a young girl named Minli spends her days working hard in the fields and her nights listening to her father spin fantastic tales about the Jade Dragon and the Old Man of the Moon. Minli’s mother, tired of their poor life, chides him for filling her head with nonsense. But Minli believes these enchanting stories and embarks on an extraordinary journey to find the Old Man of the Moon and ask him how her family can change their fortune. She encounters an assorted cast of characters and magical creatures along the way, including a dragon who accompanies her on her quest.

Grace Lin, author of the beloved Year of the Dog and Year of the Rat, returns with a wondrous story of happiness, family, and friendship. A fantasy crossed with Chinese folklore, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is a timeless adventure story in the classic tradition of The Wizard of Oz.

My thoughts:

     I loved Minli's character as she was all good things, brave and kind, but not too perfect.  This is the type of book I want to save on the shelf for Groovy Girl to read as her chapter book skills improve.  As a struggling third grade reader she wouldn't make it all the way through it herself but one day soon and I want it to be waiting on the shelf with Beverly Cleary.  I should have read it aloud to her but I used it as my school chapter book-reading it to myself to model good quiet reading to 4th and 5th grade students (and read it during my own lunch time) and now I have several students in mind to pass it on to for their own reading enjoyment.

    I loved the images in this book-the goldfish man, the brilliant red dragon, the mountains-I would love to see this made in to an animated movie (a good one, of course) because I can picture it all so well in my head.  I've enjoyed Grace Lin's other books and use them for my lunch time book clubs with 4th and 5th graders but this book, in my mind, is a whole new level of excellence on her part!  Way to go, Grace Lin!

Random Quote:
Feasting on juicy peaches, Minli and the dragon walked through the woods for many days.  At night, when the dragon slept, Minli missed Ma and Ba.  "But this is for our fortune, so they don't have to work so hard anymore," Minli told herself when she thought about the worry they must  have been feeling.  "When I get back, Ba can rest and Ma will never have to sigh again.  They'll see."  But the lonely moon never seemed to gaze comfortably down on her. [88]
If you have a young person needing a gift for the holiday season~this would be a wonderful book to receive!
I am an IndieBound affiliate and will earn a small pittance if you buy it from this site-Click on the title here....Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

Saturday, December 4, 2010

What's Cookin'

        What a lazy Saturday I've had.  Somedays you just want to curl up and stay inside.  Today was one of those days except we started out with ice skating at 9:00, had a brunch date with some distant cousins in town and had to do a little Christmas shopping for school families.  I did get to spend the afternoon home and somehow I lost my bag with my book in it for the entire afternoon so I didn't exit to my room to read like I often do on a lazy Saturday.  I ended up knitting (and napping) to some sappy tv Christmas movie my daughter was half watching as she played around the family room.  While I'm sad about not reading-I'm reading Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay-it was nice just to hang loose.  The book is very good but not an easy read so taking a break was okay except I have a sappy Christmas book to read for book club Monday night.-gotta get going on that one also and I'm having trouble mixing the two.

This is what I'm making right now to feed my family tomorrow.  Lazy but prepared is my motto.

Morroccan-Style Lentil and Chickpea Soup

1 T. olive oil
1 med. sized yellow onion, chopped
1 small carrot, chopped
3 small garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 tsp. peeled and minced fresh ginger
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 cup dried lentils, picked over and rinsed
One 14.5-oz can plum tomatoes, drained and chopped (I just used diced)
1 1/2 cups slow-cooked or one 15.5-oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
6 cups vegetable stock
1 T. fresh lemon juice
1 to 2 tsp. harissa sauce, to taste, plus more to serve
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion, carrot, and garlic, cover, and cook until slightly softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the ginger, tumeric, cinnamon, cumin, and cardamom, stirring to coat the vegetables.

2. Transfer the onion mixture to a 4- to 6- quart slow cooker, add the lentils, tomatoes, chickpeas and stock, cover and cook on low for 6 hours. 

3. About 10 minutes before serving add the lemon juice and harissa and season with salt and pepper.  A small bowl of harissa may be placed on the table for those who want to add more.  (I'm not adding the harissa-a spicy chili mixture as it will make it too spicy for my children) if you want the harissa sauce recipe leave me a comment and I will get it to you.

This serves 6 and I'm hoping for leftovers so I can take it for lunch a few days this week. 
Rewritten from Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker .
This is part of Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads.
Happy Cooking and Reading!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

November ReCap

     November is gone and December has rolled in on an icy wind.  We have some white stuff floating in the air just to prove winter is here.  Time to hunker down by the fire or at least wrap yourself in a large blanket and read the day away.  I prefer to stay in bed with the electric blanket turned to high. 
I have several books lined up to read in December but first let's finish off November.

I read eight books for personal reading. 

1. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
2. Me and the Pumpkin Queen by Marlane Kennedy
3. Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins
4. My Abandoment by Peter Rock
5. Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson
6. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
7. Evangeline Mudd and the Golden-Haired Apes of the Ikkinasti Jungle by David Elliot
8. A Curse as Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce

     I haven't reviewed them all but they were all very good.   I think my favorites were #2, # 4, #5 and #6.  I enjoyed reading the classically wonderful Fahrenheit 451 but I didn't love it and the story started to drag for me.  The message is an all-important one though.  One of my challenges (451)  finished in November and sadly I failed-I read four out of five titles.  I didn't finish my quota but thankfully they are not coming to cut out my tongue or chase me down by helicopter for not finishing.  The last book I was to read for this challenge got left behind by accident at my brother's home.  Ooopsie!  I did get to read several classics though-and for me that was a win so all is not lost. 

I'm going to read at least this many in December to finish off other challenges and just because I want to.  I like reading-what can I say...
Thank you November...I have much to be thankful for, my blessings surround me.

Happy December!!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Forge (2010) by Laurie Halse Anderson

     Did you read Chains (2008) by Halse Anderson?
Oh, it was a good read!  I liked it because it was a serious look at the Revolutionary War through the eyes of Isabel, a slave.  What a perfect paradox: Americans fighting for their freedom from King George while enslaving Africans into intense labor. 

Good Reads Summary:

     In this compelling sequel to Chains, a National Book Award Finalist and winner of the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction, acclaimed author Laurie Halse Anderson shifts perspective from Isabel to Curzon and brings to the page the tale of what it takes for runaway slaves to forge their own paths in a world of obstacles—and in the midst of the American Revolution.
   The Patriot Army was shaped and strengthened by the desperate circumstances of the Valley Forge winter. This is where Curzon the boy becomes Curzon the young man. In addition to the hardships of soldiering, he lives with the fear of discovery, for he is an escaped slave passing for free. And then there is Isabel, who is also at Valley Forge—against her will. She and Curzon have to sort out the tangled threads of their friendship while figuring out what stands between the two of them and true freedom.

My thoughts:  I have to admit at first I was a bit disappointed with the heavy focus on Curzon and all the fighting.  I missed Isabel's character and the mystery and intrigue of the first book, but as I kept reading I enjoyed learning about the Valley Forge experience. I did not know, for example, that the soldiers had to build their own cabins in the snow.  Curzon's story follows the battles closely and they end up at Valley Forge. He is constantly tormented by some of his fellow soldiers and yet, remarkably, he manages to maintain his dignity throughout. Thankfully Isabel eventually comes back into Curzon's life, demonstrating how tenous life is for both of them, rounding the story out nicely for me.
     This is a perfect book to help young people understand the horrors of war, slavery and the importance of friendship throughout adversity.  I'm now anxiously awaiting the third installment, Ashes , in Halse Anderson's Seeds of American series.

Some books I have to really search for the perfect quote to share, not so with Halse Anderson's work because every page has something worth sharing.

Random Quote: 
The last lad was John Burns.  His rude  manner declared him my enemy the first time he clapped eyes on me.  Burns had white skin that turned red when he was angry (a frequent condition), dirt-colored hair that never stayed tied back in a queue, and small eyes like a badger's that were forever seeking a way to avoid work.  He spat at my feet whenever I walked by.  He accused me of stealing my new hat.  He said the crudest kinds of things about my parents and grandparents, and he convinced the Barry brothers to join him in his foulness. (54)
Read Abby (the) Librarian"s review.
Find the author's website and blog here-Laurie Halse Anderson
Enjoy this great article (Publishers Weekly/Shelf Talker) about a school visit

I'm an IndieBound affiliate. 
Buy Forge from an IndieBound

Sunday, November 28, 2010

German Pancakes

         My sister-in-law made thee most delicious German pancakes for us while we were visiting over Thanksgiving.  My kids loved them and she said they were easy to make so I googled and found a great recipe on a blog called Adventures in the Kitchen by Cheri.  I read around a bit on her blog and found other recipes I liked so now you can find her on the right-hand side bar Food and Wine section.  Thank you Cheri-I used your recipe tonight and my children ate them all up.

     We did have a very relaxing holiday with my mom and two of my brothers (oldest and youngest) and their families.  My youngest brother and I love to cook-a skill we attibute to both our mother and grandmother.  Throughout my childhood we had Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner at my grandmother's house (over the snow and through the woods to Amity Drive we go)  and she cooked up a storm.  She used an old gas oven in the basement to keep up with the demandsof  cooking a  turkey, sweet potatoes, bread and pies for many of us. It has always been tough to get down her timing of getting everything to the table at the same time.  We did it this year though between my mother, sister-in-law, brother and myself.  Yeahhh, Grandma Bruch-we did it. And then we sat down and ate it (almost) all up.

     The holidays of my childhood will live on through this yearly celebration but I still  miss her and her cooking terribly.   My grandmother was somewhat of a health nut but she was definetely a meat and potatoes women.  She balanced it out with oatmeal every morning.  My brother and I tend to cook more vegetarian now but we did have a 13 # locally-raised (right here in Iowa) turkey so the little ones, my husband, teenager and my oldest brother's family would not miss the  big bird.   It was yummy-all of it.  Yes, I tasted a little of everything.  Even the dressing was worthy (thanks Mom).

     Okay, I digressed from German Pancakes to our holiday time but we did have such a good celebration and it was all food-related.  I didn't blog once while gone as I just enjoyed my extended family.  I hope you had a lovely holiday time as well.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Patricia Polacco's In Our Mother's House-A Celebration of Love

     Published in 2009,  this book is a perfect showcase of how any set of parents, be they male or female, gay, lesbian or straight can bring love to children.  As a teacher I see children who need and crave that exact unconditional love good parents can provide-so many children are missing out on what  joy a real family can bring.  Patricia Polocco is one of my favorite authors and I've written before how easily she can make me tear up.  This book not only makes me teary (I had to stop reading at one point and my Groovy Girl took over reading, patted my hand and said 'it's okay, mama':)  but it brings a very timely message to the table. 

     This is what the end note has to say: " Polacco has met many children with parents just like Marmee and Meema.  She saw a true need for books that celebrate these children's wonderful, yet untraditional,  families, and created this heart-warming story in their honor." 

     The book begins:  "When my mothers told me about how they brought me home to live with them shortly after I was born, their eyes would shine and glisten and they'd grin from ear to ear.  They told me how they had walked across dry hot deserts, sailed through turbulent seas, flew over tall mountains and trekked through fierce storms just to bring me home."

     I count several sets of same-sex parents as friends (is that like saying I have lots of friends who are black?) and all provide such happy, unconditional love to their children.  I wish Iowa had not ousted our judges who chose to uphold the law thus providing same-sex couples with the right to marry as U.S. citizens.  I consider this the civil rights fight of our time.  When will we see that love is just love and worthy of celebration.  This book shares the life of one couple, two mama's and the three children they raise together= a happy family and I'm glad  Patricia Polacco made the choice to write about this controversial topic.   

Find the synopsis here at Patricia's website.
Mary Ann reviews it at Great Kid Books.
and the Children's Book Guide talks about it too.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Linger by maggie stiefvater

What a beautiful cover, holding together a breath-taking story.  I read it quickly over the course of one weekend, snuggled in my bed.  Now I have to wait a long time for Forever to arrive-it will seem, well, like forever!

Good Reads Synopsis:

In Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other. Now, in Linger, they must fight to be together. For Grace, this means defying her parents and keeping a very dangerous secret about her own well-being. For Sam, this means grappling with his werewolf past . . . and figuring out a way to survive into the future. Add into the mix a new wolf named Cole, whose own past has the potential to destroy the whole pack. And Isabelle, who already lost her brother to the wolves . . . and is nonetheless drawn to Cole.

My thoughts:

     I had no idea what Stiefvater had planned for Grace and Sam in this second installment but I hoped it wasn't just lovey stuff.  It wasn't and in fact the direction it took was so perfect because it involved Grace's parents, who were never around much in Shiver.  Her parents, in classic parental form, decide to ban Sam from her life, which doesn't work. Never does.  All of this could be quite cheesy love stuff but in Stiefvater's hands it is brilliantly written.  Extremely poetic and one chapter leads to another and another until you've devoured it all.
     The story, like Shiver, is told in alternating point-of-view between Grace, Sam, Cole and Isabelle, changing sometimes right in the middle of a chapter and this worked really well.   I despised Cole's character and fell more in love with Isabelle, making their attraction an interesting combination.  Grace and Sam weathered their storms, but not easily and I'm now quite anxious to read Forever, #3 in The Wolves of Mercy Falls.  As a former Minnesotan I can relate to the setting and think she's portrayed the cold, the seasons and the landscape so well.  If you haven't picked up this series yet-I highly recommend it, even if your not from Minnesota. 

Random Quote: " Later, I thought of the things I could have added to the list of resolutions, things I'd wanted back before I realized what being a wolf meant for my future.  Things like Write a novel and Find a band and Get a degree in obscure poetry in translation and Travel the world.  It felt indulgent and fanciful to be considering those things now after reminding myself for so long that they were impossible."  (27-Sam)

Other reviews:
See Michelle Read reviews it and has some good points.
Read Presenting Lenore's review.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1

I saw it!  I loved it! 

     We went last night at 7 with teenage boy.  He sat between us so he could hold the popcorn bucket.  There were scary parts and swooning parts.  I didn't realize they were breaking it up into two parts but that was okay.  I liked the introspective flair to it-it wasn't just rushing from scene to scene although there were a few times I was like, oh, hurry up and speak.  There is one storytelling scene that blew our minds-we all agreed it was our favorite-it looked like paper cut-outs and puppetry combined.  I thought it was inspiring and really showed the acting growth of all three major players.  Luna and her father were luminescent in their secondary roles. 

     I haven't had a chance to read much about it in the blogging world yet as I alternated this weekend between relaxing to get well and working.  I was a little sad we didn't see it on Thursday night but for number 6 we did go to the midnight showing with both teenagers and well, (said sheepishly) I began to nod off at some point. [My husband says my elbow slipped off the armrest]..., really?? Even though I love Harry, Ron and Hermione it was way, way past my bedtime so this time we opted for an easier viewing time for all of us. 

post note:  I realized upon further contemplation that this is the perfect HP comparison to teenagers-the feeling is moody, troubled and tangled.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Seriously Selling Books

(My organic, buy-local hero,  Alice Waters)
      One of my dear friends is the brains behind our (now 2nd) annual Christmas Bazaar.  Last year she made me make chocolate covered pretzel sticks and cookies.  This year she asked if I would be in charge of a used book sale as part of the bazaar.  Well, that is right up my alley so it took about two seconds to say yes.
     So here I've been for the last three hours, selling books at rock-bottom prices.  We are a church filled with readers so the book selection is stellar-really!   I have a stack right next to me of excellent titles I just couldn't pass up.  Two are cookbooks:  Chez Panisse Desserts by Lindsey Remolif Shere with a preface by Alice Waters and illustrated by Wayne Thiebaud.  I'm buying it because I trust Ms Waters so much but also because it has recipes like Nutmeg Geranium Ice Cream,  Langues De Chat and an entire chapter on just chocolate. 
     The other cookbook is a spiral-bound book called Screen Cuisine with a really silly illustration on the front.  I couldn't find an image of it and I don't have a fancy phone to snap a picture to share.  I happened to browse through it and discovered it was published by the National Film Society.  The list of recipes arefrom  a cornucopia of famous people such as  Rosemary Clooney's Viennese Goulash, Newman's Own Marinated Steak,  Carol Burnett's Fresh Peach Souffle and Dean Martin's "Dean's Chix Dish."  Wow-this is a classic. After each recipe is their "signature."  I have to buy it just for the amusement.  Only at a church bazaar could you find two such amazing recipe books.    My husband, of course, rolled his eyes at the amount of books I brought home!  You can't beat 50 cents a book. 
     This post is part of Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking.  She reviewed The Wine Trials; 2011-a fantastic book about blind taste testing a variety of wines and their rankings.  I know it is a useful book because I have the first edition-2008.  My thoughtful husband gave it to me as a birthday and I still use it.  A gift that keeps on giving!  Even though I haven't tried all the wines in my version I'd love to take a look at this newer version.  Thanks Beth Fish for a great reveiw!

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Missing Chick by Valeri Gorbachev

     A few years ago while shopping at Target I lost my Groovy Girl for about 8 minutes.  I was terrified!  I think it happens frequently to mothers out shopping.  I was busy reading the label on something and she was jabbering away at me in her 5-year-old voice and I was uh-huh'ing her but my mind was elsewhere.  My son was close by looking at something else when suddenly it occurred to both of us that she was no longer there and jabbering!  Oh, how I suddenly missed her sweet voice.  We called her name and walked around in the general area but could not spot her.  When a Target employee walked by me I said "I can't find my daughter."  I could feel my chest tighten and my thoughts were going crazy. 

    That feeling is brought to life so well by Mr. Gorbachev in his picture book, The Missing Chick (2009).  Mother Hen is  hanging her laundry on the clothes line when Mrs. Duck stops by to chat.  Mother Hen says "My seven chicks are very good helpers!" Only six chicks are helping though-OH, NO!  One chick is missing and Mother Hen, her neighbors, the police and firemen all help her look.  Mrs. Duck eventually finds the missing chick in the laundry basket, asleep!  I adore Valeri Gorbachev's illustrations and this one is no exception.  Mrs. Duck looks lovely in her polka-dot hat, dress and petticoat.  Mother Hen in her apron and slippers looks so relieved when her little chick is uncovered and brought to her.  Gorbachev leaves a little surprise ending that children will love to discover because they will have to find it with their eyes. 

     Thankfully, my little chick was located just moments away as well-not sleeping but admiring accessories in the girl's section.  She clearly stated she was just looking at the pretty purses!  I felt as happy as Mother Hen did when the Target employee walked her to me.  BTW: if you say to a Target employee that your child is missing they immedietely walkie talkie the front door area and lock down the store.  I was freaked and grateful by how quickly the store responded! 

Read Planet Esme's blurb about The Missing Chick.
and Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast talks about Valeri's work.

Have you ever lost track of your own little chicks?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

What Should I Make?

by Nandini Nayer
illustations by Proiti Roy

     This book was originally published in India, in English and in Hindi.  Neeraj's mother is making dough, rolling it into chapatis and hands him some dough to play with.  Neeraj is a cute boy with hair going everywhich way and he takes that dough, uses his imagination and makes all kinds of creatures. 
"Neeraj rolled th edough back and forth, back and forth, into a long rope.  At one end of the rope, he poked two tiny eyes.  The other end became a pointed tail.  'A snake!  A snake!'"

     Even though we never see all of Neeraj's mother we can tell she is dressed in a flowing green sari and with bangles at her wrists.  She has few lines in the book as well but they are playful as she encourages him to play with the dough.  I'm happy the author choose to make the main character a boy, crossing the stereotype of girl's helping mother's in the kitchen. 

     I love the heck out of this book, especially the back section, which provides directions for making chapatis.  The recipe is simple and I think we will make them some time soon.

She's Too Fond of Books loved this book as well.

     On the other end of the spectrum we read an awful picture book during storytime.  The cover is attractive but it ends there.  This book scared Groovy Girl right before sleeping.  Should I have to preview books before bedtime? No. The illustrations are like clay puppets; think Coraline in the "other world". The second disturbing thing was the text is scrawled in cursive.  She was supposed to be reading it to me but she handed it to me and said "I can't read that!"  I said but you are learning cursive...She said "Not like that."  So I read and well, we finished it but are both unhappy for it.

  The Look Book: Two siblings are bored on summer break and their mother sends them outside.  Outside they see different things, in contrast. 
One page:
"Ann saw a whole pie." 
Next page:
"Ian saw a pie hole."

farther along:
"Ian saw a car get towed."
"Ann saw a car get a toad"  (picture of blood stained road after the car has passed)
"Ian saw a bird soar overhead"
"Ann saw a bird with a sore head." ( an axe in a stump next to a chicken head, a chicken's body running in front of Ann)
After many weird and scary homonyms they return home and tell their mother they saw nothing...there I've ruined the end for everyone.   This is a perfect book for someone with a wry or slightly twisted sense of humor. Creative-Yes, Perfect storytime book-Nay!

The images and the text are disturbing and I'm not sure who made the decision to market this for children. Boo.
If It's Hip, It's Here has another take on the book.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

     I came home early from work, scratchy throat, monster headache.  Dear Daughter made me a snack of honey toast, a chocolate kiss and a glass of rasperry-flavored Emergen-C all on a tray with a note that says she loves me.  Now she is going to read to me for storytime instead of the me reading our book, Evangeline Mudd, together.  I need to sleep really well tonight so I can go back to work tomorrow.  I have Vick's Vapor Rub all over me, I've tea'd myself with Gypsy Cold Care and I made myself some onion, garlic miso soup when I first stumbled home.
I hope it is enough to scare away the cold germies!!
It is rather nice to have my children take care of me and I did finish A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce. 
 Good things abound.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ear Candling-Do You Do It?

     Years ago, while living in Denver, Colorado,  one of my dear friends candled my ears.  It was cool and felt good.  For years I've been candling my children's ears. I candled both children's ears tonight as per their request.  They ask for it when they feel stuffed up or ear waxy.  Luckily our small organic store still carries ear candles-though they come at a price.  I've heard and read lots of negative about this practice but as of yet we've never had a problem.  We only do it maybe twice a year.  My kids have never had any ear infections or even get sick that often (knock on wood) so I consider it to be just a bit of preventive medicine.  We can't get around the fact that our ears feel better afterwards.  Right now is the perfect time as we took a long road trip, the weather is changing and we are running on low energy-all factors which contribute to getting sick. 

     Have you ever had you ears candled?  Would you? 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Bookclub Discussion

     Some of us started discussing our pick for November,  My Abandonment by Peter Rock even before we'd filled our plates (the food was delicious) or accepted a glass of wine from the hosts.  This is what happens when a book is well-written but controversial.  What was the author's purpose for leaving us dangling so much?  Had Caroline been kidnapped or was she this man's daughter?  After his death why does she continue to live on the fringe of society?  We tossed the questions around, snapping answers back and forth but with no real answers-we just all had our own opinions.  Some never once thought about a kidnapping scenario and one couldn't stand the father character, even though she believed he was the real father.  If she had been kidnapped, why didn't the social service agency who worked so hard to get them settled on the farm, ever come up with this evidence?  Why is Elizabeth Smart thanked in the back of the book?  I love when a book brings out so much passion!!

     If you've read this book I am interested to know your thoughts.  My idea is that Peter Rock purposely leaves us dangling and questioning their relationship.  I've searched other blog posts about the book but didn't find any further insight.  I've moved on to Elizabeth C. Bunce's A Curse Dark as Gold, which is good but thankfully, is not as thought-provoking.  

     Here is a great video of Peter Rock describing his inspiration for the story:

Sunday, November 14, 2010

My Abandonment

by Peter Rock

     I finished it yesterday which gave me some time to knit and start the third book I brought on our trip to Oberlin.  My new book is A Curse as Dark as Gold by Elizabeth Bunce.  I am reading it for my long distance book club and it is on my reading from my own shelves challenge, which I am wayyyy behind on.

     My Abandonment is still twisting around in my brain, which I always take to mean well-written-the characters are often still poking me.  I do think this is a literary story but I am left with questions. 

Good Reads Synopsis:

A thirteen-year-old girl and her father live in Forest Park, the enormous nature preserve in Portland,Oregon.   They inhabit an elaborate cave shelter, wash in a nearby creek, store perishables at the water's edge, use a makeshift septic system, tend a garden, even keep a library of sorts.  Once a week, they go to the city to buy groceries, attend  church, and otherwise merge with the civilized world. But one small mistake allows a backcountry jogger to discover
them, which derails their entire existence, ultimately provoking a deeper flight.

My thoughts:

     I enjoyed Caroline's narrator voice and the in-the-present-moment telling of this tale.  The father obviously has had trouble fitting back into society after his soldier experience.  He is paranoid and has taught his daughter how to stay below the radar in any given situation.  I'm torn as to whether this is really his daughter.  Rock has left it up to the reader to decide and I feel like I've fallen into a paranoid trap by thinking automatically that she has been kidnapped.  Why do we assume the worst?  It is perfectly logical that a father, having experienced war at it's worst, would lose his daughter to a foster situation but then still want her back.  When the police do pick them up they must run her picture, right?  If she truly were a kidnapped child wouldn't it show up then. 

     Beyond these questions my heart felt a deep sadness for Caroline.  She wants a friend and liked thinking about a regular life (riding a bike is a big one) she misses out on making choices for herself.   I do like how she is changing her path by the book's end but she will always be on the perimeter, always having a difficult time forming friendships and trusting.  I will recommend this book, can't wait to hear what my book club has to say about it tomorrown night and would love to know other's thoughts on whether this is her father or not??  Read it.