Sunday, June 26, 2022
Saturday, June 25, 2022
Once again, I am splitting up middle school and high school for this category. The real reason I do this is because I definitely think there are some books that can be read by middle schoolers, but probably shouldn't be. That is, a middle schooler who reads at a high level may have the technical skill and comprehension to read almost anything, but the content is a little too mature for them.
Fantasy is particularly tricky, because much of it does have some mature content. So these are the books that I think have content that is fine for around 11-13 years old.
The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini--I have no idea why so many fantasty series are called a cycle, but they are. This is a four-book series about a teenage boy who becomes a Dragon Rider and fights the forces of an evil ex-Dragon Rider who is trying to take over their world. My older boys loved these books, and I found them entertaining enough that I read all of them myself. One of the best things about them is that the first one--Eragon--was started by the author when he was only 15 years old, and it was published just a few years later. I feel like this is excellent encouragement for any kid who thinks they might want to write that they don't have to wait until they're grown up. I could tell these books were written by a teenage boy (so. many. battle. scenes.) and by a first-time writer, but they are certainly an extraordinary accomplishment. The author created an incredibly detailed world for the reader to become immersed in. And there is nothing inappropriate in them at all, other than maybe the aforementioned battle scenes. Lots of fighting and blood, but no sex or bad language.
Rebel of the Sands trilogy by Alwyn Hamilton--I loved this trilogy, as did my older sons. The hero is an orphaned teenage girl who lives in a place very much modeled on Arabia, and the story has plenty of influence from the folktales of that region. There is magic involved, but it complements the story rather than drives it. I am not a fan of the fantasy genre, so I prefer books like that. There is definitely a romance in it, and there is one scene of consummation in the third book, but it's very tastefully done. The whole series is well-written and well-plotted, and would appeal to both girls and boys.
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien--This first book that begins the story continued in the Lord of the Rings trilogy is a bit more accessible for younger readers. I think middle school is a good time to introduce it. My sons read the whole series before middle school, but it was definitely a challenge, and I feel like they missed a lot in the story because they were focusing so much on just understanding the actual writing. It really is written at a very high reading level. I think my kids will probably get more out of it when they re-read it at a later age.
The Brotherband Chronicles by John Flanagan--My boys loved this series about a group of teenage boys living in an imagined place called Skandia. The culture is modeled after the Vikings, and the boys are sailors. There's no actual magic in it, but it's still considered fantasy. I read a few chapters of the first book (there are nine in the series), and was not overly impressed with the writing, but my sons devoured this series. This series is a spin-off from a series called Ranger's Apprentice, but for some reason, my boys preferred the Brotherband series.
What would you add to this list of middle school fantasy?
Friday, June 24, 2022
Short version: Chicken wraps or soft tacos, grape tomatoes, brownie bites
Long version: We left my brother's house in Phoenix late Friday morning and stopped for the night at a motel in Socorro, New Mexico, around 7 p.m. I had purchased groceries for our trip home at a store near my brother's house before we left, and that included two rotisserie chickens at a grocery store. So I pulled some meat off and made cold wraps with flour tortillas and cheese, mayonnaise, and mustard for some, and heated some tortillas in the room's microwave for others. Everyone had the tomatoes, and the kids had the brownie bites, which were from the bakery of the store.
Short version: Chicken with tomato and cream sauce, spaghetti, snow peas
Long version: We got home fairly early in the afternoon, but I was very tired and not into cooking. I had an entire rotisserie chicken left, and thought about making chicken salad because it was hot, but I figured we were all tired of road food and would like something cooked. So I combined the meat with some of the canned spaghetti sauce we get from commodities, plus some cream and extra spices, and used that to sauce spaghetti for the kids. A. and I had the chicken without the pasta.
We had a TON of snow peas on the plants in the garden, many of which had gotten quite large and thicker than I normally eat snow peas. Those more mature ones I sauteed in the pan with butter before making the chicken, and the adults ate those. The kids ate the less mature ones raw.
Short version: Steaks, oven fries, baby carrots, pots de creme
Long version: Is it even a Father's Day without steak? Well, yes, of course, but since our resident father very much likes steak, and we have a lot of it, our Father's Days are almost always celebrated with steak. I cooked two New York strip steaks, and two ribeyes. We didn't even eat the ribeyes, so that means I really need to stop taking out so many steaks to thaw at a time.
A. also very much likes french fries. I can't fit all the fries our family will eat in a skillet, so I don't fry them anymore. One half-sheet pan is barely enough for all of us now, and I know some people would like more, so I may have to start making two pans of them. Which means I will make them even more infrequently than I do now. I don't actually know why I don't make them more. It's not as if it's a lot more work than regular roasted potato chunks. Father's Day is a good excuse for the actual fries, though.
If you've been reading here long enough, you'll know that I don't typically have baby carrots. The only reason I had them this time was because I bought a bag of them before we started our drive home from Phoenix. Could I have bought regular carrots and peeled and cut them into real carrot sticks at my brother's house before we started driving home that morning? Yes. But I didn't.
All the baby carrots were eaten, but I was reminded why I don't buy them. They're slimy, and they taste of chlorine. Yuck.
Short version: Leftover steak, rice, green salad with vinaigrette
Long version: Leftover steak is a handy thing to have. It never goes to waste, at least.
Short version: Pizza, snow peas
Long version: Our high this day was only 68 degrees, and I was baking bread anyway, so it seemed like a good day to make pizza.
I made one pizza with just cheese, one with bacon, both with fresh basil from the plants in the garden that are actually looking pretty good this year. Fingers crossed for lots of pesto in the freezer by summer's end.
Short version: Beef stir-fry, leftover rice
Long version: I had actually taken a bag of purchased stir-fry vegetables from the freezer before I realized I had enough vegetables on hand to make the stir-fry without them.
I used an onion, carrots, snow peas from the garden, green bell peppers we had gotten in huge quantities from commodities a few months ago and I froze, and some of last year's frozen beet greens. I figured I'd better use those up, since I've started harvesting this year's beets and freezing the greens.
The first beet I pulled was a real heavyweight.
Thursday, June 23, 2022
Tuesday, June 21, 2022
Given the amount of thought and time I put into what I feed my children at home, it should surprise no one that I am not the sort of person who just stops at McDonald's for lunch and gas stations for snacks when we're driving long distances.
Not only would feeding six people that way for two days* result in a serious financial hit, it would also make everyone feel sick, because that is not the sort of food that we can eat more than once without physical discomfort.
I could write a really long, very detailed post about this, but what it really comes down to is passing out food in the car three stages: early healthy foods, middle less healthy food, and later treats.
So when we start out on a trip, the first things I give everyone are things like carrot sticks, snow peas, cucumbers, or cheese.
* Or longer. We drove four days from New York to New Mexico without stopping at a restaurant once. I made all our food ahead of time and had it in coolers.
Monday, June 20, 2022
Picking up where I left off . . .
We spent almost all our time visiting the various family members in Tucson, but we did make one visit to Agua Caliente park. Despite living in Tucson for several years, I had never been there. It really was pretty impressive.