Saturday, July 30, 2011

Weekend Cooking without the cooking; Food For the Soul

It is blisteringly hot here.  We just rode our bikes to the library.  It was Groovy Girl's idea...oh, it was hot, hot, hot especially for a little girl to pedal a bike without gears.  We did pick up quite a few tasty nuggets while we were there though so I present to you today a combination Library Loot and Weekend Cooking; a mixed bag of greens books!

Food for the Soul:

1.  In The Green Kitchen; Techniques to learn by heart by Alice Waters (2010).

Alice is a food queen, to me!  I've briefly paged through this handy book and know I'm going to enjoy it.  She highlights chefs known for their love of local food and each shares a cooking tip and a recipe.  As I open the book at a random page, David Chang is the featured chef ,  and his tip is "Pickling Vegetables" (81) where he writes about using salt and sugar for quick pickling to serve watermelon, radishes, daikon radishes and cucumbers as appetizers.  Right  now this sounds like an excellent idea as it doesn't involve turning on the oven.  I may have to request this for my birthday which is just around the corner (Aug. 3rd).

2. Mama Panya's Pancakes; A Village Tale from Kenya by Mary and Rich Chamberlain; ill. by Julia Cairns (2005).

This is a delightful book from one of my favorite publishing companies, Barefoot Books.  Adika and his mother head to the market.  As they travel Adika, always one step ahead of his mother, invites all the friends they meet to join them for his mother's delicious pancakes. He brags and she worries! Mama knows she only has two coins in her pocket to buy flour and a hot pepper.  Adika keeps telling his mother it will all work out and as their friend's arrive for the pancake feast they each have something to share.

The watercolor illustrations are filled with the bold colors of Africa and the end pages have tons of related information including a map of Kenya!  I love when a book about a country does that; it makes it so much easier to share that information quickly with students as you read the story.  Great choice.  Of course, the pancake  recipe is included.  According to the notes pancakes are eaten around the world and it shares the names-Scotland-bannocks, France-crepes, Mexico-tortillas, Indonesia-dadar gutung and China-bao bing.  Now I'll know how to order one of my favorite foods.

Find other food-related posts at Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking post.

What else did find at the library, you ask?

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly (read yesterday's post and find out why I was happy to find this one on the shelf.

Where She Went by Gayle Forman-It was on the hold shelf for me and it will be my next read after I finish One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus.

A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper-This one just practically jumped off the shelf at me as I perused the YA new shelves.

Now I'm grabbing my book and I'm off to the local water-ing hole park to join Groovy Girl and her friend.
Have a blissful weekend whether you're cooking or not!

ps.  I found this great blog, Sweet Mama Jane while perusing for a photo of Alice's book.  Click there to read a full review of In The Green Kitchen.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly and Pink Floyd

You know how when you are working on something intently but then you get distracted...

That happened to me yesterday while working on my last homework project.  I stopped and checked my
emails (this is not the distraction, I do this all the time) but an email from Any New Books? for YA/children's books and I clicked on it (first mistake) and scrolled down where Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly caught my eye and I clicked on it (second mistake) and it took me right to an Amazon page that told me to click (YES!) one more time to read the first chapter.  Of course, I hesitated for a second, okay, maybe half a second and then clicked to read (third mistake)! 

But then I was swept away.  I was able to read five chapters in and am hooked! 
Got to find the book so I can keep reading...
Need to know more about Andi.

Also I love it when a book takes me to music which it did by mentioning David Gilmour.  I had to stop and google him (distracted from a distraction!?) to see if he was real and yes, yes he is real and happens to be the guitarist for Pink Floyd (my husband would be a bit embarrased that I had to google this fact...) but the song is good maybe even great. I listened to it while I read the fifth chapter, which I must now, well you know, find because it wouldn't give me anymore chapters.  Just checked on-line and my local library says it's available-I'm in luck.  Never mind that I already have four books checked out-this is how distractions work.

I'm off to the library after I proofread my paper and electronically submit it!
Click here for the synopsis from GoodReads of Revolution, NOT my paper...

P.S. Groovy Girl just looked over at me as I was typing and said "Mommy, I thought you were supposed to be finishing your homework NOT a blog post...hmmm"
She even said  it a little snarky with emphasis~ and she raised her eyebrows at me!

Which led to a little discussion about distractions...
and the cycle continues.

What's distracting you today?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Winning Recipe of the Week

(Food Network Image)
Menu planning has been chaotic this summer but I'm still working at it.  My friend, Verda, sent me this recipe to try.  One week I purchased some of the ingredients at the farmer's market but then that week I didn't have time to make an actual recipe-it was a lot of noodle soup and cold sandwiches.  Yesterday I had the time and my ingredients were still good.  Oh, and the results were so delicious and luckily there are leftovers.
Thank you for sharing Verda!

Lemon Rice and Eggplant-Chickpea Curry

3 T. olive oil, divided
1/1/2 cups basmati rice
4 cups chicken stock, divided (I used veggie stock)
1 bay leaf
1 lemon, zested
1 tsp ground tumeric
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground cardamon, optional (i didn't have this)
1 T. butter
1 med. onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium eggplant, peeled and chopped (I used two baby eggplants and didn't peel)
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 14-oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, drained
1 15-oz can of chick peas, drained
salt and pepper
2 rounded T. mild or hot curry paste
2 scallions, chopped
1/4 cup chopped roasted cashews (I used sliced almonds because they were already in my cupboard, begging to be used)

Heat a med. pot over med. heat with extra virgin olive oil.  Add rice and toast for 1-2 minutes.  Add 3 cups stock and the bay leaf, lemon zest, tumeric, coriander, cumin and dardamon.  Cover pot and bring rice to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer rice for 18 minutes.  Fluff rice with a fork, remove bay leaf and add butter.  Toss to coat the rice evenly.

While the rice cooks, make the vegetables.  Heat a deep non-stick skillet over med. heat with 2 T olive oil.  Add onion, garlic, eggplant and bell pepper.  Cover and cook stirring occasionally 7-8 minutes.  Uncover and add the tomatoes, chick peas, salt, pepper, curry paste and remaining 1 cup stock.  Simmer 6-7 minutes longer.  MIx scallions into rice and top with vegetable mixture.  Garnish with roasted cashews (or almonds in my case).

The spices were wonderful and Groovy Girl walked through the kitchen at one point and said "something smells really good!" 

This recipe is from Rachel Ray and the Food Network.
Linked to Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking meme-anyone can play along with a food-related post.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Talented Maggie Stiefvater

I was casually doing homework; researching Jennifer L. Holm for my author study and I was on her website and watched a video for Squish, her new comic series.  It's cute and will appeal to boys like Babymouse appeals to girls but anyway after the video ended several other video clips were advertised and one of them was by Maggie Stiefvater. 

It was for Shiver and then I found this one for Forever which I am reading right now (in between homework).  I am amazed at Stiefvater's talent in creating this art and the music that goes with it.  I'm going to miss Mercy Falls so I'm not in a hurry to finish the book.  Enjoy the video and search for the others on You Tube.  More on Jennifer L. Holm and my author study later...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Book Morsels

A morsel is a tasty bite of something...teasing you to try more or to say "no thanks" but it gives you an idea of what it's all about.  I have a backlog of books to review and the task is overwhelming what with homework, drama camps, and all the other fun things of summer getting in the way I thought this would be a perfect way to share the last four books I've read.

Tasty morsels-all delicious in their own way!  They are in order as to how I read them not by my enjoyment level.

A Summer Affair by Elin Hildebrand (2008) 478 pages
I read this one on the beach-my first Elin Hilderbrand and I enjoyed her writing very much.  This is a quick read about Claire, a young married woman, trying to keep it altogether on the Island of Nantucket.  She has a nice home, a handsome husband and several terrific kids.  She is asked to cochair an annual charity event which puts her in constant contact with the wealthy Lock Dixon and they have an heated affair.  I liked Claire and her friend and sister-in-law, Siobhan, a caterer with her own marital problems.  I enjoyed the back story of Claire's life before she married Jason, which comes up as her first love, Matthew Westfield, is a huge rock star and has agreed to come back and play the Gala to help Claire out. Claire is an artist-a glass blower-and that was a very intricate part of the story and was interesting to learn about the delicacy of her art.  I now have more Hildebrand on my to-read shelf!

Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult (2008) 447 pages
My dear friend Jess in Little Rock introduced my to Picoult a few years ago and I've enjoyed most of her collection.  This one is about a mother, June, whose husband  dies unexpectantly  leaving her alone with their young daughter, Elizabeth. June later marries Kurt, the police officer, who helped her out of the car wreck that killed her husband.  And one day 5 years into the future June and Kurt are expecting a second daughter when Shay Bourne arrives to help them out of a construction mess.  Picoult's tales are complex and I'm not going to give you much more but the story is told through alternating voices; June's, Michael's, a young priest, Maggie's, a ACLU lawyer-(my favorite character) and Lucius, a vibrant man with a few regrets.  I thought the death penalty issues were well done and the whole mystical idea that Shay Bourne may or may not be Jesus was an interesting concept.  This one was predictable though-I could see Kurt's flaw pretty quickly but not a bad read.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman (2009) 196 pages
I loved this little book and sat right on my comfy sofa and read almost the whole thing in one sitting.  Cried quite a lot.  Has some similar themes to Before I Fall without all the mean girl stuff.  This one has a cast of characters to love: Mia, her rock and roll family and Adam, the to-die-for-boyfriend.  Mia plays the cello and loves classical music contrasting with her father who played drums in a  hipster band and her boyfriend who plays in an alternative band.  It has lots of musical references and I enjoyed Mia's non-traditional family. This one is really well-written and I could easily read it all over again.  Now I need to get my hands on the second one, Where She Went.

Fire by Krisine Cashore (2009) 461 pages
I am pretty darn excited to cross both of Fire and Graceling off my to-read list and I'm liked them both.  Fire is about the Seven Kingdoms of which Cashore refers to in Graceling but does not continue Katsa and Poe's story.  That was a bit of shock to me but once I got past it I liked Fire just fine.  After all it does say "companion to Graceling" not sequel to Graceling.  Fire is a vibrant colored monster in the Dells born from a human mother and a monster (and cruel) father, Cansrel.  Both parents have died and Fire lives in a small house on the estate of Lord Brocker and his son, Archer.  There are some unrest issues in the kingdom and Fire is asked to come to King City to meet with Nash, the king and Brigan, his brother and commander of the king's army.  I like the world that Cashore has created.  This one was very good.  Click on the title to read my review of Graceling.

The Smarty Owl has a great full-length review on Fire that is worth reading.
I hope your week has been blissful and full of reading!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wordless Wednesday; Colonial Williamsburg

Cousins enjoy Colonial Williamsburg

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Weekend Cooking; Ribbons of Kale

Last week I wrote about my Farmer's Market shopping spree and through the week I've made a few recipes with my produce.  I discovered two new recipes for kale and I made my children eat beet greens (they didn't eat a lot but they ate some).  I researched kale and found 9 reasons to eat kale and if you click the link you can read them also.  Loads of fiber, antioxidants and  vitamin K. 

Lentil Soup with Ribbons of Kale
(adapted from Fresh From the Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson)

Slow Cooker size: 4-6 qts
Cook Time: 8 hours
Setting: Low

1 T. olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/4 cups dried brown lentils, picked over and rinsed
6 cups vegetable stock or water
1 T. tamari or other soy sauce
Sprinkles of Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 to 5 large kale leaves, tough stems removed

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion, celery, carrot and garlic, cover and cook until softened, 8-10 minutes
2. Transfer the cooked vegetables to a 4- to 6- qt slow cooker, add the lentils, stock, and tamari; cover and cook on Low for 8 hours.  (this is where I completely veered off recipe and made the entire thing in the same large saute skillet-apparently I LOVE heating up my kitchen in the heat of the summer)  Season with salt and pepper.
3. Meanwhile, or beforehand, tightly roll the kale leaves up like a cigar and cut them crosswise into thin ribbons.  Cook the kale in a pot of boiling salted water, about 5 minutes, and add to the soup when ready to serve. 
I served ours over brown rice and I didn't boil the kale down.  I just popped it into the lentil mix about 10 minutes before eating and it wilted enough for us.  It was yummy!

Second kale recipe:

Tuscan Kale with White Beans and Garlic
(The Garden-Fresh Vegetable Cookbook by Andrea Chesman)

1 cup dried cannellini (white kidney) or great Northern beans (I had garbanzos on hand-used them instead)
6 cups water
1 onion, halved (I like onion so I diced it and kept it in the bean mix)
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 pounds of kale, stems removed and leaves chopped, 16 cups lightly packed)
8 ozs smoked turkey or ham, diced (optional)
Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 T. olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

1. Saok the beans for at least 8 hours in plenty of water to cover.  Drain the beans.
2. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, combine the beans with the water, onion, thyme and bay leaves.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer partially covered, until the beans are tender, approximately 1 1/2 hours.
3. Remove and discard the onion, sprigs of thyme and bay leaves.  At this point beans could be refrigerated for up to 1 day before continuing the recipe.  Bring the beans and their liquid to a boil. Add the kale and the salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer, stirring down the kale every few minutes, until the kale is tender, about 10 minutes.  Stir in the meat, if using. 
4. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a small heavy skillet over very low heat.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant and soft, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes.  Do not let garlic brown.  Mash the garlic with a fork.  Add the hot pepper flakes, if using.
5. Pour the hot oil mix over the beans and greens and serve immediately. 

I mentioned that our dinner had kale leaves in it and he said...oh, hmmm, that sounds good-I've heard kale is really healthy!  Wow.  Needless to say everyone ate both recipes and I went ahead and bought more kale at the market today.  Also we had some ham from a local farmer so I did cube that up, heated it, and put the bowl on the table for our occasional meat eaters to add to the own plates. 

My own garden has baby eggplants growing, okra (we've already eaten 5 pods from our two plants), tomatoes, basil, two kinds of peppers.  This post is linked to Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking meme; anyone can play along with a food-related post.  Click her link to see her review of Danyelle Freeman's new book Try This.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Summer = teachers lounging by the pool, drinking margaritas...

Yeah, that never happens.  Well, maybe it does but not in my world.  That is the summer I dream of but what summer really is is a far cry from that scenario.  What summer really is is chauffering kids to camp, classes, and to playdates, inbetween pulling weeds, making bread, and hoping to get back to that major Spring Clean, you know, simple craziness.

I had a four-day class this week at my local university and it knocked my socks off and had me buying take-out pizza, which is highly unusual for our house.  The class, Children's Literature Workshop, clued me in to a TON of new books (I really thought I was in the know...) but sitting in class all day was hard.  In the middle of me taking this class my husband's Summer Art Camp began and Groovy Girl usually attends with a gaggle of girlfriends.  Same is true for this time except I had four days to arrange for rides back and forth and playdates for the afternoon.

That and the class homework has been overwhelming.  I should be doing homework right now.  What am I doing blogging when I have four assignments still do for class.

I have spent a bit of time by the pool w/out the margarita, I have cooked for friends, I did take an amazing vacation, I have read quite a few books including a bunch of YA, and I have juggled all things successfully!

I need to get my homework done though so I can write reviews about the last few books (Fire by KC) I've read and the magnificent movie I saw at midnight last night (when I probably should have been sleeping so I could have done my homework today!)

Ahhh, I love summer with all its twists and turns, the heat, the rain, the garden produce, the bright orange tiger lillies in my neighbor's yard-so much to love about this wonderful season.  I want it to last just long enough for me to catch up, catch my breath, and have this organic margarita!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Imaginary Friends

As my Groovy Girl emerges as a stronger chapter book reader we pick out less and less from the picture book section of the library.  Luckily, she is her mama's girl 'cuz last week at the library she went right to the NEW section and picked out a bag's worth of books.

Here's the catch though; she no longer wants me to read her picture books (it's degrading somehow?) so she reads them and pulls the ones she thinks are "peaceful reader"-worthy!

Here are her first three picks:

Erica S. Perl; Julia Denos
Little Ida, who wears the cutest outfits to school, takes her space lunch box and her best/beast friend, Dotty.   Dotty is a large cow-like creature with big pinkish-red polka-dots led by a blue string.  Others in the classroom have imaginary friend animals with them as well but as the school days progress these students start leaving their "pets" at home.  Ida can't give up her friend Dotty and Dotty won't let Ida give her up either.  Just as Ida's about to lose faith she finds out a very special secret about her teacher, Ms. Raymond!   Dotty would make a wonderful read-aloud to students at school or home.  Extra points for the polka-dot end papers!

Liz Rosenberg; Julie Downing
"When George awoke early one Sunday morning, Nobody was up and about."  This simple play on words will have children smiling as George and Nobody make a mess here and there around the house as they make a very funny "feast" in the kitchen.  George's parents wake up and he acknowledges that "nobody" has been at work helping him.  Cute illustrations that will help kids understand this funny word twist.

Everything but the Horse;
A Childhood Memory by
Love this book.  Love her illustrations.  Sweet Holly recounts how her parents purchase a run-down old farmhouse and how exciting it was to live there with a wild array of animals.  She envies the older neighbor girls as they ride their horses down the gravel lane.  Holly creates an imaginary horse friend to share the barn.  When her birthday rolls around her mom tells her to run to the barn to find her gift, which she is able to ride right out of the barn!  Great memories and one that will have girls panting for their own ponies.

What picture books have caught your eye this week?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

I've been to the market...

(Beet Greens, Broccoli, basil leaves and Kale peeking
 out of my pink market basket)
and at the market I smelled in the beautiful earthy smells of vegetables and dirt.  I watched loads of smiling people swirl around all the market stands, picking and choosing food for the week.  I love to listen to the questions others ask; "what is this?", "what do I do with this?", and "how do I cook this?"   I listen to the farmer's answers, learning myself and sometimes I answer...I love the sense of community a farmer's market creates. 

Myself, I picked a bouquet of kale, a bundle of beets, a small forest of "trees" (broccoli, in our family), and a bag of basil.  I plan to roast the beets and steam the head of broccoli for a nice veggie dinner tonight.  We also have okra growing in our own garden and I will use my mother-in-law's recipe for okra mixed with potato to add to our meal. 

I look forward to paging through some of my recipe books to figure out something new to do with these beautiful kale leaves.  I've yet to hit upon a stunning recipe for this healthy vegetable.  Any suggestions?

I do have basil growing in our garden but it is not at the BIG leaf stage, which is just how I like it sprinkled on my pasta, sandwich or grains.  We planted late after our vacation and I hope to have basil well into September when I can heap it into the food processor and make jars and bags of pesto to help me through the winter season.

What's selling at your local market?  Have you been yet?  I encourage everyone to find their local Farmer's Market and shop their at least once a week.  There's a handy website to locate a market near you:  Local Harvest offers lots of information.

This post is linked to Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking meme.  Anyone with a food-related post can play along; click on her link to see her review of Gloria Whelan's book, The Boy Who Wanted To Cook.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Before I fall by Lauren Oliver

I'm doing my best to catch up some YA reading this summer.  People talk about these books all year long and I tend to save them for summer.  This book was on my to-read mental list and while we were in DC we stopped by my husband's old neighborhood, Adams Morgan.  I went right to the lovely little used bookstore-the name of which escapes me-but a little magic happened and I found Before I Fall on a shelf with a $6 price tag inside.  It was a sign.

I pushed back my major beach read, A Summer Affair by Elin Hilderbrand, and started reading, right after we visited the National Zoo, which by the way was missing most of its animals the day we visited.  Disappointing.  It was hot. 

Before I Fall
470 pages

Samantha Kingston has it all; the world's most crush-worthy boyfriend, three amazing best friends, and first pick of everything at Thomas Jefferson High-from the best table in the cafeteria to the choicest parking spot.  Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life. (inside front cover)

It sounds like quite the life but it took only a few pages into the book to realize Sam leads a crazy life-one that was a little scary for me; a mom of a young girl that will one day soon be a teen. Sam's a mean girl-she wasn't always but became one in order to hang with Lindsay and be well,  popular.  As the reader you know from the beginning of the book that Sam is going to die in a car crash after a party but it gets snagged up in time and she relives that day seven different times, trying to get it right...or at least a little better. 

While the characters and their ability to be visciously mean to other people scared me I did enjoy getting to know the characters and the degree to which Sam Kingston is allowed to grow into a more thoughtful person. It's as if she goes through seven stages of  Dante's Hell in order to get to heaven.  While she's learning we get a peek into what makes the other characters, like Lindsay, mean.

It's good to know, according to Lauren Oliver, that bullies are basically insecure and choose to lash out due to their own lack of self-esteem.  Mentally it is good to know this but it doesn't help when you are the one made to feel like crap everyday of high school because some other h.s. student has decided to thrash on you. As Sam figures out how to make things better she notices the intricate threads that bind us all together.  Beautiful lesson for teens to learn.

The writing is eloquent with lots of gentl emetaphorical comparisons.   I loved Kent McFuller-he was a wonderfully written cool-geek!  This is a snippet of conversation between Kent and Sam:

..."You remember my old house on Terrace Place, right?"  The smile is back.  It's true: his eyes are exactly the color of grass.  "You used to hang out in the kitchen and steal all the good cookies.  And I chased you around these huge maple trees in the front yard. Remember?"
    As soon as he mentions the maple trees a memory rises up, expanding, like something breaking the surface of water and rippling outward.  We were sitting in this little space in between two enormous roots that curved out of the animal spines. (142)

This book should be read by parents as much as its intended young adult audience.  There is a ton of drinking, smoking and sex in the book-I know it happens in high school but for this group of friends it was all part of their scene.  As a mom all I could think was "please don't let my child act this way..."

Other thoughts on Before I Fall...

The Brain Lair
Slightly Bookish...she even has a playlist set up for this book.
Fate is Kind Book Review

Lauren Oliver's website.

Indie Bookstore

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

If The Witness Lied by Caroline B. Cooney

It's been years since I read any of Cooney's popular titles but I picked up this title as my husband and I browsed for books for Teenage Boy to take on vacation.  I've griped about this before but he does not like to GO TO the LIBRARY anymore...!?  I hope his senses will return to him one day but as I expect him to read-we get him the books, he picks out a few that he "deems" somewhat interesting and he reads them.  He read this one over vacation and when I asked him how it was he looked at me and shrugged very nonchalantly (if you have teenagers you know what I mean) and said it was okay in a very flat line voice.  So I had to pick it up and read it just to see what that meant.

And guess was okay but only okay with a shoulder shrug...

The story was predictable.The characters were flat.
The candle on the cover doesn't fit-Jack Fountain on a bike, a television camera, a little boy in a Jeep-any of these would have worked.
It never fully adds up and Cooney doesn't give me a good reason for Aunt Cheryl.
It was kind of sad to think no one cared about these kids to look deeper into their tragedy!  Come on neighbors down the street!

Can you feel my shoulders shrug?

Read The Compulsive Reader's post if you want a different perspective.
Benjamin at Teen Reads talks about it .
Goodreads synopsis

My husband tells me that I never read books I don't like because all my reviews are positive so this one's for you, honey.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Graceling by Kristin Cashore
471 pages

I just finished and am overwhelmed with how wonderful this book was to read.  Cashore created a world of kingdoms ruled by kings where two people, Katsa and Po, meet and become friends in the truest sense.  Both Katsa and Po are graced with a special talent far beyond what others can imagine.  Katsa, orphaned at a young age lives with her uncle, King Randa, who has control over her and uses her killing grace to his advantage but through her own rebellious feelings she forms a council to right some obvious wrongs.  On one of the council's missions she meets Po, a prince from one of the seven kingdoms, and things begin to change in her world as Po teaches her that no man, especially Randa, can control her; that her control always lies within her. 

I don't want to go into detail as much of what was great about this book took me by surprise; points  I don't want to now hand to you, if you haven't read it.  I like fantasy and I thought Cashore built a believable world with very likeable characters.  I liked how the characters from part one were not forgotten as I liked Raffin and Helda.  I want to know more about Po's family, Katsa's decisions and Bitterblue's struggles.

 Last night we drove  for two hours home from a music fest and I couldn't put the book down, even though my head was nodding, begging for sleep and I was reading with a tiny book light.  I woke up this morning,  picked the book up again, read, made breakfast, read until I turned the last delicious page.  I think I will probably be at the library when the doors open tomorrow morning to get Fire. 

After Thoughts:  I'm a little perturbed because I did some research about Fire, the "sequel" to Graceling and it's about a different character and as much as I can gather does not further Katsa and Po's story. (How many of you already knew this...?) I will still read it but am not racing to the library to get it.
I also read a few other reviews and want to comment.  The whole relationship issue was believable to me...this is something many people grapple with today and marriage is complex.   Can you marry someone and not feel a little "owned" even when you love that person?  Yes, but it's not always easy and the book makes that argument.  Katsa and Po are not high school teenagers either and Katsa hasn't had any positive guidance in this area either.  She knows she doesn't want someone to be in charge of her life.  I think it is a worthy debate and thought the example of love was done well; showing depth from both characters.

I did think the book ended quickly but I didn't think it let the story just drop off.  I was ready to read about Katsa's lessons with Bitterblue and Po's journey home.  I think Katsa and later Bitterblue offer strong female characters for readers and great examples of friendship and self-esteem exist in the book.
Find Kristin Cashore at her blog, This Is My Secret.
Find Graceling at an Indie Bookstore near you.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Weekend Cooking; Grow It, Cook It

Grow It, Cook It;
Simple Gardening Projects and Delicious Recipes
DK Publishing
Consulting Editor: Jill Bloomfield
80 pages

This is one from my own collection; my mom gave it to Groovy Girl two years ago and we've made nothing from it in all that time. Shame on me!  This summer that is going to change as G.G. is taking over the garden space in back and has very definite ideas about planting....and she has my mom in her back pocket.  I thought I should highlight this book so we can challenge ourselves to use it more frequently.

It's kind of amazing the wonderful books that already reside in my cookbook cupboard-yes, they reside in  a cupboard or two and it makes them a little out of sight out of mind.  I go to specific cookbooks for specific recipes and I need to learn to mingle a bit more in different books.   I pulled this one out a few days ago and started reading.  The first twelve pages give an excellent overview on gardening-everything from tools to making your own compost.  The two pages on "pots and plots" gave me great ideas on using a variety of everyday items (like a laundry basket) that could be used for a planter. 

There are two pages on "Kitchen know-how," which includes an easy vocabulary list with pictures to match.  The remaining pages are filled with how to grow a vegetable or fruit plant with a companion recipe; each spread takes about four pages.  Bloomfield begins with tomato and most of the planting directions involve container gardening but could easily be translated to an actual garden plot. 

Nestled in are big tips like "grow marigolds in the same pot as your tomato plant.  These flowers can keep away aphids, which might otherwise infest your tomato plant.  This is called companion gardening." (19)  I didn't know this and it makes me want to run out and buy a few marigold plants as my tomato plants often suffer from buggy yuck!  The tomato recipe follows eggplant growing directions and combines the two veggies in a Tomato and Eggplant Tower (23) Yay. Yum.  Groovy Girl has an eggplant growing in the back garden.  Recipes range from mini pumpkin pies, giant beanstalk stir-fry, mashed potato fishcakes, onion and leek soup,  chocolate and mint mousse and lemonade ice-pops.  All very yummy looking with eye-catching photographs.

My personal favorites are the Sunflowerpot loaves (aren't they cute!) and Green leaf tarts (spinach).  We didn't plant any spinach this year but if I can find some at the Farmer's Market today I may try to make these over the weekend.   The sunflower link above will take you to google books where you can browse a few pages of this fabulous kid-friendly book. 

Buy it from an indie bookstore here.  Find Jill Bloomfield at her

I was up early this morning, waiting for my chicken man-doesn't everyone have one?  Tim Daley of Daley's Shamrock Acres delivered 6 homegrown chickens to me and they are now in my freezer.  For an ex-vegetarian who still thinks like a vegetarian it seems strange to get so excited about six beautiful chickens but I am. I can't wait to slather them with herbs and a little butter and cook them up for my family.

Happy Cooking over the long holiday weekend!  This post is linked to Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking meme.  Click to her post to see what everyone else is cooking up!  Anyone with a food-related post can play along.