The Drood Readalong – The Beginning

October 1, 2014 Reading Nook 2

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Does anyone else see Drood and want to menacingly yell “Drooooooooooooooood”? Just me? Oh well…

Today we start Drood by Dan Simmons. This big huge beast of a book. I’m actually in the middle of Night Film and am attending my sister’s wedding this weekend, so I likely won’t start until Monday. Yes, it’s freaking huge but at least the print isn’t tiny? Or maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who is reading it on your slim e-reader.

In case you missed the details, we are reading Drood starting now (or whenever you pick up your copy). I’ll put up a midway linky post on October 22nd and a finale linky post on November 15th. You certainly don’t have to write any posts to participate–you do what you do. I’ll also be on twitter using #Droodalong.

So, I don’t know very much about this book except that Charles Dickens was writing The Mystery of Edwin Drood when he died and thus the murder mystery of his book is still unsolved. Also, there is a musical called Drood with multiple endings–me thinks I need to get that soundtrack! Ok, totally broke my cardinal rule of book reading and read a quick summary on Wikipedia. Apparently this book is told from the viewpoint of Wilkie Collins? Huh.

Let’s do this! Link up if you plan to participate in the Droooooooodalong:

Who’s ready to start some bookish bicep curls?

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The Sparrow – Mary Doria Russell

September 30, 2014 Reading Nook, Review 16

sparrow Title: The Sparrow
Author: Mary Doria Russell
Published: Pages: 405
Genre: Fiction (Science-y)
Rating: Emotionally Riveting and Draining

Ok, I know that this post is going to be “too long; didn’t read” so the bottom line is READ IT. Alright, carry on…

In Short: Life on another planet is discovered and a small research team, headed by Jesuits, travels to Rakhat to make contact.

Why I Read It: Because of all of the recent ravings. Strangely I had never heard of The Sparrow until a few months ago. I went the readalong route for a bit of hold handing because I was intimidated by “science-fiction” and “religion.” I needn’t be intimidated by either, though.

Thoughts in General: At first I was turned off by this book because of the whole religion angle. It wasn’t until Jill assured me that you can be unreligious and still appreciate this book that I decided, FINE I’LL READ IT. And I’m so glad that I did. I don’t think that The Sparrow hit me as hard as other readers–there was so much build-up to the ending that I felt gently let-down slightly before the final pages–but the journey along the way was an emotional and intellectual…and yes spiritual…ride.

That stupid blinking cursor. Taunting me for having ALL of the things to say but not really knowing how to say any of them.

The characters. Emilio–the priest who has never spoken to or felt God, the priest who initiated the journey to Rakhat. The priest who bears all of the burden and the blame for things he isn’t guilty of. Anne–the matron and backbone of the crew. Oh I love Anne–maybe more than I’ve loved any other character in print. She’s smart and sassy and brilliant and loving. A skeptic who still has the faith to be supportive. Sofia–a bit of an enigma. A character who is tough to connect with but still somehow sneaks into your heart. It’s a small cast of characters (no I didn’t name them all), but Russell does such a wonderful job of sketching such human characters. I know it’s become rote to mention flawed or human characters, but truly. I will offer a small complaint about the “present day” priests all running together in my head. I’m still not quite clear on the differences in some of those guys.

The way that the plot unfolds. Told in alternating chapters of present time (actually year 2060) after the mission to Rakhat is over and Emilio has returned home and flashbacks to the time before the mission and during the mission. There is a delicious and taunting pull that these alternating chapters create. I largely felt disconnected during the present time, though, always impatient to get back to the mission knowing that it was going to culminate in disaster but not quite knowing how. At times the book is overly technical but the construction of the book as a whole was so impressive to me. I can see why people read this book multiple times.

The writing. The nuggets of truth and discovery. The fact that even the priests are at times faithless or unsure. The faith alone–to put your life in God’s hands and to then patiently wait to see where it will lead. It’s something that I’ve never personally understood but it was fascinating and a bit heartbreaking to watch. Yes it is a heavy book with really heavy themes, but there were enough moments of tenderness and lightheartedness throughout the novel to allow for much needed breathing room.

Bottom Line: The Sparrow is so beautifully written. As in the most gorgeous book that I’ve read in a long long time. I dogearred many many passages and after finishing I went back and reveled in the writing and in the brilliance of the puzzle pieces fitting together. Will this be my favorite book ever? No. Will it stay with me for a long time? Yes. Could I see myself reading it again? Yes. Do I want to read the sequel? Meh. Do I recommend it? Absolutely, but prepare yourself for a heavier read that will squeeze everything out of you. When I finished The Sparrow, I felt everything and nothing at all.

sparrow readalong

The Sparrow Readalong: Avert your eyes if you are avoiding spoilers!  MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW!! And please mark spoilery comments as much below.

Ok, the ending. Is it hopeful or not? Does the power of confession free Emilio at the end? Though this idea of confession bothers me because I feel like he is unfairly judged by the Jesuits upon his return. For this alone I would love to re-read the book knowing what comes at the end and seeing Emilio’s return from Rakhat through the priests’ eyes. Why do they assume prostitution rather than captivity? Oh but Askama. Talk about ripping your heart out and stomping on it.

What is your take on Supaari? I felt so betrayed by Supaari. I had to go back and re-read some parts from when Supaari is first introduced. The whole third-born, not able to have children, aspect really stuck with me and when the ending came to be I just felt struck down. Had he always meant to sell out the humans? On the one hand I wanted to appreciate the relationship that he shared with the others, particularly Anne, but on some level it was like he always knew the price he would receive.

What else do you want to discuss? I would love to have a twitter chat (we did have a few brief back and forths already), but man–trying to schedule everyone together is tough!

If you participated in The Sparrow RAL and have a final post, please link it up below:


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Have you read The Sparrow? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the book…or alternatively why you may not think this book is for you.

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Authenticity and Diversity in Literature

September 28, 2014 Reading Nook, Sunday Salon 31

Sunday Salon

Hi sweet readers. This post is a lot heavier than my normal fare. I know it’s long and I’m nervous about hitting that “publish” button over there. If I make mistakes, overstatements, or oversights, please realize that I’m trying to sort these complicated questions out in my head. As always, thank you for your thought provoking comments and contributions to my posts.

Whew.

There has been a lot of chatter within the book blogging community lately about reading diversely and reading books written by people of color (in case you wondered what POC meant).  You know I’ve been participating in Aarti’s A More Diverse Universe Event and there has been the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign–of course last week was also Banned Book Week and diverse books always seem to make that banned book list. We may as well extend this conversation to not only books by POC but also LGBQT authors and books as well.

I pride myself on my diverse reading preferences. While I don’t try to hit any percentages of women writers over men or writers of color over white writers, I enjoy what I enjoy and it usually includes a big variety. While lately there has been a big push on diversity and reading diverse books, there have also been moments that have made me uncomfortably aware of my privileged life as a straight, white, middle class, woman. Well, nevermind on that whole woman thing, but that’s another story. The point I want to make with all of that is I don’t always feel comfortable or qualified to talk about race or diversity. But.

We all choose to read diversely (or to not read diversely) for different reasons. I love learning about cultures and religions and thoughts that are not quite like mine and I’m never surprised to find that we all share a common humanity. I have several books with authors whose names I cannot pronounce and I’m always interested to learn about authors that offer something a little different from the normal publishing fare. How else do we expand our mental horizons? Learn and sympathize and and stretch ourselves? By recognizing our differences we come closer together.

But, I’ve stumbled into a couple of different troubling articles and instances lately that have me wondering about diversity. In particular there was a rather lengthy article in the LA Review of Books called “Why am I Brown? South Asian Fiction Pandering to Western Audiences.”  I read the article a few days ago and was immediately discouraged. Many of the books that author Jabeen Akhbar references are ones that I’ve read and recommended as sources of diversity. So I’ve been doing it all wrong? Because I’ve been reading books by people of color who are writing a more sanitized version of diversity because it’s what the white publishing houses will publish?

Ugh.

When I mentioned this on twitter someone jokingly told me, “you’re doing your best! Your best sucks!”

I was able to put the article in the back of my mind, but I’m currently listening to Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist and the day after I read the LA Review of Books articles I listened to Gay’s essays on some of the representations of blacks in popular culture–namely in books and movies. She discusses The Help, Django Unchained, Twelve Years a Slave, and Tyler Perry. I haven’t seen Django Unchained, Twelve Years a Slave, or anything by Tyler Perry but I felt like the air had been punched out of me when listening to Gay’s essays–that everything that we’re doing is not enough and that white people are certainly doing it all wrong. I happened to publish my post on Kindred that same day and I then wondered if I even had the right to discuss slavery or a slave’s plight.

And no, this isn’t about me. But I felt so discouraged that Gay didn’t offer any solutions to the so very prevalent white version of black history or that Akhbar doesn’t really give solutions on how we can read more authentically diverse literature either.

But as readers and consumers, how do we know what is authentic? Yes, Kathryn Stockett is a white author writing about black maids–does this make her story about the Civil Rights movement less authentic? To question Akhbar’s article, how do we know which South Asian authors are “pandering to western audiences” and which South Asian authors are writing authentically. And who defines the authenticity? Is an African-American author writing about stories set in Africa less authentic than an African author writing about stories in Africa? For example.

Is it problematic to seek out authors and read books because they are diverse? Actually don’t answer that question because I want to believe with all my heart that the answer is NO–READ DIVERSELY!

And this goes beyond national, racial, and cultural diversity. I watched Bonjour Cass’s twitter stream a few weeks ago as she talked about LGBQT fiction and the lack of coverage. Please please go read all of her recent tweets. What I LOVE about Cass’s tweets about sexuality is that she is opening the discussion. We *should* be talking about these things. As a straight, white, middle class woman I don’t always know how to talk about these things. Why am I so worried about saying the wrong thing? Or offending someone?

Cass says “We need more than just “diverse books.” We need a strong, critical voice to demand more from authors, publishers, and critics/reviewers.”  and “How can we ask for better LGBTQ books when we can’t even openly, honestly discuss the ones we already have?”

So how can we do this better? How can we be more aware? How can we read more diversely? How can we decide what is authentic (and yes, this has really really bothered me but I think it raises really important questions)? I’d also love to know how you find diverse books (or how you determine what is diverse).

I don’t have any answers. Just questions. But I want to talk about it. I hate not knowing how or which words to use. Big thanks to Shannon at River City Reading, Becca at I’m Lost in Books, and Jen at The Relentless Reader for hearing me out on twitter and for encouraging me to write about this topic that I feel so unqualified to talk about.

So?

Bites nails. Hits “schedule post.” Waits…

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What’s for Dinner? Meal Planning Woes

September 27, 2014 In the Kitchen 29

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What’s for dinner? The dreaded question. Actually, the question I dread is the one I ask: “What do you want for dinner?”

Elle isn’t old enough yet to make any suggestions for what she wants for dinner–her stock answer is Mac and Cheese, whether that’s really what she wants or not. Most times the answer I get when I ask what Scott wants for dinner is Spaghetti, which I often deny because we just had it a week ago. Above is a vague list that Scott gave me many months ago that I still keep on my fridge for inspiration. The answer that I really hate getting, though, is “I don’t know” or even worse “I don’t care.”

Hmmmm. I’ll bet that you’ve been in my shoes before. And “I don’t care” isn’t so bad as long as when I make a few suggestions they aren’t turned down. The worst, isn’t it?

To combat the problem of “What’s for dinner” I’ve started keeping a menu on my fridge with two weeks worth of meals. The menu is on a white board so I can easily switch out meals or note an outing that has come up. I find that dinnertime is so much less stressful if I have a plan ahead of time.

But, I still have to come up with two weeks worth of meals.

And then shop for those two weeks worth of meals.

Sometimes the meal planning itself is so daunting a task that I ignore it, ignore it, ignore it, until we don’t have any food in the house.

If I am really organized (hint: I have two little babes and just started back at work), I will start with a notepad and list out the dates for two weeks. I immediately mark out any dates that we have plans with family or other nights out. Then I start brainstorming ideas. What did we have last week? What haven’t we had in a while? Most likely I’ll stare at the blank page (minus those dates) for so long that I run out of time to actually plan anything.

On lucky days I’ll come up with a balanced couple of weeks worth of meals and built in leftover days. I love leftover days (even if I’m the only one in my family who appreciates them). As an example, I’ll plan to cook two days in a row and hopefully both of those meals will yield enough for leftovers. Then on the third day (or fourth), we will have leftovers and everyone can pick and choose her favorites.

Meal planning can be a bit rigid, but I use my two week menu more as a guide than a rule. More often than not I’ll switch up the meals based on mood, but if I planned correctly then I know that I’ll have all of the ingredients already in my fridge and pantry.

They key is to have ideas! Written down in front of you! Which is like a magical miracle for me!

Because otherwise we get to 5:30 and all stand around asking each other, “what do you want to eat?” Those are never good meal nights…

Do you meal plan? HOW do you decide WHAT to cook for dinner?

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Every weekend, Beth Fish Reads hosts Weekend Cooking.  “Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs.”  Hope you’ll join the fun!

 

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Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

September 25, 2014 Reading Nook, Review 15

kindredTitle: Kindred
Author: Octavia E. Butler
Published: 1979 Pages: 264
Genre: Fiction

In Short: Dana, a modern black woman, suddenly and inexplicably finds herself transported through time to 1815 to a slaveowner’s plantation in Maryland. Throughout the course of the novel she moves back and forth between present day and the early 19th century.

Why I Read It: Confession! I had never heard of Butler or Kindred before the first #Diversiverse Event that I participated in. At that time Diversiverse was for speculative fiction written by persons of color and Octavia Butler was one of the most recommended authors. I was thrilled when the e-book went on sale a few months ago and even more thrilled when I remembered this year’s Diversiverse event.

Thoughts in General: Let’s get something out of the way–this book is often classified as science-fiction and I’m going to go ahead and disagree with that label. Yes there is time travel but otherwise there is nothing science-y about this book (and even the science time travel is never explained). And if you tell me that you don’t read books with time travel, then I will argue that what this book does with the time travel is more important than the actual time travel itself. The time travel allows us to imagine what a free black woman, who has gone through the Civil Rights Movements of the 20th century, might experience emotionally and mentally if thrown into slavery. Further, Dana’s husband is a white man and at one point travels back in time with Dana and must see his wife as a slave. There are moments in this book that are horrifying. Horrifying.

Dana is a strong character and it was both fascinating and heartbreaking to see her fitting into the 19th century setting–knowing that she would have to set her freedoms aside. At first she says that she and her husband must play the act but by the end she wonders when the act became a reality. My one complaint about the book, though, is that I wanted more depth into Dana’s emotions and thoughts. Perhaps this is because I’m reading The Sparrow right now, which spells out so much of the philosophy and themes, but Kindred feels more plot driven than character driven.  I often wondered how the story might have been different if told from varying perspectives (we see the story through Dana’s first person). Kevin, Dana’s husband, would have provided great insight; Alice, a freewoman who was captured into slavery, had a harrowing tale to share; and Rufus, the slaveowner and the character tied to Dana throughout the novel…ok, maybe I don’t want to know what Rufus was thinking.

Regardless of the perspective or the plot-driven story, Kindred was a fast read that was hard to put down. It was difficult to read knowing that pain and hardship and all the bad things were going to happen on Dana’s next trip in time, but I kept waiting in hope for things to take a turn for the better in the past. For people (Rufus) to learn a lesson in humanity. And like all great works of literature, Kindred made me hungry to seek out other slave narrative/neo slave narratives. Certainly these books do not make for comfortable reading, but sometimes that’s the point.

Bottom Line: Read it. While I would have enjoyed a little bit more depth, Butler raises all kinds of important questions and dialogues about slavery, race, education, human rights…

Kindred is a type of neo-slave narrative. Do you have a favorite slave narrative or neo-slave narrative (think Beloved for the latter)?

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Drood – A Readalong

September 24, 2014 Reading Nook 15

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So remember when had a little vote for the next Readalong book? Drood by Dan Simmons was the winner. It was a lot of fun to watch the votes come in and since I chose all of the books in the running, I was constantly torn between who I wanted to win. Thank you everyone for voting and I hope that all of y’all who voted for Drood are still up for the challenge. Because this bad boy is long!

The Details:

When: Begin October 1st, Halfway (through ch 22, page 391 of my copy) on Wednesday October 22nd, Finish Saturday November 15th. Of course these are just guidelines–start when you want, finish when you want, but I’ll put up linky posts for those three points if you would like to post.

Synopsis from Goodreads: “Dan Simmons draws impeccably from history to create a gloriously engaging and terrifying narrative. Based on the historical details of Charles Dickens’s life and narrated by Wilkie Collins (Dickens’s friend, frequent collaborator, and Salieri-style secret rival), DROOD explores the still-unsolved mysteries of the famous author’s last years and may provide the key to Dickens’s final, unfinished work: The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Chilling, haunting, and utterly original, DROOD is Dan Simmons at his powerful best.”

More to follow on October 1st!

What’s the next Readalong Gang read? I’m skipping the vote this time and going with Bag of Bones by Stephen King in December. Merry Christmas! Sometime in the next month or so I’ll put up the vote for January with the suggestions I received from you. Some really great suggestions!

readalong gang

 

So…are you in for Drood next month?? I hope so! I’ll be using and following #Droodalong on twitter and Instagram.

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Top Ten Books for Fall

September 23, 2014 Reading Nook 29

top ten for fall

Fall! Pumpkins! Changing of Leaves! It’s still in the 80s/90s here, but I’m hopeful that soon we will have deliciously cool weather. And hopefully not devilishly frigid winter. It’s Tuesday, which means that I have a list for you! I love lists. Especially bookish lists. The gals at The Broke and the Bookish have asked us to list our Top Ten Books on our Fall TBR.

Spoiler Alert – I probably will only read a handful of these books by the time Christmas rolls around.  Maybe more. Looking back at my Spring and Summer TBR lists, some of these are repeats and most of my lists for those posts are still half-read. Ah well.

Top Ten Books to Read This Fall

Fall TBR Books

1. Drood by Dan Simmons – The plan is to post details on the readalong tomorrow…but if I miss tomorrow, go ahead and grab your books for an October/November readalong.

2. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury – Because what screams autumn more than this deliciously spooky tale? (I’ll be listening as part of the Something Wicked Readalong Hosted by Ti of Book Chatter and Sandy of You’ve Gotta Read This!)

3. American Gods by Neil Gaiman – Ugh. Will I ever actually read this book? I promise I want to!

4. Bag of Bones by Stephen King  – People keep recommending this one to me. Les–I’m looking at you! (who’s up for a readalong in December? Because nothing says Merry Christmas like a King readalong?)

5. Night Film by Marisha Pessl – Seedy, dark. Not quite a spring book, I’m thinking.

Fall TBR Books

6. Bellman and Black by Diane Setterfield – I keep hearing this one termed as a ghost story (and yes, I have heard it’s a letdown but I’m willing to take the risk).

7. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams - Ok, maybe not a fall book but I’ve just recently learned how short this one is…so why not.

8. Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman – Gaiman, Graveyeards, perfect for the upcoming Dewey’s Readathon. Can’t wait!

9. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly – Another that I’ve had on my shelf for too long. Though I can’t remember if this one is better suited to RIP or Once Upon a Time.

10. Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen – As in Mrs. Edgar Allan Poe.

If you’ve been living under a book blogging rock, Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings is hosting the ninth edition of RIP (Readers Imbibing Peril) Event. Many of these books will count towards RIP and I made the lovely images above before I remembered that I have Dracula on audio and would love to listen to that. So, hopefully I can make room for Dracula as well. And already mentioned is the Something Wicked This Way Comes readalong in October. Lots of fun fall events coming up!

Readers Imbibing PerilSomething Wicked Readalong

 

 What is on your fall reading list?

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Changing Tastes – Sunday Post 95

September 21, 2014 Reading Nook, Sunday Salon 32

Sunday Salon

Happy Sunday everyone! Many moons ago (last month) I drafted some posts for when I went on my trip to Toronto but time got away from me and I failed to finish them. One of them was the Top Ten Tuesday for that week–books I own but am not really sure I want to read anymore. As I was scouring my shelves for books that I’m not sure I want to read (I can assure you this number is more than 10), I started taking a look at how my tastes in books has evolved over the years.

Sometimes I think about how blogging has changed my reading tastes and what I would be reading if not for blogging. How has reading changed my tastes? Before blogging I was a pretty devoted author-reader. I would gobble up anything I could by an author that I enjoy (yes, Jodi Picoult I’m looking at you), but these days there is much more breadth in my author selection. I don’t think that there is any real reason to this except that I realize there are so many authors and omg not enough time to read them all.

Before blogging I’m not really sure how I learned about new books. Probably Oprah’s book club or People Magazine. Bahahaha–I’m mostly kidding. Or am I? Honestly, I can’t remember! A lot of the older books on my shelves are ones that were prize winners, best sellers, and yes, Oprah’s selections (in her defense she has had some great picks amongst the cruddier ones).

Now I have you lovely people to introduce me to books. Twitter. Publishers. Constant book overload. I’m aware of more authors now than I was 10 years ago and I also have a better handle on what my bookish tastes are. I read less formulaic books these days, less women’s fiction, even less classics (sad about that last one). I like to think that I’m getting more variety in my reading these days, but I’m not sure that’s always the case. Though regardless of what I’m reading (or not reading), I’m in a comfortable and happy place.

But what to do with the books on my shelf that I’m not sure I want to read anymore? Do I leave them in case my interests swerve again? Admittedly some of my apprehension in picking these books up (or taking them off my shelf) is related to me making a habit of not knowing what books are about when I acquire them. I’m not sure what these books are about and whether I’ll like them or not. Some cases I’ve read other books by these authors and enjoyed them but they’re not books that I loved.  For example, I enjoyed Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts and The Honk and Holler was a nice read but did I enjoy them enough to keep Made in the U.S.A on my shelf? Here are some books that I’m not really sure whether to keep around or not. Have you read any of them?

Stormy Weather/Lucky You – Carl Hiaasen  |  Animal Husbandry – Laura Zigman |  I Am Charlotte Simmons – Tom Wolfe  |  Made in the U.S.A. – Billie Letts  |  The Patron Saint of Liars – Ann Patchett  |  Child 44 – Tom Rob Smith  |  Monsters of Florence – Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi  |  The Zoo Where You’re Fed to God – Michael Ventura  |  The Satanic Versus – Salman Rusdie

I have noticed that while my reading tastes have changed a bit over the years, my book buying habits have also changed. As my shelves overrunneth with books, I’m less likely to casually buy books, especially at library sales. If a book comes home with me, it’s because I really want it. This is also why I’ve stopped accepting many books for review. I’m much more selective in my reading choices.

Have your reading tastes changed over the years? What changes have you noticed?

 

hearts sunday monday reading

…linking up to Kimba’s Caffeinated Book Reviewer and Sheila’s Book Journey

Books Recently Finished: I listened to Breakfast at Tiffany’s and then started to watch the movie. I knew absolutely nothing about the story before going into the book and so I was a bit surprised. Holly Golightly reminds me a bit of Jay Gatsby in a way–a bit misunderstood, someone who has remade herself, someone who has a bit of a tragic downfall (well, “bit” is an understatement for Gatsby). What do you think? I also finished Kindred by Butler (ebook). Full post coming soon.

New Books in the House: No actual books but I have been going a little crazy with audiobooks lately. I picked up Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay (currently listening to this), Persuasion by Jane Austen, The Feminine Mystique by Betty Frieden, The Death of Ivan Ilynch by Tolstoy, Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple, and Gulp by Mary Roach. I…I don’t know what happened there.

New Books on my E-Reader: Better news for my e-reader than audiobook player. Ahem.

Books on the Nightstand: The Sparrow! I’m hoping to finish it very very soon and then I’ll pick up another book for #Diversiverse. Not sure which–maybe Cisneros or Silko or Mamaday. Something shortish.

What do you have going on this Sunday? Reading anything especially good?

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Operation Use My Grill

September 20, 2014 In the Kitchen 17

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Operation Use My Grill

 

Imagine me doing my “Yay I know how to turn on my grill dance.” Except that one time that we were out of propane and the two other times when Scott had turned off the propane and I didn’t realize it. But otherwise, I know how to turn on my grill! And actually kind of sort of use the grill for cooking things.

If you’re new here (hi!), I challenged myself a few years ago to pick a kitchen thing (or in this case an outside kitchen thing) and spend the month using it. You can see past Operation Use My Kitchen Stuff here.  July was our grill month and we rocked it!

Lessons Learned:

  • Thermometers are friends. There were a few times when we had to throw the chicken back on the grill because it wasn’t cooked long enough. And the first time we cooked steak, it was too overdone. After going through a few thermometers, we finally splurged on a ThermoWorks. It works beautifully.
  • The grill has different temperatures. There is also such thing as indirect and direct heat. I’m still trying to figure all of this out. #headdesk
  • Grilled fruit is delicious. Like seriously.
  • Parchment paper doesn’t really belong on the grill. I learned this when my pizza dough was too sticky to put it directly on the grill. It all worked out in the end, even if the paper did nearly catch fire.
  • Prep everything before you start using the grill–especially if you’re grilling something a little more fragile like fruit/vegetables.

The Recipes:

Meats: Strip Steak, Ribs (started off in the smoker), Fajitas (Big Book of BBQMolasses Glazed Chicken Thighs, Cornish Hens (Big Book of BBQ, started off in the smoker), Bacon Wrapped Burgers (Big Book of BBQ–pic from the book), Grilled Drumsticks (Big Book of BBQ).

The ribs were the best we’ve ever had–I loved the smokiness from the smoker but the flavor from the quick grilling at the end. And the molasses glazed chicken thighs were my favorite of the bunch. There are still many things I’d love to cook–some salmon (which we’ve done before but not in years) and more chicken.

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Fruit/Dessert: Grilled peaches, grilled pound cake (with blueberries and blueberry ice cream), grilled pineapple. I was in love with it all. And it allowed Scott to eat fresh fruit without compromising taste. The peaches were a hit with the girls. I didn’t put them directly on the grill because they seemed too tender but I bet they would have been good that way, too.

grilled dessert

 

Veggies/Sides: Corn on the cob (YUM!), Potato Salad (from Big Book of BBQ), Asparagus, Zucchini.

grilled veggies

 

Pizza!  Ok, so the pizza on the grill was a bit of a flop, but it was a fun experiment. On a whim I grabbed a package of Betty Crocker pizza dough mix instead of making my own dough. You know, the whole busy working mom thing. It was a disaster–the dough was too sticky for me to do anything more than spread it out on parchment paper and then throw it on the grill. I called up to Scott and yelled “We need a backup dinner!” After grilling the dough on both sides, I decided to just throw it on the pizza stone in the oven with the toppings. Good news was the entire thing came together in about 15 minutes and it ended up being pretty delicious. It’s BBQ chicken with red onions on my half. So, next time I’ll make my own dough and then follow Beth Fish Read’s instructions on grilled pizza. The Pioneer Woman inspired the assembly of ingredients.

grilled pizza

 

Where Do I Go From Here?

SO. Operation Use My Grill was a huge success. We used our grill more this summer than in all of the other summers combined. Fun random fact–the day that we got the grill was also the day that I joined twitter. Ha! I feel like such a badass for knowing how to turn on the grill and for actually being able to make some things on my own. I’d like to experiment a bit more with the pizza and grill some fish. I think we still have a ways to go before we perfect chicken on the grill. But really, we grilled meats, veggies, fruits, *dessert!* I’m pretty pleased with how Operation Use My Grill turned out.

What’s next? Freaking Fondue. I say that because I’ve been trying to get that fondue pot out for years now. I keep stalling and thinking of new Kitchen Things to play with instead. Have a favorite fondue recipe? I’d love for you to share!

What’s your favorite thing to make on the grill? Anything out of the usual?

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Linking up with:

weekend cookingEvery weekend, Beth Fish Reads hosts Weekend Cooking.  “Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs.”  Hope you’ll join the fun!

 

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Bloggiesta – Fall 2014

September 18, 2014 Blogging Thoughts 18

bloggiesta

Bloggiesta!! First, sorry about the double posting today. I know, bad Trish. But I’m planning on posting on Saturday and Sunday and I figured twice in one day was better than every day? I know that’s not really logical.

So, this weekend is Bloggiesta which is a virtual “fix up your blog” party. And my blog needs a bit of work and since Scott will be back in town I’m planning on escaping for a little bit of ME time. At least that’s the plan in my head. Can you believe that last year when I participated Evie was THREE WEEKS old? Holy cow.

On my To-Do List:

  1. Update Reviews by Title and Reviews by Author Done!!
  2. Figure out if I add a signature to my posts if it will add a signature to all my old posts? Yup. Total Fail unless I want to amend 1,000+ posts
  3. Get my email inbox to one pageBarely. 49 emails in my inbox. Still have some work to do!
  4. Fix signature on old posts
  5. Fix links on old “Trish’s Reading Nook” posts
  6. Figure out why the “related posts” plug-in only works for certain posts Decided I don’t care. :)
  7. Tags/Categories. Groan. Down to 12 categories. I think I need to convert more categories to tags and delete some tags, but I’m happy with the progress.
  8. Scour mini-challenges  Completed one. Sadly I wasn’t interested in many of the challenges this time.
  9. Visit participants. Some!

Posts to Draft:

  1. Operation Use My Grill
  2. Kindred Review
  3. Top Ten Tuesday – Fall List (half finished)
  4. Drood Readalong
  5. Sunday Salon (topic??)

Mini Challenges:

  1. Anchor Texts from The Book Wheel. Added anchors to my Reviews by Title and Reviews by Author. Love this!!

Things Not On My Original List:

  1. Install WP Super Cache plugin. I think it has helped my blog loading speed!
  2. Update Operation Use My Kitchen Stuff Page. Long overdue.
  3. Created template post for a bookish questionnaire that I’m stealing from Laura. Yay Rainy Day Post!

Final Thoughts:

I got a lot done on Thursday and Friday but fizzled during the weekend. Not surprised as it’s always tougher to get computer time with the littles and the busyness of our weekends. I still want to tackle my email a bit more and continue to stay on top of my post drafting so that I can hopefully have more free time to comment rather than spend all my free time drafting posts. I’m super bummed about the whole signature thing but I guess it’s easy enough to just to manually add it to each post.

Want to help me out with a blog topic? I’m looking for personal-type post ideas. Ask me anything??

Are you participating in Bloggiesta? What was on your agenda for the event?

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