Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Book Review: The Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum by Kate Bernheimer

As a child I loved going to museum...heck I still do. I remember reading stories of children running away from home to live inside of museums and quite frankly I wanted to do that more than anything.

The Girl in the Castle inside the Museum is a simple children's book that is about a girl who lives inside a miniture castle that is on display inside a museum. During the day children press their faces up to the glass to try and catch a glimpse of the girl in the castle. But at night when the children have gone home the girl in the castle is lonely. She dreams people coming to visit her.

This book is very hard for me to rate. The story itself was pretty awful. It had the potential to be something special but in the end it was about 2 stars for me and my son. But what makes this book is the illustrations. Oh my god! I could spend all day looking at these fantastical illustrations. They tell the story better than the words themselves. So beautiful and so haunting I just want to immerse myself in the world Nicoletta Ceccoli has drawn. The drawings are 5star worthy. So I'll have to give a mixed star review. For the illustrations alone a solid 5 stars. For the actual written story a solid 2 stars.

Top Ten Tuesday

For the future Top Ten schedule & how to participate go HERE!
Ok so I'm doing my first Top Ten Tuesday. This week is all about top ten words/topics that will make me pick up or buy a book.

1. Isolation- I love stories where people are cut off from the rest of the world. IE plan crash on an island, stuck in a cabin during a blizzard, bomb shelter, a boat in the middle of the ocean. Add some romance to that and I'm all over it like a dog slobbering over a pork chop.

2. Secret Worlds- Alice following the white rabbit down the tunnel to Wonderland, an owl arriving with an acceptance letter to Hogwarts, a huge cavernous underground city, Atlantis....well you get the idea. I just love that secret world hidden to but a few.

3. Time Travel- Yes yes yes please. I want to travel back and forth through time. As a Dr. Who fan I can't help but daydream of traveling through time (and space). But time travel romances ah there lies a guilty pleasure of mine. Add in a knight, a man in a kilt, or dust covered cowboy and you've got my undivided attention.

4. Genetic Alterations- I have a thing for people being altered genetically. Whether they get superpowers, turn into monsters, grow extra body parts, live forever etc...it is all beloved by me. Throw in a question of ethics on it all and I'm scooping up that book faster than you can blink.

5. Alpha Male- I admit it I have a thing for alpha males. I don't like the ones that are borderline abusive. I like the strong, protect his woman at all cost type. He gets jealous but would never hurt his lady, ever. Oh and no stalking, watching me sleep while I don't know it types. Julie Garwood's historical romances are a good example of what I like.

6. Magical Objects- Mirrors, necklaces, bracelets, shoes, suit of armor etc. Anything that carries magic with it and has the potential to change a person, environment once they don it/look into/ say special enchantment etc.

7. Belly Busting- Anything that has the potential to make me laugh out loud and then embarrass myself in public by doing so is right up there on my list. I love books that make you laugh so hard you have to cross your legs and squirm in a modified peepee dance sort of way.

8. Fairytales Retold- I love retelling of stories especially fairy tales. I love when people put their own personal spin that makes it unique but yet still retains that familiar essence of the story. When it is done right you have a Disney Beauty and the Beast when done wrong you have a Disney Pocahontas.

9. Kick-ass Heroine- put in a kick-ass female and I'm hooked. The type who could take down a whole army and yet is still a woman. She is smart, beautiful and deadly. Heaven help the man who makes her angry enough to seek revenge on him.

10. Love Triangle- Don't hate me but I love me a good love triangle. I'm not much of a fan of two girls fighting over one guy. But two guys or a guy and a girl fighting over a girl...yeah I'm there. I know so many people hate them. I still love them. I especially love when the author goes back later on in other books and gives the "loser" a love interest of their own.

Z is for Zucchini

IT is finally here the last day of the blogging challenge. So what better Z food than zucchini...ok to be honest it is the only one I can think of. But that is ok because I love zucchini! This recipe is quick and easy and oh so yummy.

Fried Zucchini:
4 eggs
2 cups buttermilk
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
 2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1 tablespoon garlic powder
Zucchini sliced with peel on
Panko Bread Crumbs
grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

Mix together first 8 ingredients until it is the consistency of a pancake batter.Adding more buttermilk or flour as needed
Dredge sliced zucchini in dry flour. Dip flour coated slices in batter then coat with panko bread crumbs.

Deep-fry in 360-F cooking oil till golden brown.
When both sides are golden brown, remove slices from oil and set on paper towels or grid to drain.
Sprinkle the tops with cheese. Serve hot with favorite marinara sauce to dip in to.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Y is for Yam

Ok I admit I'm not a yam fan. It has some sort of aftertaste that I quite frankly don't care for. However yams are fairly healthy so I know I should be eating them more than plain old potatoes. I have not tried this recipe so I can't give my honest opinion on it but it seems to be really yummy. This is a recipe my sister gave me. I imagine she got it from cooking light or the like as it seems to be a rather healthy recipe.

Split Pea and Yam Soup
6 cups water
3 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 cups dry split peas
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 medium yam, peeled and diced
1 medium white potato, peeled and diced
4 ribs celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground celery seed
1/2 -1 bunch fresh greens chopped

 1. Fill a large pot with stock and split peas and bring to a boil. Turn down medium-low. Heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Add the onion, yams, potatoes, celery and dried herbs/spices, and continue to cook at a medium boil for about 15-20 minutes until the potatoes are soft, stirring occasionally.

3.Use immersion blender to smooth and thicken soup. (if it is too thick you may add more water/broth). Add in the greens and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Serve hot.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

X is for Xtreme

OK I'm in a rush again. I work Saturday's so posting on this day is killer for me. Today's letter was x which as I'm sure you know limited me in what I could do for food. So I decided to go xtreme today....What's more decadant and xtreme than chocolate?

The following recipe is for the chocoholic. This chocolate milkshake is perfect for the hot weather we are about to have

Xtremely Chocolately Milk Shake
6 tablespoons cocoa powder
Chocolate Ice Cream (belgium chocolate or dark chocolate works great)
Chocolate syrup
Mini chocolate chips/sprinkles.
Whipped cream

In blender place ice cream, cocoa powder, a generous amount of chocolate syrup, and milk. Blend till smooth. Start off with small amounts of milk and add till you get your favorite consistency. In a tall clear glass swirl chocolate syrup along the walls of the glass. Pour in milk shake and top with whip cream and a sprinkling of mini chocolate chips or chocolate sprinkles.

Friday, April 26, 2013

W is for walnuts

 Oh my gosh I can't believe there are just a few days left in the challenge. How has everyone else done so far?

For today's food I'm going with walnuts. I know for most people it is a love them or hate them kind of thing. I personally adore them.

The following recipe is one I personally use in my own kitchen.

Melissa's Granola
5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup dried blueberries
1 cup either raisens or dried cranberries
1 cup coconut
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350.  In large mixing bowl mix all the ingredients together till well mixed. Spread mixture evenly onto two large baking sheets. Bake 10-15 minutes. Stir or flip granola. Bake another 5-10 minutes until is golden brown and crisp.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

V is for Vinegar

OK so I have a soft spot for vinegar. Partly because it is a tradition to go down the shore and get boardwalk fries. Boardwalk fries are salty thick fries lightly sprinkled with vinegar. I don't know if it is just a Jersey thing or if other states do it. But here in Jersey its just a thing we do kinda like pork roll (aka Taylor Ham for those not from Joisey)

Anyway the following recipe is like salt and vinegar chips only healthier. Why? Cause there is no frying and you use zucchini instead of potatoes. So that means those watching their carbs can enjoy them. Warning you will need a food dehydrator for this recipe. I got this recipe back in my days of being a vegetarian on Weight Watchers. Wish I could tell you where exactly I got it from but it again is one of those mystery sources.

Salt and Vinegar Zucchini Chips    
Photo Courtesy of WordRidden on flickr

3-4 Zucchninis thinly sliced
4 cups white vinegar
2 cups water
Olive Oil

combine water and vinegar and soak zucchini in mixture for at least 12 hours (overnight is better). Drain but do not rinse the slices. Using a mister gently lightly mist with olive oil and sprinkle with salt (obviously you can pick your level of saltiness). Place in dehydrator and heat at 135 for 6-7 hours. They should be nice and crispy. Serve and enjoy!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

U is for....Um, Uh, Ugh

Ok so um hmmm...I have not a single clue as to any foods that begin with U. I mean there are the cheat ones like Upside Down Cake. But actual ingredient....yup I'm stumped. So looks like today is another cheat day. Today's theme will be Ugly.

We've all done it before. Experimented and made a dish that was so ugly you were afraid to touch but when you took a bite it was surprisingly delicious. The following recipe is heart burn inducing but so yummy. I don't remember where I first saw this recipe so I'm so sorry that I cannot give credit to where I found it since it was a number of years ago. I can guarantee this is not pretty to look at but it is so yummy.

Photo Courtesy of stevendepolo

Chili Cheese Dog Casserole
6 hot dogs sliced
6 hot dog buns torn into pieces
1 large can of chili
1 large onion chopped (can be omitted)
Bacon, cooked and drained
2 cups shredded cheese
hot sauce

Preheat oven 350. Lightly grease a 9x13 baking dish. Arrange torn up bun on the bottom of the dish evenly. Layer hot dog pieces over bun. Spread chili on top of hot dogs. lightly cover with mustard and relish and sprinkle onions over the top. Lightly splash hot sauce across top. Top with cheese and bacon. bake for 30 minutes.

Alterations: you can make this healthier but using whole wheat hot dog buns, turkey hot dogs, turkey bacon, vegetarian chili, low fat cheese, add more veggies etc.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Book Review: This Morning Sam Went to Mars by Nancy Carlson

 I received an ecopy of this book from Netgalley. This book is all about the day dreamers. You know those of us who are locked inside our heads most of the day. It certainly makes like more interesting. However, we often then lose focus and don't pay attention when we should.

8 year old Sam is a daydreamer. He is constantly told to "focus". Yet he keeps slipping back into his dream world. Sam visits a doctor who gives him strategies to stay focused. But most importantly she tells him that his daydreaming is a sign that he has a strong brain.

I love that this book does not belittle those of us who live in dream worlds. Sam is given simple strategies for keeping his focus. Some of them are eating better food and asking for help. Sam's favorite strategy is to make time for imagination. It is not easy at first but the more he does it the easier it becomes. I love the doctor lets Sam know that his daydreaming means that he has a powerful brain. The illustrations were fun in this one.

This was a little above my sons comprehension level but he loved the pictures and seeing Sam daydream of going to Mars. I think when he is a bit older this will be the perfect book for him. One of his learning problems has to do with focus so this will be great for him. I give this book 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.

T is for Tuna

Ok I admit it I've never had tuna casserole Its not that I don't intend to ever try it...I just haven't had the chance to try it.

I found this recipe written down on a very old and very yellowed index card kept inside an industrial metal green recipe box that was my grandmother's. I'm sure she copied it from a magazine. Perhaps it was from a cookbook complete with housewife in a frilly apron on the cover. Either way here is a fun throw back recipe.

Tuna Noodle Casserole
 1 can Cream Of Mushroom Soup 
 1/3 c  Milk 
 6 oz Tuna, Drained 
 6 oz Egg noodles cooked and drained
 2 Eggs Hard Boiled, Sliced 
 1 c  Peas Cooked
  1 c  Potato Chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Blend soup and milk in 1-quart casserole.
Stir in tuna, noodles,eggs, and peas.  Bake 20 minutes.  Top with crumbled potato chips;
bake 10  minutes longer.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Book Review: Cheese and Beer by Janet Fletcher

I received an ebook copy from netgalley. Let me say I've never made it a secret...my love of cheese that is. This book had me drooling in a very Homeresque way. "MMMM cheese and beer".

The book is exactly about what you would think. Cheese and beer. It goes on to describe different types of cheeses and beers and how to pair them together. Talk about a yummy culinary experience.

I thoroughly loved this book. Full of pictures and full descriptions it will be fun the next time I host and event. I plan on trying to do some of the pairings and see what people think. I've always wanted to go on a cheese and beer tasting tour and this will let me do it at home. I'm honestly considering get the hardback version for myself to display. Munch on! I give this 4 and half out of 5 stars!

Book Review: My Ex From Hell (The Blooming Goddess Trilogy #1) by Tellulah Darling

I received an e-copy version of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion. I admit it I was a tiny bit nervous when I signed up on goodreads to read this book. As a self-described cover whore I was a bit underwhelmed by the cover. But of course I've always been told never judge a book by its cover. The synopsis of the book was what caught me and made me stand up and ask for a copy. I AM SO GLAD I DID!

My Ex From Hell is about Sophie a very normal teenager trying to navigate through life with her two best friends Theo and Hannah. If only she could avoid the most popular girl in school...yoga loving Bethany. One night Sophie schemes to get back at Bethany. However it all goes wrong. It ends with Sophie kissing the strange, mysterious and hella sexy Kai. But that kiss brings back a flood of memories. Sophie isn't your typical girl. Nope she is the goddess of spring, Persephone. She learns that she is the key to keeping Earth safe in a battle between Hades and Zeus. How will she manage to survive duty as a Goddess all while dealing with the trials of high school and her biggest enemy Bethany?

I mentioned in a previous post about how I love Indy authors and this is the perfect example of why I love them so much. Not only did Tellulah write a kick ass book she is kickass herself. I've had a few conversations with her and there is nothing she likes more than to geek out! She is a fellow Dr. Who fan.

Anyway back to the book. This book was soooooo good. I would say that this is YA written for those who are 30+. Not that someone who is a teen couldn't read it. But with refrences to New Kids on the Block and Sweet Valley High it speaks to people of my generation. And that totally makes sense when you look at just how many adults have embraced and are reading YA books. I think the majority of YA readers are adults! The book was filled with humor and I found myself literally laughing out loud. It was a fast paced read with great non Mary Sue characters. I honestly cannot wait for the second book and in fact may have to get down on my hands and knees and beg Tellulah to let me get a review copy of that one (hint hint, nudge nudge, wink wink). I give this book a full 5 out of 5 stars!

S is for Sesame

I have a confession to make. I LOVE sesame! Sesame oil, sesame seeds, tahini....I could go on and on!

This is a recipe I've seen many places online and have not personally tried yet but really want to. I adore deviled eggs and this take gives it a spicy punch with wasabi.

Wasabi Sesame Deviled Eggs
6 large eggs
1/3 cup mayo
1 1/2 teaspoon wasabi paste
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoon dijon mustard
2 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
salt and fresh ground pepper

Hard boil your eggs. Run under cold water to cool them completely down. Peel and cut them in half lengthwise. Gently remove and place yolks in medium sized mixing bowl. Add mayo, wasabi paste, lemon juice, mustard and pinch of salt and ground pepper. Mix till smooth and creamy. Either spoon or use pastry bag to fill egg whites with mixture. Sprinkle the top with sesame seeds and serve.

R is for Raspberries

Well I totally forgot about Saturday's post. Was so crazy busy that I flat out forgot. SO I'll post it today but I know that I've failed this year's challenge. STill gonna keep posting though :)

So I was planning on doing Raspberries for my R day. I have a wonderful Raspberry lemon sauce that is great on cakes, ice cream, crepes, pancakes, muffins or any other sweets.

Raspberry Lemon Sauce

1 package frozen raspberries
1/4 cup sugar
1 lemon
pinch of salt

Place raspberries in pot. Add juice of the lemon and some lemon peel. Add sugar and pinch of salt. Heat over medium high heat till raspberries break down and sauce begins to thicken. Pour into a fine mesh strainer with a bowl underneath to catch the sauce. The strainer will remove the seeds and lemon peel. Using a funnel pour sauce into a squeeze bottle. Can be stored in fridge for up to a week.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Q is for Quick

Ok so I hadn't prepared for today's post. Like many other American's I've been spending the day paying attention to what is happening in boston. So I didn't pick a food today. EEK! So instead of a food that starts with Q I'm going to give you a Quick and easy recipe.

Quick Cheesy Hamburger Pasta

1 box elbow macaroni cooked aldente and drained
2 lbs ground beef browned and drained
1 large onion finely chopped
1 garlic clove chopped
1 can diced tomatoes
2 cups favorite melty cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Light saute the onion for a few minutes then add garlic. Cook for one more minute. In a large oven safe baking dish combine pasta, hamburger, onion,garlic, tomatoes. Top with cheese and place in oven for about 15 minutes. Cheese should be melty and starting to brown.

alternatives: you can jalepeno to make it spicy, crispy bacon, or favorite veggies to make healthier

Thursday, April 18, 2013

P is for Pears

Today is about Pears. Sweet and yummy! (will be back to edit post just want to get it up.)

Pear, Walnut and Blue Cheese Salad
1 bag mixed greens
2 large pears peeled and thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups crumbled blue cheese
1 cup toast walnuts coarsely chopped

Mix all ingredients together and drizzle with cider vinaigrette dressing.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

O is for Oranges

This morning is another rush rush rush morning for me.  Today's food is oranges! I just love them suckers. I could eat them all day and night.

Today's recipe is one out of about a million takes on the classic Orange Julius. I'll never forget the first time I tried an orange julius. I was at the mall with my mom and we were having a day for just the two of us. She took me to a cafe in the mall who served their own version of Orange Julius. Ever since then I was hooked. So yummy and so perfect during the hot weather! This one is one of my favorites. I got it years ago from a vegetarian magazine. I've adapted it by adding half and half to make it extra rich and creamy.

Orange Smoothie
1 6oz can frozen orange juice concentrate, frozen
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 cup vanilla soy milk
1 cup water
1 cup ice cubes

Place orange juice, half and half, soy milk, and water in blender and blend till smooth. Adding a couple of ice cube at a time blend till smooth. Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

N is for Nectarines

Ok sorry so super late today with my post. IN rush rush rush today. So just going to post super quick. Will stop back later to polish it up a bit including pictures of course.

Grilled Nectarines

3 ripe nectarines sliced in half with pit removed
vanilla yogurt

On medium high heat heat up grill pan. Melt butter in pan and lightly grill nectarine cut side down till it has lightly browned grill marks. Serve with scoop of vanilla yogurt and lightly drape some honey over top.

Monday, April 15, 2013

M is for Marjoram

I was going to do a milk recipe today but just wasn't feeling it. So I decided to do a dish today that my mom used to make when I was kid. Today's food is marjoram. Marjoram is in the mint family but tastes like oregano.

It has been about 20 years since the last time I've had this dish. It's tasty and super easy to make

Roasty Potatoes and Onions

6 potatoes sliced (a little thicker than you would for scallop potatoes)
3 large onions  sliced
1 tablespoon fresh marjoram finely chopped
Salt and Pepper

photo courtesy of franksteiner on flickr

Preheat oven to 350. In a large buttered oven proof dish layer the potatoes and onions evenly in a circular fashion. Dot with butter between layers  Gently sprinkle on marjoram, paprika, salt and pepper. Dot more butter on top. Place in oven for 35-45 minutes. Potatoes should be golden brown on top and cooked through. Let sit for 3-5 minutes before serving.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

L is for Lemons

Ok so I'm writing this up super quick as I have to get ready for work (the pain and torture of working retail). Last night klutzy old me managed to knock good corningware off a counter. It smashed and one of the shrapnel pieces cut my foot. It looked like a crime scene. As I ran...well sort of hopped/dragged my foot to the bathroom. It was a tiny cut but it was a bleeder. Thankfully the bleeding has stopped but foot is still sore. I'm a bit worried because I'm diabetic and we have to watch out for cuts on our feet.

Anyway today's food is lemons. What made me think of today's recipe is because the piece of corningware I broke is usually the one I use to make this recipe. Darn darn darn. I decided to go for the classic Lemon Chicken recipe.

Courtesy of tombotheteminator on flickr

Baked Lemon Chicken

1/4 cup Oil
10 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup dry white wine
Grated Lemon zest from 2 lemons
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon fresh thyme minced
Salt and pepper
4 boneless skin on chicken breast
1 lemon

Preheat oven to 400. Warm oil on medium high heat and cook garlic for about minute/minute and half. Do not burn or let it turn brown!  Add the white wine, lemon zest, lemon juice, oregano, basil, thyme, and 2 teaspoons of salt.  Pour mixture into a large baking dish.

Pat the chicken with paper towels to make sure they are nice and dry and place on top of sauce skin side up. Lightly brush some oil onto the skins of the chicken breast and season them with some salt and fresh ground pepper. Slice up lemon into circles and place the circles among the chicken.

Bake 35-45 minutes till chicken is done and the skin will be a bit brown. You can place it under the broiler for a quick minute or two if you want to brown up the skin even more. Serve chicken over rice with sauce from the pan.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Book Review: Masquerade by Melissa De La Cruz

Masquerade (Blue Bloods, #2)So I decided to forge ahead with the Blue Bloods books and read the next installment Masquerade. The book continues from where Blue Bloods left off. Schuyler Van Alen and Oliver travel to Venice to find her grandfather. The threat from the Silver Bloods increases and more vampire deaths are to be had.

Ok let me start off by saying that yet again I was left with mixed feelings. I was glad to see that she gave up her overly long descriptions of the clothing they were wearing who it was made by. So instead of 20 pages of clothing description we are down to 5. But oh my gosh Ms. De La Cruz was guilty of one my all time biggest pet peeves. The huge information dump of what has already happened. The first 20-30 pages of the book were basically a rehash of everything that happened in the previous book. And I do mean everything. It was so sloppy thrown onto the pages that all action just stopped dead. I don't mind a reminder sprinkled in here and there. But this was just too much. These are not the type of books that you read out of order therefore there is no reason to catch up your reader. If they haven't read the first book and can't keep up then they should go back and read it. Even those who have a year or more time between books does not need this heavy and over done of  a rehashing. 

With all that being said I forced myself to push ahead. I'm glad I did because once I got through the first third of the book I found myself enjoying it. I was finally reading the page turner that that first one was again. I'm not sure when or if I'll move onto the third one. I can only hope that she learned from this one and does away with the info dump like she did away with the overly long clothing descriptions in the first book. I give a 3 out of 5 stars. It would have been a solid 4 maybe even 5 star if it weren't for that horrible beginning.

K is for Kiwi

                                                                               Today's food is Kiwi. Did you know that the kiwi fruit has the highest levels of vitamin C than any other fruit? Even more than oranges. It has over 250% the daily recommended allowance. It is also high in Vitamin E and Folic acid. And 1 cup is just a little over 100 calories. Making it a sweet healthy snack that's sure to help keep colds at bay.

When I was younger I never really cared for Kiwis. I enjoyed the taste but was not a fan of the seeds. Now as an adult I'm a bit better about them but still not completely sold on the texture of those seeds.

 The following recipe is great in the summertime for a healthy desert. Kids will love them as they are fun to eat.

Fruit Kabobs
Berries (ie strawberry, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries etc)
Melon (ie watermelon, cantaloup, honeydew, casaba etc)
Any other of your favorite fruits (ie apples, pears, oranges,grapefruit).

Be sure to peel and remove all stems. Wash berries/grapes. Slice larger fruit into bite size chunks. Using long wooden kabob sticks begin to layer fruits on the sticks.. Place a grape or berry at the sharp end. Can serve plain, use chocolate fountain, or serve with your favorite fruit dip.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Book Trailers- The Immortal Rules and The Eternity Cure by Julie Kagawa

I'm usually not much of a book trailer fan but these are so good it is hard not to post them. These are for the first and second books in Julie Kagawa's Blood of Eden series.  Enjoy!

Disclaimer: I do not own these trailers. They were posted on youtube by harlequinbooks.

Classics Retold

Classics Retold- repost from TheCheapReader

Coming September 2013
Classics Retold  is a project hosted by  Alyssa @ Books Take You Places, Charlene @ Bookish Whimsy, Wendy @ Excellent LibraryBrittany @ Book Addict’s Guide and Alison @ The Cheap Reader
Project: Fairy Tale was a huge hit with everyone so they decided to expand and tweak it a bit. For this project we are reading a classic book and then reading or watching retellings, spin-offs, or adaptations of it!
The details:
  • September 2013 will be our month to post everything.
  • How You Participate:
    1. You will choose a classic you’d like to read.
    2. You read your classic and read or watch as many retellings, spin-offs, sequels or adaptations of the classic as you can.
    3. You will post reviews or your thoughts on your blog for each one during September.
    4. 1-4 bloggers can work on a “main” text. You can work independently or work together. You’re allowed to all read/watch the same things or split the work up.
    5. To participate in this project, you only sign up for one classic (and its adaptions).
    6. Optional: If you’d like to work on another classic (or adaptation), find the bloggers “in charge” of that text and ask to do a guest review/post.
    7. Optional: Do other posts about your classic: character analysis, where else to find the characters, the book’s influence on culture, memes, etc. It can be literally anything involving your classic.
    8. Optional: Do a sign up post after I clear your classic. It will help spread the word about the project and you’re able to bounce your ideas off of your readers. They may even give you ideas of books/movies to use for your classic!
  • For a classic to be useable for this project, it should have at least 2 adaptations, spin-offs, sequels, or retellings.
Obviously this project is going to get pretty big so we’ve split the co-hosting duties up.

It’s all one big project so you only sign up once for one book (not once on each blog).

J is for Jalapeno

I hope everyone is having a good day this Thursday. Last night we had lots of the thunderstorms which was oh so nice to fall asleep to. Today's food is jalapenos. I know not everyone is a fan of the spicy pepper but it is actually not that spicy compared to some other peppers.

I decided for today's recipe to give a take on the restaurant favorite. Jalapeno poppers. Generally you see them done with either cheese or cream cheese. I personally prefer the cream cheese variety.

This version uses wontons to make for a unique and yummy experience.It also has both cheese and cream cheese.

Courtesy of Faul on Flickr
Jalapeno Popper Stuffed Wontons
1 package wonton wrappers (can be found in refrigerated section or asian market)
1 8oz package cream cheese (remove from fridge early to let it soften)
1/2 cup shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese (can substitute  favorite melting cheese)
3 regular sized jalapenos chopped (be sure to remove seeds and rib)
Oil to fry
Salt to taste

In a bowl combine cream cheese, cheese, and jalapenos till evenly mixed. Place about a teaspoon full of the mixture into the middle of wonton wrapper (do not overfill it will explode out). Using either finger or brush lightly rim all four edges with water. Fold over the wrapper (forming a triangle). Pinch the edges to seal in the mixture and remove air bubbles. 

Heat oil in a large skillet. Gently drop wontons into the oil without over crowding the pan. That means you'll have to do it in batches. Fry for a few minutes on each side till golden brown and crispy. Place on draining rack or paper towels. Season with salt. Serve while still warm.

servings-about 30 wontons

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Book Cover Reveal- Animate Me by Ruth Campett

Animate Me by Ruth Campett is a former Twilight Fanfic. Ruth has decided to go the way of many indy authors and will be self publishing this book. I have to say I'm loving the cover. I wasn't a fan of Twilight but I may check out this book and review on here. The book will be released May 2013.

Here are some links if you would like to follow her

Twitter- @ruthywrites
Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/RuthClampettWrites?ref=ts&fref=ts

Book Review- Big Blue by Vanita Oeslchlager

Another ebook that I've recieved through Netgalley. This one left me with very mixed feelings. Big blue is the story of a blue bird who becomes lazy. He just sleeps and eats all day till he becomes so big that he cannot fly when the other birds fly south for the winter. He is left survive for himself over the winter.

First let me son my son enjoyed the book very much. He loved the drawings. They were really pretty. However I don't think he understood the subject manor beyond a it being a bird who got so big he couldn't fly.

My feelings are mixed. In a day and age where obesity is rising it is nice that there are books that want to deal with it. However this seemed heavy handed and offensive. I was an overweight child. It had nothing to do with being lazy. In fact I was constantly outdoors playing, running, and riding my bike. I do admit that even back then I had a food addiction. But I was constantly exercising. This book reinforces the idea that fat people are lazy and just sleep and eat. There are many other factors that play into weight. Among them are genetics, psychological conditions, home environment etc. So while this book might be good for skinny children like my son. It really does come down to fat shaming. I think that this subject could have been dealt with better and more tactfully. The book also seems to be one that could be a trigger book for anorexia. As Blue nearly starves in it. Or at least that is what is suggested. He works really hard to get his food and survive.

I have to give this one 2 out of 5 stars.

Book Review- The Scoop on Breasts - A Plastic Surgeon Busts the Myths by Dr. Ted Eisenberg, Joyce Eisenberg

This was yet another ARC ebook I recieved from Netgalley. I'm not sure exactly what it was that made me click on the request button for this book. But I'm so glad I did. I think part of it may be my profound respect for plastic surgeons. I'll tell you why I have so much respect for them at the bottom of my review.

The book is written in a Q&A format. It answers so many questions that we have all either secretly thought of or wanted to ask. This not only deals with plastic surgery but also answers questions about stretch marks, sagging, what breasts are made of and how they develop. This is all done with humor and candor. One of the chapters is called A Tale of Two Titties (giggle).  Interspersed in here are facts about things like history of breast surgery and nicknames people use for their breasts.

I really was surprised by this book. I did not expect myself to like it as much as I did. There are a few risque photos but none more than the one on the cover. I found myself fascinated with some of the things in here. Such as if implants float or if they will freeze. The book starts from explaining about what a breast is and some common questions about things such as inverted nipples and then progresses through answering questions about who is a candidate for surgery, to what to expect before during and after surgery. The book not only covers implants but it also covers lifts, and reductions.

I think that  men, woman, and teenage girls would benefit from reading this book. Most woman have thought at least one time or another about having surgery. This also may help promote tolerance towards those who do decide to have surgery. I give this book a solid 5 out of 5 stars!

***Ok here is my personal story on why I love and respect plastic surgeons. About 3 years ago I had an accident in the kitchen with a huge pot of boiling water. I ended up with 2nd degree burns on over 35% of my body. Because of the severity of the wounds I had to see a plastic surgeon once a week till I was fully healed. I didn't end up having to have surgery. Let me tell you though I saw plastic surgeons in a whole new light. My doctor was not only professional he really took the time to show he cared and was concerned about me. The ER doctors, nurses and EMTs who saw me when I was first burned didn't give a damn about me. Whereas all of the staff at the plastic surgeons office were sweet and wonderful. In fact one of the other doctors came up to me and began to talk to me and asked me how I was progressing. Plastic surgeons are not money hungry people who prey on people's vanity. They really do care about their patients.

I is for ???? Hmmmm....

 So how is everyone today? Have we all made it so far in the blogging challenge? Well today is a super duper stumper for me. The reason my post is so late this morning is because I is not really an easy food letter. Sure you have Iceburg Lettuce but isn't that really just lettuce so should be L. Then you have Ice Cream but eh not quite in the spirit of what I've done so far. So today will have to be a cheat day.

I'm going to talk today about making homemade ice-tea. A few months back in an effort to save money I began to make ice tea at home. After some trial and error I have perfected making it to satisfy everyone in my family's tastes.  The best part is that for the less than the price of one small bottle of brand name iced tea I can make nearly 2 gallons.

courtesy of theculinarygeek on flickr
There are a few methods of making ice tea. There is the sun-brewing method. But I highly recommend you do not do that as it is known to often time become a breeding ground of bacteria and people have been known to become violently ill.  You can boil water in pot add tea leaves and let cool down before serving. Then there is my all time favorite method. You boil water add tea bags then pour over ice. So much faster and still tastes yummy. Oh and there are other methods but these are the most common ones.

In my experience black tea works the best for home brewed iced tea. Although my family love when I brew it using an english breakfast blend. As far as adding flavor to the tea you can have fun and get creative. I like to add a packet of lemonade mix to my brewed tea. It gives it a nice lemon flavor and a bit of sweetness without overwhelming the tea itself. It is not quite an Arnold Palmer (equal amounts of lemonade and ice tea). You can also do things like brew mint leaves with the tea bags. Add berries, lemons, or other fruit.

courtesy of desegura89 on flickr
Level of sweetness in tea is often very subjective. When making tea for a crowd I find it best to let them pick how sweet they want to make it. Sugar substitutes will dissolve well in the tea however pure sugar does not. The solution to that is to make a simple syrup using sugar and water boiled in a pot. Let the syrup mixture cool then add to your tea to make Sweet Tea.

If you have leftover tea you can freeze it in ice cube trays and use next time so that way you don't water down your tea. You can also freeze lemonade so that way as it melts it flavors your tea. Lastly to be super fancy you can freeze berries/lemons in water to make pretty ice cubes. 

How do you like your iced tea? Do you even like home brewed tea?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Confession time.....Guilty Pleasures

So I figured to help people get to know a little bit more about me I'll make some embarressing confessions. Today's edition of embarressing confessions has to do with guilty pleasures. You know those things you can't get enough of when you should know better.

Courtesy of Simon Cocks from Flickr
1. Ghost hunting shows- These shows are like crack to me. I can't get enough of them. Yes there is a part of me that is skeptical. But oh that other wicked part of me that loves to be scared and so desperately wants to believe in ghosts takes over. I love them all....Ghost Hunters, Haunted Collector, Stranded, Ghost Lab, Ghost Mine, Scariest Places...and all the other ones I've forgotten off the top of my head. I so want to go on a ghost hunt myself but I'll be honest I'm such a scaredy cat I would need someone with me the entire time.

courtesy of wordridden from flickr
2. Cheese- Probably my favorite food of all. One of my biggest dreams is to go on a cheese tasting tour. I want to try them all. I love so many from a good sharp cheddar, a musky blue cheese, goat cheese in a simple pear salad, smoked gouda on my sandwich, all the way too (I can't believe I'm admitting it on here) ez cheese. Yes ez cheese that stuff that you squeeze out of a can. I just love cheese.

Courtesy http://www.brisbaneishome.com/
3. Books- yes books are a guilty pleasure. I not only love to read them. I love to collect them. I love to list the ones I want to read. I love searching out far and wide for new books. I hold onto them as though the world is about to end and I alone will start the library for those that survive...ok a bit melodramatic there. But the point is that I honestly have an addiction to them. I feel lost if I don't at least have one at hand. Whether it be on ereader or a standard paperback. This coming from a very slow reader. Can you imagine if I was a fast reader?

H is for Ham

Today's food and recipe is purely one for my son. My 5 year old loves ham! He could eat it all day long.

I'm so not posting the nutrition facts on ham because lets face it...not the healthiest of foods. But part of a well balanced diet it is a good choice for a protein.

The following recipe is one I make often for my son. I omit the pickles from the sandwich for the rest of the family members and sometimes will add olives for both son and them.

Courtesy of goodiesfirst from flickr
Ham and Cheese Paninis

1/3 lb of thinly sliced deli ham (favorite flavor will do)
1/4 lb of either sliced american or sliced cheddar cheese
4-6 mini pretzel rolls (can substitute with other type of roll)
Bread and Butter Pickles
Pickled Peppers

Lightly butter surface of panini press (can also use forman grill). Place meat and cheese along with a couple of slices of the pickles/peppers. Place inside of press and close press down tight. Cook for 3-5 minutes till cheese is gooey and bun is slightly toasty. Serve with a few pickles on the side.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Book Review- The Legend of Papa Balloon by CR McClure

Hmmm I must have a thing for balloons lately. Here is second ebook I've received from netgalley this week. The Legend of Papa Balloon is about a land where people worship The Light. Each village expresses their reverence of the Light through a particular color of balloon. A group of children come upon an old man sleeping under a tree. He has a clear balloon under his hat and says people call him Papa. The children call him Papa Balloon. He becomes friends with everyone and in the end he and his clear balloon teach all of the villages that no one color is better than the other and that they are all of the Light.

OK this wasn't a bad book but it is a bit complicated. It was too complicated for my 5 year old son. But as some of you know he has a severe learning disability so that can play into this. For other children this may be easier for them to read and understand. My son enjoyed the illustrations, but he walked away after only a few pages. I loved the color changing ink. This book is obviously about tolerance. One of the biggest problems I had with the book quite honestly is that the children befriend an old man who is a stranger and bring him essentially home with them. I know it is just fiction but I don't think telling kids its ok to bring home that shoeless bearded guy, who was sleeping under a tree and calls himself Papa is a good idea. Stranger Danger.

As I said all in all it wasn't a bad book it just wasn't as good as it could be. I would say that I have it at a solid 2 stars. I think it does a good job with promoting tolerance (especially religious tolerance). With just a little work I think it could easily become a 3 or 4 star book.

Why You Should be Reading Indy Authors

There is a debate among some book reviewers. This debate is over the reviewing of independent/small press authors. There is a huge boom in authors forgoing the old fashioned route of publishing. More and more are moving to self-publishing. In the past there was the thought that those who self published did so because their writing wasn't good enough. The strange thing is though that when one looks at indy bands or say indy movies it is different. They are treated with a level of respect and seen as true artists.  I'm glad that the negative thinking on indy authors is changing. As more and more of them become successful the respect for them increases.

Courtesy of Annie Mole on flickr
I was shocked when I first heard that some bloggers outright reject requests for reviews from indy authors. I can understand if you read a synopsis of the book and it doesn't catch your interest. But some have a very clear policy that they will only accept from major publishing companies. I'm fairly open  in what I'll accept or not accept. I'm a slow reader though so I may have to reject on a basis of time. Also I want to be able to not just read books that I've promised but ones I already have on my TBR Shelf (to be read shelf). But no where do I have the outright policy that I wont read books from indy authors or wont read books from major publishers. Like most people I'll read what catches my fancy.

Here are the reasons you should be reading indy.

Courtsesy of Wiertz Sebastien on flickr
1. Free books- You heard me right...free books. Indy authors are often desperate for word to get out about their books. The best way to get word out? To have people read and review their books. Even if you are not a book blogger many times indy authors will happily give you a copy in exchange for a review posted on sites like goodreads/amazon/b&n etc. If you are a brand new blogger most publishing companies wont look your way till you have at least 1,000-10,000 followers (yep you saw those numbers right). Whereas most indy authors will not only happily let you read their book for free they often will often do interviews/guest post or sponsor a giveaway of their book on your blog. I can tell you one of the best way to get new followers is to host giveaways. New followers means more exposure for both you and the indy author. I can guarantee you that Stephen King is not going to do an interview for you blog but an indy author will!

2. Diamond in the Rough- One of the arguments of those who refuse to read indy is that there is a lot of garbage out there since literally anyone can self publish for little to no money. Well, we've all experienced buying books by major publishers to only sit there scratching our heads as to how it even made it to print. Yes you might read a few books that are craptastic. But then you'll come across that one that was sooo good that you want to tell everyone you know about it. Especially since most people will have not heard of it yet. If you do get stuck reading a book that is subpar I always suggest using the teacher tactic of saying something nice about the book before you say where it went wrong. I know that snarky meme filled reviews are the rage right now. But honestly they don't help the author at all. Authors want to hear where they went wrong so that they can improve. If it was a matter of pacing then let them know that in chapter two it slowed down. If the book is beyond bad then you can always contact the author and offer to NOT post your review. The key is politeness. Some of the best and highest rated books on my old blog were the ones I got from indies.

3. Cheap Reads- Ok so I know up above I posted about free reads but honestly most indy authors put their books online for only a few dollars. Meaning that for the price of one ebook published through a major publisher you can buy  2-3 indy books (lets face it sometimes even more). Indy authors have more freedom than those stuck with a publishing house. They also make more of a profit on their books. Instead of the publishing house making most of the profits the indy author makes the majority of the profit.

4. Genre Crossing- Some books just don't fall under a genre or they even cross a number of them. With traditional publishing houses they want your book to neatly fall into one. Whereas there is more freedom with self publishing. I recently came across a synopsis for an indy book that was dystopian erotica/romance between a witch and an werewolf who travel through time. Don't ask me the name though because I forgot it since I don't read erotica. My point is that you will find some out their books that sound so out there you JUST have to read it.

Ok so those are the points I can think of right now. Sorry that this may have been a bit long and scattered all over the place. Do you read indy books? Why or why not?

G is for Garlic

Well for the second letter in a row I have no etsy shop :( The ones I had lined up never responded
back to my Q&A. So I'll continue with the shops I already have. But this post here is not about etsy but rather one of my all time favorite foods...GARLIC!!

The weird thing is that I'm not a fan of onions (especially raw, ew yuck!). But, garlic? OH my more please! Since I'm a little late this morning with my post and I have another rant like post I need to do I'm gonna skip the health facts today. Though I will say from the top of my head that garlic is known to be great for your digestive health.

The following recipe is a bit hard for me to post because I don't have exact measurements. This is a dish that my family adores but that we have crafted and developed over the years. We never measure we just kind of know by eyeballing. So I'll do my best to give measurements. We like to serve this with a nice crusty bread to sop up the sauce. My stepdaughter likes to use her bread to make a soggy sandwich out of the pork chops.

photo courtesy of modomatic on flickr

White Wine, Onion, Garlicky Pork Chops

6 thick sliced bone in pork chops (can use boneless but bones add more flavor)
1-bottle dry white wine (Chardonnay is what we usually use)
8 Garlic cloves minced
2 large onions sliced (we like half moon shaped)
2 Tablespoons oil
12 oz beef broth
1/4 cup Dijon Mustard
3 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
2-3 Tablespoons butter
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder
Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper

 Preheat oven to 325. We like to brine the pork chops for a few hours ahead of time but it is not necessary. In large cast iron skillet heat up oil and brown chops on both sides. Set aside.  Add onions to cast iron and heat till they start to become translucent. Remove onions and add some of the white wine to deglaze the pan. Add all of the white wine, beef broth, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, butter, a generous sprinkle of garlic and onion powder and a nice sized pinch of salt and ground pepper.  Let wine sauce heat up for a few minutes then add half the onions to the sauce. Place pork chops on top of the onions (make sure to also add the drippings on the plate) and top with the other half of onions. Remove from cooktop and place in oven. Finish cooking in oven. Depending on the thickness of the chops this can take anywhere from 10-30 minutes. Internal temp of pork chops should be about 160. If you do not have a thermometer cut into one of the chops. The juices should run clear and you should not see pink. When in doubt let it cook just a little longer.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

F is for Figs

Welcome to day F. When I picked today's food...figs...I couldn't help but get that lyric from We Wish you a Merry Christmas stuck in my head. You know the one about figgy pudding. Well today I decided to skip the figgy pudding and instead give you a recipe that is great for the fall especially at Thanksgiving.

Figs have potassium and magnisium and believe it or not they also have some calcium in them. A medium sized raw fig has about 40 calories making it a sweet treat.

The following recipe is an adaptation of a recipe I found years ago. Unfortunately I no longer remember where I got the original recipe from.

Figgy Cranberry Chutney           

18 dried black figs quartered
1/3 cup Port Wine
12 ounces cranberries
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
 1/4 cup chopped walnuts (may be omitted)
1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
3 cinnamon sticks
Juice and the zest of one large orange
1/4 teaspoon salt
                                          Photo courtesy of Richard North
In a large bowl pour the wine over the figs and let them soak for 30-45 minutes. In medium sauce pan combine cranberries and both sugars. Heat over medium heat until sugars dissolves. Add the rest of the ingredients and continue to heat uncovered on medium-low heat. If you get a foam at the top just scrape off and toss. Stir occasionally. Once cranberries have burst and the mixture thickens remove from heat. Let sit to cool. Once mixture has cooled remove cinnamon sticks. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. This can be made 2-3 days in advance.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Book Review- World on a String by Larry Phifer

This is my first free book I've gotten from Netgalley. I've gotten books in the past for my old blog so I was excited to dive into my first book with the new blog. And oh what a great book this one was! Mine was an ebook version. Warning there are spoilers.

World on a String by Larry Phifer is a simple story of a boy who has a beautiful shining balloon. As happens with most balloons he eventually loses it and has to deal with is feelings of loss.

First let me say that the drawings were extraordinary! So vivid and beautiful that children with love to look a them when you are not reading the story. I love that the book tackles the emotions that people feel when they lose something special to them. However it is not over the top and is in put in a way the most children will understand. While in the end Charlie never does get his balloon back he does deal with his sadness and dreams of his balloon being among other balloons way up in the sky.

 I would have to give this book 4 1/2 out of 5 stars. My son loved not only the story but he kept making me scroll back and forth through the pictures. Any book that can hold my son's attention for more than 2 minutes is a winner for sure!

E is for EllaClariseBoutique

There is nothing more exciting to me than to be able to feature a brand new etsy shop. Randi Frady co-owner of E.C. Boutique just opened shop last month!! Her mother, Connie McClure is the other co-owner of this oh so cute shop.

Already this shop has adorable clothing choices for both little boys and little girls. Please stop by the shop and show some love!

How long does it take you sew your shop pieces?
It typically takes a couple of hours from start to completion, especially for new items. I like to take the time to research relevant styles and fabrics. Once all of the sewing is finished I do my best to make sure all the fine details are perfect.

What is your favorite item in your shop?

Honestly, the more I sew the harder it gets to pick a favorite item! Every time I create an outfit, cape, etc. I say "This is my favorite!" :) I LOVE to create and try new things!
If I had to pick one item, it would probably be the Double Sided Superhero Capes which were inspired by my sweet little nephews! The Double-Side Superhero Capes have a superhero emblem on one side then we "superhero" the child's first initial on the other side.

What are your future plans for your shop?
Along with our Etsy Shop, we recently opened a market booth inside Vintage Blessings in Commerce, Georgia.
As far as our future, we just plan on seeing where this adventure takes us. With my Mom's help, I started sewing for my daughters and quickly received requests for items from friends and family. Our family, friends and new followers are the rock to our success. As long as they are with us we will keep creating and sewing!

I see that you opened up your shop with your mom. How is it working with your mom?
My Mom means the world to me. She is my Mom and my best friend! She taught me to sew and that is a memory that I will cherish for the rest of my life!

Please be sure to check them out on Esty and Facebook.
Esty: www.etsy.com/shop/EllaClariseBoutique?ref=si_shop
Facebook: www.facebook.com/#!/ellaclariseboutique

****On a side note as I was preparing this post my 5 year old son came up and saw the picture of the capes and immediately said, "Those are so cool.Mommy can we get them?" So I can tell you right now your little ones will love what this shop has to offer!!****