Wednesday, July 1, 2015

WWRW July Link-Up

These titles are just the tip of the iceberg known as my reading pile.


Shadow on the Mountain by Margi Preus, a 2016 Caudill nominee, is a story about a boy named Espen who joins the Norwegian resistance during WWII. I love WWII fiction and Shadow on the Mountain is a solid addition to that genre. The character of Espen is based on actual events in the life Erling Storrusten, who was a teengae spy in Lillehammer during the Nazi Occupation.

Shadow on the Mountain is appropriate for any reader who can handle blood, shootings, beatings, and all the things that come with a Nazi story. Edmund can't wait to read it.


I was seriously scared at the beginning of Hidden by Helen Frost. An eight year old girl, Wren, waits in the car while her mother runs into a gas station. Gun shots. Someone gets in the car and drives away, not knowing about the child in the back seat. Wren hides in the car and then in a boat in the garage for days before  *SPOILER* she escapes and is rescued.

During her days of hiding, readers overhear conversations the driver of the car has with his wife and daughter,Darra, as well as hearing some domestic violence too. Darra leaves food and water out for Wren, while her parents think she must have gotten out of the car after the shooting.

Fast forward several years, Darra and Wren end up at the same summer camp. Wren has a happy family life, security, wealth. Darra's dad went to prison, her parents divorced, and she blames Wren for her woes.

Written in the girls' voices, the style of poetic verse changes back and forth. I didn't realize until I read the Author's Note at the end that the last words of Darra's longer lines tell another version of the story. Incredibly cool!  I love secrets like that!

Hidden is also a Caudill nominee, and though frightening at first, I think it would be okay for ages 10 and up.

Need picture book recommendations? Search the #housewifespicepicturebook hashtag on Instagram for everything we've enjoyed lately.

I'll be posting again next Wednesday. I have some new stuff from Pauline Press and Ignatius/Magnificat Kids to share with you. Susan and Lucy each have a review to share as well!



Friday, June 26, 2015

DIY GAP Poplin Midi Skirt - 7QT Style

Have you seen this skirt at GAP?


It hits just below the knee which is my sweet spot.


It's all cotton and it comes in cute colors.

It's $59.99.

Wha?

So I made one my ownself for under $10 and I'm here today to tell you how you can do this too.

1. Assemble your ingredients.

Go to Wal Mart (or Hobby Lobby or Joann's etc.) and get 2 yards of cotton fabric in the color of your choosing. I chose Prussian Blue. The fabric was $5.97 for 2 yards pre-tax.

Grab a pack of 1 inch wide no-roll elastic for the waist ($1.77) and a spool of coordinating thread if you don't already have some.

Wash, dry, and press your fabric. With an iron, Sara. With an iron.

2. Cut your fabric.

Fold the fabric in half and cut two rectangles. My rectangles were 28 inches wide and at least 30 inches long. That gave me plenty of length to make the waist band and figure out a cute wide hem.

Those measurements are good for a GAP small. If you want to make a custom size, take your hip measurement and add 16 inches or more if you want a fuller skirt. If you're tall, cut longer rectangles. Two yards should be enough for everybody. Divide by 2 because one rectangle is the front and one is the back. But you knew that.

3. Sides.


I did my own version of a French seam on the sides. That's a fancy term for saying I sewed the rectangles together up the sides with a scant quarter inch seam allowance. (Apparently I was supposed to trim the seams to 1/8". Oops.)


Then I turned the giant tube inside out and ironed the seams.


Next, I sewed the sides again with a slightly more generous half inch seam allowance. This way, the side seams will never fray, and look super neat and tidy.

It helps that my fabric looks the same front and back.

4. The waistband.


 Choose the top edge. Iron a half inch fold all the way around.



Next, fold over that edge and iron a generous inch and a quarter all the way around. We are making a tunnel for the elastic to go through.



Sew this edge down but leave a couple of inches open to fit the elastic in like so.



Use the biggest safety pin you can find, pin it through one end of the elastic and feed the elastic through the tunnel.

When you've worked it all the way through, try on the skirt and adjust the gathers to your liking.



Stitch the ends of the elastic together and clip off the excess.

Stitch down the rest of the seam to conceal the rest of the elastic.

I did sew through the whole waist band at the side seams for a vertical inch or so, just to keep the gathers even.

5. The hem.

This may or may not be the same picture from up above.
Decide what length you want. Get a second opinion. Lucy helped me settle on 23 inches.  I cut the whole skirt length to 25 inches, and repeated the tunnel steps I used on the waistband. Half inch, then inch and a half hem. Ran it through the sewing machine one more time and done!

6. Commence awkward backyard photo shoot.




7. Caveats.

The Gap skirt has pockets. Carry a purse or wear a fanny pack or pay $60 for pockets.

The thin cotton fabric needs a slip. On it, Mom. FYI, the Gap skirt needs a slip too.

My apologies for the photo quality of this post, or lack thereof. I can only master one piece of machinery at a time. This time I beat the sewing machine into submission but let the camera be the boss. No time for photo editing or this post would never see the light of day like many I have in my drafts folder.

Susan and Lucy have fabric ready and waiting to be transformed. Lucy's is red, and Susan's is seersucker. Way to choose the wrench, Susan.

Linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum for Friday Quick Takes and you know I'll be back on Wednesday. I never miss the first Wednesday of the month because WHAT WE'RE READING WEDNESDAY!

"I'll be back!"


Saturday, June 6, 2015

7QT and every one of them about Food.

1.

On Wednesday, Lucy made her first appearance of the day at nearly 11 o'clock am and informed me that she was leaving for a party at 5. I very matter-of-factly stated that she was making dinner.

She put chili in the slow cooker and baked corn bread from scratch. Boom.



Slow cookers are awesome in the summer.

So is Lucy.


So is this Slow Cooker Revolution Volume 2 that I use at the very least, bi-weekly.

2. Rather than wrap up the St. Jude's school year in some formal way, it just faded out. Still fading. Fading out. Fading out. Just fading out....


We are still watching documentaries and educational programs on Netflix all the time. Can't quit the 'flix.

Some of our favorites include



Ted Talks.



Leap Frog. Math or phonics, it doesn't matter. Jill loves the opposites, the rhyming, the counting, all the things. I only wish there were more Leap Frog shows streaming and Jill wishes there were more Netflix Leap Frog shows with the cute dogs aka Scout and Friends.



Fed Up. More on that coming up.

3.


Edmund and I watched Fed Up on the same day we watched Jamie Oliver's Ted Prize Wish: Teach Every Child About Food. Now, Edmund has sworn off soda and spouts factoids like "More people will die this year from obesity than from starvation." and points out to everyone with a pulse that the nutrition facts on any item with a barcode have a blank space when it comes to % daily value of sugar. Spooky.


Patrick was a little hot about some of the more obvious propaganda points. For example, the movie makes a point of saying that life and health insurance companies invest in Big Food companies. Patrick says that all large companies with 501k programs invest in portfolios and those portfolios will include Big Food, but not because of some nefarious partnership.



On the whole, Fed Up packaged the Sugar Is Bad For Us message along with lots of other new messages about science and diet and exercise, which is great because I was calling this "science class."

For example, exercise is NOT going to help Americans if they consume soda and processed foods. There aren't enough hours in a day to work off those calories. The Calories In, Calories Out message is ripped to shreds.

There are many sad statistics about the health and future of American children.


I had no idea how difficult it is for children to make healthy food choices in a public school setting. Jamie Oliver taught us how public school kitchens do not have cooking equipment. They only have "heating-up-processed-food-equipment."



The partnerships between fast food companies and soda companies and public schools was news to me. Horrifying news. I'm bothered that my daughter's private high school has a soda machine, but public school kids are being given junk food for free?!?



Jamie Oliver is spot on when he says that the problem is education. He wants to educate people on how to cook in their homes. He says every child should graduate "knowing how to make ten dishes that will save their lives."

5.

 Edmund cooks every day. Every single day, he starts off by making a wholesome breakfast from scratch. No cereal here, unless there is some sort of early morning crisis, like we are out of eggs.

6.

Jamie Oliver. Edmund. Both dyslexics who love to cook. I'm working out a brainstorm here. Edmund. Cooking show. YouTube. Teaching kids how to cook dishes that will save their lives.

And I can call it Science!

7. If you were 12 years old and going to make a vlog or series of YouTube videos, what kind of equipment would you need? What kind of program would you use? Asking for a friend.

Linking up with Kelly for Seven Quick Takes Friday, late per usual.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

WWRW: June Bundle of Books

It's been real busy in these parts. You know. May and all that comes with it, plus four birthdays at my house. I did manage to read a few books though.

Yes, I do bring books to my kid's baseball games. He's not always up to bat.


Speaking of Edmund, we both enjoyed Gerald Morris's The Squire's Tale. Our young protagonist, Terence, cares for a hermit with the gift of prophecy. When a wanna-be knight crosses his path, the hermit foretells both of their futures. Terence leaves with the future Sir Gawain as his squire.

Off they ride, to meet King Arthur and go on a quest. Like other Arthurian tales, some of the adventures are somewhat bizarre, but all come with a lesson to take away. Morris gives these ancient characters new life with flaws and personalities all their own. Terence is a kind-hearted boy and Gawain is a likable knight struggling to be noble.

This is not a new series. Just new to us. Back in 1998 the good people at School Library Journal wrote,
"Overall, this is a good story, well told, both original and true to the legend of Gawain, counteracting his lesser position in Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur. Readers who savor swashbuckling tales of knighthood will enjoy this adventure. Librarians will find a great choice of comic and breathtaking quests for booktalks."

I agree with those statements and with their assessed age of appropriateness as Grades 5 to 9. Edmund and I just got Book 2 of this series of 10 (hooray for series!): The Squire, His Knight, and His Lady.


The lovely Laura Pearl wrote a new novel for middle schoolers, Erin's Ring.

When Molly McCormick, new girl in Dover, New Hampshire, finds an old claddaugh ring outside the local Catholic church, she sets out on a journey of discovery about the city's history and Catholic heritage.

There are lots of heroines in this novel. We learn the lineage of the ring's owners while Molly makes a friend and works on a history project for school. Each of the women who owned the ring faced different challenges as immigrant, factory worker, single mother and widow, and star-crossed lover.

Erin's Ring is a sweet story with lots of Irish-American history and idioms. The Irish brogues are very thick and there is a glossary in the back of the book to help those unfamiliar with Irish vernacular.

I did note one anachronism is Erin's Ring.  One of the nineteenth century heroines finds herself on January 1st, bemoaning the fact that there is no Catholic church in town to celebrate the Solemnity of Mary. January 1st was the Feast of the Circumcision of Our Lord until 1969, when it was changed to the Solemnity of Mary. I know this because the pastor at the parish where I grew up joked that the diocese had been naming parishes after events in the life of our Lord. When our parish was built, there were only two events left: the Transfiguration and the Circumcision. But this doesn't affect the story in any way.

Erin's Ring is both shorter and more innocent than Laura's first novel Finding Grace, making it appropriate for any middle-school reader.


I'm trying to read more grown-up books this summer. I'm about a third of the way in to Jennifer Chiaverini's Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule. We are going to Galena later this month, and I have some distant familial ties to Ulysses S. Grant, so this historical novel is of particular interest to me.

As @reinventingmother commented on my Instagram photo, it is a little slow. Sometimes slow is what I need however. "Slow" allows me to take in all of the historical and political details of the time.

Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule is a tale of two women, both named Julia. One is the Southern belle, Julia Dent who eventually marries the quiet Captain Grant, and the other is her slave since childhood, Jule.  Jule was given to Julia at the age of four to be her playmate.

I was unaware that the great military mind of the North was married to a slave owner from St. Louis. The family politics alone are worth the read. Julia is the lesser of two heroines, at least where I am in the novel. She is naive to the feelings of the "help" and over-confident in her role as master/beneficiary.

What I like about this book is that it's missing the sex and graphic violence that I've come to expect from best-sellers. That's not to say that there isn't any romance or tales of the horrible treatment of slaves. Chiaverini does an excellent job with both without offending my delicate sensibilities.


Now for the monthly link up for people who found time to read books and write what they thought about them.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Seven Actually Quick Takes

1. Birthday Trifecta Week is over. Three birthdays, three parades, three cakes, three birthday dinners.


My feast was the best. Patrick grilled salmon (and Italian sausages because he has that thing about fish) AND he grilled avocados for this Grilled Avocado and Tomato Salad recipe from John Besh. Grilled avocado is a brand new wonderful thing that we are going to eat a lot of this summer.

2.

Edmund won't finish a book because he "doesn't like it."  I told him I finish every book I start.  His response, "You're a geek."  I said to give it to page 100, then decide.

Patrick said, "You're right."  I said, "I know.  You can't tell until page 100 if it's worth it or not."

Patrick said, "No, he's right.  You are a geek."

I get no respect.

3.  Jill adores Polly.  Worships her. And speaks to her in this weirdly deep voice, "Heh behbeh."

Heh Heh beh beh.  Heh Chubs.


Speaking of Polly, she walks. She only takes steps if no one is looking or paying attention to her. She's a baby ninja.

4. Things are gorgeous here.


Breathtaking.

Pulchritudinous.

5.

Last weekend, Lucy changed up our exterior home decor with a spot of paint. Don't you love it? I sure do.

6.

Check out our entry way now! Look at all of those hooks just waiting to be overloaded with jackets and bags.

7. Today is Prom!!!


Today is also the four hour European history test from noon to four so send up a prayer that we can get her hairs done by 11:30am. I fired up my hot rollers for a test drive last night and she's been scouring Pinterest.


Unfortunately, my Irish-dance-wig-putting-on skills are not helping me at all.

Linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum.

Have a pulchritudinous weekend! 


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

WWRW: The Good, the Bad, and the May Link-Up

Did you miss me on A Seeking Heart with Allison Gingras this past Monday?

No worries. You can still listen to us discuss turkey bacon, tiaras, and technology by clicking here.

I've read lots of fiction for kids this past month, and quite honestly, not much of it is worth recommending.

This is what you do want to read:


Popular: How a Geek in Pearls Discovered the Secret to Confidence by Maya Van Wagenen.

Maya discovers a vintage book on popularity written in the 1950s and puts each chapter to the test in her 8th grade year at a public middle school in Brownsville, Texas. This book is NON-fiction. An actual 8th grader did things like wear a girdle, put vaseline on her eyelids, and sport a hat and gloves.

Maya is terrific writer, especially because at this time she is only fifteen. I hear that her book might be made into a movie. The chutzpah she had to do what she did...I have to say I really admire her.

Brownsville middle school is not a G rated place. Pregnant seventh graders, drug-sniffing dogs, in-school lock-downs are routine. This book is definitely not for the faint of heart.

Does Maya become popular? It's hard to say. The conclusions she comes to in her year-long experiment are incredibly insightful and can be applied to all ages. Maya is one "swell" kid.


It's no secret that we are bigtime John Flanagan fans over here. I recently re-read the first of the Brotherband Chronicles, The Outcasts. I remember being underwhelmed the first time around but now that I own an autographed copy of Book 5 (squee!) I began again.

Now I remember! I was frustrated that a plot twist in the last chapter or two chops off the story in media res.


This time however I was able to dive right into The Invaders: Brotherband Chronicles, Book 2. Hal and his seafaring friends are still on a long term quest, but I feel more settled now that Book 2 ended on a more positive note.I even got Book 3 from the library, because I must follow this until the end.

For all of you die-hard Ranger's Apprentice fans, Hal and Thorn are like Will and Halt. But with boats. Lots of boats and no horses.

Now for the rest or What Not to Read. I'm not going to bother making Amazon links for these, because they're just not worth my time or yours.


Masterminds by Gordon Korman. Meh. Kids in a seemingly perfect town learn that they are clones in a social experiment (The Truman Show?), and that their "parents" have lied to them their entire lives.

Very angst. Many hurts. Much unhappy with the grown-ups.

Also, the book is one big set-up for a series so the ending is really just the beginning and you know how I get irritated by that. Of all the books that I'm down on, this one is the least objectionable. I was annoyed by it, that's all.


Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson is about a girl, her quirky family, and the hotel they run in NYC. Could be fun and cute except that on page 1 we learn that it's Scarlett's fifteenth birthday. In the next few chapters, she falls in love with her college age brother's friend. Can you say statutory rape? Also her brother, the 19 or 20 something one is getting involved with one of the guests. A guest who is easily in her 50s. Hello Mrs. Robinson. Ew. I didn't finish it.


The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley is about a girl with a clubfoot in England at the start of World War II. She is abused by her single mother, escapes the apartment she has been confined to her entire life, and gets relocated with other evacuees (including her brother) in rural Kent. In Kent, she finds acceptance and love in the home of her host.

Two problems.

First of all, I have read this book before. Different title. Boy child abused by his single mother, evacuated to rural England, rehabilitated by his host. It was called Goodnight Mr. Tom by Michelle Magorian. Both books are terribly tragic. The abuse story-lines are hard to stomach.

Secondly, in The War That Saved My Life, the woman who takes in the disabled girl and her brother is quite clearly a lesbian. She has suffered depression since the death of her lover. Taking in and caring for two evacuated, underfed, and disadvantaged children pulls her out of self-absorption and despondency.


Girls Like Us by Gail Giles. I want to like this book. The story of two special-ed high school graduates getting a home together and starting their adult lives is touching.

Let me just mention a few of the troubling topics.

Gang rape.

That's probably enough but there's more.

More rape.
And violence.
And abuse.

It was very painful to read.

Yes, the two mentally disabled young women become friends and find support and get their lives in order. But in a kids' book?!

Ok. I can't end on that note so let me direct your attention to my Instagram feed.


La, la, la, la, la...happy happy joy joy! That's Jill reading Perfect Square by Michael Hall.

Looking for picture books? I read far too many to review so I take pictures of the good ones and use the hashtag #housewifespicepicturebooks.

The collection grows every day. Jill is insatiable and my library has no limit on check-outs. Take a gander at the bounty of beautiful books that are actually appropriate for children!

*deep cleansing breaths*

That's better.

Now link up your book reports! I mean book reviews. Here's hoping your reads have been more peace filled than mine. This link up will be open til around May 30th. Perfect for the procrastinating reader.



Wednesday, July 1, 2015

WWRW July Link-Up

These titles are just the tip of the iceberg known as my reading pile.


Shadow on the Mountain by Margi Preus, a 2016 Caudill nominee, is a story about a boy named Espen who joins the Norwegian resistance during WWII. I love WWII fiction and Shadow on the Mountain is a solid addition to that genre. The character of Espen is based on actual events in the life Erling Storrusten, who was a teengae spy in Lillehammer during the Nazi Occupation.

Shadow on the Mountain is appropriate for any reader who can handle blood, shootings, beatings, and all the things that come with a Nazi story. Edmund can't wait to read it.


I was seriously scared at the beginning of Hidden by Helen Frost. An eight year old girl, Wren, waits in the car while her mother runs into a gas station. Gun shots. Someone gets in the car and drives away, not knowing about the child in the back seat. Wren hides in the car and then in a boat in the garage for days before  *SPOILER* she escapes and is rescued.

During her days of hiding, readers overhear conversations the driver of the car has with his wife and daughter,Darra, as well as hearing some domestic violence too. Darra leaves food and water out for Wren, while her parents think she must have gotten out of the car after the shooting.

Fast forward several years, Darra and Wren end up at the same summer camp. Wren has a happy family life, security, wealth. Darra's dad went to prison, her parents divorced, and she blames Wren for her woes.

Written in the girls' voices, the style of poetic verse changes back and forth. I didn't realize until I read the Author's Note at the end that the last words of Darra's longer lines tell another version of the story. Incredibly cool!  I love secrets like that!

Hidden is also a Caudill nominee, and though frightening at first, I think it would be okay for ages 10 and up.

Need picture book recommendations? Search the #housewifespicepicturebook hashtag on Instagram for everything we've enjoyed lately.

I'll be posting again next Wednesday. I have some new stuff from Pauline Press and Ignatius/Magnificat Kids to share with you. Susan and Lucy each have a review to share as well!



Friday, June 26, 2015

DIY GAP Poplin Midi Skirt - 7QT Style

Have you seen this skirt at GAP?


It hits just below the knee which is my sweet spot.


It's all cotton and it comes in cute colors.

It's $59.99.

Wha?

So I made one my ownself for under $10 and I'm here today to tell you how you can do this too.

1. Assemble your ingredients.

Go to Wal Mart (or Hobby Lobby or Joann's etc.) and get 2 yards of cotton fabric in the color of your choosing. I chose Prussian Blue. The fabric was $5.97 for 2 yards pre-tax.

Grab a pack of 1 inch wide no-roll elastic for the waist ($1.77) and a spool of coordinating thread if you don't already have some.

Wash, dry, and press your fabric. With an iron, Sara. With an iron.

2. Cut your fabric.

Fold the fabric in half and cut two rectangles. My rectangles were 28 inches wide and at least 30 inches long. That gave me plenty of length to make the waist band and figure out a cute wide hem.

Those measurements are good for a GAP small. If you want to make a custom size, take your hip measurement and add 16 inches or more if you want a fuller skirt. If you're tall, cut longer rectangles. Two yards should be enough for everybody. Divide by 2 because one rectangle is the front and one is the back. But you knew that.

3. Sides.


I did my own version of a French seam on the sides. That's a fancy term for saying I sewed the rectangles together up the sides with a scant quarter inch seam allowance. (Apparently I was supposed to trim the seams to 1/8". Oops.)


Then I turned the giant tube inside out and ironed the seams.


Next, I sewed the sides again with a slightly more generous half inch seam allowance. This way, the side seams will never fray, and look super neat and tidy.

It helps that my fabric looks the same front and back.

4. The waistband.


 Choose the top edge. Iron a half inch fold all the way around.



Next, fold over that edge and iron a generous inch and a quarter all the way around. We are making a tunnel for the elastic to go through.



Sew this edge down but leave a couple of inches open to fit the elastic in like so.



Use the biggest safety pin you can find, pin it through one end of the elastic and feed the elastic through the tunnel.

When you've worked it all the way through, try on the skirt and adjust the gathers to your liking.



Stitch the ends of the elastic together and clip off the excess.

Stitch down the rest of the seam to conceal the rest of the elastic.

I did sew through the whole waist band at the side seams for a vertical inch or so, just to keep the gathers even.

5. The hem.

This may or may not be the same picture from up above.
Decide what length you want. Get a second opinion. Lucy helped me settle on 23 inches.  I cut the whole skirt length to 25 inches, and repeated the tunnel steps I used on the waistband. Half inch, then inch and a half hem. Ran it through the sewing machine one more time and done!

6. Commence awkward backyard photo shoot.




7. Caveats.

The Gap skirt has pockets. Carry a purse or wear a fanny pack or pay $60 for pockets.

The thin cotton fabric needs a slip. On it, Mom. FYI, the Gap skirt needs a slip too.

My apologies for the photo quality of this post, or lack thereof. I can only master one piece of machinery at a time. This time I beat the sewing machine into submission but let the camera be the boss. No time for photo editing or this post would never see the light of day like many I have in my drafts folder.

Susan and Lucy have fabric ready and waiting to be transformed. Lucy's is red, and Susan's is seersucker. Way to choose the wrench, Susan.

Linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum for Friday Quick Takes and you know I'll be back on Wednesday. I never miss the first Wednesday of the month because WHAT WE'RE READING WEDNESDAY!

"I'll be back!"


Saturday, June 6, 2015

7QT and every one of them about Food.

1.

On Wednesday, Lucy made her first appearance of the day at nearly 11 o'clock am and informed me that she was leaving for a party at 5. I very matter-of-factly stated that she was making dinner.

She put chili in the slow cooker and baked corn bread from scratch. Boom.



Slow cookers are awesome in the summer.

So is Lucy.


So is this Slow Cooker Revolution Volume 2 that I use at the very least, bi-weekly.

2. Rather than wrap up the St. Jude's school year in some formal way, it just faded out. Still fading. Fading out. Fading out. Just fading out....


We are still watching documentaries and educational programs on Netflix all the time. Can't quit the 'flix.

Some of our favorites include



Ted Talks.



Leap Frog. Math or phonics, it doesn't matter. Jill loves the opposites, the rhyming, the counting, all the things. I only wish there were more Leap Frog shows streaming and Jill wishes there were more Netflix Leap Frog shows with the cute dogs aka Scout and Friends.



Fed Up. More on that coming up.

3.


Edmund and I watched Fed Up on the same day we watched Jamie Oliver's Ted Prize Wish: Teach Every Child About Food. Now, Edmund has sworn off soda and spouts factoids like "More people will die this year from obesity than from starvation." and points out to everyone with a pulse that the nutrition facts on any item with a barcode have a blank space when it comes to % daily value of sugar. Spooky.


Patrick was a little hot about some of the more obvious propaganda points. For example, the movie makes a point of saying that life and health insurance companies invest in Big Food companies. Patrick says that all large companies with 501k programs invest in portfolios and those portfolios will include Big Food, but not because of some nefarious partnership.



On the whole, Fed Up packaged the Sugar Is Bad For Us message along with lots of other new messages about science and diet and exercise, which is great because I was calling this "science class."

For example, exercise is NOT going to help Americans if they consume soda and processed foods. There aren't enough hours in a day to work off those calories. The Calories In, Calories Out message is ripped to shreds.

There are many sad statistics about the health and future of American children.


I had no idea how difficult it is for children to make healthy food choices in a public school setting. Jamie Oliver taught us how public school kitchens do not have cooking equipment. They only have "heating-up-processed-food-equipment."



The partnerships between fast food companies and soda companies and public schools was news to me. Horrifying news. I'm bothered that my daughter's private high school has a soda machine, but public school kids are being given junk food for free?!?



Jamie Oliver is spot on when he says that the problem is education. He wants to educate people on how to cook in their homes. He says every child should graduate "knowing how to make ten dishes that will save their lives."

5.

 Edmund cooks every day. Every single day, he starts off by making a wholesome breakfast from scratch. No cereal here, unless there is some sort of early morning crisis, like we are out of eggs.

6.

Jamie Oliver. Edmund. Both dyslexics who love to cook. I'm working out a brainstorm here. Edmund. Cooking show. YouTube. Teaching kids how to cook dishes that will save their lives.

And I can call it Science!

7. If you were 12 years old and going to make a vlog or series of YouTube videos, what kind of equipment would you need? What kind of program would you use? Asking for a friend.

Linking up with Kelly for Seven Quick Takes Friday, late per usual.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

WWRW: June Bundle of Books

It's been real busy in these parts. You know. May and all that comes with it, plus four birthdays at my house. I did manage to read a few books though.

Yes, I do bring books to my kid's baseball games. He's not always up to bat.


Speaking of Edmund, we both enjoyed Gerald Morris's The Squire's Tale. Our young protagonist, Terence, cares for a hermit with the gift of prophecy. When a wanna-be knight crosses his path, the hermit foretells both of their futures. Terence leaves with the future Sir Gawain as his squire.

Off they ride, to meet King Arthur and go on a quest. Like other Arthurian tales, some of the adventures are somewhat bizarre, but all come with a lesson to take away. Morris gives these ancient characters new life with flaws and personalities all their own. Terence is a kind-hearted boy and Gawain is a likable knight struggling to be noble.

This is not a new series. Just new to us. Back in 1998 the good people at School Library Journal wrote,
"Overall, this is a good story, well told, both original and true to the legend of Gawain, counteracting his lesser position in Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur. Readers who savor swashbuckling tales of knighthood will enjoy this adventure. Librarians will find a great choice of comic and breathtaking quests for booktalks."

I agree with those statements and with their assessed age of appropriateness as Grades 5 to 9. Edmund and I just got Book 2 of this series of 10 (hooray for series!): The Squire, His Knight, and His Lady.


The lovely Laura Pearl wrote a new novel for middle schoolers, Erin's Ring.

When Molly McCormick, new girl in Dover, New Hampshire, finds an old claddaugh ring outside the local Catholic church, she sets out on a journey of discovery about the city's history and Catholic heritage.

There are lots of heroines in this novel. We learn the lineage of the ring's owners while Molly makes a friend and works on a history project for school. Each of the women who owned the ring faced different challenges as immigrant, factory worker, single mother and widow, and star-crossed lover.

Erin's Ring is a sweet story with lots of Irish-American history and idioms. The Irish brogues are very thick and there is a glossary in the back of the book to help those unfamiliar with Irish vernacular.

I did note one anachronism is Erin's Ring.  One of the nineteenth century heroines finds herself on January 1st, bemoaning the fact that there is no Catholic church in town to celebrate the Solemnity of Mary. January 1st was the Feast of the Circumcision of Our Lord until 1969, when it was changed to the Solemnity of Mary. I know this because the pastor at the parish where I grew up joked that the diocese had been naming parishes after events in the life of our Lord. When our parish was built, there were only two events left: the Transfiguration and the Circumcision. But this doesn't affect the story in any way.

Erin's Ring is both shorter and more innocent than Laura's first novel Finding Grace, making it appropriate for any middle-school reader.


I'm trying to read more grown-up books this summer. I'm about a third of the way in to Jennifer Chiaverini's Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule. We are going to Galena later this month, and I have some distant familial ties to Ulysses S. Grant, so this historical novel is of particular interest to me.

As @reinventingmother commented on my Instagram photo, it is a little slow. Sometimes slow is what I need however. "Slow" allows me to take in all of the historical and political details of the time.

Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule is a tale of two women, both named Julia. One is the Southern belle, Julia Dent who eventually marries the quiet Captain Grant, and the other is her slave since childhood, Jule.  Jule was given to Julia at the age of four to be her playmate.

I was unaware that the great military mind of the North was married to a slave owner from St. Louis. The family politics alone are worth the read. Julia is the lesser of two heroines, at least where I am in the novel. She is naive to the feelings of the "help" and over-confident in her role as master/beneficiary.

What I like about this book is that it's missing the sex and graphic violence that I've come to expect from best-sellers. That's not to say that there isn't any romance or tales of the horrible treatment of slaves. Chiaverini does an excellent job with both without offending my delicate sensibilities.


Now for the monthly link up for people who found time to read books and write what they thought about them.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Seven Actually Quick Takes

1. Birthday Trifecta Week is over. Three birthdays, three parades, three cakes, three birthday dinners.


My feast was the best. Patrick grilled salmon (and Italian sausages because he has that thing about fish) AND he grilled avocados for this Grilled Avocado and Tomato Salad recipe from John Besh. Grilled avocado is a brand new wonderful thing that we are going to eat a lot of this summer.

2.

Edmund won't finish a book because he "doesn't like it."  I told him I finish every book I start.  His response, "You're a geek."  I said to give it to page 100, then decide.

Patrick said, "You're right."  I said, "I know.  You can't tell until page 100 if it's worth it or not."

Patrick said, "No, he's right.  You are a geek."

I get no respect.

3.  Jill adores Polly.  Worships her. And speaks to her in this weirdly deep voice, "Heh behbeh."

Heh Heh beh beh.  Heh Chubs.


Speaking of Polly, she walks. She only takes steps if no one is looking or paying attention to her. She's a baby ninja.

4. Things are gorgeous here.


Breathtaking.

Pulchritudinous.

5.

Last weekend, Lucy changed up our exterior home decor with a spot of paint. Don't you love it? I sure do.

6.

Check out our entry way now! Look at all of those hooks just waiting to be overloaded with jackets and bags.

7. Today is Prom!!!


Today is also the four hour European history test from noon to four so send up a prayer that we can get her hairs done by 11:30am. I fired up my hot rollers for a test drive last night and she's been scouring Pinterest.


Unfortunately, my Irish-dance-wig-putting-on skills are not helping me at all.

Linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum.

Have a pulchritudinous weekend! 


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

WWRW: The Good, the Bad, and the May Link-Up

Did you miss me on A Seeking Heart with Allison Gingras this past Monday?

No worries. You can still listen to us discuss turkey bacon, tiaras, and technology by clicking here.

I've read lots of fiction for kids this past month, and quite honestly, not much of it is worth recommending.

This is what you do want to read:


Popular: How a Geek in Pearls Discovered the Secret to Confidence by Maya Van Wagenen.

Maya discovers a vintage book on popularity written in the 1950s and puts each chapter to the test in her 8th grade year at a public middle school in Brownsville, Texas. This book is NON-fiction. An actual 8th grader did things like wear a girdle, put vaseline on her eyelids, and sport a hat and gloves.

Maya is terrific writer, especially because at this time she is only fifteen. I hear that her book might be made into a movie. The chutzpah she had to do what she did...I have to say I really admire her.

Brownsville middle school is not a G rated place. Pregnant seventh graders, drug-sniffing dogs, in-school lock-downs are routine. This book is definitely not for the faint of heart.

Does Maya become popular? It's hard to say. The conclusions she comes to in her year-long experiment are incredibly insightful and can be applied to all ages. Maya is one "swell" kid.


It's no secret that we are bigtime John Flanagan fans over here. I recently re-read the first of the Brotherband Chronicles, The Outcasts. I remember being underwhelmed the first time around but now that I own an autographed copy of Book 5 (squee!) I began again.

Now I remember! I was frustrated that a plot twist in the last chapter or two chops off the story in media res.


This time however I was able to dive right into The Invaders: Brotherband Chronicles, Book 2. Hal and his seafaring friends are still on a long term quest, but I feel more settled now that Book 2 ended on a more positive note.I even got Book 3 from the library, because I must follow this until the end.

For all of you die-hard Ranger's Apprentice fans, Hal and Thorn are like Will and Halt. But with boats. Lots of boats and no horses.

Now for the rest or What Not to Read. I'm not going to bother making Amazon links for these, because they're just not worth my time or yours.


Masterminds by Gordon Korman. Meh. Kids in a seemingly perfect town learn that they are clones in a social experiment (The Truman Show?), and that their "parents" have lied to them their entire lives.

Very angst. Many hurts. Much unhappy with the grown-ups.

Also, the book is one big set-up for a series so the ending is really just the beginning and you know how I get irritated by that. Of all the books that I'm down on, this one is the least objectionable. I was annoyed by it, that's all.


Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson is about a girl, her quirky family, and the hotel they run in NYC. Could be fun and cute except that on page 1 we learn that it's Scarlett's fifteenth birthday. In the next few chapters, she falls in love with her college age brother's friend. Can you say statutory rape? Also her brother, the 19 or 20 something one is getting involved with one of the guests. A guest who is easily in her 50s. Hello Mrs. Robinson. Ew. I didn't finish it.


The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley is about a girl with a clubfoot in England at the start of World War II. She is abused by her single mother, escapes the apartment she has been confined to her entire life, and gets relocated with other evacuees (including her brother) in rural Kent. In Kent, she finds acceptance and love in the home of her host.

Two problems.

First of all, I have read this book before. Different title. Boy child abused by his single mother, evacuated to rural England, rehabilitated by his host. It was called Goodnight Mr. Tom by Michelle Magorian. Both books are terribly tragic. The abuse story-lines are hard to stomach.

Secondly, in The War That Saved My Life, the woman who takes in the disabled girl and her brother is quite clearly a lesbian. She has suffered depression since the death of her lover. Taking in and caring for two evacuated, underfed, and disadvantaged children pulls her out of self-absorption and despondency.


Girls Like Us by Gail Giles. I want to like this book. The story of two special-ed high school graduates getting a home together and starting their adult lives is touching.

Let me just mention a few of the troubling topics.

Gang rape.

That's probably enough but there's more.

More rape.
And violence.
And abuse.

It was very painful to read.

Yes, the two mentally disabled young women become friends and find support and get their lives in order. But in a kids' book?!

Ok. I can't end on that note so let me direct your attention to my Instagram feed.


La, la, la, la, la...happy happy joy joy! That's Jill reading Perfect Square by Michael Hall.

Looking for picture books? I read far too many to review so I take pictures of the good ones and use the hashtag #housewifespicepicturebooks.

The collection grows every day. Jill is insatiable and my library has no limit on check-outs. Take a gander at the bounty of beautiful books that are actually appropriate for children!

*deep cleansing breaths*

That's better.

Now link up your book reports! I mean book reviews. Here's hoping your reads have been more peace filled than mine. This link up will be open til around May 30th. Perfect for the procrastinating reader.