Thursday, July 30, 2009

Book Review -- These Is My Words

These Is My Words These Is My Words by Nancy E. Turner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Some books just grab you by the heart and won’t let go. These Is My Words is one of them.

Sarah Prine is a tough as nails, young women growing up in the Arizona Territories. She can shoot a rifle, defend her family and friends, and fight Indians and outlaws too – heck, I’m not sure there isn’t anything she can’t do. Her family decides to migrate to Texas for a better ranching life, but they find nothing but tragedy along the way. On their return home to Arizona, Sarah meets Captain Jack Elliott, and thus begins the heart of this novel, based on the diaries of the author’s original family memoirs.

These Is My Words is a love story, an American western, a survivors tale, all wrapped up into one incredible saga. In fact, Sarah and Jack’s love affair rivals that of Scarlet and Rhett – and the great thing about Sarah and Jack was they made it work. It wasn’t without trials – Jack, as a Captain in the Army, was absent from home most of the time. Sarah, who could survive anything on her own, was desperate to have her husband (and the father of her children) home. Not a far cry from most modern day husbands and wives.

It is not without some graphic scenes – rape, mutilation, amputation – but they are written with restraint and left to the reader’s imagination. The romantic scenes are dealt with just as modestly. I would let my eight year old read them without her being any the wiser.

I fell in love with this book. Who can’t fall in love with two people so madly in love with each other? I almost felt guilty reading about their romance -- it was a guilty pleasure – and one I would be happy to read over, and over again.

Sum it up: A great historical, western romance, that will leave you breathless (or it did me!).

View all my reviews >>

Monday, July 27, 2009

Guest at Reading For Sanity

Please check out my guest post at the great group book blog, Reading for Sanity. They asked me if they could re-post my book club recommendations, and I happily agreed. They are a great resource for all things bibliographic -- great reviews, recommendations, and opinions. Please visit them often!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A House Divided!

OU-BYU Tickets on Sale Monday

Sooners, Cougars meet September 5 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas

NORMAN, Okla. - Single-game tickets for the OU-BYU Football Classic at Cowboys Stadium go on sale to the general public at 10 a.m., on Monday, July 27. All single-game sales will be handled by Ticketmaster.

Tickets may be purchased online through or by calling (800) 745-3000.

Single-game ticket prices range from $50-$150.

Orders will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis and tickets are subject to availability.

Needless to say, I will be BUSY at 10am tomorrow!

Boomer Sooner!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Road Rules for The Big Love Book Group

I was asked recently by a Goodreads/blogging friend, “How do you start up a book group? Do you have any specific rules?”

I’m sure there is an official book group handbook out there somewhere (it probably has Oprah’s seal on the front)…but here are my rules (and I made them up as I went along):

1. Ask a lot of like minded friends to join. I sent postcards to nearly everyone in my Relief Society. Only 10 women came to our first meeting. You must have die-hard readers, or people will drop out, or won’t read the book, or they will only come because there are refreshments. Which isn’t a bad thing necessarily, but for those who are there to discuss a book, secondary chatter is forbidden and non-participants eaten.

2. You need to decide at the beginning WHAT you want to read: Fiction/Non-fiction/YA literature/LDS-Deseret Book literature. My group DOES NOT want to read Deseret-type/church books, nor are they YA readers. We read mainstream adult fiction/non-fiction, with a few exceptions. It's easier to start out all "on the same page" than to hear people complain about what you are or are not reading (been there, done that). We have a WIDE range of ages -- twentysomethings to seventysomethings -- so we have to appeal broadly.

3. Try to pick a book that you've read before, so you don't have any surprise objectionable material. For some book groups, this may not be an issue. For ours, it is. Occasionally, we’ve chosen a book without first hand knowledge of the content and we’ve done OK. On the other hand, reading a book beforehand does not ensure that the reader has an accurate memory of the book’s content. For example, one of the very first books we read was The Red Tent. I had read it a couple of years earlier while pregnant with my daughter. My memory of the book was about a community of women who went to “the red tent” during, pregnancy, delivery, monthly issues, etc. I had a very romantic memory of the book. Needless to say, I had forgotten that there were several graphic scenes that nearly split up our newly formed group. Luckily, we worked thru it. There were several who chose not to finish it, and didn’t come to the discussion. But, generally, it is wise to have read the book in advance.

4. Pick something readily available and has multiple copies at the library, so people don't feel obligated to buy the book (we're in a recession folks!). The more people that have access to the book, the more successful the discussion. I hate the excuse, "I didn't read because I couldn't find a copy.” Our library has book group “kits.” They come with 10 copies of the book and discussion questions. They are extremely helpful.

5. Please don't pick something only available in hardback -- again, the cost issue and access issue. The Help won't be on our "to-read" list anytime soon, because there are 50+ holds on it at our library system and only available in hardback. The only time we've made an exception to this rule was when we picked The DaVinci Code, and for some reason, enough people had copies, there were plenty to pass around.

6. This is not necessary, but I'm the unofficial book group leader -- so I assign months for every member to discuss a book. It eliminates the blank stares that plagued us when we first started, and the question, "whaddya want to read?" Fortunately, we have enough members that we usually pick one book a year. Then we all volunteer to host once a month. For those of us with small children it's more difficult to host, but I try to host during the summer months when school/bedtimes aren't an issue.

7. Have LOTS of yummy refreshments! Because, really, it’s all about the food!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Book Group Recommendations

I recently joined a group on called “clean reads.” It a like-minded group of women who enjoy books that are free of graphic sex, language and violence. Who wants to start a book, only to encounter a page/chapter/section full of gratuitous anything, I certainly don’t. And it would be nice if there were “warnings” on books that alert readers to the content (anyone want to write their Congressman??!!).

I’ve been a member of an LDS book group for 7 years. We meet once a month for 11 months out of the year (we don’t meet during December because of the holidays); so over the 7 years we’ve been meeting we’ve read over 70 books – most of which, I would consider “clean reads.” These selections would normally be posted on my Goodreads list or here on my blog, but they nearly all precede my participating in either cyber-venture, so for those who may be interested, here is the list in its entirety. I will try to post a comment next to the book if there is something that needs to be mentioned.

Please heed this warning: I don’t always remember EVERY word, sentence, scene of every book I’ve read. So, if you decide to read a book on this list and find something objectionable, I apologize in advance!!!

*(did not read due to new baby, sick baby, out of town)
**(exceptionally good book or discussion)

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

*At Home in Mitford, Jan Karon

*Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe

Tuesdays With Morrie, Mitch Albom

A Painted House, John Grisham

Fried Green Tomatoes, Fannie Flagg

**Expecting Adam, Martha Nibley Beck

The DaVinci Code, Dan Brown

Gone With The Wind, Margaret Mitchell

Under the Tuscan Sun, Frances Mayes

Girl with a Pearl Earring, Tracy Chevalier

The Red Tent, Anita Diamant (This book contained objectionable material – many members chose not to finish it).

In the Time of the Butterflies, Julia Alvarez

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card

The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd

Emily of New Moon, L. M. Montgomery

The Glass Blowers, Daphne DuMaurier

And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie

The Agony & The Ecstasy, Irving Stone

*A Return to Modesty, Wendy Shalit

**Jerusalem Vigil, Bodie & Brock Thoene (This was a great discussion!)

Evelina, Fanny Burney (I couldn't finish this book)

Song of Survival, Helen Colijn

The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros

**My Name is Asher Lev, Chaim Potok

**Life of Pi, Yann Martel (This was a great discussion!)

*Sarah: Women of Genesis, Orson Scott Card

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis

The Samurai’s Garden, Gail Tsukiyama

A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

My Side of the Mountain, Jean Craighead George

Mutant Message Down Under, Marlo Morgan

*The #1 Ladies Detective Agency, Alexander McCall Smith

*Family : the ties that bind -- and gag!, Erma Bombeck

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou (may contain objectionable material)

Rebecca, Daphne DuMaurier

The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

The Secret Garden, Frances Hogdson Burnett

*Alas Babylon, Pat Frank

Light on Snow, Anita Shreve

*The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas (This was REALLY LONG!)

*The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax, Dorothy Gilman

Heavenly Village and Missing May, Cynthia Rylant

The Stolen Child, Keith Donohue

**Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë

**The Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom

The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Mitch Albom

*My Antonia, Willa Cather

The Memory Keepers Daughter, Kim Edwards

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Lisa See

Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer, James L. Swanson

The History of Love, Nicole Krauss

Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer (may contain objectionable language)

The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini (may contain objectionable material)

*A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith

Cold Sassy Tree, Olive Ann Burns

Peony in Love, Lisa See (may contain objectionable material)

In Search of Eden, Linda Nichols

The Gift, Richard Paul Evans

My Sister’s Keeper, Jodi Picoult

The Giver, Lois Lowry

Devil in the White City, Erik Larson

Prisoner of Tehran, Marina Nemat

Dreamers of the Day, Mary Doria Russell

**The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver

Moloka’i, Alan Brennert (may contain objectionable material)

**Julie, Catherine Marshall

Back When We Were Grownups, Anne Tyler (this book was BORING!)

Peace Like a River, Leif Enger

Enemy Women, Paulette Jiles

Pope Joan, Donna Woolfolk Cross

The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield (may contain objectionable material)

The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan

People of the Book, Geraldine Brooks (may contain objectionable material)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Book Review -- The Actor and the Housewife

The Actor and the Housewife: A Novel The Actor and the Housewife: A Novel by Shannon Hale

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I must first preface this “review” with the following disclaimers:

I’m not a fan of chick lit (is this book considered chick lit? – Mormon lit maybe?); I generally find it trite and friends get mad at me for taking it too seriously and not accepting it for “what it is!”

I’m not a reader of YA fiction; YA fiction has become significantly more mainstream lately, and many friends “cross-over” between YA fiction and adult fiction. With the exception of Harry Potter, I’m an adult fiction reader.

Because of the above, I’m not familiar at all with Shannon Hale’s YA novels. I know they are widely respected and liked. I know a lot of my friends have read The Princess Academy and her Bayern series and loved them. Because of their respect for her books, I decided to read both of Hale’s adult fiction books, Austenland, and her newest, The Actor and The Housewife. I planned on Austenland first, because I’m following an “Austen Challenge” on a book blog I follow, but, because The Actor and The Housewife is a new book, and only a 14 day check out – I had to fast track it to the front of my Hale reads.

Without holding back – The Actor and The Housewife was probably the most ridiculous book I’ve ever read. The premise: suburban, LDS, SAHM, sells screenplay to Hollywood – where by she meets top Hollywood, heart-throb, English actor (a Colin Firth/Hugh Grant/Kenneth Branagh/Ralph Fiennes kinda character) and they instantly become best friends. In the mean time, they both must maintain marriages, and she a family, while they carry on their best-friendness.

Now, Shannon Hale in her dedicatory page of Austenland, dedicates her book as such: “For Colin Firth: You’re a really great guy, but I’m married, so I think we should just be friends.” So, maybe this novel was an attempt to live out her fantasy of being best friends with Colin Firth. Or after she wrote it thought, “What a great premise for a novel – a normal, everyday Mom, being best friends with a hottie actor! Eureka!”

Somehow her quest to live out her fantasy or make this idea into a novel fails miserably. I never once believed that these two could possibly be friends. Or that men and women can maintain friendships without irreparably harming their marriages. Or that her husband, or ward, or kids, would tolerate such a relationship. Every scenario featuring both of these two characters is so far fetched it was laughable. Here is one: hottie Felix, having a lay-over in SLC goes to a screenplay workshop given by Becky. First off, what high paid actor flies commercial with lay overs? That would be ZERO! Here is another one: on another stay in suburban UT, Felix accompanies Becky to a ward pot luck. Seriously, ward pot lucks are painful enough to attend as members, can you imagine Brad Pitt going to one? And it was painful to read about too. I don’t think I will ever go to a ward pot luck again. There are other equally outlandish scenes, ones that I would find myself hollering at my husband to come listen to, “Honey, you got to listen to this!” He cringed most of the time and would say, “why are you reading this?”

Admittedly, the dialog between these two characters was witty and comical. If it had been a romantic comedy between two single adults, I think she could have managed a fun, likeable, entertaining book. And the last third of the book (for reasons I can’t explain, because it would spoil the ending – if you actually read it to the end) was FAR more successful than the beginning.

But all in all, The Actor and The Housewife was a stay-at-home, Mormon mommy, mess.

View all my reviews >>

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Twist on Modern Day Scripture

And it came to pass, that when the daughter of the Lord set forth to blog, while doing so, she put forth a pot of eggs to boil for the Sabbath day egg salad; she then unknowingly left the holy pot unattended, by which, the eggs boiled and boiled until all the water was evaporated; leaving nothing but dry eggs to rebel against the pot and EXPLODE all over the kitchen.

Thus saith the Lord…

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Room 218 at the Spring Hill Suites

I checked online reservations – one night, $84 with an AAA discount and continental breakfast.

How long could I stay? One night? Two nights? Until they noticed I was gone? Until the money ran out of our checking account? Until I could walk back thru the front door?

The bleakness over the past 72 hours has made me seek shelter at a hotel. My husband has been gone to Youth Conference for three days, the children have declared all out warfare on each other, and I’ve turned into the crazy woman in the attic that Charlotte Bronte couldn’t even dream of writing.

I’ve come to the end of my rope (or any other appropriate cliché). I’ve lost all ability to mother. I’m nothing more than a cook, a launderer and maid. The clothes I wash, that I ask to be put away, get thrown under the bed. The food I cook gets sneered at and pushed away. The floors I mop, the toilets I clean, the sinks I scrub, the tables I dust, the rugs I vacuum, all are ceremoniously stomped, spit, or pee’d into or upon, and without thanks or recognition. My husband just received a promotion, and I realized no one will ever promote me to anything again. No employee of the month, no bonuses, no conference lectures. Nothing. Yes, I’m whining (you may start criticizing here), but I’m also trying to breathe, because I feel like I have kudzu growing over every internal organ I have and it’s choking me to death.

This has been brewing for months. In fact, I think my summer of “creativity” journey started as a way to push back at the impending doom I was feeling. “If I just keep myself busy, this will all go away” I thought to myself. “If I loose myself in things I want to learn about or create, I will feel better about all the things that are causing me to run far, far away.” The vases I’ve painted, the scarf that is being knit, the journal pages I’ve written, the miles that I’ve walked, they are all things I’m doing to keep myself from shattering.

I haven’t felt like this since the birth of my second son, and the post-partum depression that gripped me for months. After a particularly bad episode when he was two months old, I shoved him in my husband’s arms as soon as he returned from an opening night at the Theatre. He had screamed for nearly two hours. I was desperate. The only place I knew that was open that late was Barnes and Noble. I thought I could seek shelter from books. When I got there, I noticed B&N was particularly busy that night. And, why I wondered, was everyone dressed up? It was July, not October, and it looked like a Halloween party? In my delirium, I had failed to notice, until I’d walked thru the front door, that it was the release night of Harry Potter 5. Can you believe JK Rowling would have such bad timing? I would have to find another time and place for my break down.

This current episode was prompted by a pink lacrosse stick. One that my daughter wanted and my son had and decided to strike her with instead. My intervention turned ugly as I proceeded to grab the lacrosse stick and whack it against the table, just for drama, and hopefully, to get their attention. If that didn’t do it, it was my screaming, “Enough! I’m done!” I then went to the computer and logged on to the Marriott website, because if I didn’t, I was afraid something or someone would get harmed.

I called my husband at YC to warn him, “When you get home, I’m going to a hotel for the night. I have my bags packed. I just don’t want you to be surprised.” The clock never ticked so slowly. In an effort to bide my time until DH returned and to make some sort of peace with my children, I again sought refuge at B&N. That was until my 8 yr old from the back seat of the car, and in a totally perfect screechy voice complained, “Why are we going to the bookstore?” Ugh! I wheeled out of the parking lot so fast I’m surprised I didn’t hit something. So we went to the pool instead where I sat with my dark cloud over my head and my children frolicked as if nothing had happened. At least they appeared to have short term memories for mamma’s tantrums.

In the middle of this massive, personal collapse, I’m also dealing with a side battle with my 8 yr old daughter (the one who screeched from the back of the car). We too have had a silent combat brewing in recent months over her responsibilities at home. As a result, I’ve been harsh with her on multiple occasions recently, for which I feel horrible. In an attempt to step back from my selfish reaction to abandon the family ship, I decided, maybe this night at the hotel might be a good opportunity to have some mommy/daughter time. We will talk about or difficulties, try to reach some sort of understanding, in addition to getting pedicures, going shopping and eating dessert after dinner.

So, instead of going to the Spring Hill Suites alone…my daughter accompanied me on my camp out. We went to the craft store where we both bought paint-by-number sets, got pedicures (she has blue toes with white polka dots), shopping for a back-to-school out fit, dinner at her favorite restaurant, book buying at B&N (we made it back without complaint) and finally a double chocolate brownie at Starbucks. After we returned to the hotel, I read my book while she watched Hannah Montana and didn’t have to abide by a bed time.

Was this what I had in mind when I made my SOS reservation earlier in the day? No. Did it soften the impending doom that clouded my brain? Absolutely. Did I love spending time with my daughter? More than you know. Do I wish I still had a day in a hotel by myself? Yes, so I could read in their entirety all three books I had taken with me without the blare of The Disney Channel in the back ground; so I could have some private time to think through my troubles; and so I could sleep without being tapped on the shoulder at 7am and asked, “can we go down to breakfast now?”

I’m home this morning. The kudzu is still growing, but without the fertilizer of three days of mania. I have a Doctor’s appointment on Wednesday where I will talk about my issues and hope to find some answers (and maybe some meds). And if you want to throw things at me for my faults, I’ve already beaten myself up fairly effectively. And it did it with a pink lacrosse stick.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Book Review -- Peace Like a River

Peace Like a River Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Peace Like a River has been on my TBR “shelf” for 5 years. It was recommended to me by a friend, and for some reason, I’ve never gotten around to reading it. Finally, this was the month, and after completing it my thoughts are, “what took me so long?”

It is a story that is a surprising mix of heroic quest, cowboy romance and moral fable. Reuben's older brother Davy gets caught up in an escalating feud with two small-town bullies, is charged and tried for murdering them, and when the verdict seems about to go against him, escapes on horseback for parts unknown. Reuben, his father and his younger sister Swede set out in their Airstream trailer to find the outlaw Davy Land, and along the way, Reuben learns more than most of us about sacrifice, redemption and faith.

Reuben is an 11 yr old who worships his brother and is willing to do anything to bring him home. Swede is a lexiconic wunderkind, who weaves tales about out-laws and cowboys. Father Jeremiah is one step short of Prophet.

It’s a glorious, painful, tragic, and healing novel. One full of miracles and prayers. Enger is a master storyteller. Truly a gift.

View all my reviews >>

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Pope Joan Contest

I haven't read the book, Pope Joan, by Donna Woolfolk Cross, but it's been on my Goodreads list for several years. The author and her publisher have dangled a carrot for those who are fans (or potential fans) of her book: Simply buy a new, Three Rivers Press/Crown Publishing paperback edition of Pope Joan during the months of June or July 2009 and send me the original receipt. In August, I'll pick randomly from the pile of receipts to select someone and their guest to join me at the U.S. movie premiere in the fall (exact date still to be determined).

Click here for details!

I think I will head to Barnes and Noble later this afternoon to buy a copy!!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Art Project #2

My summer of creativity continues. Last week I created this with my pottery peeps.

Paint-your-own pottery night has become the highlight of the summer. We’ve turned our monthly night into a mini-enrichment night for our Relief Society. My knitting plods on…I’ve re-started my scarf so many times I’ve lost count. Just when I think I’ve got it down, I drop a stitch, get my yarn twisted, something to stop my progress. But I haven’t given up!

Book group is Thursday. I’m leading the discussion so I’m cramming the last 100 pages of the book. I seem to procrastinate the book club book until the last few days, because I find if I read it any earlier I forget essential parts! Can’t fake it when you are the discussion leader! We are reading Peace Like a River. Wow - - this book has been radiant. Lief Enger is so eloquent he could write scripture. But don’t tell Moses that. I can’t wait for the discussion! And treats! I think I’m going to make the following (the cake, not the beans). Looks YUMMY!

If you are a bibliophile like me, I receive this great email daily from Penguin Books. It’s a mini-book club sent to your inbox. I get a lot of great book ideas from Suzanne! One of my favorites is her Classic Book Club. This quarter she is reading, The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields. I read this book years ago in my DC book group. I remember very little of it, so I may have to add it to my Goodreads list as a refresher.

Now, what should I put in my vase??!!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Saturday Morning Pancakes

Several months ago I was in the car listening to NPR. The news program was mid-stream by the time I tuned in, but the topic was food additives, specifically an additive called sodium aluminum phosphate. What I derived from the tail-end of the show was that a study had been done that showed a link between aluminum consumption and Alzheimer’s. This additive is found in many easy-to-use products found on most of our pantry shelves – particularly, pancake mix, cake mixes and cookies mixes. The additive, so they said, helped prevent “clumping” of the dry ingredients. I wish I’d heard the program in its entirety, because I don’t like making judgments on partial information. My intention was to go home immediately and log on to the NPR website, but that didn’t happen (I must have forgotten because I’ve ingested too much SAP!), and it wasn’t until several days later that it occurred to me that I needed to find the link for the program. I searched the entire NPR website without success. I then Googled it and hit upon thousands of links to Alzheimer’s and SAP. I didn’t have the time to read every article, but it did make me curious to see what I had on my shelves that contained SAP that I feed my kids. I was shocked to notice that EVERY cookie mix, cake mix and the big bag of pancake mix I had contained SAP. Yikes!! On my next trip to the grocery store (without kids) I stood in the baking aisle and tried to read the labels of all the products I use and others to compare their ingredient list. This is what I’ve discovered and wanted to pass along.

(Now, I think I’m a mom that does her best to feed her kids healthy food, read food labels and cook from “scratch” when I can. I wish I could buy more “organic” food – but the reality is we just can’t afford groceries at Whole Foods. I’m also a mom that uses plastic and other things deemed deadly. I think I’m middle of the road – does her best to make smart purchases and decisions – but knows there are things lurking in our modern day food supply and home products that have shown to be dangerous that we use and consume. Like I said, I do my best.)

Betty Crocker Cookie Mixes:

They contain SAP. This was my cookie mix of choice. We loved them – they tasted just like homemade. I’ve been making cookies from this brand for years, primarily because they have the BOX TOP tag on the package that my kids collect for their elementary school. However, I now use either the Kroger brand cookie mix or the Target brand – neither one contain SAP and they both make delicious cookies! Preferably, we use Target brand because they are cheaper – usually $1.52 a bag. The sugar cookie mix makes AWESOME Snickerdoodles!

Cake Mixes:

I haven’t done as much label reading on cake mixes as much as cookie, because we don’t eat cake that often (birthday only kinda thing). I know Pillsbury DOES add SAP – because it was our brand of choice. I’ve checked all the websites for these products, and unfortunately, none of them have ingredient lists. Very disappointing. I haven’t made a cake from scratch in years (probably, because they are terrible!) and I’m not sure I’m ready to abandon cake mixes altogether. My advice is to read the label.

Pancake Mixes:

I use to buy my pancake mix in the BIG bag at Sam’s – Krusteaz – and it too contains SAP. As does Bisquick. I haven’t checked Aunt Jemima, but Hungry Jack DOES contain SAP and surprisingly, they have their ingredients listed on their website.

So, out of all of these products, pancakes are the most consumed in our household. Pancakes are a Saturday morning staple – buttermilk, chocolate chip, banana, pumpkin, peanut butter – you name it, we make pancakes out of it – and use pancake molds for fun! I thought the best change I could implement was to start making pancakes from scratch. I pulled out an old copy of Make-a-Mix Cookery

(a Mormon housewife staple back in the ‘70s -- didn’t every Utah mom have one of these – and tons of big plastic tubs full of mixes for every use imaginable??!!) I’ve adapted one of their mix recipes for our standard Saturday pancake mix. I bought a big plastic tub and keep it in the pantry. These pancakes are wonderful and hearty. They are especially good with buttermilk. I recommend keeping buttermilk in the refrigerator just for these.

Gerbera Daisy Mom’s Saturday Morning Pancakes:

5 cups whole wheat flour
5 cups all purpose, non bleached, white flour
2 ½ cups instant non-fat dry milk
½ c. granulated sugar
½ c. brown sugar
¼ c. baking powder
¼ c. baking soda
2 tbsps. salt
2 tbsps cinnamon

Sift all ingredients together into large plastic container with an air tight lid.

To prepare:

1 ½ c. pancake mix
1 egg, beaten
1 c water/milk/buttermilk (adjust liquid accordingly for thicker/thinner pancakes)
3 tbsp canola oil

Blend all ingredients together (add mashed bananas/pumpkin/blueberries if you like); Let stand 5 minutes (sometimes I make mine overnight so the batter is ready first thing in the morning); Cook on hot oiled/sprayed griddle. Makes 10-12 pancakes.

Enjoy your pancakes – and next time you are in the baking aisle, try to read the label, and use wisely.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

When in Rome…

With the Obama’s in Rome for the G-8 summit, I’ve been reminiscing about all things Italian. My darling husband served his mission in Rome and we got engaged on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence. I cried hysterically when we left – like I was saying good-bye to my best friend. I’ve only been once and dream of taking the family back one day. It was a magical place.

Among the millions of reason I married my DH was he could cook – and cook darn good. His pastas and sauces keep our family well fed. The tradeoff between cooking and cleaning the kitchen is a no-brainer – give me dirty dishes any day! However, since our marriage, I have picked up a few tricks. Below is my quick, easy and SNEAKY, marinara sauce. I add some “extras” so the kids get their veggies without knowing it. Homemade tomato sauce is SO EASY and so much better than jarred sauce.

Easy/Sneaky Marinara Sauce

1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
1 onion, finely chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic
Dash of red pepper flakes
2 jars of veggie baby food – I use carrots or squash
1 tbsp brown sugar
Olive Oil
Salt/Pepper to taste
Freshly grated parmesan cheese

1. Saute onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper in olive oil until soft (about 7 min).
2. Add both cans of tomatoes/sauce. Make sure you add a little water to the cans to get ALL the tomato goodness leftover on the sides – and add that too. Add your veggie baby food. Bring to a boil and simmer at least 20 minutes or until your pasta is ready. Add the brown sugar 5 minutes before you are ready to serve it. Serve over the pasta of your choice with freshly grated parmesan cheese. (You can add dried basil or oregano, but we prefer it plain. If have fresh basil or oregano growing in the herb patch, I always add it when I’m serving).

If you have left over sauce, it makes great pizza sauce. It also freezes well.

Also, the ONLY pasta we eat in our house is BARILLA. It’s an Italian pasta and is found in all major grocery stores. Last week, our Super Wal Mart had it on sale for $.94 a box! I bought a case. It always cooks perfectly and they have tons of shapes and varieties. Please, whatever you do, do not buy RONCO!! Ahhhh!!!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The funny things people do…

My friend Fran and I walk every morning at 6:30am. At roughly the same time, we pass three grandmotherly-type women going in the opposite direction. At first, nothing seemed out of the ordinary with these spry Seniors, but no sooner are we past them than a gust of 1940’s perfume follows them like a draft off a race car! Fran and I both wince at the smell! Who bathes in perfume to go for a walk? If it is that strong out on the street, I can only imagine how potent it is inside a room. What must their husbands think? Or maybe they are used to it? I have visions of them going back to their homes and powdering themselves to cover up their newly sweaty bodies. Maybe it’s a southern thing. Now every morning when we see them approaching us, we both comment, “brace yourself for the smelly ladies!” And sure enough, we aren’t disappointed by their lovely aroma. I just wish I had the moxie to ask them what they use!

So, next time you go for a walk, please douse yourself in Jean Naté so your neighbors will remember you!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Book Review -- Those Who Save Us

Those Who Save Us Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum

My review

rating: 2 of 5 stars

I love historical fiction, especially WWII-genre historical fiction (The Book Thief, City of Thieves). I never grow weary of reading about how people survived the deprivation and unbearable living conditions, the starvation, the brutality, the inhumaneness of it all. Wow – I never realized what downer books I read until this sentence! However, this was NOT one of my favorites.

In Those Who Save Us, author Jenna Blum (a former Steven Spielberg/Shoah Foundation historian, who interviewed Holocaust Survivors) tells the story of Anna, a young German girl who falls in love with a Jew, and her daughter, Trudy, the love child of Anna and her Jewish love. After her beloved is discovered and sent to a concentration camp, Anna is forced to save herself and her daughter at all costs. Unfortunately, choices are non-existent and in order to care for herself and her daughter, she is forced to become the mistress of an SS officer. It’s a shameful existence, but necessary to keep themselves alive. What follows is an alternating story of war-time Anna and Trudy and modern day Anna and Trudy, as Trudy tries to delve into her mother’s past and unlock her secrets.

This was a difficult book to read – primarily when the author describes Anna’s association with the SS officer. I don’t want to minimize the horrors and brutality inflicted on women during the War (or any war). The suffering endured by women at the hands of beastly men over the course of history is, I’m almost certain, worse than what was described in this book. However, I was overwhelmed by the graphic and sexually explicit scenes the author portrayed. It was horrifying and torturous, but, for me, it became pornographic. Blech.

The ending was also disappointing. I felt like the author wrote Anna into a literary corner that she couldn't get her out of and the ultimate resolution between mother and daughter was left to someone else to unravel. It was a very convenient way to tie-up all the loose ends. What a cop-out.

View all my reviews.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

15 Books in 15 Minutes

This is a popular Facebook question making the rounds...thought I would share...

Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you've read that will always stick with you for better or for worse. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes. Tag 15 friends, including me because I'm interested in seeing what books my friends choose.

1. Gone With The Wind (because Rhett and Scarlet totally trump Bella and Edward)
2. Like Water for Chocolate (this was my 1st DC book group book)
3. The Shipping News (this was the 1st book I picked for my DC book group –
they nearly hung me up on a spike it was so bad. Everyone hated it).
4. Harry Potter 1-7 (I wish I had time to read them all over again)
5. The Kite Runner (the only book I nearly stayed up all night reading)
6. Jane Eyre
7. The Life of Pi (because my book groupies can’t go a single meeting without mentioning
this book in some context!)
8. To Kill a Mockingbird (Scout and Atticus will never grow old).
9. The Hiding Place (because I wish I had faith like Corrie Ten Boom).
10. Water for Elephants (I absolutely HATED this book!!!!)
11. The Book Thief (I don’t weep while reading, but this book left me sobbing in a Drs office!)
12. Romeo and Juliet (yes, it’s a play, but it was the 1st Shakespeare I read in 8th grade)
13. A Tale of Two Cities (the only Dickens I’ve ever read)
14. Katharine Graham: Personal History (an amazing biography).
15. Book of Mormon

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Creativity Boot Camp Week 2

I’ve been a total slacker on reporting how my creativity book camp is progressing. I’m just now finishing week 2 (yes, this is taking forever!) – but my “Artist’s Way” work book is set up with tasks that don’t necessarily coincide with a 7 day week. The first “week” included 10 days worth of tasks and the 2nd week 8 days worth of tasks. Sneak in a trip out of town for three days, and you have a boot camp that is really going on 4 weeks, but I’ve only gotten thru two.

So, how’s it going? Here is my report:

1. The daily morning pages that originally were inspiring and refreshing have become laborious. I really thought the more I wrote the easier it would get. But it’s become much more difficult! There are mornings that I just stare at the page thinking, “what on earth am I doing up at this ridiculous hour?” I’m getting up at 6am (this is SUMMER for crying out loud!) so obviously, my brain is still asleep. So I rearranged my morning to where I’m now walking first and then coming back to my writing assignment. Did it help?? Not so much. Instead of writing motivational epistles to myself, I find I’m doing nothing but writing a bunch of slosh. Granted, in the work book the author says that’s OK. But I’d rather write lyrically. Ha! I’ve also noticed that as soon as I get a page or two written my kids wake up and demand breakfast, so I don’t finish the 3rd and final page. Seriously – do you think the Artist police will come after me??

2. I love my “artist’s dates.” I just finished my knitting class – which I loved. I wish I had a picture of my finished project, but, guess what, it’s not finished! I’m working on a scarf, so my goal is the first frost – and in the South, that could be November. My problem is I’m still such a novice that if I drop a stitch or mess up, I don’t know how to fix it without going back and starting from scratch. Maybe my goal should be November 2010? Here is what it should look like – hopefully!

3. The daily tasks have been very thought provoking. Some of them have been: List 20 things you enjoy doing; List 5 imaginary lives you wish you could lead; Write about a success you have had in your life and how did it make you feel? I’ve enjoyed digging deeper into my gray matter to find out what makes me tick. Sometimes it’s painful and I’d rather shut the cover of my workbook and walk away. But mostly, it’s reminded me that even in middle age I can still have dreams and achievements – and hopefully, dreams that come true!

I thought I would share today’s task – List 10 changes you’d like to make for yourself (for example: paint my kitchen, buy an extra pair of sheets, go to China…):

Here is what I came up with:

I would like to lose 15 lbs because I know I would feel better.
I would like to landscape the backyard.
I would like to have peaceful feelings.
I would like to vacation in Nova Scotia.
I would like to play tennis.
I would like to ice skate
I would like to paint – even if it’s a paint by number set.
I would like to live overseas.
I would like to visit Ireland and Scotland.
I would like to be a better mother.

The author says, “pay attention to our current lives, a small shift like a newly painted kitchen can yield a luxuriously large sense of self care.”

Do you have an “I would like to ______" list?

This week I think I’ve regressed from being Van-Gette – maybe I’m more abstract, like Picasso!