Saturday, July 9, 2022

Book Talk: High School Non-Fiction

I spent a LOT of time last school year researching books to buy for the high school library I almost had to create from nothing. Hours and hours. 

The reason I spent so much time is that high school books are kind of tricky, in my opinion. There are, as with all school ages, a wide variety of reading levels to account for. But mostly, I think it's because of those kids that can read at an adult level, but probably shouldn't be reading all the adult books. There are some topics and content that I don't believe a 14-year-old needs to be encountering quite yet.

So. I spent all that time reading reviews and synopses of every single book I purchased for the high school library. 

It was fun to discover new authors and titles, but it was a bit tedious. And it remains to be seen which titles will be popular, and which won't. 

My own sons have been working on reading some of these books already, but many of them are ones I haven't actually read yet, and neither have they. That means I can't really give personal recommendations for them all. So I think what I'll do is just list what books I chose to buy. Starting with the non-fiction.


The 15-Minute Artist by Catherine Holmes

How to Draw by Katie Moore (Editor)

Almost Lost Arts by Emily Freidenrich

Fashion Book by DK Publishing


Moon USA State by State

National Geographic Guide to National Parks of the United States

Abandoned New Mexico by John M. Mulhouse


A Time of Gifts: On Foot to Constantinople by Patrick Leigh Fermor

Between the Woods and the Water by Patrick Leigh Fermor

Canoeing with the Cree by Eric Severeid

A Girl's Wanderings in Hungary by H. Ellen Browning

All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys' Soccer Team by Christina Soontornvat

Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific in a Raft by Thor Heyerdahl


Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History by Joseph M. Marshall III

Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune by Pamela S. Turner

Education of a Wandering Man by Louis L'Amour

Storm of Steel by Ernst Junger


97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement by Janet Ziegelman

Beginner Gardening Step by Step by Dorling Kindersley Publishing Staff

Dogs: Working Origins and Traditional Tasks by Mike Loades

Encyclopedia of Warrior Peoples and Fighting Groups by Allen L. Hamilton

A Dog in the Cave: The Wolves Who Made Us Human by Kay Frydenborg

Odin the One-Eyed Dog agrees that humans would be sad creatures indeed without him and his kind.

What would you add to this list of high school non-fiction? Or, have you read and would you recommend any of the above?

Friday, July 8, 2022

Friday Food: Fourth Food


Short version: Leftover meatballs, spaghetti with pesto, leftover bull stew, raw radishes

Long version: I was putting the pesto over the spaghetti and thinking it looked kind of thin . . . which is when I realized I forgot to put the walnuts in it.

So. Don't be like me.


Short version: Pork chops, baked potatoes, sauerkraut, roasted carrots, raw kohlrabi sticks

Long version: The only reason I made this was because my first batch of sauerkraut for the summer finished up, and I love sauerkraut and pork. It was certainly not because it's a seasonally appropriate meal. Thankfully, some rain in the surrounding area pushed some cool air our way just in time to save me from melting into a puddle in the kitchen.

While I had the oven on for the pork, I figured I might as well cook everything else. Thus, the potatoes and carrots.

But not the kohlrabi. I only ever eat kohlrabi raw. I know it can be cooked, but I agree with my kids on this one: Raw is better. 


Short version: Famous hanger steak, spaghetti with carrot-greens pesto, raw radishes, banana fake ice cream

Long version: Famous because I had no idea what hanger steak was, but when I looked it up, everything was all "Best Steak Ever!" "Butcher's Choice!" And so on.

It actually looked pretty gnarly when I unwrapped it. I had to trim quite a bit of connective tissue and things off it, but after it was seared and sliced, it was, indeed, very good steak. Lots of flavor and quite tender.

I made the pesto from carrot greens because I've been harvesting a lot of carrots lately. I was giving the green tops to the chickens, but someone recommended I try pesto with them. So I did. It was okay. The greens didn't have a lot of flavor of their own. The garlic mostly carried the flavor. Not bad, but basil is definitely better.

And the frozen banana slices turned into soft serve ice cream magic again. With cocoa powder, because it's just better that way.


Short version: So much celebratory Independence food, and a cake whee!

Long version: My version of food for Independence Day was seeing how close I could come to traditional Fourth of July cookout food while still maintaining my independence from a grocery store. That is, I didn't go shopping for this meal. Instead, I went to my garden, freezers, and pantry. And here's what I came up with.

From the garden--cabbage and carrots for coleslaw, lettuce and tomatoes for hamburger toppings

Fourth of July tomatoes AND lettuce! I win gardening!

From the freezer--Ground beef for hamburgers, frozen blueberries for cake decorations

The red stripes were strawberry jam and some bits of the three sour cherries the children brought me from the neighbors' tree.

From the pantry--Three jars of pressure-canned pinto beans that I turned into "baked" beans (actually simmered on the stove) with onion, bacon, barbecue sauce, ketchup, mustard, and brown sugar. Plus flour for the sourdough buns I made for the hamburgers and the cake.

I also found a bag of charcoal, but no lighter fluid, so I actually built a little fire in our outdoor fireplace to get the coals going so I could grill the hamburgers.

Only for America's birthday will I deal with this incredibly annoying janky grill in 20-mile-an-hour winds. Good hamburgers, though.

So in the end, we had cheeseburgers on homemade sourdough buns with lettuce and tomato, coleslaw, baked beans, and cake.

God bless America, indeed.


Short version: Found-food skillet, raw radishes

Long version: Oh man. I REALLY REALLY did not want to cook. It was hot. I was grumpy. And right until the moment that I dragged myself away from my bedroom fan, I was planning on tuna salad.

But then I raided the freezers. 

I ended up frying some of the processed (pressure-cooked and broken down in the food processor) bull meat with some cooked rice I had also frozen. I dumped both things into a skillet still totally frozen. Then I added the rest of the carrot-greens pesto and called it dinner. It wasn't bad, actually.


Short version: Fried pork, potatoes, leftover coleslaw

Long version: In order to avoid the same haphazard situation from the night before, I cooked most of this ahead. Pork chops, still completely frozen, went into a covered pan to cook for a few hours in the morning, along with some baked potatoes. Then, at dinnertime, I just diced the pork and fried it with spices, peeled the potatoes and microwaved them with butter, and had dinner without actually cooking much in an 83-degree kitchen. Yay for me.


Short version: Leftovers

Long version: There were leftovers of the bull/rice skillet thing, and I had a salad with leftover hamburger in it. Also in my salad (of my lettuce, hooray!) were some of the beets I pickled the day before. I used a new recipe with a lot less sugar than the standard Ball Blue Book recipe, and woah, those were some really, really vinegary beets. Strong food.

Tasty in a salad, though. And beets are the prettiest of canned vegetables.

Okay, your turn! What'd you eat this week?

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

T.T.: Homemade Squirt? Yes Please

I was reminiscing with my children the other day about when I first got my driver's license. I told them that one of the best things about that was being able to stop at a Circle K whenever I wanted to on my way home from soccer practice and get a Squirt from the fountain. Squirt is a citrus-flavored soda that originated in Phoenix, and it's pretty local to Arizona. When it's over 100 degrees and you've been running for two hours outside, few things are more appreciated than a very icy, very sweet, carbonated citrus-based drink. 

I haven't had a Squirt in years. I might find them as unappealing now as I find Coke, which is way too sweet and off-tasting to me now. But I did discover yesterday accidentally that I can make something at home that is very close to what I remember Squirt tasting like.

As a Fourth of July treat, I made lemonade. I never measure, but it's just sugar, water, and (bottled, in this case) lemon juice. I left it quite strong, so that I could add some seltzer to mine. I always like drinks carbonated if I can manage it. The only seltzer we had on hand was grapefruit-flavored seltzer.

Turns out, lemonade+grapefruit seltzer=Squirt.

So good.

I have no interest in trying to make homemade root beer or Pepsi, but homemade Squirt? Two thumbs up.

Patriotic Poppy agrees.

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Snapshots: Ripe Apricots Wait for No Woman

We went to our friends' house on Thursday, and were the happy recipients of three boxes of small apricots harvested the day before.

Tiny, but tasty.

I should have processed them that day, but I was too tired, so they had to wait until the next day. They were a little too ripe to really gel, but the resulting 10 pints of puree will certainly be put to good use in yogurt and crepes.

A. started harvesting his garlic, as well.

He had the brilliant idea of cutting off the stalks with his wire cutters. Good call. Those stalks are tough, but they're not tougher than wire.

One of the more entertaining things in the garden this year has been the carrots. I had some carrots go to seed last year (some that we had missed digging up the year before--it takes them two years to make seeds), and I had randomly shaken some of the thousands of seeds around. And then, of course, the wind did its thing. 

The result of this has been carrots coming up literally everywhere I've been watering. In my tomatoes, cabbages, peas, green beans . . .

It's fun. And one of the great benefits of volunteer carrots is that they don't have to be thinned.

I started pulling the ones in my tomato bed, though, because they were getting lost under the giant tomato bushes. This photo also shows the last of the snow peas.

Since our big rain a couple of weeks ago, we've had a few more short cloudbursts here and there, which is why we now have honest-to-goodness GREEN in the pastures.

This was dead brown just two weeks ago. It's way past time for some grass to start growing.

There you have it! My life, snapshotted.