Friday, August 30, 2013

What I'm Into: August

I'm linking up with Leigh Kramer again to share what I'm into this month.  I don't feel like I've been doing anything but reading, and that's not at all a bad thing!  But let's see what else I've been doing.

After borrowing several CDs from the library last month, I really haven't been searching out new tunes. The Punch Brothers CD is one I want to borrow again.

Chris Thile, who played mandolin for Nickel Creek (before they broke up) is in Punch Brothers, and I really like their sound.  I did borrow the latest Vampire Weekend from the library, and I thought it was okay.  I'm not rushing out to purchase it.

We really haven't been watching any television in the evenings.  The only fun thing we've been doing is watching AFV after dinner.

The home videos really do begin to seem like they're all the same after a while, but they're just so funny that it doesn't matter.  A good gut-busting laugh is a nice way to unwind from the day.


We borrowed The Incredible Burt Wonderstone from the Redbox last weekend.  It was cute.  Much better than the previews would have you believe.


I'll be posting my latest and greatest reads on the 15th, but I decided to give the Maisie Dobbs series a rest for a while.  I tend to go overboard on book series, and I felt like I was burning out.


I am going to Rhinebeck again this October, and I am determined to knit the yarn I bought last year into something that I can wear this year.  I've been on ravelry looking for a pattern, and I am all ready to cast on.

So what have you been up to?  Are you looking forward to the return of "regular TV" next month?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Getting Ready for Fall: Menu Planning

The kids ask me every day, often more than once, "what's for dinner?"

How can three little words cause so much stress?

This is my cookbook collection.
One of my goals for this year is to dig into these books and magazines to try at least one new recipe per month.  I have done fairly well with this goal (although August may be a bust).  It has been fun to try new things, and it has been even more fun to discover some keepers that can move into the rotation.

Jenny's post today gave me the menu planning jumpstart I needed.

With school resuming next week--and the extracurriculars starting soon after,  I need to have a quick answer to the question of what's for dinner.  And not just dinner tonight, but if I can have dinner planned out for the next few weeks, I will feel like the pressure's off.  Because really, just deciding what's for dinner is often the hardest part.  The cooking is no problem!

Much like Jenny does, I keep a written list of what we eat for dinner.  I keep my list in my Moleskine weekly planner.  I don't have a dedicated book just for our dinners.  It is so nice to be able to flip back through the calendar for ideas.  I usually write down this list on the weekends when I'm making our grocery list.

At this time of the year, I want to have several weeks of meals planned out. First, I made a low-tech list of just about everything I cook on a regular basis.  So much chicken.

Then I typed all those meals into Excel and turned it into a table.  I shuffled around some dishes so that we're not having chicken four nights in a row.  And here is my menu plan for Monday through Thursday for the next eight weeks.  Sometimes I think I'd like to have more flexibility in my weeks, but when life gets busy, I really take comfort in knowing that dinner is already decided.

Some meals are make-aheads, so I will work on those on the weekends and hopefully make double batches for those nights when the meal plan goes off the rails.  

One of my least favorite things about weeknight activities is that we end up eating around 5:45.  That's a little early for my personal preference, but I'd rather feed us early instead of waiting to eat after the activities.  I want to focus on making our weekend meals more special--that will have to serve as our main sit-down and catch-up time.  Even if it is our Friday take-out.

So how about you?  Do you plan your meals this far in advance, or do you like to have more flexibility in your week?  

Thursday, August 22, 2013

August Break 2013: Midday

Today's word: Midday

Here I am, boiling up some Annie's Mac & Cheese.  

Before getting to midday, I've been busy:  a 9am orthodontist appointment, a quick trip to Target and the grocery store, picked up the boy from a sleepover and dropped him off to school; dropped off the 8th grader at her school for a half-hour; picked up the 8th grader and come home to boil up these pasta shells.

After boiling up the shells, I walked the dog over to the elementary school to pick up my son and his friend and fed them the rest of the macaroni.

The rest of today will likely involve laundry.  Sometimes it's nice just to stand around and watch the pasta boil.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

August Break 2013: Something Old

This month I will be periodically linking up with Susannah Conway's August Break.

She has published a list of photo prompts for each day of the month. 

Today's prompt is Something Old.

This little book was a gift to me from some church members.  They were purging their belongings and wanted me to have this.

No publication date is given; the title page only acknowledges that this is the third edition.

This note was tucked into the book.  I believe the member's mother wrote this note.

Of course the recipes and most of the language is so great.  Crumpy pudding, anyone?

"Wineglassful" is a real measurement!

 In this Sponge Cake, the ingredients must "mingle well together."

Monday, August 19, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday

Today I'm linking up with The Broke & The Bookish for their Top Ten Tuesday.

This week's list is the Top Ten Things That Make Your Life As A Reader/Book Blogger Easier

1. The Library's online hold and renewal system

It is such a treat when I check my emails in the morning to find a message from the library.  If the message posted around midnight, I know that I will have some holds waiting for me when I get to the library.  If the message posted closer to 6:00am, I need to log in and renew some books, because they're coming due!

2.  Book Page

Another great thing about the library is this monthly publication.  It is full of book reviews; I circle everything that catches my eye.  I pass along copies to my mother-in-law.

3.  Amazon's Lengthy Descriptions and Reviews

It's a wonderful rabbit hole to fall down.  I can lose some serious time just browsing on Amazon.  And then I'll click over to the library's website and put hold requests on books that have caught my eye on Amazon.

4.  Goodreads

Like Facebook for Readers, only so much better.

5.  Twitterature Link-Ups

Anne's monthly link-fest has been a great way to discover new titles and new blogs.

6.  My Moleskine notebook

I have raved about this before, but it's where I keep all those lists of titles from Book Page, Amazon, etc.  It's also where I jot down my Twitterature reviews.  I just love pen and paper.

7.  Amazon Prime

For those times when I just can't wait for the library--or when they don't have the title I want.  Free two day shipping; free Kindle owner's lending library.

and because I could only think of eight,

8.  The NPR Back Seat Book Club

This periodic series is a great resource for books for my kids (and for me).

What's in your Top 10?

Our Road Trip Soundtracks

Every year when we go on vacation, we keep the CD player busy.  Because our musical tastes vary widely, most of what we listen to is a compromise.  Below are the songs and CDs that have been in heavy rotation during Evans Family Road Trips.

Adele, Chasing Pavements. Rob and I really like this song.  I love both of her albums and would gladly listen to them over and over but for the children complaining from the back of the van.  For Rob, the mark of whether he really likes a song is if he immediately replays it as soon as it's done.  So we listen to Chasing Pavements two at a time.

Jackson Browne, Running on Empty and Somebody's Baby.  More repeaters.  When the kids saw Forrest Gump for the first time and Running on Empty came on, they commented about this being the song that we always play when we go somewhere.

Coldplay, Viva La Vida.  We love this album.  We could--and have--listened to this one over and over.  This album will forever remind me of being stuck in traffic on Interstate 95 near Richmond, Virginia.  And I mean stuck, like driving one mile in an hour stuck.  Way more stuck than the usual I-95 ridiculousness.

Our grand prize winner for road trip music is one that we have been listening to for pretty much the whole 18 years we have been together.  Nowadays we only listen to this one when we are on long road trips.

It's the Jimmy Buffet live album Feeding Frenzy.  It was recorded in 1990 or 1991, and I have owned this disc since college.  Now that we play it with the kids in the car, there are some songs that we skip over, but there are a couple that always get repeated.  It's not a road trip until you've sung Margaritaville.

Do you have favorite songs or albums that you bring with you on long trips? Share in the comments!

Friday, August 16, 2013

How to Save a Life (or Three)

If you could save a life today, would you?

source: American Red Cross
Especially if it only takes about an hour?

source: American Red Cross

I have successfully given blood three times.  The last three times I tried to give blood, I was deferred because of low iron. I have been popping iron supplements in an effort to raise my iron levels so that I can give today.

Wish me luck!

And go over to the American Red Cross today to find a blood drive near you.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

My Stack of Books: July to now

Below are brief reviews for all the books I have read since July 1 up to now.

I am on Goodreads now, come visit me there!

The Brothers of Baker Street by Michael Robertson

7 out of 10.  The second book in the series.  I only found one typo; the plot started moving forward more quickly than in the first one--where we had to meet all the players first.  This one was set in London, so I enjoyed it more than the first, plus Moriarty put in an appearance. #beachread #twodayread

Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl

9/10 YA Austenian tale; a quick and easy read with plot twists and an ending that left me smiling. #momanddaughterwillenjoy

A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff

6/10 Juvenile fiction.  Many characters and story strands that eventually came together.  Cake recipes, talents, and a ferret. #funkidread

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

10/10  First in a Series.  Post WWI female detective living in London.  Great backstory to the main character.  I love how fleshed out Maisie is (especially when to compared to Frances Brody's Kate Shackleton). #getyourDowntonfix

Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole

10/10 Epistolary novel.  Married Scottish poet falls in love with an American college student/fan.  WWI intervenes and creates complications.  WWII rips open old wounds.  Ended with tears (mine--of joy). #lovestory

Definitely Not Mr. Darcy by Karen Doornebos

4/10 Honestly, the longer I think about this one, the madder I get.  It's Austen pseudo-fan fiction, and I think the best thing I can say about it is that it only took two days to read. #skipit

Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear

Originally I gave this 10/10, but now I may go with 8/10.  Maybe I'm having Maisie fatigue.  Set in London in the depression of 1930, characters are still living with the scars (physical and emotional) of the Great War.  Maisie contemplates reconciling her past and setting her cap at a future. #ladydetective

Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber

7/10 Memoir covering Weber's first year of graduate studies at Oxford and her conversion to Christianity.  A student of poetry and literature, there are literary references throughout.  Weber goes deep with her questions of faith.  The narrative was bumpy at times, and I wondered about how much poetic license was taken to reconstruct some of the dialogue after almost 20 years.  Still, I enjoyed this. #deepthinking

The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan

5/10  This is the book that my mother-in-law, my two sisters-in-law and I were going to read while on vacation.  My mother-in-law and I finished it, and I gave my copy to one of my sisters-in-law so she could finish it and hopefully pass on to my other sister-in-law.  They had purchased it for reading on the Nook, and they found that they prefer to hold an actual book.    This book has five separate stories in it. The book is divided into sections, and in each section, there is another installment of each story.  It makes for a disjointed beginning.  It does get better, but the end result was that out of the five stories, there were only two that really cared about.  The other three featured characters that I either felt neutral or negatively about. #meh

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith

10/10 Almost as soon as the story broke about Robert Galbraith's true identity, I clicked "buy" on Amazon.  J.K. Rowling has definitely stepped out from behind the shadow of the Boy Wizard.  A well done mystery, great location (London!), great central character.  I sure hope this is the first in another series. #thebookofthesummer

What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast by Laura Vanderkam

3/10 Ugh.  I bought this for my Kindle while we were still at the beach because I had read my books already.  If you have already read 168 Hours (like I had), you do not need to read this.  There is no new ground covered here.  #read168hoursinstead

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Linking up: August Break: Stillness

This month I will be periodically linking up with Susannah Conway's August Break.

She has published a list of photo prompts for each day of the month.

Today's word is Stillness.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Nine Things I Learned While on Vacation

There is never a good time of day to drive through, around, or near Washington, D.C.

Charcoal grilling really tastes better than gas grilling.

Feeding 14 people is hard work.  When it's your turn to cook, ask for help; when it's not your turn, pitch in anyway.

Bring at least one more book than you think you're going to be able to read.  The beach is no place for a Kindle.

If you are taking people pictures on the beach at the right time of day, it's okay if they're not wearing white shirts.

Although white-shirts-on-the-beach is a nice look.

Waiting for turtle hatchlings to surface is all the evening entertainment you need.

If your college roommate is home when you're driving through her town, stop by and visit, even if it's just for a little while.

And even though you've just spent the Best Week Ever with most of your favorite people in the world, there really is no place like home.