Saturday, March 31, 2012

have you heard of storycorps?

StoryCorps is an independent nonprofit whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives. Since 2003, StoryCorps has collected and archived more than 40,000 interviews from nearly 80,000 participants. Each conversation is recorded on a free CD to share, and is preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. StoryCorps is one of the largest oral history projects of its kind, and millions listen to their weekly broadcasts on NPR’s Morning Edition. Hello, fricken LOVE.

I received TWO collections of stories from StoryCorps, edited by Dave Isay (which are now in paperback) and I fell even more in love with their idea and their mission. Mom: A Celebration of Mothers from StoryCorps and All There Is: Love Stories from StoryCorps are the most beautiful oral story collections I have ever heard and each of them has a very powerful message to share.

All There Is is a collection of love stories told by people from around the country. Love found, love lost and love found at last are their central themes...I will cry right now. Mom is just in time for Mother's Day. It is a collection of stories that celebrate the strength and diversity of American mothers and the very special relationship between mother and child. I will cry right now, again.

You can listen to more stories and check out their website at

Friday, March 30, 2012

if your child is a picky eater and you won't just let them starve...

As an adult, I'll eat anything and everything like a savage who has not been fed for days. I know it's hard to feed kids and in retrospect, I am thankful that my mom's cooking went beyond hot dogs and peanut butter jelly time, even if I didn't appreciate it as a stubborn little devil child. I have very fond memories of my childhood. And then I have the memories of sitting at the dinner table for HOURS because I refused to eat whatever green was on my plate. That discipline strategy did not last long, but it could have been avoided all together if it was two decades later and my mother had picked up a copy of Katie Workman's The Mom 100 Cookbook. Yes, I would like a time machine, thank you.

I love everything in this cookbook. Which means nothing, because I (as I've mentioned) will eat anything. However, I am a SIMPLE eater, like a lot of kids, and I enjoy SIMPLE recipes, like a lot of parents with said kids, so Workman's recipes really appeal to me. The main theme of this cookbook is conflict/resolution. She includes dilemmas, for example: "enough with the chicken nuggets" and solutions (ideas of what to make instead), for example: BBQ chicken, homemade tenders, rubs and multiple ways to roast a chicken. The footnotes are a life saver,  including cooking tips, what you can make ahead for the recipe to save time, and if you're really brave, a "What the Kids Can Do" suggestion. Keep them busy during spring break, hm?

I personally love chapter seventeen's "Weekend Brunches" The paradox: A relaxing brunch that you have to cook....with six solutions that include oven cooked french toast and muffins that are really easy to make. Workman should really have a "What the Boyfriend Can Do" section also.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

can you see my vision?

I looked through Michael Freeman's The Photographer's Vision: Understanding and Appreciating Great Photography before I left on my two week European adventure, in hopes to improve the quality of my photographs. I wanted my collection to be more than just vacation snap shots. I took roughly 400 pictures, mostly of Ireland's beautiful landscapes and binge drinking. Freeman's three sections titled, "A Momentary Art", "Understanding Purpose" and "Photography Skills" were extremely beneficial to my amateur photography. In The Photographer's Vision, Freeman examines the work of photography’s greats, explaining how to look at a photo, and how to learn from looking at it. This book not only helps you see and appreciate a photographer's vision more clearly, but also put more vision behind your own photography. It's far more entertaining looking through hundreds of vacation photos when someone actually took the time to make them art.

Some of my shots....

Monday, March 26, 2012

the prodigal blogger is back.

I am back from gallivanting around Ireland and London, and I realized shortly after my little adventure began that I am getting too old for this. It's non-stop go, go, go! And when you include the bailey's for breakfast, beers for lunch and dinner, and take away any and all get a very sick girl who is definitely not twenty anymore. I had a great time, but am struggling to get back into the swing of things here in America. And having to take a break from standing up every 15 minutes is not helping. Oh well, I've never had any real complaints with spending my days horizontal anyway.

A little photo recap of my trip in Ireland...

St. Patrick's Day in Dublin...

The Aran Islands..

And London...

Abbey Road...

Love books, will travel.
Now back to the books....

Sunday, March 11, 2012


I began Catching Fire right after I finished The Hunger Games, but tried not to gobble it all up in one day. Really, I was saving the majority of it for my 7-hour Megabus trip to see the manfriend in Queens, and honestly it was the only thing that made the journey bearable considering I didn't plan ahead and pack mini bottles of vodka.

I suppose this is a Hunger Games I put a little warning label up for those of you who have not yet started the trilogy. Suzanne Collins does not disappoint with the characters, old and new, or the storyline in the second installment. It basically begins with the aftermath of Katniss and Peeta's return home from their victory of the games. They are now living in the swanky neighborhood designed for winning tributes, in houses with hot water and an unlimited supply of food and money. The Capitol is rather pissed at Katniss. For her and Peeta to win together, she basically called their bluff with the poisonous berry/double lovers suicide attempt. This has been causing some real problems in certain districts in Panem. People are beginning to question the Capitol's power, wondering why they let this young girl get away with such obvious defiance of the government. There have been uprisings and revolts, which left the Capitol with no choice but to do something so shocking, no citizen would ever question them again. For the seventy-fifth hunger games, the tributes will be pulled from the pool of the previous victors. Katniss is the only girl from District 12, so there is no question that she will enter the deathly arena, again. Will it be Haymitch or Peeta who joins her? Will these victors, young and old allow the Capitol to continue to use them as pawns in their death games? Or will they work together and all make it out alive?

Left you on the edge of your seat huh? I wanted to finish Catching Fire before I traipse off to Ireland tomorrow, saving the final installment, Mockinjay for my return to America and my Kindle, which will not be taking the trip with me. I have a game I play where I buy a book at the airport before trips and read it along the way. So when I return in two weeks there should be another best-selling book review ready for you. Until! The Hunger Games movie comes out March 23rd!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

adult adhd.

We all have a bit of ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder, or throw some "H"ypertension in there for some of you) in us. I know I do, daily. When I am subbing, I never blame my students for being all hyped up by the end of the day, I am right there with them and it's only going to get worse once the weather improves. Tonight, my manfriend and I were thinking of seeing a movie. Project X quickly became our first choice after we saw that it is only an hour and a half long. Basically, we both need a "his" and "hers" version of the t-shirt below...

Author and Dr. Lidia Zylowska introduces her 8-step program in her self-help book, The Mindfulness Prescription for Adult ADHD: An 8-Step Program for Strengthening Attention, Managing Emotions, and Achieving Your Goals. Adult ADHD is constantly left untreated or simply medicated, this book is for those of you who would rather avoid medication and find alternative relief if you are constantly spaced out. Dr. Zylowska includes meditating techniques and mindfulness training to help us increase our focus and concentration. I have been testing out some of her strategies when I begin to daydream about my manfriend rather than focus on the task at hand....educating America's youth. They have really been helping a lot.

Friday, March 9, 2012

i love to travel, but i prefer to keep my romance american.

In Pam Houston's fictional travelogue, Contents May Have Shifted, she names her main character Pam, which makes me think that this novel is actually light on the fiction and heavy on exerts from Houston's travel diary. I don't blame her for leaving readers to wonder what is fact and what is fiction, I would do the same. I actually plan on doing the same...someday. Speaking of travel, Monday I leave for my trip to Ireland for St. Patrick's Day and then to London for a few days after. It's okay to be jelly.

Pam travels from Davis, California, where she is a professor with a flexible schedule, to Creed, Colorado, where she owns a small piece of property, and then sets out to various locations around the world: Alaska, South Asia, North Africa, and then back to the States to New Mexico,Wisconsin and Texas. It is rather Eat, Pray Love-ish, beginning with Pam running away from her disastrous ex, Ethan. During her travels she gets to know the locals, enjoys the local food and usually has a lively adventure or inner awakening, the difference is this character never really settles down and Houston's writing focuses more on the nature of these locales, which I love.

I have never been to any of the places Houston writes about, which honestly made me like this novel more.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

dear reptile nerds, this one's for you.

Crotalus is a genus of venomous pit vipers found only in the Americas from southern Canada to northern Argentina. Twenty-nine species are currently recognized. In America, most of these snakes are located towards the west coast. South-central Arizona, the gulf California, some branch out to Nevada, Idaho, Texas, New Mexico and Oregon also. I am feeling pretty safe over here in western New York, but I have traveled to and hiked in Arizona (circa 2009) and it was a good thing we had been drinking, or I may have been worried for my safety.

Venomous Reptiles of the United States, Canada, and Northern Mexico: Crotalus (Volume 2) by Carl and Evelyn Ernst is the most accurate and interesting view of North America’s rattlesnakes available to us. In this guide to everything crotalus, Ernst and Ernst include interesting stories as these rattle snakes are carefully described; what they eat, who preys them, how they function, etc. Those of you who live or travel in the above mentioned areas...hide ya kids, hide ya wife...rattlesnakes are gonna find you, they're gonna find youuu, so you can run and tell that, homeboy. (Those of you who do not see the humor in that last sentence need to watch more YouTube videos).

Monday, March 5, 2012

sure cookbooks can be sexy, why not?

I enjoy a bit of sass with my books and my meals. Nadi G's Bitchin Kitchen: Cookin' for Trouble covers both.  Some of you may recognize Nadia Giosia from her Bitchin’ Kitchen TV show on the Cooking Channel. She's a smart, savvy and sassy chef who knows what's up in the world of fabulous recipes.

It's funny, including chapters titled (Dysfunctional) Family Pizza Night (we have ours on Sundays), Nonna Recipe Showdown (come on, we all have been there with grandma), Gluttony G-Style, Makeover Meals, and Bitchin' Booty Camp Xtreme. There is also some dietary advice thrown in here and there.

And if buttermilk popcorn chicken is wrong, then I don't want to be right.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

if you like gardens and you like intrigue.

The recipe for the perfect novel: A base of historical fiction, which most of you love. Throw in some romance for you saps. Add a pinch of espionage and a faster pace for the ones who prefer to be on the edge of their seat....and WALLAH! You have Lauren Willig's Pink Carnation series (see The Orchid Affair and The Mischief of the Mistletoe also).

The latest installment of the series, The Garden Intrigue is set in 1804. Our heroine is New York born Emma Delgardie and she is living in Paris, France. As a young widow, Emma enjoys the Paris salons and an intimacy with Napoleon Bonaparte's inner circle. Our hero, Augustus Whittlesby has been in deep undercover in France for over a decade. He's been there for so long, he's no longer considered as a threat to Napoleon. It is only when Augustus is forced to spend time with Emma when he needs to get an invite to Malmaison that a relationship develops and the real story begins.

The close look at the home life of the French characters and the historical details of American involvement in French politics at this time was such an interesting aspect of this historical novel.

learn something today.

My main goal with this blog is to assist those of you who have days where they ask, "does anyone know of a good book to read?" Being an English teacher wannabe, I also want to take the time to review educational books when possible. Not to bore you to tears, but because I think they are super interesting, and this isn't all about you, selfish.

Diversity's Promise for Higher Education: Making It Work by Daryl G. Smith includes 40 years of diversity research and is obviously designed for those of you who educate. Each generation is becoming more diverse than the previous, that being said, even you that teach in rural or suburban communities will benefit from this book. The way we approach diversity in schools should be ever changing. Our strategies need to be constantly changing, especially at the college level, because students, their families and their communities are constantly changing. Get the paperback to save some cash flow.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

nerd alert!

In an attempt to become even freakishly closer than we already are, I have recently asked my grandmother to teach me how to knit. Alice and I are pretty much the exact same person birthed fifty years apart, that being said, our knitting lessons usually include mild yelling and an occasional throwing of the knitting needles, but they always end in a hug. Kidding, we are definitely not huggers.

I got the hang of a few stitches and have been really enjoying myself while knitting. I recently received Knits for Nerds by Joan of Dark (ummmm..) a.k.a. Toni Carr to read and review, and it couldn't have come at a better time. This book is filled with 30 knitting projects, focused on recreating superhero/fantasy character type clothing and accessories. No lie. There is a Fantasy section, Science Fiction section and Comic Book section. Sooooo nerdy, I eat this stuff up. Some of the projects that I actually understood include: Trek girl dresses, space princess hats (with the princess Leia buns on the side), and baby elf beanies (which are really cute). The directions for every project are included with materials and row instructions. When to knit, when to purl and all that jazz. Super cool book for nerds, dorks and regular people alike. I mean, Halloween does come once a year.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

happy hunger games.

When I get hooked on a book, or heaven forbid a series...everything in my life is affected. My work ethic (which has never been particularly good), my relationships, my eating habits. I don't talk to anyone. I eat finger foods as to not disrupt my reading, utensils simply get in the way. This has been the past 48 hours of my life reading the first installment of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I have heard about this trilogy for a while now. I was in a school district last year that had reading workshops and many students chose The Hunger Games to read, so I got the scoop from them. I finally broke down and sent a copy to my Kindle so that I could see what all of the fuss is about. I can't have my students thinking I'm a pussy and can't handle kids fighting to their death for show like some morbid Olympic games. Psshhhh. I can handle this. (I cried at least three times while reading).

For those of you who are grossly out of the loop, here is the deal. Katniss Everdeen is sixteen, she lives in District 12 (there are twelve districts in this little country, each has a job, hers is one of the poorer ones, as they make the coal). She lives with her mother and little sister, Prim as her father died in a mine explosion five years before. She illegally hunts outside of the marked territory of their little district with her best friend, Gale. This is how she trades for money and other things/feeds her family. Once a year the Capitol, which is like the government, chooses two children (called tributes, one boy and one girl, ages 12-18) to participate in the Hunger Games, where they basically fight to their death and the last one standing wins. They do this to remind their people of their control, so that they never revolt, again. On "reaping" day which is the day each person is chosen for the games, twelve-year-old Prim was chosen as tribute. Katniss volunteered in her place, which is allowed. She goes off to fight with the baker's son from their community named Peeta. Twenty-four participants all together, and there can only be one winner.

The writing in this story is absolutely exquisite. I honestly think that Collins could right about anything and keep me on the edge of my seat. I cannot wait to begin the second book, Catching Fire, and I am counting down the days until the movie comes out at the end of this month. From what I have seen so far, the previews are identical to the storyline.