Tuesday, August 28, 2012

well here's an interesting duo.

It’s been a long time since I reviewed a bakery cookbook, and for good reason. I am the worst baker ever. I like to dabble here and there when the mood strikes, and when the recipe is designed for a fifth grader. The thing I loved about The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook by Cheryl and Griffith Day is that every treat I attempted came out good. I can’t say great because this is me we are talking about, but pretty darn good if you ask me, and my dad.

Number one, the homemade jam is the easiest recipe ever. It was an instant crowd pleaser since I come from a family where toast is a major food group. I really enjoyed the six key areas to look at when baking and cooking titled “Making the Magic” which I will share with you:

1. Get It Together- look at the recipe and make sure you understand it and have all the ingredients.
2. Temperature Matters- Eggs should be at room temperature, which I knew, The eye opener for me is that to provide the best creaming of butter and sugar, is to have the butter not cold, not too soft, but take it out of the fridge half an hour before use. You want the butter to be a little cool, but it will indent with your fingertip. This makes the nest of creaming the ingredients.
3. The Ingredients Are Key- why eggs are needed and what they contain, the use of baking soda and powder.
4. Measuring Flour- why you should always loosen up the flour before measuring.
5. Creaming Butter- we covered most of this and more.
6. The Extra Step-moving the batter from mixing bowl to another bowl and why.


If you follow this advice all of your recipes will turn out fabulous.

Monday, August 27, 2012

a warm and witty novel.

You cannot pick your siblings. Your friends, yes. Your nose, yes. Your siblings just kind of show up and you hope for the best. I got relatively lucky with my brothers. They are completely insane, but the likable kind. I wouldn't be who I am if it wasn't for them that's for damn sure.

The Language of Sisters is about a girl who left her home, her past and her disabled-since-birth sister in Seattle, behind her. Like we all haven't thought of constructing an escape route from our siblings, but Amy Hatvany writes of living with a family member who has special needs in such a way that I feel as if it happened to me, too. I felt for these characters.

Ten years have passed since Nicole Hunter thought that escaping the demands of her life and her sister, Jenny would bring a sense of carefree happiness to her stressful life. She thought that running away, freeing herself from the baggage of her family would allow everything else to fall into place. Now she's in San Fransisco and life isn't exactly perfect. When Nicole is forced to head back to her hometown she has to come to terms with her guilt for leaving in the first place, and find the strength to build something new. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

well this gets pretty serious.

Don't hate me, but I'm not super into politics. I'll pay a little more attention this time of year because of the upcoming election. But, all in all, it's just something that I truly feel I have much control over. Nor do I feel confident that I have the smarts to fix most of the problems in our country. Oh, except for the schools, give me five minutes and a billion dollars, and I'd be happy to fix those. I've been a teacher for five minute and I'm already cocky.

Reporter and author Katie Pavlich's true story, Fast and Furious: Barack Obama's Bloodiest Scandal and Its Shameless Cover-up, not only sounds really fricken intriguing, but it also reads like a novel. It is based on the Fast and Furious program, which lacks Vin Diesel and turned into quite the scandal over the last couple of months.

Fast and Furious was a “gun-walking” operation conducted by the Phoenix, Arizona branch of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (or the ATF) from 2009 and 2011. The idea was to encourage licensed Arizona gun merchants to sell firearms to known criminals in the hope that law enforcement would be able to then trace the weapons from Arizona as they crossed the border into Mexico, slowly making their way into the hands of bloodthirsty Mexican drug cartels. Umm, that sounds safe. President Obama claims to have no knowledge of the operation. However, Pavlich and her little expose beg to differ.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

young love and nazi's.


Hitler. What an asshole. Moving on...

The Seventh Gate by Richard Zimler is an historical thriller that explores the Holocaust from the point of view of a fourteen-year-old German girl named, Sophie. The setting is Berlin, it's 1934 and the rise of the Nazi's to power rocks young Sophie's world. Although she is not Jewish, she has friends that are, and when her father and brother step up to join Hitler's Nazi movement, Sophie cannot choose a side. So she is forced to live two lives, one with Isaac Zarco and other underground activists, and one in the Hitler Youth movement.

I travelled to Germany two years ago and visited Dachau, where one of Sophie's friends were sent in this novel. I have never felt so much sadness underneath my feet. Although I was unable to travel to Berlin, I feel as if I had after reading this tragic, yet well-researched historical novel.

Monday, August 20, 2012

how to survive the recession, business style.

It appears that the company's who survive, even during a recession like the one we are in now, are the ones who's customers and employees truly believe in them. They believe in their products and their mission and their values. Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton, writers of All In: How the Best Managers Create a Culture of Belief and Drive Big Results which is based on that theory, analyzed a 300,000-person study to help make their case.

This is the type of book that makes it easy to scan for major points. In a nutshell, All In wants to help managers establish climates of trust and openness so they can then have a positive work enlivenment where workers "buy in" to what they are trying to accomplish. It's actually quite simple, and every theory is proven by in-depth research including surveys and studies. It won't hurt to try every one of these strategies. In this day and age, it's too risky not to.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

more enjoyable than you think, so don't think.

First of all....I GOT A TEACHING JOB!!!!!!!

In other news...

Winter, Chicago, 1999. We meet boy, we meet girl. Boy meets girl, and both are a bit depressed. That is the basic idea of Joe Meno's Office Girl, which is one of the more enjoyable short novels I have read in a while.

Odile is a 20-something art school dropout working in a series of boring office jobs. She falls for the most inappropriate men, putting herself in the most inappropriate positions, until she meets Jack who is coincidentally at the end of his failed marriage. They are not your ideal protagonists in the sense that they don't have very many good qualities to share. It's basically the story of two screw ups who find each other and hope to grow up and change their previous ways. Hm, that's embarrassingly relatable.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

a massive collaboration.

No Rest for the Dead is a very special novel. It is special because TWENTY-SIX bestselling authors collaborated to create it. We are talking popular authors people, ones that you know. J.A. Jance, David Baldacci, R.L. Stine, etc. Celebrity authors. I'm sure you understand the significance without me going on and on about it.

I don't know exactly how these authors accomplished writing an entire novel with so many hands in the pot, or however that expression goes, and still all living to tell the tale. As a teacher, I know that collaboration is not an easy feat. I am so impressed by how smooth the thrilling story line goes as we are taken through the story of Christopher Thomas' brutal murder who's wife was convicted and executed for the crime. Ten years later, detective Jon Nunn is convinced that the wife, Rosemary was not to blame, and is on the hunt for the real killer. A little too late there detective. It's a good story with a lot of suspects, enough to always make you wonder if it was Colonel Mustard in the library with the candlestick or Mrs. Peacock in the kitchen with the knife.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

just in time for the end of the olympics.

Well the Olympics are over and that's when I decide to review an Olympic themed book. Normal. I have been very un-American lately, and have barely watched the summer games. I saw the Williams sister take the gold in tennis over that awful grunter Sherapova, and that was about the extent of it. Oh well, a sports memoir should make you feel better.

Amanda Beard first appeared at the 1994 Olympic games in Atlanta at the very young age of fourteen. Is there no age limit for the Olympics? Serious question. Anyways. She left with two silvers and one gold medal that year. Beard is a pretty girl, and took advantage of her sex appeal when she got older by posing for Playboy, which leads to harder things, like bulimia and drugs apparently. She was seriously screwed up, and spent years destructively ruining that beautiful Olympic gold body. Her memoir is about her journey from the top of the platform to rock bottom, where her then boyfriend and now husband literally saved her life. In The Water They Can't See You Cry is a fabulous truth of transformation and starting all over again, even when you already seemed to have it all.

Monday, August 13, 2012

emily giffin!

There are certain authors that make you sit, in anticipation, and wait, not so patiently for every novel to come out. Emily Giffin is one of those authors. I have read everything she's done, cover to cover. I love her writing. I like that she lessens the dialogue and gives a gist of what characters say, so you're not reading constant conversations that take forever. I love how she incorporates characters from previous books in every story. Let's just face it, I want to be like her.

Her latest novel came out at the end of July. Where We Belong is a story about a thirty-six-year-old television producer named Marian who has what seems to be the perfect life. The perfect boyfriend, the perfect job in NYC, the perfect parents. Nothing is perfect. We know this, Emily Giffin knows this, and Marian finds out after she gets a knock on her door from eighteen-year-old Kirby. I don't know if this is a spoiler, but it could be, so stop reading if you don't like such things. I assume you've all predicted, like I did, that Kirby is Marian's daughter from a teenage pregnancy. Kirby has always thought that something was missing in her life. She was told since childhood that she was adopted, so when she turns eighteen she sets off to find her birth mom. Not that she was given a bad set of adopted parents, she just wants to find out where she got her blonde hair, big ears and musical genius from. It turns out that Marian kept Kirby a secret from everyone but her own mother, including the birth father, who she clearly was in love with but wanted to spare. The young love story of Marian and Conrad is beautiful and heartbreaking. Two kids, going two separate places, and at eighteen, love is never enough.

Where We Belong is told from Marian and Kirby's perspectives. They tell their story in a way that makes you unable to tear your eyes away. I read the book in two days, and couldn't help but think that there is more to this story that needs to be told. Let's hope Giffin agrees.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

it is sunday afterall...

I may not be an avid Bible reader in my adult life (a disappointment to my mother), but I remember all of the stories I grew up learning about in Sunday school. Ruth has always been one of my favorites, a very close second to the mildly more glamorous Esther. Ruth is the daughter-in-law that I will never be able to compete with. Her husband dies, and instead of going back to her family to start a new life, she stays with her mother-in-law, Naomi. They travel to Bethlehem to work for and live with a cousin of Naomi's, and ends up marrying the man, Boaz. By sticking by her mother-in-law who lost everything, she ended up marrying a wealthy, super sweet guy and eventually birthed Obed who was the grandfather of King David. Hello amazing karma, oh and God, too.

Liz Curtis Higgs tells the story of Ruth in a novel approach to Bible study, which I gotta say, was far more fun than the King James version. Those of you, like me, who grew up reading and listening to stories from the Bible will appreciate Higgs' rendition of the book of Ruth in The Girl's Still Got It. And those of you who are not familiar with the story, or the Bible for that matter, will like it even more.

I may be occasionally shrewed and foul-mouthed, but that doesn't mean I believe that this whole universe was an accident.

Friday, August 10, 2012

simple story, great concept.

My grandma is constantly giving me advice. Advice that I typically do not ask for. She has been around for seventy-six years, and she honestly believes that she knows everything about everything. I know that she means well, but I have never been one to take advice. I am more of a after I hit rock bottom, I'll ask you for advice kind of girl. It drives everyone crazy.

Ten Girls to Watch is Charity Shumway's debut novel, and I honestly hope it's the first of many. Dawn Smith is the epitome of the twenty-something trying to make it in New York City. Ditching law school in favor of writing, she is struggling until she lands a gig at a well-known magazine. Her job is to track down every woman who made the Ten Girls to Watch list, fifty years ago and interview them.

Through the life stories of these fascinating women, Dawn is given advice on success, love and friendship. Shumway has woven this characters journey into the stories of each woman she interviews. Personally, I found this novel to be extremely relateable as a twenty-something who's dreams are taking their sweet time to come true.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

a love/hate relationship with money.

I hate money. Probably because I don't have any. I have been working this whole summer school gig for almost five weeks, and I JUST got paid for the first time. It was nice, but also kind of annoying after seeing all of the taxes that were taken out. Blah. I hate money.

Eddie Campbell is an award-winning graphic novelist who titled his latest, The Lovely Horrible Stuff. I bet a dollar that my relationship with money is worse than Campbell's, but I can't help but like the guy. Eddie Campbell himself is the one constant in this graphic novel about money, and he makes me laugh a lot. He mocks the value of money, and jokes about all of the things people do or don't do to save money - like don't beat the crap out of your son because you'll just have to pay the medical bills. Gems like that.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

beauty. do as i say, not as i do.

I am not known for my beauty queen status. I rarely wear makeup, especially in the summer time when I can get away with tan, naked skin pretty easily. I was busy all of last week preparing for a wedding which I was in on Friday. I went to school one day with leftover mascara on and my students were like, "WAIT. Miss Hagen, are you wearing MAKEUP?" All baffled with their little hoodrat lives. I assured them it was leftover from the night before, and now they think I don't bathe regularly. Whatever.

I am now going to review the most amazing beauty book ever. No, I may not know a whole lot about beauty, but I have friends that do, and when they found out that I received the Seventeen Ultimate Guide to Beauty, they were pretty pumped about the whole thing. And yes, we are aware that we are not seventeen anymore, but neither are most of the celebrities in this book. So mind your business.

This beauty guide includes EVERYTHING. From eyes and lips - you know, tips on how to be edgy or have a boho look about you. To sleek ponytails and waves/curls - you know, how to achieve fabulous hair; what to straighten, what to braid, what to tease, etc. I personally love the up-do section, Ann Shoket and the editors of Seventeen magazine give us step-by-step instructions on how to beautify all things female. How to define your cheeks, get rid of acne, rock red lips, boost body, and most importantly...how to apply fake eyelashes all by yourself without looking like a spider is crawling out of your eyeball.

Monday, August 6, 2012

hiking the tallest mountains and surfing every ocean.

It's travel memoir time, it's travel memoir time. Kind of like peanut butter jelly time, but better. As you know, I LOVE to travel. It's my thing, my happiness, my passion swimming through my gypsy blood. I love adventures and living out of a backpack. When I'm abroad, I honestly don't miss my bed or my life at all. It's about me, solely and completely. Okay, I lied. I totally missed manfriend when I was in Ireland, which was a first for me, but that just means I'm in love and shit.

In Santorini, Greece last summer.

To The Last Breath, a memoir by Frances Slakey, has made my recent travel itch even worse.  Frances is much more of a risk taker than I am on my travels, on account of his adventures took him to the top of Mt. Everest and hitchhiking across Asia, while mine had me on the back of a Greek strangers motorcycle and swimming naked in the Mediterranean. However, our eating habits were similar. You will laugh out loud at parts and be in awe of others. This is an incredible memoir. Frances took the time to live selfishly and dangerously...(listen boys)....BEFORE he got married, and ended up finding his wife on his journey to find himself.

***For a chance to win a copy of this memoir, email your name, address and this book title to jenileerose@yahoo.com

Sunday, August 5, 2012

husbands and wives, just stay off the internet.

I'm looking to be a wife one day. Lately, I've been sending ring pops in the mail to manfriend in hopes to move the process along a little. Truth is, I don't really know how to be a wife. And I'm thinking there isn't a tailor made instructional book that will guide me through every struggle my future marriage has. My mom would probably tell me that the Bible fits that description, but I am a realist, and the Bible has a lot of pages of lines to read between.

Wife 22 is a novel written by Melanie Gideon about a wife and mother who, like many real women, is having trouble keeping the spark alive in her marriage. Alice Buckle typed "Happy Marriage" into her Google search engine and was invited to participate in a research study about marriage. All she had to do was answer questions given to her by a caseworker behind the name 'Wife 22'. Through the answering of such personal questions about her life and her marriage, Alice developed a bit of a bond with her caseworker 'Researcher 101'. Daily conversations that gave her the ability to open up and explore her feelings anonymously, built one of those weird online relationships between them. Allowing Alice to communicate in a way that she couldn't with her husband, William. Uh oh, I smell trouble.

Probably I'll just let fictional characters guide me in my own marriage.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

who doesn't enjoy a psychological thrill-ride?

Deborah Crombie is a real crowd pleaser on account of she creates page-turners, which are all us avid readers really want in a novel. We want our eyes to bug out of our heads because we can't stop reading and page turning. Wahla, the secret to writing a great novel. I should teach a seminar or something.

Anyways, No Mark Upon Her is the story of a police officer named Rebecca Meredith who was found dead after going out for a row all by herself, and Duncan Kincaid who was called to investigate after what seemed to be really bad luck turns into a murder investigation. Apparently, Becca had a lot of people in her life who wouldn't mind if she accidentally drowned, who may have helped the process along some. This is a dead lady with a lot of secrets.

I hope that if I'm ever found dead, people are convinced that I must have been murdered because they don't think I'd be stupid enough to accidentally kill myself. I'd totally be stupid enough, but I reserve the right to the benefit of the doubt.