Saturday, November 26, 2011

Snapshot Saturday - Thanksgiving

I might have mentioned a time or two that Thanksgiving is one of my favorite days of the year.  I actually enjoy the entire 9 days off...the days leading up to the big meal and the quiet days after.

My oldest daughter is in charge of decorating our mantle

We clean house from top to bottom since we host the annual family celebration

Even Layla gets in on the action ;)

My youngest is in charge of decorating the piano

And my middle daughter is famous for her Butterfinger Pies

No idea where she gets the taking pictures of your food idea :/

Our new recipe for last year was one called Green Bean was a hit so the recipe automatically earned its place on this year's youngest helped wrap the beans in bacon and spear each roll with toothpicks

She's a "Wicked" good cook by the way ;)

Snapshot Saturday is hosted by Alyce over @ At Home with Books

Friday, November 25, 2011

Cold Mountain - Book Review

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
Vintage, 1997
Why? Cold Mountain has been on my TBR too long...I needed a contemporary classic for my revamped Comp II class and I was ready to see the movie.
What now?  This one will join the other keepers in the glass secretary

Golden Lines

Ada sat a minute and examined her portion.  The front teeth were yellow and long.  She was not accustomed to eating things with the teeth  still in them.  Stobrod watched her and said, That head'll twist right off, if it's bothering you.

That's just pain, she said.   It goes eventually.  And when it's gone, there's no lasting memory.  Not the worst of it, anyway.  It fades.  Our minds aren't made to hold on to the particulars of pain the way we do bliss.  It's a gift God gives us, a sign of His care for us.

The woman looked as if she thought Inman spoke the greatest foolishness she had ever heard.  She pointed her pipe stem at him and said, You listen.   Marrying a woman for her beauty makes no more sense than eating a bird for its singing.  But it's a common mistake nonetheless.

Don't act so proud about it, Ruby said.  In her view that's where the answer to this issue might lie.  Every little dogwood can't grow up right where it falls under the big dogwood.  Being rooted, they use the birds to move themselves around to more likely ground.  Birds eat berries, and the seeds come through whole and unmarred, ready to grow where dropped, already dressed with manure.  It was Ruby's opinion that if a person puzzled all this out over time, she might also find a lesson somewhere in it, for much of creation worked by such method and to such ends.

Such little mechanical portraits as Ada now held in her hand were not rare.  She had seen any number of them.  Nearly every family in the settlement with a son or husband off fighting had one, even if only cased in tin.  Displayed on mantel or table with the Bible, a taper, sprigs of galax, so that the effect was altarlike.  In sixty-one, any soldier with a dollar and seventy-five cents could have his aspect recorded in the form of ambrotype, tintype, calotype, or daguerreotype.  In those early days of war, Ada had found most of the ones she had seen comic.  Later she found them depressing in their depictions of men now dead.  One after the other, they had sat bristling with weaponry before the portraitist for the long exposure.  They held pistols crossed at their breasts or bayoneted rifles at their sides.  Shiny new bowie knives brandished for the camera.  Forage caps set at swank angles on their heads.  Farm boys more bright in their moods than on hog-killing days.  Their costumes were various.  Men wore every kind of thing to fight in, from clothes you might put on for plowing to actual uniforms, to garbs of such immense ridiculousness that even in peacetime someone might take a shot at you for wearing them.


The story of Ada, Inman and Ruby takes place in the middle of the Civil War.  Soldiers have been fighting long enough and violent enough to begin feeling as if they've had enough.  Their dreams of fighting the good fight and destroying the Federals in a quick championed war have literally been shot to hell.  Many of them simply walk away, only to be hunted by bands of horsemen who either return them to the war or shoot them for being traitors.  Inman is one of these soldiers. 

Four years before the story begins, Inman left home and Ada.  She is all he can think of as he crosses miles and miles of woods and water, hiding in caves, dodging the Federal horsemen and subsisting on only what he can scrounge up, buy or steal, and/or the goodness of strangers.

Ada herself left her home in Charleston to follow her minister father to Cold Mountain so that he could preach his progressive beliefs.  Her mother having died in childbirth, Ada has only her father to depend upon and to teach her how to live.  When Ada's father Monroe dies, Ada with only her Charleston societal knowhow,  is left to fend for herself in the unforgiving mountains.  Having no one and nowhere to turn, Ada decides to somehow climb out of her grief and find a way to live.

Ruby is the holder of Ada's light.  

Ruby has grown up in Cold Mountain without her mother as well and a drunk for a father.  She learned from a very early age how to fend for herself and how to make ends meet.  She approaches Ada after one of the mountain people mentions that Ada might need some help.  Ruby offers Ada help in return for a fair trade and equal treatment.  Ada and Ruby begin an unlikely reciprocal friendship that will stand the test of time.

What I Liked

Ruby was my favorite character.   She was so nonsensical and realistic about EVERYTHING.  Almost as if she still viewed the world as a intelligent as she was, she had no room nor any patience for "silly stuff."  She learned to set her mind to nature and to work within the natural order of things rather than against them.  She didn't see her intelligence as anything special was just a part of life.

I loved Frazier's detail and descriptions.  While this kind of description may get in some people's way, I can see the mountains, feel the crunch of the leaves under my feet, "hear" snow falling, feel the warmth of a hot fire and also the freezing cold of a dark Winter night.  The reader is a part of the character's journeys; Frazier takes you with them and you feel as if you are walking through the woods in in the world they could keep up with where they were in those woods is beyond me...but Frazier has them point out markers and look to the skies and read the natural signs for times and seasonal changes.  

The humor...embedded among the hardships, sadness, stomach turning scenes is a natural and sometimes sarcastic humor.  I say "natural" because none of the characters are trying to be funny...they are simply "calling a spade a spade" which is so ridiculous at times that it's funny.  I think the humor helps the reader get through the story and all it's sadness, but also I think humor probably was how these folks actually made it through every single day of their immensely hard lives.

What I Didn't Like 

If I say I didn't care all that much for Inman, is anybody going to get mad at me??  I found it a little unrealistic that these two people realized just how much they loved each other over the four years Inman was gone...when they really hardly knew each other when he left?  I'm not saying that I don't think they belonged together; I'm just saying that it was more of a practical that probably would have worked well...but I didn't see them "falling in love" romantically before Inman left.

Stodbrod...what father leaves his toddler behind to fend for herself???  I don't even care if he kept himself drunk to lessen the pain of losing his wife; he had a child from that wife to take care of...and he chose not to.  

Monroe...another weak male father character...this one chooses to grieve for his wife in a different holding onto the life they would have had and not letting his daughter grow up.  Even with signs of critical illness, he did nothing to prepare his daughter for the world ahead of her.

Although there is a good bit of dialogue in this novel, there are no quotation marks.  There were times when I had to back up and re-read to make sure what I was reading was what someone said.  I'm interested to find out if there was some particular reason Frazier chose not to use quotation marks or if it is just a quirk of his.

My Overall Response

I'm so glad I read this...I had so many people tell me I wouldn't like the ending...but I did.  Actually, it's a hard ending to say I "liked"....but it made sense to me.  Obviously I won't say anything here to spoil it for anyone, but frankly a happily ever after ending would not have made any sense at all for this novel.  The entire novel is about life during the Civil War and its hardships.  As I type the word "hardships," it doesn't even seem to cover it.  This ain't Cinderella, people.

I enjoyed reading this book along with my students...and I'll continue choosing contemporary classic novels for next semester's classes.  We have one more discussion next Wednesday, but I finished the book last night...I couldn't stand it...I had to get to the end.  Links for Discussion #1 and Discussion #2 can be found here and here.


Anyone who enjoys the Civil War time period and/or books that deal with a more realistic rather than romantic notion of the war will like this one...the details are so vivid that there were times I grimaced or closed my eyes as if I could shut out the visions in my mind.  
Anyone who enjoys the North Carolina mountains, the natural surroundings, survival stories and/or stories of starting over, and people with grit will also like this one.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wanna Be More Organized Wednesday

One of the biggest helps to my budget is my mom.
My mom has taken my girls shopping for as many years as I can remember...for Back to School clothes, Winter clothes for Christmas, Easter dresses, and beach clothes.  I have not had to worry about figuring out how in the world to work their clothes into my budget for a long time.  I get to focus my budget on their activity uniforms, costumes etc and a few special needs here and there.  We don't usually get to see my mom at Thanksgiving because we host the Smith Thanksgiving in our home.  My mom usually hosts a smaller Thanksgiving at her own home.  This year she decided to take the entire Thanksgiving week off of work, which we also have since we're a family of educators and students.  She called and said, "Let's go shopping!"
Holy Smokes!!

We did have to be extra organized to take this impromptu shopping trip.
I told my girls the dressing and sweet potato casserole had to be made and frozen and our house had to be completely clean before we could go.  
You should have seen them racing around our house like chickens with their heads cut off.
They got the house done though...and thoroughly enjoyed their shopping rewards.

My youngest lives in Toms...they are a little more expensive but for each sale, a needy child also gets a pair of shoes.  We don't mind paying a little more for causes like this.

None of us likes to shop on the Friday after Thanksgiving; in fact, there are some people still alive in this world because I stay home on Black Friday ;)
We found some pretty good deals anyway...and the stores were pretty quiet on Monday especially.
My girls are set for winter now, and I am relieved.

I haven't done much weeknight cooking this past preparation for Thanksgiving...but I've tried to stay organized with the "meal of the year" :) 
Thanksgiving falls during the last full week of November and that's traditionally my toughest week budget wise...I had to really watch my pennies to make sure I didn't run short.  I had one more grocery store trip to make today and was down to the last $100.  I made it by the skin of my teeth...but I did make it.  The Head of My Household picked up our ham and extra turkey breast from Honey Baked Ham...I wouldn't have had enough in my budget for those traditional purchases but he had a little extra in his :)
I'm counting on leftovers for the last couple of days of the month until payday next week.

Our Menu for tomorrow:

 Turkey with Rosemary
Old-fashioned Cornbread Dressing (my mom's recipe)
Cranberry sauce (the jellied kind with the rings imprinted)
Jiffy Cornbread Casserole (my mother-in-law brings)
Sweet Potato Casserole (a combination of the best I've found over the years...pecan and brown sugar topping WITH marshmallows as well)
Green Bean Bundles
Yellow Squash Casserole
Baby Green Peas
Mashed Potatoes
Oven Roasted Asparagus

Pumpkin Trifle
Pumpkin Pie (the youngest's favorite)
Butterfinger Pie (my middle daughter's specialty)

I won't be posting tomorrow.  I will be enjoying one of the most wonderful days of the year with my family.  I hope and pray that all my fellow bloggers out there will be able to do the same.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Top Ten Authors I'd Love to Have at My Thanksgiving Feast

For their weekly meme, the ladies at The Broke and the Bookish challenged us all to come up with 10 authors we'd be delighted to have at our Thanksgiving dinner tables.  I almost didn't participate this week because at first I thought I would have to come up with 10 authors who could sit down and eat/enjoy the traditional family Thanksgiving at my house with the already varied personalities/individuals who are a part of my family...but then, I thought, "What would be the harm in having these authors to a special Thanksgiving celebration...just me and them?"  Then, all I would have to worry about would be my personality and brain started clicking then...

Thanksgiving is about Family to me. Traditions.  Food.  and, of course Thankfulness, so I would be very particular about the authors I would include at my table for those very reasons...I would need those with a sense of humor, life stories to tell, a comfortably happy personality, a love of life and, of course, cooking skills...I was over half-way finished with this week's list before I realized that all my authors were women.  Each has a very strong personality, sense of self and seems to have her priorities in order...can't imagine why I'd want them all at my table ;)

Jan Karon (The Mitford series)- Karon's traditional graciousness, faith and etiquette would be welcomed...some of the guests on my lists probably would have a tendency to get out of hand ;) and I could see Karon keeping us straight :) as well as making sure our elbows weren't on the table.

Paula Deen - Deen is on here because I know she's not afraid of butter, she been through tough times, pulled herself up by her bootstraps and learned the hard way how to be self-sufficient.   She would remind us to be thankful for our families and would keep us laughing.

Janet Evanovich (Stephanie Plum series) - Evanovich would be there because of her humor...her one liners that I'm sure she can belt out...and of course her love of big dogs.  I can see her wanting to spend time talking with and about my Layla.

Ree Drummond (Pioneer Woman books and blog and children's book about Charlie the Basset Hound) - Drummond would take pictures of everything and even give me some tips on how to take better pictures of my dishes.  I think she and Paula Deen would be a riot together as well.

Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa cookbooks) - I think Garten and Drummond would actually get along very well...Garten might be put off by Drummond singing Ethel Merman tunes at first, but I think Drummond could bring Garten out of her shell a little ;)

Gesine Bullock-Prado - Prado would bring the fancy one would be allowed to ask her about her sister (Sandra Bullock), and I would hope so much that she would make us of her specialty items that we could only get if we traveled to Vermont to her little hometown bakery.  She has her own "finding herself" that involves walking away from what everyone else saw as a powerful Hollywood life any woman would kill to have back to a life of obscurity and family values and food.

Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) - I don't know if Gilbert can cook...but I know she's had lots of life experiences...and I know she can eat...her travels through Italy are a testament to that.  I'd like to talk with her more surrounded by a group of real women...we could talk about our own stories of finding ourselves...and our journeys to those places.

Barbara Park (Junie B. Jones series) - Jones would be there to keep me laughing.  Period.  When a writer can make a 7 year old and her mother laugh so hard that they are holding their stomachs as they read aloud at night, she has a place at my table anytime/anywhere!

Jeannette Walls (The Glass Castle) - If anyone knows the value of family, it's this definition of dysfunctional family changed after reading Walls work, and her ability to overcome, somehow understand, and then surpass the demons of her childhood absolutely astonish me.  Walls could teach us all a thing or two about unconditional love without losing yourself in the process.

Geraldine Brooks (Caleb's Crossing) - When we decide to get serious, Brooks could tell us some background on Colonial America, and give us and even firmer foundation on which we base the tradition of Thanksgiving...where and how it first began and how our traditions have evolved over the years.

I'm thankful that these authors have in some way or another become a part of my life...through their works, their lives, ideals, perseverance and dang hard work, they are examples for all of us.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Monday at the Movies - Outbreak

I very seldom go to the movies.  Most of the movies I see are on video or DVD a year or so after they've been released in the theatres...I really can't tell you why...except I just like spreading out on my own couch or in the recliner while I'm watching a movie.  There are plenty of movies that are worth seeing once...but there are some that are worth buying the DVD and watching over and over again.  My mom and I caught one of those on television last night.

First of all, how can you resist a movie with a cast that includes Dustin Hoffman, Morgan Freeman, Rene Russo, Donald Sutherland and Cuba Gooding Jr?  
And even if you can resist a cast like that, how can you resist a movie that brings to light the very real possibility of a deadly virus kept secret by government officials for use as a biological weapon?  Even though the movie was released in 1996, the plot is still very realistic...bad government officials making decisions they think are for the good of the nation vs. good government officials who still are grounded in the fact that the policies affect real people.  

I remember watching this movie for the first time and actually feeling scared when it was over...I could see the justification for secretly holding onto the virus and its antidote for years for the sake of national security, and I could understand McKlintock's justification for being disappointed in having to give up his weapon when the virus is accidentally transported overseas and into the U.S.  The scary part, however, is how a few trusted higher ranking officials could withhold vital information from the president of the U.S. and justify sacrificing a small group of U.S. citizens supposedly for the good of the rest of the nation.  
The scariest thing about that notion is that I can almost get's not such a clear cut issue...thankfully Dustin Hoffman comes in with a zeal for exhausting every other possible avenue before killing American citizens.

Don't miss this one; it's one to own.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Weekend Cooking - Enchiladas Supreme

I've been on Pinterest again...actually, I'm not sure when I've been off of it :/
But, I'm finding a treasure of recipes there and am having a ball trying them out!!

This week's recipe is Enchilada's Supreme from Just Get Off Your Butt and Bake :):)

Just Get Off Your Butt and Bake is the brainchild of Jonna...she cooks from the heart and is not afraid to tweak recipes to make them better, more wholesome, or simply, tastier :)
She provides photos to show the steps along the way, which are absolutely most appreciated at my house...we are happy experimenters, but we get a little confused sometimes ;)

I mixed the filling and cooked it, and then we had lots of fun rolling up the enchiladas...I was a little unsure of the rolling process, but my oldest daughter's boyfriend came to the rescue and showed us the way :)

Jonna prepared Enchiladas Supreme for herself and her husband, but we were preparing the dish for a family of 6.  There are at least 6 enchiladas in the photo below all nestled within the sauce and lots and lots of cheese.  Jonna also trimmed her enchiladas to fit a smaller trimming was involved in our enchilada bake :)

These were delicious...and made enough that everyone was happily fed, and I had one lunch the following day.  This recipe (especially the filling) could easily be tweaked, depending on individual tastes and can involve others if you like that kind of involvement (I do!)

The exact recipe can be found on Jonna's blog, Get Off Your Butt and'll definitely want to spend some time there if you haven't already :)

Weekend Cooking is hosted at Beth F Reads.