Saturday, July 23, 2022

Book Talk: High School Fiction Part 2

These are the fiction books I bought for the high school library, most of which I have not read. Yet.

A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee--Despite the above disclaimer, I did read this one already. It's about a young girl who becomes part of a female spy agency in Victorian London. Some of the obvious shoehorning of modern attitudes into a historical setting annoyed me a bit, but I still enjoyed it enough that I'd like to read the other three in the series. And I know 14-year-old me would not have cared a bit about those inconsistencies. 

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

The Wishing Day Trilogy by Lauren Myracle

The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver--I have read this before, which is why I bought it for the library. Such a good book.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Cosima by Grazia Deledda--A. recommended this book. It's the story of the author's own growing up in rural Sardinia. I read this one already, too, and it was a fascinating glimpse into a place and culture I knew nothing about.

My Antonia and Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather--I love My Antonia. I haven't read Death Comes for the Archbishop yet, but it's set in New Mexico, so I feel like I have to. And I also felt like we really should have it in our school library. So now we do.

And here is a photo of the actual high school library in progress. It's on the stage in the old gym, because that's the only place there was room.

Dune by Frank Herbert--According to A., the greatest science fiction novel of all time. And so of course, I bought it for the library. I got the next three in the series, as well. There are a bunch more, but A. told me the first four are the best, anyway.

Garden Spells and First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen--These were actually my copies that I donated to the school libary. They're easy to read books, with wonderful characters and a sort of overlay of magic that affects the otherwise ordinary lives of those characters.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristof--A science fiction novel told through a series of documents. Cubby read this and really liked it, although he said it was a little disturbing, because it was such a plausible scenario.

Lost on the Prairie--by MaryLou Driedger

The Luck Uglies trilogy--This was recommended a couple of times by Jody here, and I'm looking forward to reading them.

The Machine Stops by E.M. Forester--Another science fiction recommendation from A. He feels about this the way that Cubby felt about Illuminae.

Moon Moth and Other Stories by Jack Vance--And yet another science fiction recommendation from A. He's read a lot of them.

The Night Gardener by Jonathon Auxier

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga

The Professional by W.C. Heinz

True Grit by Charles Portis

We Fed Them Cactus by Fabiola Cabeza de Baca--This is the story of the author's childhood growing up only a couple of hours from my own home in New Mexico. She was raised in the traditional Spanish way, but witnessed the beginning of the homesteader era, as well. It's a fascinating book.

A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat

What would you add to this list of high school fiction? Or have you read any of these and would recommend them?

Friday, July 22, 2022

Friday Food: Taking the Heat

Because I have to stay in the kitchen. Like so . . .


Short version: Leftovers fried in a skillet, raw snow peas

Long version: There were leftover baked potatoes and some leftover taco meat, which I fried all together in a skillet. Add some shredded cheese, and there's dinner for the two children at home.


Short version: Homecoming steak, pesto bread, pasta salad, carrot sticks

Long version: I had not made pasta salad in literally years, but I wanted to make something for our elderly neighbor who just got home after having a knee surgery. My usual offering for such a situation is an all-in-one sort of casserole like shepherd's pie, but it's too hot for that. So I made pasta salad, which is also an all-in-one meal if enough protein is added.

I used just the pasta from three boxes of the Annie's macaroni and cheese that we find way too salty. I mixed the cooked pasta with a mustard vinaigrette when it was still warm, so the pasta would soak up the dressing. Then I added a bunch of hard-boiled eggs, cheddar cheese, onion, snow peas, carrots, and some chopped romaine lettuce, and then mayonnaise, salt, and pepper. It came out very well.

The travelers returned around 6 p.m. They hadn't eaten an actual meal since breakfast, so they were appreciative of the meal I had planned for them. I had made pesto earlier in the day, and I just fried bread in butter and spread it with some of the pesto. This was mostly for the members of the family who couldn't or didn't want to eat the pasta salad.

I provisioned the road warriors for their trip out, but the MiL stocked them up for the return trip. And she used some of the same recycled containers I had sent out with them, also labeled in with a Sharpie.

Great minds and all that.


Short version: Bull and potato skillet, cucumber spears, vanilla ice cream with chocolate shell

Long version: I took out a bag of the processed bull and fried that with some spices and potatoes pre-cooked in the microwave. 

Creativity in the kitchen takes a serious hit when it's 84 degrees in said kitchen before I even start cooking.

The cucumber was actually an Armenian cucumber, which is botanically a type of melon. It looks and tastes like a cucumber, though, and, most importantly, it is very heat tolerant. I have trouble with typical cucumbers getting bitter in our very hot sun. Armenian cucumbers aren't supposed to do that, so I decided to try growing them this year. 

So far, I've been very impressed with them. The only remaining question is what kind of refrigerator pickles they make.

Is there anyone who is not yet aware how easy it is to make chocolate shell for ice cream? Half a cup of chocolate chips melted--either in the microwave or on the stove--with a teaspoon of coconut oil. Stir until smooth, and that's it.


Short version: Pork and rice, still-frozen peas

Long version: I had some pork steaks in the freezer, so in the early morning I browned those, then cooked them on the stovetop until they were tender with the last few tablespoons of pesto, the last of a can of commodities spaghetti sauce. When they were done, I took them out, added some water, then cooked rice in that. I put the pork on top of the rice and put the whole skillet in the refrigerator. 

It was only 9 a.m. when I put the skillet in the refrigerator. Then at dinnertime, all I did was take the whole skillet out and re-heat it on low heat. 

The heat that makes me so cranky is making the calabaza take over the world. Silver linings.


Short version: Leftovers, cucumber, highly unusual cereal

Long version: It's so handy to have our thermostat right on the wall of the kitchen, so I can see that it's 86 degrees in my kitchen, thereby confirming my feeling that it was way too hot to turn on the stove.

I foraged in the refrigerator instead. A. got the rest of the pork and rice. 

There was a bit of of the plain processed bull left, so I microwaved that with butter (it's incredibly lean and needs the extra fat) and barbecue sauce to make sandwich meat.

There were also a few hard-boiled eggs, so I made egg salad for those who preferred that for sandwiches.

Some of the children were still hungry after their sandwiches, and I really didn't have much else on hand, so I decided they could have a bowl of cereal for a second course.

They never eat cereal for dinner. Literally never. I know this is common for many people when they don't want to cook, but not for us. However, it's not a bad filler if they're hungry after already eating actual food. So everyone got a bowl of either Cheerios (thanks to the MiL, who sent this home with the travelers) or generic Rice Krispies. 

A. had just brought home a bunch of cream from his grocery run this day, so I put a little of that on the cereal along with the milk. And now I'm a shoo-in for Mother of the Year. (Not being facetious. My kids were THRILLED. What's that about low expectations again?)


Short version: Beef stir-fry, rice

Long version: I got all ambitious and took out stir-fry beef. It was hotter than I expected in the kitchen when it was time to cook, and I was very tempted to cop out on actually stir-frying, but I did it anyway. Besides the beef, there were carrots and snow peas from the garden, as well as lamb's quarters.

While I was standing there sweating and stir-frying, the storm that had been hovering on our horizon for a couple of hours finally broke. The rain-cooled air blew into the kitchen and actually cooled it down enough that when we sat down to eat, I wasn't sweating.

The reward for my industry, I suppose.


Short version: Meatloaf, garlic bread, green salad with vinaigrette

Long version: I was baking bread anyway, so I figured I should take advantage of the oven having to be on to make meatloaf and garlic bread as well. It was pretty hot by the time we sat down to eat, but it was good meatloaf.

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

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

T.T.: Married Wisdom

One of the more interesting things about marrying a person is that you learn that the way your own family always did things is not necessarily the way that other families always did things.

Take, for instance, grilled cheese sandwiches.

A. doesn't even call them grilled cheese. He calls them toasted cheese. And the way that he makes them has one very important difference from the way I always made them.

Who could ever imagine a debate about grilled cheese?

Both of us start out the same--slices of bread with cheese inside. But whereas I would drop butter right into the pan to melt before I put the sandwiches in the melted butter, A. only butters the bread itself.

And I must admit, this is the best way to do it.

Not only does it require less butter altogether, but there's no butter on the open areas of the pan that will burn and smoke as the sandwiches toast. 

Anything that keeps my smoke detector from going off is a good idea.

And now! A poll!

Do you call them grilled or toasted cheese sandwiches? And do you butter the pan or the bread?

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Snapshots: Baby Time!

A. has had the cell phone with him all week, which means I don't have any new photos to put here. But I do have lots and lots of old photos.

My youngest will be five years old in October, and I no longer have any real babies anymore. I mean, I call them my babies all the time, but . . . no, definitely not babies. 

So let's take a walk down Sentimental Lane and see the babies when they actually were babies.




And Cubby:

There you have it! My (past) life, snapshotted.