Friday, March 15, 2013

Warm Fuzzies

When I was a wee third grader in California, we each got a poster of "warm fuzzies" made for us by our classmates.  Everyone got a little square of paper and you would write a compliment on it about whoever the lucky soul was that week.  I still have my poster, with all kinds of nice things on it about "J.A.C." (my initials--there was another Julie in the class).  As a sidenote, JAC never really caught on.  JAG probably won't either.

Anyhoo, I am not going to either collect or give out compliments here, but I AM going to post a bunch of things that I like.  Sometimes one wants to look at their blog and see a bunch of nice things.  So here are some nice things:
Is there anything more satisfying?

Ah, England.  We will meet again!

 I misssssssss youuuuuuuuu.

 Hee hee.

 Hee hee hee.

This should do, until I can get a bunch of third graders to make me another poster.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Dietary Compendium

And now, in a break from books and the Speck--food!  If there's one thing I like, it's food.  (But really, that is a ridiculous thing to say because I like many things and 99% of people like food.)

Anyway, lately we have been engaged in sourcing our dinners from what we already have in an effort to clear out the freezer and some cupboard space.  But before that, we were eating things like these:

Rustic Crusty Bread
I don't make bread very often--I just don't have time--but this recipe is so simple and doesn't require too much active involvement on my part.  Also, it is really good and perfect for open-faced grilled cheese sandwiches, a term I just made up.  It is also really good for...

...Tuna Melts and Tomato Soup 
Growing up, my Mama would make what we called "tuna toasties"--bread topped with tuna and slices of cheese then broiled until it's all crispy and melty.  These tuna melts are basically the same, with the addition of tomato slices.  And if there's one thing I like, it's tomato slices.

As for the soup, I think I mentioned last time that I've been hunting for the perfect tomato soup recipe, and this is definitely the winner thus far.  Simple, tomato-y.  All it needs is some basil...

Speedy Vegetarian Cheese Tortellini Soup
I love soup!  I especially love easy soup.  This is one of those soups.  I highly recommend adding some zucchini, and I also added more celery and carrots (along with more broth).  It's kind of a basic recipe as is, but certainly not a bad one.

Quick Clam Chowder 
I am always on the lookout for a great clam chowder recipe.  I like super thick clam chowders when someone else has made it, but I have a hard time adding all that cream myself.  So I liked that this recipe has SOME cream but it's a little lighter overall.  Still plenty of clams though!  You gots to have a lot of clams (I got half minced, half chopped, because I like to SEE my clams). 

French Bread Rolls
I actually made these twice, and they turned out very differently.  Both batches were good, but the second was infinitely better and there were two things I did differently--used bread flour and added a little bit more salt.  Oh, and even though I use instant yeast, I did let it sit in the warm water for a minute anyway.  I love rolls.  Rolls and soup!  Does it get better than that?

Strawberry Chocolate Chip Cookies
I made these cookies to bring to a work meeting, and let me tell you, it was hard to not eat them all beforehand.  They are so pretty, so soft, so tasty!  (And so easy!)

Chocolate Fudge Coconut Cake 
This cake looked pretty when it was done, but let me tell you, it was not the best cake-making experience I have had.  When the timer beeped, I went to do the toothpick test and they were not done.  Five minutes later, they were--but also all three layers had sunk miserably (solidarity among cakes?).  This is always depressing.  So to account for my sinkhole cakes, I had to make even more frosting and use even MORE butter, and I will not say how many sticks of butter went into this cake.  Ignorance is bliss.  Anyway, it was a very long, frustrating process and though it did look pretty and was well-received, it was hard for me to love it.  And that's the story of that cake.  

(Also, can I just say that I have no love for food blogs that go on and on about things entirely unrelated to the food they're posting about?  [Or really, go on and on about anything] Get to the point!)

For the Oscars this year, we had a food party.  And by "party" I mean I made a lot of food for the two of us to eat while we speed watched the Oscars.  It was not a particularly social party but it was...well-fed?  Here was our menu:

Killer Artichoke Bread
You cannot go wrong with anything that has this ingredient list. 

Hoagie Dip 
This makes SO MUCH.  We ate it as dip on two occasions and then still had so much left we used it to make open-faced grilled cheeses and also regular grilled cheeses.  So, be prepared.

Chicken Verde Wonton Tacos
Delicious little things.  Yep, that sums it up.

Tiny Pigs in Blankets (technical term) 
These hardly need any explanation: lil smokies + crescent/biscuit/breadstick dough + oven = these.  If there's one thing I love, it's pigs in blankets. 

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Life Lately, in Pictures... some words.

A crib!  In a box!  The best place for a crib to be!

 Browniesssssssss (husband made!).

 Our Speck stash!  Lest anyone think we are actually prepared.
(Yes, those are girl outfits...they are the product of my niece's prediction)

 These are my friends.

I...will maybe explain these later.

And here is a series of pictures that my Mama has been asking for:

 I'm just ready to burst...

 Awwww, a baby pillow!  Just what I always wanted!

 Okay, there's the real thing.  Oof!  I don't really feel big until I see pictures of myself...
 Then Drew made me take one of those sideways, tummy cradling pictures.  I felt kind of stupid but I guess I also felt obliging. 

(For anyone keeping score, I hit the 28 week mark today.  ...!!!!)

This is not a picture per se, but it has been going on lately, ever since I finally got the Hobbit soundtrack on my iPod last week.  I know--me, binging on a song?  Wacky.  It's grown on me so much and suits the movie so well.

(In case the video doesn't show up, you can go here to listen)

Ah ya ya ya!

Monday, March 04, 2013

Just Listen (Book Review)

Author: Sara Dessen
Year: 2006
Genre: Coming of age

Reading Level: Young Adult

Literary Awards: 
ALA Teens' Top Ten (2007), Iowa High School Book Award (2009), Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2011) 

Plot Summary: Annabel Greene is starting the new school year with no friends, now that she's been ostracized by her former BFF, Sophie, for something that happened at the end of the last school year (what could it be?!).  She spends her lunchtime eating alone, alongside the equally alone and music-obsessed Owen Armstrong.  Gradually the two become friends, and he might just be the catalyst Annabel needs to finally come clean about what ended her friendship with Sophie.

Red Flags: Language (mostly PG-13), some teenage drinking, a scene of attempted rape

My Rating:A-
Far and away, this is my favorite book so far this year.  I've never read Sara Dessen's books before, and while I can imagine these kinds of plots could get a bit old after reading too many of them, as a first timer I gobbled it up.  This was perfect for my little teen angst loving heart, but it was also well written so it wasn't a "I liked it but..." situation.  I just liked it.  

I liked the characters, I liked that they were all pretty normal and believable.  I liked Annabel's family dynamic and that her parents acted like parents.  I liked that the characters were relatable, even though I don't actually have any experiences in common with them.  I liked SO MUCH that Annabel's relationship with Owen developed naturally and gradually, instead of going from 0-60 in fifty pages.  There were no big make outs or awkward conversations about sex, but, without being spoilery, what there was was more satisfying than anything of that nature in the other books I've read so far this year.

I had two quibbles with this book.  1) I wish the language had been taken down a notch or two.  That's the one thing that would keep me from recommending it to actual teenagers (or, you know, anyone who doesn't like swearing in books).  2) Owen's music talk was a little annoying to me.  I mean, he's a teenager and teenagers tend to talk in superlatives, but I still rolled my eyes at him.  Maybe I'd feel differently if I were enlightened.