Friday, July 29, 2011

Peace Like a River

Peace Like a River *****
by Leif Enger
Book type: Fiction, Drama
Summary: A richly evocative novel, narrated by an asthmatic 11-year-old named Reuben Land. This is the story of Reuben's unusual family and their journey across the frozen Badlands of the Dakotas in search of his fugitive older brother. Charged with the murder of two locals who terrorized their family, Davy has fled, understanding that the scales of justice will not weigh in his favor. But Reuben, his father, Jeremiah -- a man of faith so deep he has been known to produce miracles -- and Reuben's little sister, Swede, follow closely behind the fleeing Davy.
Affecting and dynamic, Peace Like a River is at once a tragedy, a romance, and an unflagging exploration into the spirituality and magic possible in the everyday world, and in that of the world awaiting us on the other side of life. In Enger's superb debut effort, we witness a wondrous celebration of family, faith, and spirit, the likes of which we haven't seen in a long, long time -- and the birth of a classic work of literature.
summary found on goodreads
My Review: This book is FABULOUS. It is superbly written. It is a wonderful story of faith and love. I like Reuben, Swede, and their dad. All are wonderfully developed, dynamic characters. This book is just amazing. I can't even describe how much I enjoyed this book. So good. Probably the best book I've read in a VERY long time. Amazing.

Thank Goodness for OTHER Creative People

For our relief society activity tonight we made little plaques displaying our ward theme of the month: Family prayer. So I decided to mix a few of the different shades of green to get a pretty color, paint my block of wood, sand it down to give it a slightly antique look, and then put vinyl letters on it. I think it turned out pretty good!

The Crystal Cave

The Crystal Cave ***
by Mary Stewart
Book Type: Fantasy
Summary: Mary Stewart tells the Arthurian legend in her own way, bringing to life one of the world's greatest legends and mysteries, shedding new light on the turbulence and mystery of fifth-century Britain. This story is about Merlin in his early years.
summary found on goodreads
My Review: Merlin is an interesting character and the Arthurian legend is fascinating.... But the story is a little slow for my taste. Full of a lot more detail than I like. The action is good when it's there, but there isn't a ton of it in the story. I don't think I'll end up reading any more of the books in her series... But this first book was decent.



Thursday, July 28, 2011

Best Books 2010

I decided the other day that I am going to make a list of my favorite books that I've read throughout the year, each year. I would highly suggest these books to almost anyone. This would be the book list I would have suggested last year. Enjoy! :)


The Kite Runner *****
Book Type:Drama
Summary:The Kite Runner tells the story of Amir, a young boy from Kabul, who befriends Hassan, the son of his father's Hazara servant. The story is set against a backdrop of tumultuous events, from the fall of Afghanistan's monarchy through the Soviet invasion, the mass exodus of refugees to Pakistan and the United States, and the rise of the Taliban regime.
summary found on wikipedia



Sarah's Key *****
Book Type: Drama
Summary: Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year-old girl, is brutally arrested with her family by the French police in the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup, but not before she locks her younger brother in a cupboard in the family's apartment, thinking that she will be back within a few hours.
Paris, May 2002: On Vel’ d’Hiv’s 60th anniversary, journalist Julia Jarmond is asked to write an article about this black day in France's past. Through her contemporary investigation, she stumbles onto a trail of long-hidden family secrets that connect her to Sarah. Julia finds herself compelled to retrace the girl's ordeal, from that terrible term in the Vel d'Hiv', to the camps, and beyond. As she probes into Sarah's past, she begins to question her own place in France, and to reevaluate her marriage and her life.
summary found on goodreads

To Kill a Mockingbird *****
Book Type: Southern Drama
Summary: "Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."
A lawyer's advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee's classic novel; a black man charged with the rape of a white girl. Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with rich humor and unswerving honesty the irrationality of adult attitudes toward race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s. The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence, and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina and quiet heroism of one man's struggle for justice; but the weight of history will only tolerate so much.
summary found on goodreads

The Glass Castle *****
Book Type: Memoir
Summary: Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation. Rex and Rose Mary Walls had four children. In the beginning, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. Rex was a charismatic, brilliant man who, when sober, captured his children's imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and above all, how to embrace life fearlessly. Rose Mary, who painted and wrote and couldn't stand the responsibility of providing for her family, called herself an "excitement addict." Cooking a meal that would be consumed in fifteen minutes had no appeal when she could make a painting that might last forever.
Later, when the money ran out, or the romance of the wandering life faded, the Walls retreated to the dismal West Virginia mining town -- and the family -- Rex Walls had done everything he could to escape. He drank. He stole the grocery money and disappeared for days. As the dysfunction of the family escalated, Jeannette and her brother and sisters had to fend for themselves, supporting one another as they weathered their parents' betrayals and, finally, found the resources and will to leave home.
What is so astonishing about Jeannette Walls is not just that she had the guts and tenacity and intelligence to get out, but that she describes her parents with such deep affection and generosity. Hers is a story of triumph against all odds, but also a tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that despite its profound flaws gave her the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms.
summary found on goodreads

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society ****1/2
Book Type: Historical Fiction
Summary: January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….
As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.
Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.
summary found on goodreads

The Book Thief  *****
Book Type: Historical Fiction
Summary: It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .
Narrated by Death, Markus Zusak's groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a young foster girl living outside of Munich in Nazi Germany. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she discovers something she can't resist- books. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever they are to be found.
With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, Liesel learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids, as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.
summary found on goodreads

Boys Life*****
Book Type: Adventure, Drama
Summary:
Zephyr, Alabama, is an idyllic hometown for eleven-year-old Cory Mackenson -- a place where monsters swim the river deep and friends are forever. Then, one cold spring morning, Cory and his father witness a car plunge into a lake -- and a desperate rescue attempt brings his father face-to-face with a terrible vision of death that will haunt him forever.
As Cory struggles to understand his father's pain, his eyes are slowly opened to the forces of good and evil that are manifested in Zephyr. From an ancient, mystical woman who can hear the dead and bewitch the living, to a violent clan of moonshiners, Cory must confront the secrets that hide in the shadows of his hometown -- for his father's sanity and his own life hang in the balance.
summary found on goodreads

Unwind ****1/2
Book Type: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Distopic Society
Summary: The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child "unwound," whereby all of the child's organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn't technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and to survive.
summary found on goodreads


Boneshaker ****1/2
Book Type: Steampunk, Adventure, Zombie
Summary: Boneshaker derives its title from the Bone-Shaking Drill Engine, a device designed to give Russian prospectors a leg up in the race for Klondike gold. Unfortunately, there was one hitch: On its trial run, the Boneshaker went haywire and, long story short, turned much of Seattle into a city of the dead. Now, 16 years later, a teenage boy decides to find out what is behind that mysterious wall. Can his mother save him in time? Zombie lit of the first order.
summary found on goodreads


The Princess Bride ****1/2 
Book Type: Comedy, Romance, Fantasy
Summary: Much admired by academics, the "Classic Tale" nonetheless obscured what Mr. Goldman feels is a story that has everything: "Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Poison. True love. Hate. Revenge. Giants. Hunters. Bad men. Good men. Beautifulest ladies. Snakes. Spiders. Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passion. Miracles."
Goldman frames the fairy tale with an "autobiographical" story: his father, who came from Florin, abridged the book as he read it to his son. Now, Goldman is publishing an abridged version, interspersed with comments on the parts he cut out.
Is The Princess Bride a critique of classics like Ivanhoe and The Three Musketeers, that smother a ripping yarn under elaborate prose? A wry look at the differences between fairy tales and real life? Or simply a funny, frenetic adventure?


Goose Girl ****1/2
Book Type: Fantasy, Fairy Tale
Summary: This story is loosely based on the Brother's Grimm Fairy Tale of the same name. The story is about Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree, who spends the first years of her life under her aunt's guidance learning to communicate with animals. As she grows up Ani develops the skills of animal speech, but is never comfortable speaking with people, so when her silver-tongued lady-in-waiting leads a mutiny during Ani's journey to be married in a foreign land, Ani is helpless and cannot persuade anyone to assist her. Becoming a goose girl for the king, Ani eventually uses her own special, nearly magical powers to find her way to her true destiny. Shannon Hale has woven an incredible, original and magical tale of a girl who must find her own unusual talents before she can become queen of the people she has made her own.
summary found on goodreads

Percy Jackson and the Olympians ****1/2
Book Type: Fantasy, Adventure, Y/A Series
Summary: The protagonist of the series is Percy Jackson, who discovers that he is the son of Poseidon, Greek god of the sea. He learns that the legendary beings of Greek mythology still exist, and have always existed, including monsters, cyclopes, empousi, Titans, and the Greek gods, who dwell on Olympus; now situated on the mythical 600th floor of the Empire State Building in New York, New York. Percy is frequently attacked by monsters because he is a child of one of the "Big Three" or the three most powerful Greek gods: Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades. The big three made a pact after World War II not to have any more children because they were too powerful and unpredictable. The books are filled with the suspense of solving the Oracle's mysteries and quests that start the conflict or hero quest particular to each book. Interestingly, the main character gets involved with all the prophecies whether they pertain directly to him or not. Percy meets many other young demigods, both friendly and hostile, who are also in the process of discovering their ancestry and powers.
summary found on wikipedia

The Chronicles of Narnia ****
Book Type: Fantasy
Summary: Set in the fictional realm of Narnia, a place where animals talk, magic is common, and good battles evil, the series narrates the adventures of various children who play central roles in the unfolding history of that world. With the exception of The Horse and His Boy, the protagonists are all children from the real world magically transported to Narnia, where they are called upon by the lion Aslan to protect Narnia from evil and restore the throne to its rightful line. The books cover the entire history of Narnia, from its creation in The Magician's Nephew, to its eventual destruction in The Last Battle.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Yes. I DID Make This!

One of the sister's in our ward is incredibly talented at sewing, she makes almost every one of the beautiful dresses that she wears to church on Sunday. She is amazing! So this last week she offered to teach the sisters in the ward how to make our own dresses or skirts without using a pattern. So I decided how I wanted to make my skirt and we just started making it. No pattern, no plan... We just designed it as we went and it turned out SO cute. I love it. I want to make more now that I see they can turn out adorable! :)
We pleated the top and sewed in an under layer so it's not see-through. It really was easy to make - except the zipper... But I let Paulina do that! It would be too complicated to explain it on here... But let's see what I can do... first we measured how big it needed to be to fit me comfortably... Using a skirt that fir comfortably to determine sizing. Then we decided how many pleats I wanted and measured the space in between to make them evenly spaced. Then I decided how wide I wanted the bottom and cut out the fabric and sewed everything together. Yay!

The Hourglass Door Trilogy

The Hourglass Door ****
by Lisa Mangum
Book Type: YA, Fantasy, Romance 
Summary:  His past. Her future. Can love bring them together in time?
Abby's senior year of high school is textbook perfect: She has a handsome and attentive boyfriend, good friends, good grades, and plans to attend college next year. But when she meets Dante Alexander, a foreign-exchange student from Italy, her life suddenly takes a different turn. He's mysterious, and interesting, and unlike anyone she's ever met before. Abby can't deny the growing attraction she feels for him. Nor can she deny the unusual things that seem to happen when Dante is around. Time behaves differently when they are together - traveling too fast or too slow or sometimes seeming to stop altogether. When the band Zero Hour performs at the local hangout, Abby realizes that there's something dangerous about the lead singer, Zo, and his band mates, Tony and V. Oddly, the three of them are also from Italy and have a strange relationship to Dante. They also hold a bizarre influence over their audience when performing. And Abby's best friend, Valerie, is caught in their snare. Dante tells Abby the truth of his past: he once worked for Leonardo Da Vinci, helping to design and build a time machine. When Dante was falsely implicated as a traitor to his country, he was sent through the machine more than five hundred years into the future as punishment. As the past and the present collide, Abby learns that she holds a special power over the flow of time itself. She and Dante must stop Zo from opening the time machine's door and endangering everyone's future. More than one life is at stake and Abby's choice could change everything.
summary found on goodreads
My Review:  Interesting. The concept of time traveling and the effects on the traveler are very interesting in this book. The characters struggle with what is right and what is wrong. What is easy and what is hard. I thought this book was unique (I don't know if it really is or if I have just never read a book like it...) But the concept of time travel was new and interesting, I liked the characters, I liked the internal struggles... I really liked that the two boys in story aren't perfect and they are complete opposites of each other. You don't wonder which boy is better for Abby or which one she'll pick, you know! And that's kind of fun. :) Not much dating drama! Just a bit at the beginning of the story. Overall I really enjoyed this book and can't wait to see how the story ends!

The Golden Spiral ****
by Lisa Mangum
*Book 2 in series, read The Hourglass Door, before this review!
Book Type: YA, Fantasy, Romance  
Summary:  His eyes. His touch. His kiss. Dante was unlike anyone Abby had ever met. Now he’s gone, and Abby will do anything to get him back . . .
The hourglass door has closed behind Dante, sending him back in time to hunt down Zo, Tony, and V. Abby knows that Dante, as a Master of Time, is the only one who can stop them from destroying time itself. She also knows that he will need her help. But almost immediately, things start to change, and Abby’s worst fears are realized when Zo begins targeting her past specifically.
As Abby’s world fractures around her, she must face a terrible truth: either Dante didn’t make it through the door, or he is lost forever. So with Dante’s blueprints in hand, she begins construction on a new door, a new time machine that will either save Dante—or doom him.
With each new change that ripples into her present, Abby s life continues to spiral out of control. Her relationships with Jason, Natalie, and even her family are threatened to the breaking point—and beyond. Zo’s power is greater than Abby ever imagined, but as she struggles to free Dante, she receives help from an unexpected—and unlikely—ally.
summary found on goodreads
My Review:  I liked this one as much as the first. engaging, interesting, dramatic... It is very interesting to see the story develop and grow in this book. The main character is pushed to the breaking point when everyone and everything in her life is changed dramatically by Zo. He is trying to tear her down so that she will give in and help him. Abby is so brave and strong fighting against time itself as it constantly changes around her. I look forward to seeing how Abby is able to save the world! Which I'm sure she will! :) And I'm curious to find out if she will be able to get back everything that Zo has destroyed.

The Forgotten Locket *** 1/2
by Lisa Mangum
Book Type: YA, Fantasy, Romance
Summary: The future is uncertain. The battle to control the past has begun. The final book in the riveting Hourglass Door trilogy begins when Abby steps through the black door, and she doesn't dare look back. Though it means leaving Dante—wounded, bleeding, and possibly blind—she knows it is the only way to save her family and stop Zo from manipulating the river of time and throwing the future into chaos. In the end, Abby must face a final confrontation that will take her to the very origins of the hourglass door. 
summary found on goodreads
My Review: The series ended happily ever after. Of COURSE it did! All young adult novels do! But the story was fairly exciting. There was more action than the first two. Just as much drama... Too much for my taste. Why are there so many young adult novels that have two or more guys in love with the same girl? I don't understand why that is! Anyway, Abby is able to go into the past and fix everything that Zo did. She lets Dante see her and his knees go weak, Dante's brother Orlando falls in love with Abby because she is SO incredible! Zo is destroyed and everything is better. The end of the world is right there within their grasp, but Abby saves the day! As you know she will. I finished the story, but barely. The first two books were better than this one. The ending was a little too sappy. The drama a little too... well, dramatic. But the suspense was good. So, if you're looking for a love story full of drama and excitement, you'll like this book!

Just because it's healthy doesn't mean it can't be delicious!

Alpine Potato-Vegetable Soup
Ingredients:
  • 1 clove garlic, minced 
  • 1 large onion, chopped 
  • 1 T. butter 
  • 5 cups chicken broth 
  • 3 potatoes, peeled and cubed 
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced 
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, chopped 
  • 1 tsp. dried dill 
  • 2 tsp. dried parsley 
  • 1 tsp. salt (if needed) 
  • ½ tsp. pepper 
  • Thickener: 2T. cornstarch mixed with 3 T. water 
  • Optional: 1 can chicken, croutons
Directions:
  1. In a large pan, sauté the garlic and the onion in the butter till onion is translucent. Add the broth, potatoes, carrots, celery and zucchini to pan. Bring to a boil, simmer for 15-20 min. or till potatoes are just tender.
  2. Add dill, parsley, salt, pepper and thickener. Simmer till slightly thickened. 
  3. Add chicken if desired. Yummy served with croutons on top. 

Harry Potter 7.2

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2  ****
Trailers
Wow, I have such mixed feelings about this film. It is really hard for me to even give it a rating. The last Harry Potter movie... The last Harry Potter anything! I hate that it's all over. I don't even know what to do with myself now that it is! Buh. Anyway, I thought that this movie was well done. Parts of it were FANTASTIC, other parts were just okay, and there was maybe one scene that I didn't really like. Overall, I would say that it was a great ending to the most incredible experience... J.K. Rowling is a complete genius! As well done as this movie was, I think I liked the first half better. I felt that the end scene with Voldemort and the snake was drawn out and anti-climatic. Also they didn't fight in front of everyone so no one was there to see why or how Harry won the battle. What Harry did with the Elder wand was lame... You didn't really feel emotional when Fred died because it was more of a side-note, the main characters weren't even there when he died. BUT outside of that, Gringotts was freaking awesome, Snape's memories were emotional and spot-on, Bellatrix was hilarious when she was Hermione, and the battle scenes were filmed really well. In the end I would say the pros outweighed the cons. I will still want to own the movie and will probably watch it several times right after I get it. But, don't go in expecting the perfect ending. Expect a great ending instead and I don't think you'll be disappointed. :)

The Underland Chronicles

The Underland Chronicles  ****
by Suzanne Collins
*This review has spoilers!! If you're interested in learning more about the series then check out my review of book one*
Book type: Children, Fantasy 
Series Summary: This series is written from the perspective of Gregor, an 11 year-old boy from New York City. One day he is doing laundry in his apartment complex's laundry facility when his 2 year-old sister falls through a grate in the wall. He follows after her, falling for miles under the earth. He discovers a race of pale skinned and purple eyed people, giant creatures including: rats intent on killing, spiders, cockroaches, ants, mice, and bats. Gregor discovers that the humans believe him to be the "overlander" of their prophecies known as "the warrior". Gregor has no desire to run around fulfilling the "underlanders" prophecies until he discovers that his father, who disappeared without an explanation 2 1/2 years before, is in the underland. He fell through the same grate as Gregor and has been trapped with the rats for most of his time underground. Gregor agrees to a quest in order to save his father. Once he fulfills the first prophecy the underlanders are convinced he is "the warrior" and must fulfill all of the other prophecies that mention his involvement and is therefore brought back to the underland over and over again. Gregor discovers that he is what is called a "rager", which basically means he is a natural born fighter and killer. He goes into a state of mind that allows him to see the weak-points in his opponent. So at 12-years-old Gregor has fought giant rats, discovered a cure for a plague, and battled to the death many times. When his time as the warrior is over, will Gregor die? Or will he live on? Will he choose the stay in the underland or return to the overland? To know what happens to Gregor and his family you will have to read the whole series! It is well worth your time!
My Review: Can I just say that I LOVE Suzanne Collins? She is brilliant! I could NOT put down the Hunger Games and this book was fantastic! It is technically written for children, but it had a lot more action and war/killing than I would have expected. However, I thought the main character was well rounded and easy to relate with. The plot and events are exciting and very enjoyable. Who knew it would be fun to read about giant rats and ::gasp:: spiders! But I thought this story was wonderfully written and thoroughly enjoyable! The characters and story are well developed and unique, making the series very easy to read. In the end I enjoyed this entire series. Each book had a similar plot in the fact that Gregor ends up in the underland fighting for his life and the lives of those he loves. But, the battles fought and the cause of his returns are different enough that the series is enjoyable all the way through. The one thing that annoyed me about this series is how Gregor always brings his two-year-old sister with him on his journeys. His sister is TWO. She should not be going on deadly adventures with her 11-year-old brother! It is annoying to me. But, other than that one detail, I really enjoyed each book. The stories were exciting, the characters were very diverse creating a beautiful and terrifying world. I was never bored with these books. If you are looking for a fun summer read full of lots of action that you can get though quickly, definitely pick up this series! :)

Center Street Grill

Center Street Grill
location: Logan, UT
Russ and I have been trying to go to all the unique restaurants here in Logan before we move, so of course Center Street Grill was on our list. It is a burger place mostly but they have a salad bar and nacho bar... We just got a couple burgers and a salad. Their burgers were about 7-10 bucks each I believe, so kinda pricey. And they really weren't worth that much money. Russell got the BBQ Bacon Ranch Burger, it was pretty good but it had a LOT of sauce on it. I got the Mushroom Swiss burger and it had NO sauce on it, so it was totally bland. The salad bar was pretty good... And the nacho bar was only about 5 bucks, so that might be worth it... But I don't think I would suggest this restaurant to anyone... Unless you want to spend a lot of money on an okay burger... :)

Monday, July 18, 2011

I told you I LOVE HARRY POTTER

In honor of the most awesome event of seeing the EPIC finale of Harry Potter, we decided to have a "Harry Potter feast". It did not even begin to compare to my sister-in-laws... She even sent owls to invite people! And they dressed in full costume... But hey, we did what we could with the time we had! :)
Fleur's Cream of Brie Soup
Source: MuggleNet, heck yes! :)
Ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 small onion, diced finely
  • 2-3 stalks celery, diced finely
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 12 oz. (3/4 lb.) of brie cheese with the rind, cubed. (Apparently Brie is super duper expensive so bear that in mind if you decide to make this dish!)
  • 1/2 cup whole milk or half-and-half
  • salt and pepper
 Directions:
  1. Melt the butter over medium heat in a large sauce pot. 
  2. Add the onions and celery and sweat the onions (onions become translucent). 
  3. Whisk in flour while continuously stirring, cook for 3 minutes. 
  4. Whisk in chicken stock gradually. Let soup simmer for 10-15 minutes until celery is tender. 
  5. Gently stir in brie cheese and allow it to melt for around 5 minutes. 
  6. Pour soup into a blender (fill only to half full at a time). Hold top down with pot holder as soup is hot. Puree until smooth and pour into a clean pot. 
  7. Heat the soup to almost simmering on medium-low heat. 
  8. Stir in the milk or half-and-half. 
  9. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

English Toasties
Source: Our own ingenuity
Ingredients:
  • Bread, sliced
  • Mayo
  • Cheese
  • tomato, thinly sliced
  • onion, thinly sliced
  • sprinkle of garlic powder 
  • salt and pepper to taste
Directions:
  1. Spread a light layer of mayo on the bread. Place onion and tomato on bread, sprinkle with seasoning's, and add a layer of cheese on top.
  2. Put under broiler until cheese is melted.
**Note: My family went to England and we basically became toastie connoissuer's...mainly because we didn't like any other food we tried! They put all kinds of stuff on their toasties! It is whatever sounds good to you. Meat, different cheeses, different veggies, really whatever! This is just what we made. And it's delish. :) Enjoy!

    Pumpkin Juice
    Source:  MuggleNet so it is legit!
    Ingredients:
    • 2 cups of pumpkin, chopped up into chunks (This is almost impossible to find outside of the months of October and November!! We replaced it with butternut squash and it was still good)
    • 2 cups of apple juice
    • ½ cup of pineapple juice
    • 1 teaspoon of honey (more or less to your liking
    • Cinnamon 
    • Ginger 
    • Nutmeg
    • Allspice
     Directions:
    1. Juice the pumpkin pieces by squeezing through a cheesecloth or using a juicer if you have one.
    2.  Pour the pumpkin juice, apple juice and pineapple juice into a blender. 
    3. Add the honey (we recommend you start with 1 teaspoon, as you can add some later!) to the juices and blend thoroughly. 
    4. Add your spices (to taste). This might take some experimentation to get right. 
    5. Chill your pumpkin juice or serve iced and enjoy! 

    ButterBeer
    Source: MuggleNet of course!:)
    Ingredients:
    • 1 cup (8 oz) club soda or cream soda
    • ½ cup (4 oz) butterscotch syrup (ice cream topping)
    • ½ tablespoon butter
    Topping
    • 1/2 cup heavy cream
    • 2 Tbs powdered sugar
    Directions:
    1. Measure butterscotch and butter into a 2 cup (16 oz) glass. Microwave on high for 1 to 1½ minutes, or until syrup is bubbly and butter is completely incorporated.
    2.  Stir and cool for 30 seconds, then slowly mix in club soda. Mixture will fizz quite a bit. 
    3. Serve in two coffee mugs or small glasses; a perfectly warm Hogwarts treat for two!
    4. Pour heavy whipping cream into mixing bowl.
      Add powdered sugar and whisk briskly (you want consistency to be thickened slightly but still looses). It should act like a foam. Put on top of butterbeer as a foamy topping! 

      In Honor of My Time in India...

      Chicken Tikka Masala
      Ingredients:
      • 2 tablespoons butter
      • 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
      • 1 medium red onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
      • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
      • 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
      • 1/3 cup heavy cream
      • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
      • 1/2 teaspoon salt
      • Juice of one lime
      • 1/2 tsp garlic and ginger stir fry
      • 1-3 Serrano peppers (1=mild, 2=medium, 3=hot)
      • 2 tsp paprika
      • 1 tsp minced garlic
      • 1 tsp garam masala
      • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
      • 1/4-1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (0=mild, 1/4=medium, 1/2=hot)
      Directions:
      1. Melt butter in large nonstick skillet on medium heat. Add chicken, onion, serrano pepper, garlic and ginger stir fry, lime and lemon juice; cook and stir 10 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink. Add all of the Spices except Red Pepper; cook and stir 1 minute. 
      2. Stir in tomatoes until well mixed. Stir cream into cornstarch and salt until smooth. Gradually stir into skillet. Stir in Red Pepper to taste. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; stirring frequently, simmer 5 minutes or until slightly thickened.
      3. Serve with cooked rice or naan, if desired.
      This recipe is based on the McCormic "recipe inspirations" with a few additions from my little brother, Boomer, the white Indian! If you want a shortcut just buy the McCormic Chicken Tikka Masala recipe inspirations - NOT to be confused with Chicken Marsala!

      Naan
      Ingredients:
      • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast, or 2 1/4 tsp yeast
      • 1 cup warm water
      • 1/4 cup white sugar
      • 3 tablespoons milk
      • 1 egg, beaten
      • 2 teaspoons salt
      • 4 1/2 cups bread flour
      • 2 teaspoons minced garlic (optional)
      • 1/4 cup butter, melted
      • garlic powder (optional)
      Directions:
      1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand about 10 minutes, until frothy. Stir in sugar, milk, egg, salt, and enough flour to make a soft dough. Knead for 6 to 8 minutes on a lightly floured surface, or until smooth. Place dough in a well oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and set aside to rise. Let it rise 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in volume.
      2. Punch down dough, and knead in garlic. Pinch off small handfuls of dough about the size of a golf ball. Roll into balls, and place on a tray. Cover with a towel, and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
      3. During the second rising, preheat grill to high heat.
      4. At grill side, roll one ball of dough out into a thin circle. Lightly oil grill. Place dough on grill, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until puffy and lightly browned. Brush uncooked side with butter, sprinkle with garlic powder, and turn over. Brush cooked side with butter, and cook until browned, another 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from grill, and continue the process until all the naan has been prepared. 
      We found this recipe here!
      And, for all of you who decide to try this quite delectable dish! This is the PROPER way to eat Indian food! :) Mix the rice and sauce, wrap up in naan and enjoy! NO FORKS ALLOWED :)
      p.s. ignore how horrible I look! Russ finished eating before I could take a pic!

       

      Wednesday, July 13, 2011

      Want the perfect meal for a camping trip?

      Dutch Oven Chicken Parm
      Ingredients:
      • 1 (16 ounce) package uncooked rotini pasta
      • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
      • 2 cups vegetable oil for frying
      • 2 cups flour
      • 4 eggs, beaten
      • 2 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs
      • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
      • 1 (16 ounce) package shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
      • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
      • 2 (32 ounce) jars marinara sauce
      • Water
      • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
      • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
      • Dutch oven briquettes
      Directions:
      1. Line the Dutch Oven with tin foil.  Remove the lining, you will replace this after you fry the chicken.
      2. Heat oil in the Dutch Oven on a camp stove to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
      3. Place the flour, egg, and bread crumbs in 3 separate bowls. Mix the garlic powder into the bread crumbs. Working in batches, coat the chicken breast in the flour, then dip them in the egg, and finally coat with the bread crumbs. Carefully fry the coated chicken in the hot oil in small batches until golden brown and no longer pink in the center, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain the fried chicken over paper towels.
      4. Put the lining back in the Dutch Oven.
      5. Combine the pasta, fried chicken, 1/2 package of mozzarella cheese, and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese in the Dutch Oven. Stir in the marinara sauce. Pour the vinegar into the empty marinara sauce jar; cover and shake the jar, and empty the contents into the bowl of pasta. Stir to combine.  Add 1 - 2 cans of water to the mixture, until there is enough for the pasta to cook through, mix well.
      6. Cook with 8-10 briquettes on the bottom and 12 - 14 (about 350 degrees F) on top in the Dutch Oven for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 package of mozzarella cheese and 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese. Return the lid, and continue baking until the cheese has melted, about 10 - 20 minutes. Remove from the briquettes, and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving. Serve hot.

      Russ originally found this recipe here and tweaked it a bit! SO yummy :)

      Tuesday, July 12, 2011

      Mmmm Garlic And Potatoes, Can Life Be Better?

      Cottage Fried Potatoes
       Ingredients:
      • 2 cloves garlic
      • 3 Tbs butter
      • 3 medium potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
      • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
      • 1/4 tsp. salt
      • 1/8 tsp pepper
      Directions:
      1. In a large skillet cook and stir garlic in hot butter over medium heat for 15 seconds
      2. Layer potato and onion in skillet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
      3. Cook, covered, for 8 minutes, turning occasionally.
      4. Uncover; cook for 12 to 15 minutes more or until potatoes are tender and light brown, turning occasionally.
      You can find this recipe in Better Homes and Gardens NEW Cook Book: Celebrating the Promise by Meredith Books.

      Wings Books

      Wings ***1/2
      by Aprilynne Pike
      Book type: YA, Fantasy, Romance
      Summary: This book is about a young girl, Laurel, who suddenly grows a flower on her back. This event leads to a journey of self-discovery, including finding out that she is actually a faery and not human at all! Laurel has two boys enter her life around the same time she discovers the winglike flower petals growing out of her back.  David is a human who is sweet, logical, smart, reliable, and handsome. Tamani is a faery and gorgeous, fiery, confident, brave, and yet incredibly vulnerable. You wonder who Laurel is going to fall in love with and what life she will choose to live. As she struggles with the decisions laid before her she finds danger lurking all too close.

      In this extraordinary tale of magic and intrigue, romance and danger, everything you thought you knew about faeries will be changed forever.
      My Review: This book is very cleverly written, simple but engaging.  You feel for the character as she struggles with the truth of who she is and what that means about her life and future. It is incredibly fun to follow Laurel along as she tries to understand who she truly is and what she is expected to do now that she has discovered she is a faery. Because of who she is her family is in danger and she must protect them from the world she just barely discovered she is a part of. I would highly suggest this novel to those looking for a quick, fun, summer read full of love and magic.

      Spells ***
      by Aprilynne Pike
      Book type: YA, Fantasy, Romance 
      Summary: Six months have passed since Laurel saved the gateway to the faerie realm of Avalon. Now she must spend her summer there, honing her skills as a Fall faerie. But her human family and friends are still in mortal danger--and the gateway to Avalon is more compromised than ever.
      When it comes time to protect those she loves, will she depend on David, her human boyfriend, for help? Or will she turn to Tamani, the electrifying faerie with whom her connection is undeniable?

      summary found on goodreads
      My Review: I thought the first book in this series was creative, fun, beautiful, simple. It was about self-discovery, accepting who you are, trust, friendship, love, danger, etc. I came into this book with the expectation of a little more action because the characters were developed in the first book and the story was already set in place. However, there was not nearly as much action as I would have liked. There was more boy drama, which really? Why doesn't Laurel just pick a boy and stick with him, she just toys with the two of them throughout the book. I like both of the characters so I don't really care who she picks, so long as she picks one! Which in a way is a flaw of the book - I don't have strong feelings toward either of the boys. She tried to make them both perfect in different ways to appeal to different audiences, but no one is as good as her boyfriends! Anyway, I thought the story was fun and I want to know where the author is going with it... But I'm not DYING to read the finale.

      Illusions ***
      by Aprilynne Pike
      Book type: YA, Fantasy, Romance
      Summary: Laurel hasn't seen Tamani since she begged him to let her go last year. Though her heart still aches, Laurel is confident that David was the right choice.
      But just as life is returning to normal, Laurel discovers that a hidden enemy lies in wait. Once again, Laurel must turn to Tamani to protect and guide her, for the danger that now threatens Avalon is one that no faerie thought would ever be possible. And for the first time, Laurel cannot be sure that her side will prevail.

      summary found on goodreads
      My Review: This book is just like the second one... Dragging out the drama among other things... This girl seriously needs to just pick a boyfriend and stick with them. She is constantly going back and forth never really deciding who she wants to be with. Drama, drama, drama... And really not much action in this story. A little bit at one point in time, but not much at all. Kind of lame. But I have a hard time getting into a book unless somebody dies, hah! So yeah, it was too slow and dramatic for me. I really hope that the last book is better, because I've read enough that I want closure, but not enough to really want to finish it! Basically the bad guy is right under their nose the entire book and you can't figure out why THEY can't figure it out! It's soo obvious! Okay. Anyway, I wouldn't read this series unless you're big into dramatic high school love triangles... Yup.

      Destined **1/2
      by Aprilynne Pike
      Book Type: YA, Fantasy, Romance
      Summary: Laurel now knows the truth: Yuki is a rare Winter faerie, the most powerful—and deadly—of all, and Klea plans to use her to help conquer and destroy Avalon. But Klea's reach extends far beyond one wild Winter faerie. With Tamani, David, and Chelsea by her side, Laurel prepares to face what may be Avalon's final days, in the stunning conclusion to the Wings series.
      summary found on goodreads
      My Review: Remember how I told you I have a problem? That I can't stop reading a series once I've started it? Yeah. The first book in this series was fun., the second was kind of annoying, the third was even worse, and this one was terrible! The ending was horrific! I am so grateful that this series is OVER. I have no further comments on this book. Don't read it. Read the first book if you feel so inclined, but STOP early. These books are not worth finishing. AT ALL.
      If you ever try one of our recipes we would love to hear your feedback! Let us know if you like them or if you make any changes! We love comments! :)

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