Saturday, March 28, 2009

Waiting for Summer's Return by Kim Vogel Sawyer

Kim Vogel Sawyer is an author I had not yet read. I've had one of her books, My Heart Remembers, circled in my very dog-eared, marked up CBD fiction catalog for quite awhile...but, both my birthday and Christmas are far away!

My mom just purchased Waiting for Summer's Return and the book that follows, Where the Heart Leads. Of course, because my mom is so wonderful, she let me borrow both books!

Set on a Kansas prairie in the 1890's, Summer Steadman is numb with grief after losing her husband and all four children to typhoid. The tight-knit Mennonite community is suspicious of strangers, and Summer can't find work.

Having no family in the East that wants her, Summer is lost and alone. Ready to bury herself alongside her children, widower Peter Ollenburger requests her help.

Peter's son, Thomas, has broken his arm and needs to keep up with his schoolwork. Assuming Summer is a "learned woman," Mr. Ollenburger requests that she teach his son in exchange for room and board in the shariah (shack) on his property.

Although Thomas' great-grandmother (Grossmutter) lives in the house and Summer resides in a shack away from the house, the community is appalled at the impropriety of a single woman and man in such close contact and warn Peter that they may force him to leave their church.

Summer begins to find peace and joy, Thomas' arm heals, and the community begins to accept Summer when she receives a letter from her mother-in-law requesting her to return East.

Will she go? Will she stay? If she goes, what of the love that seems to finally be blooming in both hearts?

Seeing that I bawled all through chapters 1 through 4, I'd say the story was very well written! ;-) Sawyer's characters were very relatable and tugged at your heart. I could easily picture the "bear of a man" Mr. Ollenburger, and yet also see how kind and teasing he was. I could imagine Summer's deep despair as she mourned the loss of her family.

As with any good book, I could go on and on! But, I can't tell you'll have to read Waiting for Summer's Return yourself! ;-) I am quite anxious to continue the story of young Thomas Ollenburger in Where the Heart Leads AND get more of Kim's books for birthday or Christmas or just because... :-)

352 pages by Bethany House.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Homemade Mac & Cheese!

It has been said that you are either a baker or a cook. Baking requires sticking to a recipe and precise measurements to get a perfect product. Cooking is much less rigid. You can add more of this or make substitutions or just use a recipe as a base for your own creation!

Honestly, I'm not sure which category describes me best...I'm both. I love baking and have no problem sticking to a recipe when I know it's required. However, I LOVE to experiment and adjust recipes to our own family's tastes and needs.

That being said, here's our (sorta) recipe for tonight's dinner. Homemade mac & cheese!! YUMMY! Nothing like it! Since I'm a cook...I really don't have a recipe! A friend asked for it, so this is as close as I could think of as to what I do. :-) If I have fresh onions on hand, I finely dice one as a substitution to the dried (actually, I love to GRATE my onion)!

And, I often double the recipe... and, well, I often do a lot of different things! :-) Here's the base:

Steph's Mac & Cheese

¼ c. flour
1 tbsp. dried minced onion
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
¼ c. margarine
¼ tsp. worcestershire sauce
½ tsp. mustard
¾ to 1 c. chicken stock
1 c. milk
2 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese (the sharper the better!)
½ box elbow macaroni

Prepare macaroni according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together flour, onion, salt and pepper. In a saucepan (I use the same pan I cooked the noodles in…saves dishes!!) over low/medium heat, combine margarine, worcestershire sauce, and mustard until margarine is fully melted and lightly bubbling. Add flour mixture and whisk until smooth. Cook about a minute or until mixture begins to bubble. Slowly add chicken stock and milk, whisking to combine flour mixture. Increase heat and whisk continually until mixture begins to boil/thicken. Reduce heat and let simmer for 2 minutes or until thickened.

Add cheese gradually, stirring to melt. Once all cheese is melted, add cooked macaroni to cheese sauce and stir to combine.

Pour mixture into a lightly greased casserole dish. Sprinkle with paprika, if desired.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes, or until top is golden brown and bubbly.

Recommend: YES

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Friday, March 13, 2009

DVD: Compare and Review - Jane Austen's Persuasion

Are you tired of Persuasion posts?! :-) Well, this should be the last! I have watched both movie versions recommended to me...and, here's what I thought:

A friend kindly lent me the 2007 BBC version of Jane Austen's Persuasion. Starring Sally Hawkins and Rupert Penry-Jones, I felt the movie stayed fairly true to the book. EXCEPT near the end. In reality, the end is the climax of the book and the movie portrayal was a bit disappointing - ok, a LOT disappointing. "Invalid" Mrs. Smith is running to catch Anne...Anne is running around Bath "like a chicken with her head cut off" (according to some other reviewers I read! lol!)...and, just wasn't quite the same as the written book. I can never understand why movies do this! If they'd strayed so far with the entire movie, I would perhaps be more understanding. But, since the rest of the movie was done quite well, I don't know why they messed with the best part!

When I looked at the clock, saw that the movie only had about 15-20 minutes remaining, and I knew that they hadn't yet exposed Mr. Elliot's true character or Wentworth's letter, I had a sinking feeling that I was going to be dissatisfied.
Overall, it was a lovely depiction of the book. As with most books that have been made into movies, I would persuade you to READ THE BOOK FIRST! In the case of Persuasion, if I had not first read the book, I believe I would have been a bit lost and perhaps not been able to "get into" the movie. The cast was enjoyable, although I felt that Mary was more "silly" in the movie, rather than nervous, naggy, and sickly. I thought Sally Hawkins represented Anne Elliot wonderfully. She must have read the book... :-)

You can watch the first 10 minutes of the 2007 version below or here (again, though...I think you should read the book FIRST!!):


I then watched the BBC's 1995 version of Persuasion. Having watched the 2007 version only days before, I, initially, disliked the casting of the characters. However, as the movie progressed, I found myself liking them a bit more. Amanda Root plays Anne Elliot flawlessly, and although Ciaran Hinds is not quite as dashing as Rupert Penry-Jones in the '07 version, he portrays Captain Wentworth quite well. Mary seems much more as I imagined her in the book and, well, I could go on and on to compare the characters of each movie. Honestly, I found most of them more likeable in the 2007 version.

About 20 minutes longer than the latter version, 1995's Persuasion has sufficient time to unfold more details of the book. Those who were disappointed in the 2007's ending, will be much happier with the handling of the infamous letter in this version! I also preferred the final ending in the 2007 movie! Neither endings are found in the book...but this one was a bit more romantic to me.

My only complaint: profanity. True, I only counted 3 outbursts, but in our home, 2 usually means: OFF! I am always disappointed when profanity is used - especially when it did not occur in the book. Never needed....! And, it certainly did not add to the movie, nor would it have taken away from it if it had not been used!

Other than the unnecessary language, the 1995 version is very true to the book and I enjoyed it. Because this movie reveals a bit more of the book, you may be able to watch it independent of reading and still enjoy it. However, I know you'd understand and appreciate the portrayal much more if you attempt to read the book first!

You can also watch the beginning of the 1995 version below or here (must I mention again how much better it is to read the novel beforehand?!):

Recommend: YES

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Friday, March 6, 2009

Magazines - Taste of Home and Simple and Delicious

Do you enjoy cooking? Do you want to know how to cook, but not sure where to start? Do you love trying new recipes for your family?

If you aren't already subscribing to a Reiman Publication, then you should be!! My two personal favorites are Simple and Delicious (formerly Quick Cooking) and Taste of Home. I have been receiving both of these magazines for almost 10 years and before that, I read my mom's copies!

Each top-quality issue is chock full of delicious recipes and beautiful pictures of the finished dishes! Every-day cooks from across the country have submitted their families' favorite recipes, perfect for your average family! No strange, gourmet long, 20-step processes.

If you have time, check out their websites here and here. When you begin to realize you want to try every recipe you see (you won't be able to help yourself - it just happens!), click on the above pictures to try a FREE issue! If you prefer collecting cookbooks, you can purchase annuals of each magazine.

Happy Cooking!

Recommend: YES

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Children - Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin

Using paperbackswap, I just received Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin. I thought the book was very cute and clever. My daughter is enjoying it...and, I think even my husband secretly enjoyed listening to me read it out loud.

Farmer Brown can't believe his ears when his cows find an old typewriter and begin leaving him notes. "Click, Clack, Moo. Click, Clack, Moo. Clickety, Clack, Moo." Will Farmer Brown give in to his cows' demands??

32 pages by Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing

Recommend: YES

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Classics - Persuasion by Jane Austen

I am working my way through Persuasion by Jane Austen. I must say that the only classic I truly remember reading is Jane Eyre, which I enjoyed immensely. So far, I am also greatly enjoying Persausion. Interruptions by my children make classics a bit harder to read...but, I'm thinking it's worth the effort!

Waiting in the wings is this dvd:

I know many movie versions of Jane Austen's books have been produced, and I don't know which is the best. However, I have heard that the BBC versions are good and am anxious to watch this one...AFTER I finish the entire book...and see how true to the book it is.

How many classics have you read? Leave me a comment with a recommendation...and why!


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