Friday, September 30, 2016

Jess Reads September

September you flew by.

This is on a lot of peoples lists.  It's the story of a woman who's husband disappears on the eve of their one year anniversary.  In the beginning it sort of sounds a lot like the first episode of Homeland season 1.  (the only episode I saw of that show.)  Girl loses husband, girl finds great new guy, husband calls from missing for several years.  What's a girl to do?  Two great guys, one technically your husband, one your fiance.  This book is one that you will easily figure out the ending before it happens.  I can't say that I loved it, too predictable, but it is a quick read so it has that going for it.

2.  Pride and Prejudice

Okay, not the first time I've read it this year.  See here for my ranking of all of Jane Austen's novels.  I picked this up again after I watched the excellent movie version of Sense and Sensibility and just wanted to read something Austen.  

What does one read when you've read everything Austen again and again?  Georgette Heyer.  She was prolific and her books always have (at least all the ones I've read) a strong female lead character. This book focuses on Annis, a 29 year old wealthy, independent woman who accidentally ends up in charge of a young woman trying to flee a marriage proposal.  Annis comes into contact with the girl's guardian, Mr. Oliver Carleton, quite possibly the rudest man in all of England.  You can probably guess what happens but it sure is good.....

The second book about Calpurnia, this book focuses on her life in the year 1900 as she discovers the world of veterinary medicine, a cousin who takes over her room, and dealing with being a second class citizen in the world simply because she's a girl.  Not as good as the first but still completely charming.  If you have your daughter read it one caveat- this book focuses a lot on Darwinism (as does the first) as well as excellent science information.  I do not believe in macro-evolution, so be prepared to engage in conversations with your children about evolution and the like and if you aren't ready for those discussions or don't think your child can handle it, maybe wait a bit.  But as a Christian scientist (they do exist!!  My field was microbiology.)  I loved this book.  

This is the lovely Penguin drop caps version, I own it and a few others because I am working on something for our house.  This book is one of the 12 classics that Ava has to read for the year.  I've never read it and thought I maybe should before she does.  This book probably would have bored me to tears when I was young, but as an adult it wasn't terrible.  It follows Jim Burden as he moves to Nebraska after the death of his parents.  He notices a immigrant family with a girl named Antonia who happens to be their nearest neighbor.  The story moves through Jim and Antonia's life at different stages and their relationship.  I felt like the book was really only okay, I didn't hate it but didn't love it.  My favorite part was the ending bit but I can't really describe it without giving the book away, so I'll just say that it made me think about past relationships and what it would be like to come in contact with some of them again.  

6.  Butterfield 8

Again, the Penguin drop caps version.  This book focuses on a prostitute and a married man during the 30s prohibition and speakeasy times post Great Depression.  It's based on a true story which is honestly terrible.  I did not like this book even a little bit, I am a tad bit surprised that it got all of these great reviews when it was written, but then again, I don't like anything it talks about- prostitutes, loose living, being unfaithful to your spouse, so what can I expect.  I literally only read it because it's a book I got for my project.  I'd probably rather glue it shut so my kids can never see what's in it.  Skip it.  

7.  Jane Eyre

I love Jane Eyre more every time I read it.  Ava was reading it for her classic pick for the month of August and I decided to do it with her, only I got distracted by all of the above books and just finished it up.  She loved it just as much as I and we are desperately trying to find an open evening where we can watch the movie together starring Mia Wasikowski.  

Update on my reading goal:  I aim for 100 books every year.  It's not something I push myself to get to, but just a general goal.  Currently, I am at 74 for the year with 3 months left.  My reading has slowed down significantly the last few months with the addition of school back in the game.  (We homeschool.)  So while I think it's doable, I am not really sure.  This year Ava added a sport that she didn't play last year so quite a few of our evenings involve driving to games and I can't read in the car.  Insert sad emoji face here.   Last year my total was 111.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Apple Chips

I know, every one is all about pumpkins right now.  Pumpkin spiced lattes, pumpkin bread, Ava made pumpkin chocolate chip muffins for breakfast....

But I am all about apples.  Specifically apple chips.  Behold the lovely oven shot.

Apple Chips

4-5 apples, any type, sliced

Slice apples, I recommend a mandolin, and be careful!  Lay on pan covered with parchment paper. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar (or not). Bake on 200 for 1.5 hours, flip apple slices and bake for another hour.  Leave in oven for several hours or overnight to help with crispness.  Eat and love fall.

And if you are looking for something to go with it or to just use up more of your apples, this looks good:

Caramel Apple Sangria

Caramel Apple Sangria.  Yum.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Gone Country

If your cowboys boots have never seen anything but country music concerts you’re probably from the city. SO TRUE!!!:
This may or may not be me....But we have chickens now and sheep so maybe I'm getting there?

We've never really listened to country music.  I seem to have memories of that being all my dad would play and it may have turned me off a tad. Sorry Dad.

Our new town is seriously in the South (for our state anyway.)  And we get the worst radio stations ever.  So I am channel surfing a lot.  And wouldn't you know there's a whole mash-up of country rock.  And I love it.

Here's my top 3 obsessions right now:

1.  Luke Bryan "Move"

2.  Jason Aldean "Lights Come On"

3.  Brantley Gilbert "Bottoms Up"  I love this guys voice, so unique.  

I probably don't even need to state this but there's a whole bunch of people who think that the above isn't really country.  As seen by these images from Pinterest.  But you know what?  I don't care!

THANK YOU to whoever made this! Even if he does get that many hits (haha), Luke Bryan will NEVER be true country:
He's for sure someone famous int he country world and I have no idea who he is!

So many people don't anymore. It's so sad.:

Friday, September 9, 2016

Fire Cider for Colds- Start it Now!

Fire Cider.  It sounds terrible, and it kind of is.

Fire Cider recipe & thoughts from Rosemary Gladstar about the trademark controversy:  pin
Onion, garlic, horseradish, cayenne pepper.....

Basically it's an herbal concoction meant to help you fight off colds.  It's got all sorts of stuff that will burn on it's way down, but there are a ton of people who say it works.  We've used it for several years and I like it but the kids are always a little leery.  It has mega powerpucker.  The sides of my jaw are literally tightening as I type this.

We typically take a small does of this probably a tablespoon or two, at the first sign of colds and then once or twice a day.  My suggestion for children is to hold their breathe and drink it as fast as possible!  It's not something you sip.

Fire Cider 
  • ½ cup Garlic (the all-natural antibiotic)
  • ½ cup Horseradish (great for heart health and digestion)
  • ½ cup Onions (circulation support)
  • ¼ cup Fresh ginger (breaks up mucus and also gives digestive support)
  • ¼ tsp Cayenne to taste (great for circulation)
  • Honey to taste
  • Apple Cider Vinegar.(Unpasteurized and Unfiltered)
Chop all vegetables, put in quart jar, fill with apple cider vinegar.  Cover and place in warm window and shake every day for 4-6 weeks. Strain and add honey and cayenne pepper to taste, keep in refrigerator to use as needed.  

Horseradish can be notoriously hard to find.  I have used horseradish from a jar that you find refrigerated. It has salt added but I feel like I can live with that addition if I can't find any fresh.  There is also a lot of room in this recipe for change.  Some people use more onion, some add jalapenos, I don't use as much horseradish as listed. You want everything listed here, but there is some wiggle room.  A quick pinterest search will show you many different variations of it.  This last time I added the cayenne pepper at the beginning, we'll see how strong it becomes!

We do a lot of "alternative" medicine treatments.  If it's something that you are interested in I highly recommend this book.

She's the godmother of all things herbal and this book and her recipes are awesome.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Boots For Fall

I know fall doesn't technically start until September 22, but as soon as September 1st rolls around, that should be the official start of fall.  Boot season here I come!

I rounded up a few fun options for you to get you through fall and winter.

1.  Dublin Boots
Image result for dublin turndown boots   
            Turn Down                                      River Boot

Both boots fall under the equestrian category of which I had no idea even existed.  I own the Dublin Turn Down boots and love them.  They have a shearling lining of which I am sure I will be thankful for when the weather dips below zero.  And even though I am super tempted by the River boots, I am holding for now.  If you think the River boots look a little too orange, you can totally change that depending on the type of leather boot conditioner you use.  I'd recommend making them go a little darker than pictured.

2.  Dune London Motorcycle Boot
Image result for Dune London Women's Pardew D Motorcycle Boot   Image result for Dune London Women's Pardew D Motorcycle Boot
Front                                             Back

I bought these boots on Amazon.  I wanted something that would work with skinny jeans and under my not-skinny jeans.  These are totally perfect.  I ordered a size 9 because they don't have half sizes. Typically I would order a 9.5 to accommodate a bunion and the 9 was a perfect fit.  These are also lined in shearling and are leather.

3. Hunter Wellingtons
Image result for hunter wellington boots
The world loves Hunters and I am right there with them.  I own a red pair that I bought for a trip to Ireland, and this summer have used them for farm chores, but I am super excited to use them with fall leggings and dresses.  Pick a color, any color!  If you live in a cold climate do.not.size.down.  You will see that recommendation a lot but if you are going to be using them in slush and snow they are terrible insulators and you will want to pair them with warm socks.

4.  Sorel Joan of Arctic
Image result for sorel joan of arctic
I love my Joan of Arctic boots.  Living in a climate that seems to be winter for 6 months out of the year, these are so great for snow and more snow.  They make every outfit look better but really you're just keeping your toes warm!  These run big, I actually own a size 8 (down a size) however I have the wimpiest feet in the world and don't use these for extreme snow situations like winter camping and sledding, if you will be using these for serious winter stuff I'd probably still size up a half or so to accommodate wool socks.  These are the boots I use for all my serious winter recreation.  (They are the ugliest boots ever, meant for Arctic exploring-seriously!  And ranked to -150F)

5.  Leopard Print Boot
Ariat Astor
The only boot on this list that I don't have.  Leopard print has been on my wish list for a while so I may have to pull the trigger on this one.  This is technically in the cowboy boot family so it will feel narrow across the bridge, but will stretch with time.  Some people also don't like the looser feeling in the heel, but again, it's made for movement in a saddle.  Good thing Zappos has a free return policy.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Jess Reads August

I haven't blogged in almost a month.  Chris got very sick, fevers, night sweats, not moving around much, basically being like an 85 year old man.  It took him 4 weeks to get over it.  Needless to say, my life was a little occupied.

On account of all of that, August reading was s.l.o.w.  Here's what got read:

1.  Jane Steele

This is a 2016 remake of Jane Eyre.  It follows the life of Jane Steele, serial killer.  At least that's how it's been advertised but I feel like it is highly misleading. This Jane references the book Jane Eyre all the time.  I found this to be quite annoying especially because the first half of Jane Steele seemed so similar to Jane Eyre it was ridiculous.  I almost didn't even finish reading it.  I stuck in there and the second half of the book became a lot more interesting.  However, I was also reading the real Jane Eyre at the same time because Ava was reading it for school.  And there is no comparison.  When will I learn my lessons when it comes to these much raved about remakes?  I sort of feel like that the people who rave about all these remakes of classics never actually read the original.

2.  The Sugar Queen

Terrible title for sure.  This is about a young woman in the South who grew up with money and a severely controlling mother.  I sort of read Sarah Addison Ellen when I just want something that is pretty much a no-thinking book.  It's kind of like why people read trashy romance novels- to escape. (But I hate trashy romance novels, this is as close as I get to those.)  Josey Cirrini finds a woman in her secret junk food filled closet in her bedroom.  To get rid of Della Lee, she does all sorts of things for Della which leads here down a path to her destiny on breaking free from her mother and finding true love, all with a small touch of paranormal like in all of her other books.  I appreciate how Josey changes during the book and finally becomes her own woman (so cliche) but that's pretty much it. Definitely a beach type of book which isn't necessarily a bad thing if that's what you are looking for. I've read a few books by SAE and I'd say it's not my favorite.  Get from the library for sure.

3.  The Small House at Allington

This is my first foray into anything by Anthony Trollope.  He's often compared to Jane Austen and you'll see him on lists of "What to Read After Austen" a fair amount.  It's definitely not as quick and light-hearted as anything by Austen, but not as hard to read or as boring as Middlemarch.  It follows a family of 2 young girls, their mother and their Uncle.  There is some stress between the mother and her brother in law and the book focuses on this a lot.  The girls fall in love, one is thwarted and that's where I started to struggle with it.  The younger sister is a lot like Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility, which meant that I wanted to slap her repeatedly.... Her heart got broken by a scoundrel and she decides to never love again.  This book is a lot more complex than that though, because it also follows the scoundrel and the choices he makes.  I appreciated getting to see more than one major plot line and thought it was handled masterfully.  This isn't a quick book, and was one of the reasons I didn't read as much this month.  I could only read it in small doses, there was a lot more thinking going on for me and much more plot where I had to go slow or miss something.  Technically considered part of Trollope's Barchester series, but I don't think they are books you have to read in order.

4.  Lab Girl

I was 25th on my library's list for this book.  I'll start by saying I don't think it's worth such a list as that.  This is basically Hope Jahren's memoir on her life in science.  As a female and a scientist myself I felt like it was only okay.  She definitely has had some interesting things happen to her, and it was frustrating to see how much she had to fight to be taken seriously simply because she was a woman, but I felt like her way of going back and forth between stories of her life and tidbits about plants weren't all that smooth, even if I understood what the science story was supposed to be portraying and paralleling in her life.  The most interesting aspect to her story in my opinion, is her relationship with her long-term lab partner Bill.  He is a fascinating character and I feel like I really want to read a life-story put out by him.  He's bizarre, entertaining and highly intelligent.  Hope and Bill's relationship was always platonic, but what a relationship it is!  I would say that the stories about Bill saved this book, and they are better in the second half of the book, so if you can make it through the first half, it does get better.

5. What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew

This is the type of book that I thought would be fascinating but seems like you'd have it for reference. To sit down and read about a Duke vs. Baronet and how 19th century English money worked is frankly, kind of boring.  It doesn't read like a novel, but like research.  Which is what it is.  The second whole half of the book is a glossary of terms.  Also good when you are reading a novel but pretty useless if you are "reading" this book.  If you can find this book at a goodwill or a garage sale I'd say get it so you can use it to look up things in classic literature you don't understand but I wouldn't read it any other way.

6.  The Secret Garden

I love this book and probably read it every year.  It just completely charms me every time I read it.  I don't have much to say about it because it's one probably everybody has at least heard of (or watched the classic movie).  It totally makes me want to have a secret garden, and Dickon the animal charmer boy makes me want to run wild on the English moors and "grow fat off the healthy air".  If you've never heard of it- gasp!  It follows an orphan named Mary that lived in India who moved to live with her obscure, recluse of an uncle in England.  She moves to a 100 room manor where she basically is given free reign because the uncle and none of his staff really want to interact with her.  She spends her life outside because the head house mistress didn't think to give her books or toys of any type, and follows all of her excursions with two boys that appear later in the story.  It really is such a lovely story.