Friday, December 31, 2010


I'm with family today...more of our delayed Christmas holiday :)
I hope all of you had a wonderful and safe New Year's Eve and are preparing to eat your black eyed peas today for good luck in 2011!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Top Ten Books I Read in 2010

Top Ten Tuesday is an original meme hosted over on The Broke and the Bookish...I'm a little late this week, ahem...but I still wanted to post my list :)

My 1 year blogging anniversary is quickly approaching, (Jan. 2), and I'd like to thank all my new book blogging buddies for reigniting my love of books and reading :)  I was 6 months into blogging before I discovered this wonderful blogging community, and I so appreciate all of you for making a place for me :)
Looking forward to an even fuller book reading and blogging year next year!

My Top 10 for 2010
(reviews, when available, are linked to the titles)

1.  The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls - my first foray into the listening world had me on the edge of my seat wondering how much more incredibly horrible these children's lives could get, how much more resiliant they could possibly be and hoping without much hope that somehow their lives would turn out ok.  An incredible thought provoking and emotional memoir.

2.  The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova - an addictive read...piles and piles of history to think through weaved into a story so rich in detail and relationships between characters that spans many generations.  A vampire story yet not a vampire story.  I will read this one again someday.

3.  The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini - I wish every American had to read this story.  I consider myself a very open minded person...only to find out through this read that there is still so much about Afghan culture that I did and probably still do not know.  More than just a father/son story...a story of life and family and traditions.

4.  Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver - this book is so marked up I would have to buy someone else a clean copy if I recommended it to them...I read this as my daughters and I were preparing our summer garden and it really opened my eyes to what we put into our bodies.  This is Kingsolver's story of her family's year long experiment with self sustainment and back to nature living.

5.  Eat Pray Love - A grown woman's journey discovering all that she thought she wanted out of life was not exactly what she really wanted...and the realization that she didn't really know WHAT it was she wanted.  A personal self discovery travel narrative...aggravates me to see reviews that say this story is self-absorbed...hello, "personal, self-discovery narrative"? duh?  I haven't seen the movie and don't plan to.  I'm weird that way.

6.  Millineum Trilogy by Stieg Larsson - page turners, stay up laters, rubbing your eyes and don't want to stop reading.  Lizbeth Salander, I dare anyone to say she's not one of the most interesting, tough, complicated, but likeable female protagonists to come along in a long, long time.

7.  We Have Always Lived in a Castle by Shirley Jackson - a short one I read for the RIP challenge this the much unknown author of The Lottery who said very little in real life but so much through her writing.  A story that forces the reader to read between the lines and think very deeply about societal expectations.

8.  Little Women by Louisa May Alcott - I just finished this one and was absolutely stunned at all that I've missed being satisfied with all the movie versions (which I love as well).  The movies are just snippets...much more is included in the book.  I bawled my eyes out during one specific chapter of this much so that I couldn't see to read and the Head of My Household put down his Ipad, took off his reading glasses and asked in a worried tone, "What is it??"  A classic.

9.  To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - the only book so far to touch my reluctant reader middle child's matter how much I loved this story of Scout and Atticus, this book will forever remain on my lifelong top 10 list because of its effect on my teenage daughter.

10.  A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens - This is another one I recently finished and my first Dickens.  I feels as if I've been starved and have been missing out on so much literature.  No matter how many movie versions of this one you've seen, take a few hours and read through 5 staves of the won't be sorry!

I'm working on my challenge post for 2011...I'm going use challenges to better organize my reading so that it takes a more prioritized place in my life.  Reading means so much to me, but it has taken a backseat for a long more of that! 

Bring on 2011!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

My youngest on Christmas morning...still battling the flu but turning the corner thanks to Tamiflu, Bitty Baby and matching pajamas, robe and bunny slippers.

Has anybody else noticed that I have a hard time being "wordless"?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Three to Get Deadly - Book Review

"Listen to me, you two bags of monkey shit," I yelled.  "I am not in a good mood. 
My car keeps stalling. 
The day before yesterday I threw up on Joe Morelli. 
I was called a fat cow by my ex-husband. 
And if that isn't hair is ORANGE! ORANGE, FOR CHRISSAKE! 
And now you have the gall to force yourself into my home and threaten my hamster. 
Well, you have gone too far.  You have crossed the line.

Uncle Mo has gone missing.
Moses Bedemier, the iconic candyman of the neighborhood, hasn't opened his shop in several days in a row. 
Unfortunately for Stephanie Plum, Uncle Mo was pulled over by a newbie cop for speeding, arrested for "carrying concealed" and then forgets to show up for his court date.
It becomes Stephanie's job to find Uncle Mo and bring him to reschedule his court date so her boss, bailbondsmen and cousin Vinnie won't lose his bail money.  

Problem is nobody will help Stephanie.
No one has information on Uncle Mo who would "never do anything wrong."

Quite to the contrary and unbeknownst to most of the community, Uncle Mo is mixed up in some pretty shady mixed up in fact that he's over his head.

If Dickie could be believed, here was a man who'd lived his entire life selling candy to kids and then had snapped in frustration and made some bad choices.  Now he was stuck in a labyrinth of judgment errors and terrible crimes.

Bodies begin to surface...the bodies of drug dealers, but bodies all the same.
Uncle Mo becomes known as a vigilante candyman, and Stephanie begins to get threats about leaving Mo alone.

Of course, that only makes Stephanie dig deeper.

Still learning the bounty hunter trade with Ranger and Morelli guiding her every step of the way, Stephanie has to really "gird her loins" in this installment.  The killers target her directly on several occasions, and Stephanie even becomes unable to sleep at night for fear of more dead bodies falling out of closets and showing up in other unexpected places.

My incentive for finding Mo had changed in the last couple of days.  I wanted to find Mo so the killing would stop.  I couldn't stand seeing any more blown-apart bodies.

Thankfully she has her "sister" Lula, an ex hooker from the streets, who aspires to become a bounty hunter rather than just an office file clerk, to "keep it real" and watch her back.

"I got a body stuck to my windshield!" Lula yelled. "I can't drive like this! I can't get my wipers to work. How am I supposed to drive with a dead guy on my wipers?"

To complicate the case even more are Stephanie's feelings for Morelli...whose feelings for her seem to have changed.  Stephanie has spent years trying to get back at Morelli for past wrongs, and now that Morelli seems to have finally gotten the message that their relationship will be platonic and nothing else, Stephanie doesn't like it.

#3 is non-stop action as Stephanie learns to use her own instincts as well as the advice of others to put this very complicated puzzle together and somehow stay alive.

My Thoughts:
While Stephanie's ever present family provides several comical scenes and endless traditional dinners, they don't play as focused a role in this installment.  The reader spends a little more time getting to know Ranger and Lula.  I laughed out loud during this reading probably more than either of the first two I think because of the addition of Lula's completely honest...and I mean completely honest...opinions, comments and actions. (Lula ties a red scarf around the feet of a corpse sticking out of her trunk so that she and Stephanie won't get a ticket.)

Ranger, who I know will become a part of a relationship triangle with Stephanie and Morelli eventually, is portrayed as more of a trustworthy friend in #3.  Stephanie can't completely trust matter how much she'd like to see a more honest and down to earth side of him (moving into his aunt's home and becoming more dometicated), she knows that when the lines are drawn, Morelli will take his information and run with it rather than share with her.
Ranger, on the other hand, doesn't share anything but is completely reliable, trustworthy and protective of Stephanie, concerned with her welfare as a human being as well as learning how to be a smart bounty hunter so that she won't get killed.

Stephanie and I both are still Morelli gals...bc we women always choose the "more dangerous guys," right?

Can't wait for #4!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Cookies - Weekend Cooking

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads

Christmas Baking

Our Christmas baking is a tradition my daughters and I started when they were very little.  It was all very accidental because I was looking for a Christmas cookie recipe for my oldest to take for her kindergarten class's Christmas party.  I was honored to be asked by the teacher to bake; I've been in enough elementary classrooms to know that the teacher very carefully chooses the parents that he/she asks to bring the homemade items :)
I wanted to make a very special cookie indeed!

I found a very simple but creative reindeer cookie recipe that used premade peanut butter cookie dough, bite sized pretzels for antlers, red M&M's for Rudolph's nose and semi-sweet morsels for his eyes.
The cookies were a hit!
As a matter of fact, I couldn't believe how much of a hit they were.
My girls were so excited at how much their classmates and their teachers loved these cookies; they loved them as well.
Reindeer cookies have been the first cookie of the season ever since.
My firstborn (a senior in high school) even asked this year if we could make them a little early so she could tak them to her soccer team's Christmas party :)

We don't try to marathon bake.
It doesn't fit my ADD personality nor all of our needs not to completely overwhelm ourselves with what is supposed to be an enjoyable experience.  Because of varying schedules throughout the holidays our laid back baking schedule also allows me to spend individual time with each of my daughters in the kitchen.

Beginning on Dec. 1 as the opportunity presents itself, if we are not all zonked or freezing our patooties off at a soccer game or fulfilling some other nighttime responsibility, we pull out our list and pick a cookie.  Most of the time we only make one recipe per night.
This baking routines keeps our cookies fresh, assures that we will have snacks for visitors, and keeps an endless supply for our own snacking needs throughout the holiday :)

Before the flu plague hit our household this Christmas we managed to complete 4 recipes; these happen to be some of the very ones we make every single year.
Following are some pictures from our efforts at making Snickerdoodles, Crescent Moons, Reindeer Cookies and Jam Cookies.  Recipes will follow at the bottom of the post :)

Snickerdoodles are about as easy as a cookie can be, traditional and will make your house smell like you've been baking all morning.  For this cookie my firstborn was in charge of the mixer and then shared the responsibility of rolling the dough into little balls and coating with a cinnamon and sugar mixture before placing on the baking sheets.

If you don't like cinnamon and sugar, then you won't like this cookie, but if you don't like cinnamon and sugar, I'm unsure as to why you're baking cookies to begin with ;)

These are my mom's favorite cookie from her childhood so we always try to share these with her.

On a different night, my youngest, for the very first time, was in charge of the mixer!!

If memory serves, my firstborn was sick by this night and my middle child was off galavanting...nothing brings on the Christmas spirit like a 6 year old who is completely enthralled with the mixing process :)

Once the dough was prepared, we took out small balls and rolled them into caterpillars...not too fat and not too skinny...and then shaped them into crescent moon shapes.

While they are still warm from baking, they are dipped into powdered sugar.  This may be my youngest's favorite thing...she loves the powder poofs!

Now, Crescent Moons are MY favorite.  I could make myself sick on these so I have to pace myself!

Another night my middle daughter took the lead with jam cookies and had a time separating the yolks from the whites :)

Little sister was underfoot so we gave her the task of preparing another batch of reindeer cookies all her own.  That kept her busy enough to keep her out of my middle child's hair so she could have a cookie all her own.

My middle child is as impatient as I am and we had to talk a little about how important it is when you're baking to get the ingredients measured correctly.  She did a fine job once she settled in and thought through her processes.

You can't see him very well (because he's a jet black cat like Uh-Oh), but Beneigt is sitting in the bar stool above supervising his mommy as she bakes.


She put a good bit of jam in the indentions and I was a little worried about how the jam cookies would turn out.

Not sure why worried...these things were soft, rich and delicious!

My youngest finished her cookies as well...someone had eaten all the red M&Ms so the reindeer had to settle for brown noses instead of red.

No worries :)


Reindeer Cookies

Slice and Bake Peanut Butter Cookie Dough
Bite sized pretzel twists
Red M&M's
Semi-sweet chocolate morsels

Adjust the amount of cookie dough to however many cookies you are planning to make.  Slice the dough and place on a cookie sheet.  Leave more space in between the cookies than you normally would because of "antlers."  Use 2 pretzel twists on each cookie for the reindeer antlers, 2 semi-sweet morsels for eyes and one red M&M for Rudolph's nose.  Bake according to cookie dough package directions!


1/2 cup salted butter
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. sugar
2 medium eggs
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon

Mix butter, shortening, 1 1/2 cups of sugar, and the eggs.  Stir sifted and combined flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt into the sugar mixture.  Combine the remainng 2 tbsp sugar with the cinnamon in a separate bowl and roll dough balls into the mixture, coating the dough balls all over.  Place coated dough balls onto cookie sheet leaving space for the cookies to spread and bake 8-10 minutes in preheated 400 degree oven.  Let cookies cool on a wire rack and ENJOY!

Crescent Moons

1 cup salted butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1/8 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

Cream butter, 1/4 cup of the powdered sugar, salt, and vanilla.  Beat in flour and then stir in pecans.  Shape dough into balls, roll out and shape into crescent moons.  Place cookies onto baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes in a preheated 325 degree oven.  Tranfer cookie to wire rack to cool some.
Once cookies are cool enough to hold but not completely cooled roll them in the remaining powdered sugar.  Place on a serving plate without touching each other so that they can completely cool once they are coated with powdered sugar.

Jam Cookies

3/4 cup butter
1/2 cup white sugar
2 egg yolks
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
fruit jam of any flavor

Cream butter, sugar and egg yolks.  Mix in flour a little at a time and roll dough into one inch balls.  Form a well in each ball (I use my thumb). Fill each well with 1/2 tsp of jam.  Bake for 8-10 minutes in a 375 degree preheated oven.  Cool on wire rack.