25 June 2012

Don't Read Book Reviews

I shouldn’t read reviews before I read the book.  I wouldn't say they are necessarily wrong, but they color my opinion going into it.  Then I have pre-conceived ideas about the book, author or theme before I’ve even given the book a chance.  Talk about judging a book by its cover.

I did this with the Hunger Games Trilogy.  I listened to friends opinions on Collins' writing ability, I read amazon.com reviews focusing on the thematic content and how horrifying it is when you really look at it.  I decided to buy (after weeks of going back and forth) the trilogy on my kindle and read it anyway.  I’m glad I did.  They weren’t my favorite books, and the violent themes did stick with me longer than I wanted them to (including in my dreams), and she did have some pretty poorly written lines (her Yoda line being the worst).  But I was engrossed.  They were a compelling read and it was a really good thing I decided to wait till after all my Montessori work was handed in before I started them.  

I didn’t learn my lesson with the Hunger Games.  I did it again with my most recent book.  My sister’s best friend started a book club.  We will read 3 books over the summer months, get together over food and chat about them.  It’s a diverse group age-wise, newlyweds, new moms, and grandmothers (including my mom).  The first book is MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche; a book about a women’s search for a new BFF after transplanting to Chicago.  I read the reviews.  There are lots of people who like the book, but I gravitate towards the 1 or 2 star reviews, I guess I want to hear the negative.  Most people didn’t like the author because she seemed flighty or juvenile for seeking out a BFF (and for calling it a ‘BFF’, but what else do you call it?  Bestie is just as middle-school.)  The reviewers point out that she has best friends just not living around the corner.  

Is she selfish for wanting a bestie around the corner?  My best friend lives in Morocco.  I wish she could be around the corner, like she used to be when we grew up.  But I also wish she could be in Boston again, cause it’s a lot easier to visit than Morocco (so suck it up Bertsche). Morocco also just banned skype (#@*holes) making it even more difficult to have a chat.  And I do have good (fabulous really) friends around the corner.

Back to the book.  I’m half way through (book club tomorrow night, eek).  It’s a good read.  I’m glad I did end up buying it.  It’s making me think a lot about friendships and creating new ones.  I’m an introvert.  Its hard to talk to new people.  I’ve improved dramatically over the years, slowly perfecting the question asking and offering information about myself without being asked.  I’m getting there.  This book challenged me.  I need to follow up with people I’ve met and said ‘let’s get together sometime’.  I need to be a better friend to those I already have.  

The one thing I don’t like about this book: reading about friendship makes me miss Sus more than ever...

12 June 2012

Actually Using all Those Pinned Recipes

I’m addicted to Pinterest.  What an amazing invention.  All those ideas, recipes, funny pictures and weird internet links all in one glorious spot.  I can finally do away with all the bits of paper and sticky notes that have websites listed on them but I don’t remember why they were interesting.  My various piles of papers are not really smaller, they just don’t include these random notes.

I have found Pinterest really helpful with my Montessori training too.  I have Montessori board and a board for the Quilting Unit I did (read about it here).  I’ve gotten loads of ideas for the classroom from other Montessori pinners.  But the most helpful (well, I suppose it’s yet to be proved helpful) part of Pinterest is all those delicious recipes.  I scroll down the daily pins of friends and acquaintances and drool over the pictures, repinning nearly all of them.  I have 38 pins on my ‘Savory Recipes’ board and about as many in ‘Breakfast’ and ‘Sweets and Treats’ combined.

So a while back, while in the throws of end-of-school papers, I looked up a crock-pot recipe I had pinned on Pinterest and finally put it to use.  It’s a bit daring really.  You don’t know if the “It’s delicious” comment is from the person you know or someone 10 pins ago who didn’t actually try it either.  The recipe was for crock-pot fajitas. We love Mexican in this house and fajitas are always a hit.  I’ve been moving away from the seasoning packet and more towards making my own spice blend.  (This is as much from forgetting to buy the packet and wanting fajitas as an aversion to what’s put in the packet.)
Ready for Culinary Greatness
Here’s the recipe:
(original found Stacy Makes Cents here)
Crock Pot Chicken Fajitas 
1 yellow onion, sliced
3 sweet peppers, sliced
1 ½ pounds boneless chicken breast or thighs
½ cup chicken broth
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cumin
1 ½ tablespoons chili powder
Squirt of lime juice
Fajita fixings

Combine sliced onion and peppers in the bottom of a greased crock-pot. Lay chicken on top of veggies. Pour chicken broth over top. Sprinkle everything with cumin, salt, and chili powder. Give a nice squirt of lime juice over the top. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours (or on High for 4-6 hours). When meat is done, shred with two forks and stir back into juices. Serve meat mixture with slotted spoon on tortillas with your choice of fixings.
Looks promising
Finished product before shredding

It wasn’t bad.  But it wasn’t amazing either.  One thing I did take away from this: I now shred my chicken for all mexican meals, fajitas, gorditas, it’s all shredded.  It is so much easier to keep the tortilla wrapped without chunks of meat.  Shredding it also means I can use bone-in chicken which is cheaper and cook the chicken ahead of time and freeze if necessary.
But I didn’t stop pinning.  Every recipe with a drool-worthy picture was/is repinned.  So I knew I had to have another go and today I did.
It was 4:45, The Ellen Show was ending and I was on Pinterest wondering what in the world I would cook for dinner.  Then I saw it.  Creamy Garlic Pasta.  Wow.  That is drool-worthy.  I had all the ingredients (well, sort of) and it looked like it would be quick.
It was quick.  It was fabulous.  Creamy, Dreamy Garlic Pasta with Fresh Basil?  Yes, please.
Here is the recipe: 
Originally from The Cheese Pusher here (no pushing needed for me :)
This photo is from The Cheese Pusher.
I forgot to take a picture before we dug in.
But it looks this amazing in real life too.

Creamy Garlic Pasta
2 tsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp butter
¼  tsp salt
½ tsp pepper3 cups chicken stock
½ lb spaghetti or angel hair pasta
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
¾ cup heavy cream
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
In a pot, bring the olive oil to medium-low heat. Add the garlic (I included 1/2 large onion) and stir, allowing it to cook for 1-2 minutes. Mix in the butter until melted. Add the salt, pepper and chicken stock. Raise the heat to high and let it come to a boil.
Once it is at a rolling boil, add the pasta and cook for as long as the box’s directions indicate. Reduce the stove to medium heat and mix in the parmesan until completely melted. Turn off the heat and stir in the cream (I only had half and half.  It worked fine.) and parsley (I used fresh basil instead). Serve immediately
I think it took me about 20 minutes from start to finish.  If I had some chicken it would have been good too.  Or with bacon it would have been a pseudo Carbonara.  Whatever you do with it, make it.  It is delicious.  My husband had four helpings.


03 June 2012

20 Things I Miss

On the day of the Jubilee I drink a cuppa to the Queen, and list 20 things I miss about England. 
 In no particular order:
  1. Rain
  2. No one complaining because it’s raining
  3. The accent (really, it just sounds cool)
  4. Public transportation that’s not a ‘special treat’ to take
  5. Trains
  6. Cheaper PG Tips
  7. Chocolate Digestives
  8. Walking to Safeways then Alexandria Park for a picnic lunch
  9. Walking to Hastings seafront
  10. Walking around London without a map
  11. Walking
  12. Telling people you walked and not getting the reaction “you walked?!”
  13. That park in London Evie took me too
  14. And Cafe Mozart nearby
  15. Fewer commercials
  16. Real news
  17. British Bookshops and Sussex Stationers
  18. Cadbury Creme Egg McFlurry
  19. Free museums in London
  20. Student discounts that actually amount to something; like watching Patrick Stewart in Anthony and Cleopatra from the middle of the fourth row for only £10
Oh, and 21. People, so many wonderful people.