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A few posts ago, I mentioned that my goal has been to try at least one recipe from each cookbook that I get from the library. I have the habit of seeing a shiny new cookbook and putting it on hold, flipping through the recipes picking out ones that look tempting, and then never managing to try any of them before I have to return it to the library. Here’s my current batch:

So far I’ve made recipes from three (all except The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook), although I’ve checked out The Sprouted Kitchen twice, so I suppose I should make a second recipe. And, confession, I had to return The Science of Good Cooking because it had holds, and I barely even looked through it first.

Here’s what I’ve made.

Vintage Cakes: This is one that I requested my library buy, because it looked gorgeous and because I own and like Richardson’s other cookbook, Rustic Fruit Desserts (plus, she’s local). I had it out in the fall and made Pearl’s Chocolate Macaroon Cake (a yummy coconut layer inside a chocolate bundt cake – what’s not to like?) This time I made the Kentucky Bourbon Cake, since someone in my house is a big bourbon fan (and it’s not the baby). If you like the flavor of bourbon, this is a must-try. There’s some in the batter, and the cake itself is a nice moist, buttery bundt. Then you make a bourbon-sugar-butter glaze, poke holes in the flat side of the bundt, and pour half the glaze in. This gives you nice gooey, extra-boozy streaks in the cake. Then you flip the cake out of the pan and pour the rest over the top. Mine was unattractive (it stuck) but delicious.

The Sprouted KitchenI can’t remember where I saw this recommended, but I thought I needed something to balance out all the baking books. Lots of things look tasty, and so far I’ve made the Ranchero Breakfast Tostadas. It felt like a lot of steps and ingredients for a relatively humble meal, but it was worth it. You toast a corn tortilla and top it with a black bean mash, a fried egg, cheddar, avocado, cilantro and lime juice. We had them for dinner instead of breakfast, and the runny egg yolk really pulls it all together. I’d make this again – or at least use the basic concept once I have to return the cookbook.

The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook: It turns out that I saw this on a list of 2012’s best cookbooks on NPR – along with The Sprouted Kitchen and The Science of Good Cooking. I haven’t made anything yet, but I’ve been eyeing some of the pies, like the Triple Coconut Cream Pie, although realistically I might manage some muffins or scones.

Super Natural Every Day: Some of these recipes have me drooling and some are less appealing, especially in my extremely carnivorous state. However, I made the Baked Oatmeal yesterday, reheated leftovers today, and think I’ve found a new breakfast standby. Not as quick and easy as our current favorite, a Dutch baby with a layer of sliced apples on the bottom (which I can make without referring to a recipe), but nice and hearty. And a worthy use of the last of the summer blueberries. I’d also like to try the White Beans and Cabbage, the Bran Muffins, or the Frittata.

I wrapped up the 48 Hour Book Challenge a little early at 5:30, having spent about a third of the time reading.  Actually, that surprises me because it didn’t feel like that much time.  I probably spent a third of the time sleeping, a third reading, and a third doing everything else.  I didn’t post this sooner since I had to run off to a bbq.

Time spent reading & reviewing: 15 hours, 35 minutes.

I read parts of 5 different books during the challenge: Hester Among the Ruins, Princess of the Midnight Ball, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, Chicks with Sticks (It’s a Purl Thing), and Tom’s Midnight Garden. I’d started Hester before the challenge began, and I’ve still got a good chunk of Deliverance Dane to go, so I read 3 books cover to cover during the 48 hours.

Will I do it again?  Totally – provided it doesn’t fall on a working weekend.  The hardest part was keeping track of my time and tallying it up, and then deciding whether to spend time reviewing or to just keep reading.  I focused mostly on actually reading.  I also had a lot of things planned that took time away from reading, but that helped it feel more exciting and broke up the big chunks of reading.

Unfortunately I didn’t manage to clear some of the dustier things off my to-read shelf, but I did make some room and that’s what counts.  More reviews to follow.

Princess of the Midnight Ball Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I’m a sucker for fairy tale retellings, I’ll admit here. As a dance-obsessed kid, I always liked the story of the dancing princesses, worn-out slippers and all. I also really liked the Faerie Tale Theatre version, and strangely I’m more familiar with that than any written version, so I was quite pleased to see a lot of the same elements in George’s retelling. I recently read Wildwood Dancing, another Dancing Princesses retelling that took the story in a very different direction. This one is more satisfying to my childhood self, with enough fleshing out to make it work as a novel.

Unlike the Faerie Tale Theatre version, this one includes darker elements that explain why the princesses dance nightly. This backstory gives the book the perfect amount of tensio, making me wonder why the princesses in other versions are so willing to dance quite so much – what about sleep? The perspective shifts from Galen, a young soldier returning from war, to Rose, the eldest princess. There were a few structural things that I admired in the plotting, particularly the way the reader never follows the princesses to their nightly dancing until Galen does, even though we know what it happening all along.

As a side note, I loved that Galen was a knitter, pulling out wool and needles in any spare moment. For a former solider, it’s a practical skill, plus it makes sense that he’s thrifty and unwilling to waste time sitting around. He’s a wonderfully likable character, and the story has a nice element of romance while still being friendly and appropriate for younger readers. I’d definitely recommend this to fans of Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast, Ella Enchanted, and the like.

View all my reviews >>

Hester Among the Ruins: A Novel Hester Among the Ruins: A Novel by Binnie Kirshenbaum

This is one of those stories where part of the fascination comes from the fact that the characters are often unlikeable. I never really identified with anyone, but somehow their actions still made sense as part of their personalities. Character and setting are the key players here, with plot taking a backseat. Themes of guilt, culture, and responsibility and restitution for the past run throughout, making an interesting parallel to the story of an affair.

View all my reviews >>

Well, I’ve had quite a few (fun) distractions from reading in the last day, but am cramming in reading whenever I can.  It turns out I’m unwilling to sacrifice sleep (once I hit the sleepy point) but all the little 10 and 20 minute segments do add up.  Here’s what I’ve been up to since the last check in:

11:50 am – 12:10 pm – listened to The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane in the car.  I intended to go grocery shopping and get back to the books, but got a call from my mom and ended up at my cousin’s birthday party instead.  It was a gorgeous sunny day – a little miracle in weeks and weeks of endless rain – plus a birthday party, a combination I couldn’t refuse.

2:30-2:35, 2:50-3:10, and 3:15-5:05 – continued listening to Deliverance Dane while putting my two batches of sherbet in the ice cream maker, eating cherries, and playing solitaire.

5:05-5:50 pm – took a break from reading to put together a list of recommendations for a friend and choose the next Long Distance Kitchen recipe.

5:50-6:30 – started reading Chicks with Sticks (It’s a Purl Thing) by Elizabeth Lenhard, a fairly light, fun YA book about girls learning to knit.  Tons of descriptions of yarn and knitting projects, with a few patterns included in the back.

6:30-10:45 pm – another long break to get dressed up and go to the ballet.  I splurged on a pair of season tickets for the super-cheap seats last year, one of the best splurges I’ve ever indulged in – and I did the same thing for next year.  Not much more than going to an evening movie, plus a fun excuse to get fancied up and go out.  Plus I love the ballet.

10:45-11:30 pm – read more of Chicks.  Realized I’ve never timed myself on how many hours it takes to read a book – I generally look at it in terms of days, something like “I read 16 books last month, which averages out to about a book every other day.”  My eyes started drooping, so then I went to sleep.

7:50-9:10 am – woke up and continued with Chicks, then got ready for church.

9:40-10:00 am, 12:10-12:20 pm, and 12:30-12:40 pm – listened to Deliverance Dane on the way to church and home again, with a stop at the grocery store because the character ate doughnuts and gave me an awful craving.

12:50-1:15 pm – finished reading Chicks while tucking into the doughnut, coffee, cherries, and a fried egg.

1:15-present – calculated my hours so far and wrote this update.  If I did the math correctly, and I’m making no promises, I’ll be at 12 hours and 35 minutes once I finish this post.  Then it’s back to the books before I miss the last couple hours of my 48 by going to a bbq.  C’est la vie.

Well, it’s been 15 hours since I started the 48 Hour Book Challenge, and I’ve managed to spend most of the time sleeping.  Here’s what I’ve accomplished so far:

8-8:20 pm – finished reading Hester Among the Ruins, by Binnie Kirshenbaum, which I’d started reading a while ago.  I’m still trying to figure out what made the story so compelling, but I can’t put my finger on it.  Not a lot of plot, but fascinating (sometimes unlikeable) characters.

8:25-8:50 pm – started listening to the audio version of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, by Katherine Howe, so that I could multitask.  I’ve been listening to another audio book in the car – The Islands of the Blessed – but didn’t feel like going out to fetch it.  I have bad luck trying to remember to bring CDs back and forth from house to car.  While I listened, I did the prep work for two batches of sherbet – lemon and mocha.

9:20-9:35 and 9:45-10 pm – continued listening to Deliverance Dane, with social time and phone calls in the gaps.

10:15-11:15 pm – switched to reading Princess of the Midnight Ball, by Jessica Day George, then went to bed.

8:10-9:20 am – resumed listening to Deliverance Dane while eating breakfast and having my morning coffee.  I finished the second disc and am getting into the story – the historian character just started exploring her grandmother’s ancient, crumbly house and I’m curious to see where things go.  The story takes itself fairly seriously, but it’s nicely atmospheric so I can forgive it for that.  Chock-full of sensory details.

9:20-10:55 am – finished reading Princess – a nicely satisfying fairy tale retelling that combined my favorite parts of the Dancing Princesses story with a dark backstory that made the whole thing make sense.

10:55-11:20 – checking in here.  Not sure if I want to write full reviews as I go, or just plow along with the reading.  Time to choose my next book!  After a brief break for things like brushing my teeth and getting dressed.

Hours of reading/checking in: 5 hours, 25 minutes.

So, I’ve seen other bloggers participate in the 48 Hour Reading Challenge (hosted by Mother Reader) but for some reason I’ve never managed to join in.  I’d be working, or have school projects due, or just forget about it.  So this year I’m going to see how much reading I can get done, leaving time for sleep, food, a outing to the ballet, church, and perhaps a bbq or two in there.  In other words, I’m not going to devote every waking moment to it.  So why do I feel like I’m standing on the starting line and have to start cramming in books as soon as 8 pm (my chosen starting time) rolls around?

At any rate, I’ll do my 48 hours from 8 pm Friday to 8 pm Sunday (Pacific).  Time to go organize my to-read pile!

It’s not too late to join in – follow the link at the top of this post for the rules & instructions.  Or just, you know, squeeze in an extra book sometime.

After the delicious chana masala, our next long distance kitchen recipe was for Annie’s Cannellini and Pearl Barley Soup.  Here’s where we start veganizing recipes, sadly leaving out the suggested sausage and parmesan.  I made a few other minor changes, which I’ll note along the way.

You start out by heating some oil (Bronwen and I are not fasting from olive oil) and sauteing some leeks, carrots and celery with the herbs – thyme, oregano, sage, and parsley.  I used dried thyme, sage and oregano along with some fresh parsley that I had leftover from minestrone.  I used two smallish carrots instead of one large, and I think I might up the carrot content next time I make this.

Instead of throwing everything in the slow cooker at this point, I kept it on the stove over low heat – my crockpot is one of the small ones, and I didn’t think everything would fit.  So I just threw the beans, barley and vegetable stock (I used a Rapunzel brand bouillon – I’m always happy with their flavor) into the stockpot and let everything simmer until the barley was tender. I meant to time the whole thing, for future reference, but I would guess it was in the neighborhood of 45-60 minutes of simmering.  I’ve never cooked with barley before, and I wasn’t exactly sure how chewy it should end up.  I liked a little chewiness when I taste-tested it, but of course the leftovers were a little softer, so I think it worked out.

I accidentally left out the red pepper flakes, and I’m not too sad about it – if the soup had sausage, as Annie suggests, I think the red pepper would be a nice complement, but without sausage it’s more of a comfort food soup – not bland, but no single assertive flavor.  Satisfying and yummy.  I’ll definitely add this to my list of soups to make again.

Bronwen’s take on it can be read here.  She’s always ahead of me on the recipes, confound it.

More Long Distance Kitchen updates to come shortly!  Last Wednesday’s recipe was for Smitten Kitchen’s chana masala, but Bronwen kindly sent me a spice packet and it just arrived today, so I will be attempting (and hopefully documenting) it for lunch tomorrow.  But do go read her recap.  Then I will try to figure out when to make the recipe I assigned her last Saturday, for Cannellini and Pearl Barley Soup, veganized.  Feel free to follow along!

In the meantime, I thought I’d revisit that whole “read what I order” goal.  I’ve really got to come up with a catchier name for it.  The 5 Books Project?  Let’s go with that for now.  There’s no specific goal for when I read them, but I’d like to do it sooner rather than later.  So, starting with my January order, these are the first 5:

  • The Hunchback Assignments, Arthur Slade.
  • The Death-Defying Pepper Roux, Geraldine McCaughrean
  • Cosmic, Frank Cottrell Boyce
  • One Crazy Summer, Rita Williams-Garcia
  • The Rock and the River, Kekla Magoon

These weren’t all necessarily published in January, but that’s when I ordered them.  I, of course, reserve the right to switch out titles.  But these are all ones I’ve had my eye on, and I’ve managed to finish The Hunchback Assignments.

For February, my tentative list is:

  • Heist Society, Ally Carter
  • 8th Grade Superzero, Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
  • The Night Fairy, Laura Amy Schlitz
  • Joey Fly Private Eye (Creepy Crawly Crime), Aaron Reynolds
  • Bell Hoot Fables: The Hidden Boy, Jon Berkeley

Now – arg! – I just need to work my way through what’s already on my shelf.

So, it’s been a week since the ALA Youth Media Awards were announced (you know – Newbery, Caldecott, Printz, etc.) and it’s been a week of discussing and reading opinions on blogs and listserves and the like.   I haven’t actually done any reading of the award winners (cough), but my holds have started rolling in and I’m looking forward to getting started, once I clear one or two things off my shelf (things that absolutely cannot be renewed one more time).

All of the blog reading and discussing has got me thinking about the books that I never get around to reading – the ones that win the not-as-famous awards, the books that are getting some attention but not as much, the awards that get overlooked.  Liz has a post about the Schneider medal, which I noticed (and ordered) this year, but would I have noticed as much if I hadn’t already been familiar with the teen winner, Marcelo in the Real World? And if I hadn’t heard buzz about the middle-school winner, Anything But Typical? I dunno.

Then, oh boy, there are the recent cover controversies – the ongoing issue of characters being depicted as white when they are in fact not.  It’s bad enough when you don’t feel like the cover illustration/photo suits the book or matches the character’s personality, but whitewashing?  Ugh.  Again, Liz has a good overview of the cover issue, and Colleen has passionate summary with plenty of links and some great discussion in the comments.

After toying around with the idea for a while (am I really organized enough?) I thought I’d join the POC Reading Challenge.  While I’d like to think I read books with characters from a variety of racial backgrounds already, this will be a way to make sure.  Plus, as a librarian – as someone who’s ordering books and putting them into the hands of children – I feel some responsibility to make sure there’s access to quality and variety in my collection.  I need to know what’s out there, be able to talk it up, and do my little part to show publishers that variety is needed.

A slightly unrelated goal is to read all of the award winners from this year (I took off the life-time acheivement awards and the Arbuthnot lecture – I’ve read books by all of the winners, so I figure that counts – Walter Dean Myers, Jim Murphy, and Lois Lowry).  Yikes.  Did I just say that?  Let’s see what that list would look like (taking off the ones I’ve already read):

  • “The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg” by Rodman Philbrick
  • “Going Bovine,” written by Libba Bray
  • “The Monstrumologist” by Rick Yancey
  • “Punkzilla” by Adam Rapp
  • “Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal,” written by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson
  • “My People,” illustrated by Charles R. Smith Jr.
  • “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” illustrated by E. B. Lewis, written by Langston Hughes
  • “The Rock and the River,” written by kekla magoon
  • “Book Fiesta!: Celebrate Children’s Day/Book Day; Celebremos El día de los niños/El día de los libros,” illustrated by Rafael López
  • “Diego: Bigger Than Life,” illustrated by David Diaz, written by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand
  • “My Abuelita,” illustrated by Yuyi Morales, written by Tony Johnston
  • “Gracias Thanks,” illustrated by John Parra, written by Pat Mora
  • “Return to Sender,” written by Julia Alvarez
  • “Federico García Lorca,” written by Georgina Lázaro, illustrated by Enrique S. Moreiro (is this in Spanish?  I might have to cross it off my list – we’ll see when our copy arrives)
  • “Django” written and illustrated by Bonnie Christensen
  • “Anything but Typical” written by Nora Raleigh Baskin
  • “Louise, the Adventures of a Chicken”  written by Kate DiCamillo and narrated by Barbara Rosenblat (audio)
  • “In the Belly of the Bloodhound: Being an Account of a Particularly Peculiar Adventure in the Life of Jacky Faber,” written by L. A. Meyer and narrated by Katherine Kellgren (audio)
  • “Peace, Locomotion,” written by Jacqueline Woodson and narrated by Dion Graham (audio)
  • “We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball,” written by Kadir Nelson and narrated by Dion Graham (audio – I’ve already read the print version)
  • “I Spy Fly Guy!” written and illustrated by Tedd Arnold
  • “Little Mouse Gets Ready,” written and illustrated by Jeff Smith
  • “Mouse and Mole: Fine Feathered Friends,” written and illustrated by Wong Herbert Yee
  • “Pearl and Wagner: One Funny Day,” written by Kate McMullan, illustrated by R. W. Alley
  • “The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer’s Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors,” written by Chris Barton, illustrated by Tony Persiani
  • “Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11,” written and illustrated by Brian Floca
  • “A Faraway Island”  written by Annika Thor, translated by Linda Schenck
  • “Eidi,” written by Bodil Bredsdorff, translated by Kathryn Mahaffy
  • “Moribito II: Guardian of the Darkness,” written by Nahoko Uehashi, illustrated by Yuko Shimizu, translated by Cathy Hirano

A mere 29 books!  And several of them are early readers or picture books.  Totally possible.  The question is how long it will take to cross them all off my list.  Also, several will fit into the POC Reading Challenge.

I’m not sure if I’ll attempt the Alex Awards, but that would be a good list to familiarize myself with – and it never hurts to have some adult titles to recommend to adults, too.  So much harder than recommending to kids!  You can tell where I belong.  Here’s the Alex list, in case I’m feeling even crazier:

Alex Awards for the 10 best adult books that appeal to teen audiences

“The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope” by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer, published by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
“The Bride’s Farewell” by Meg Rosoff, published by Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group
“Everything Matters!” by Ron Currie, Jr., published by Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group
“The Good Soldiers” by David Finkel, published by Sarah Crichton Books, an imprint of Farrar, Straus and Giroux
“The Kids Are All Right: A Memoir” by Diana Welch and Liz Welch with Amanda Welch and Dan Welch, published by Harmony Books, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House
“The Magicians,” by Lev Grossman, published by Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group
“My Abandonment” by Peter Rock, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
“Soulless: An Alexia Tarabotti Novel,” by Gail Carriger, published by Orbit, an imprint of Hachette Book Group
“Stitches: A Memoir” by David Small, published by W.W. Norton & Company
“Tunneling to the Center of the Earth” by Kevin Wilson, published by Harper Perennial, an imprint of HarperCollins

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