Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Summer Reading List update

   I have dropped the ball on reviewing the titles on my List, as I got so caught up in reading and taking notes (and an update crashed my system. Bad, bad update!) you are, and it's a doozy!

      My reviews left off with Swimming With Giants, and I was just heading out to explore, adventure, and cause a ruckus with my very dear (fictional) pal Vesper Holly, star of Lloyd Alexander's adventure series. We were on our way to El Dorado, where we met up with all kinds of peril: the evil Doctor Helviticus, erupting volcanoes, hostile jungles, you name it. We survived, and made our way back to Philadelphia, only to rush away on a journey to the Middle East to return a book to the Great Library of Jedera, where we got caught up in a rebellion and political intrigue. Heaven help us. Next we had trouble closer to home at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Finally, we travelled to an archeological dig at the site of the fabled city of Troy, and faced off with Doctor Helviticus yet again. At last we made it home, safe, sound, and ready to take a bit of a break for a while. (This is a VERY brief synopsis of these four books, but I don't want to spoil anyone's adventure. These are young adult books, but I can say they were as fun to read now as they were when I was ten. Check them out. The entire series is: The Illyrian Adventure; The El Dorado Adventure; The Drackenburg Adventure; The Jedera Adventure; The Philadelphia Adventure; and The Xanadu Adventure.)

      Following my adventures with Vesper, I settled down at home with Mary Catherine Bateson's Composing a Life. Essentially this is a treatise on how women rearrange their lives, goals and visions of the future to accommodate others, and how society tends to expect this and take it as the norm, if not a necessity. In contrast, men are seen as go-getters, deterred by nothing, nor should they be. Bateson gives examples of the sexism we are all acclimated to and therefore see as the norm. How do we change this?

      I skipped ahead to Jefferson's Garden Book (because that came in at the library first), and was sadly disappointed, probably because I was expecting detailed entries by Jefferson about his gardens rather than just single line entries. Its greater value lies in the excerpts from Jefferson's personal correspondence that illustrate just how important his home and gardens were to him and how much he was interested in gardening and landscaping projects. Also, the footnotes provided by Edwin Morris Betts are useful in clarifying many of Jefferson's abbreviated entries.

      I got through Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra with little effort and less enjoyment. I am not a Shakespeare fan, but I am a Literature scholar. Hence, lots of Shakespeare on my plate. In all honesty I probably found Antony and Cleopatra so dull because I've read many historical accounts of their drama; thus the play was simply overly wordy old news.

      Next Chris Evans' Iron Elf trilogy. I didn't find it as polished as Eddings' or Salvatore's works, but it is epic fantasy at its height, rife with dark magic and riddled with epic battle scenes. Very fun. (A Darkness Forged in Fire; The Light of Burning Shadows; Ashes of a Black Frost)

      On to The Tempest, also by the revered Billy. I'd like to see this one performed. I'm sure it's amazing to watch. It read well, was mildly suspenseful, but I had always heard that Prospero was one of the most evil literary characters ever, second only to Iago (Othello). I found him entirely justified in his actions...but then I tend to take the underdog's side.

      Pragito Dove's Laughter, Tears, Silence was an interesting and informative read. I highly recommend it to anyone embarking on a meditation practice. I took extensive notes, and have already begun to implement some of her practices. She includes Four Minute Meditations, Grounding Exercises, methods on achieving Quietude, as well as directions on how to inspire and spur Activity for focus and clarity.

     The last book on the list (I think I'm some kind of freak...22 books in 28 days. Who does that? Me, apparently.) was Jostien Gaardner's young adult intro to philosophy, Sophie's World. While well-written and easy to follow (and understand!) it didn't hold my interest very well. Yes, it is a YA book, and I'm most certainly NOT a YA, but I think the bigger reason is that I'm just not a philosophy person. I've tried to study it before, with about the same results: boredom. However, don't let this deter you. It is a very very good book, and the 'lessons' are very easy to follow.

     And there, my friends, you have it. The final reviews of the books in my Summer Reading List. I hope some of you are looking up some of these titles and enjoying them. Since finishing the titles on my list I have read The Dovekeepers for the umpteenth time (I LOVE this book!); The Mill On the Floss for the second time (just as heartbreaking as the first time); Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (another YA title, very good, but I don't think I'll read the sequel, Hollow City); and am reading Anna Karenina for the second time. Once I reach Anna's end, I will move on to the most amazing treasure trove I have ever seen :) My mother came over the other day with a mystery bag, just for me. And inside? Four Louisa May Alcott volumes!!!!! Three of them ones I've never read!!!! There was also a copy of Under the Lilacs, my favorite of her children's stories, and I already own a copy, but one can never have too many copies of Under the Lilacs. (Or Jane Eyre, apparently, as I own four. But that's a tale for another time.) Also included in the magical collection were Jack and Jill, An Old Fashioned Girl, and Rose in Bloom, which is the sequel to Eight Cousins...which I just happened to pick up at my library book sale three months ago! Oh, joy and rapture! From Imperial Russia to old-fashioned Americana. I may not visit many places this summer, but I shall certainly travel far! Happy reading all!!

     And since you're going to be busily reading these next few weeks (aren't you?) I have a lovely suggestion. Why not make yourself some curried chicken salad and some cherry limeade and sit out under a favorite tree with a picnic lunch? Here they are:

                                          Curried Chicken Salad

 My husband loves this salad. I don't like chicken salad. I love this salad. It is perhaps easier to buy prepared curry powder, but making it yourself means you can tweak things here and there and make it as mild or as screamin' hot as you like. I go for mild, myself. If you are a true kitchen maven (or a glutton for punishment) you will season boneless skinless chicken breasts and bake them, then shred them and mix with the dressing. If you're like me, you take advantage of your local grocer's weekly rotisserie chicken sale and buy a ready-cooked birdie.

* 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of fat and seasoned with salt and pepper or curry powder, or one whole rotisserie-cooked chicken (you will get approximately the same amount of meat from either)

*1 to 2 C. mayonnaise, depending on your taste

*1/4 C. to 1/2 C. finely diced Vidalia onion

*1/2 C. finely chopped pecans

*1/2 C. golden raisins

                   Curry Powder:

*1 tsp. ground ginger

*1 tsp. turmeric

*1/2 tsp. cumin

*1/2 tsp. paprika

*1/2 tsp. dried mustard

*1/4 tsp. coriander

*1/4 tsp. cinnamon

*1/4 tsp. clove

*Kosher salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees; season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper and bake until cooked through, 30 minutes or so. If you wish to season them with curry powder, double the seasoning recipe and use half for the chicken.

 2. While the chicken bakes, prepare seasoning; chop onion and pecans. Mix seasoning, onion, pecans and raisins with 1 C. mayonnaise, set aside.

 3. Allow chicken to cool, chop, then shred to desired consistency; add to dressing mixture. Mix well. Taste, and adjust seasonings and/or dressing to your preference. (I generally use 2 C. mayonnaise in the end.)

 For sandwiches: spread bread with mayonnaise, add baby arugula and a generous 1/4 cup of salad. Top with a second slice of mayonnaise-spread bread, slice on the diagonal and attempt to eat without wearing it.

 For neater consumption: place a bed of baby arugula on a plate, top with salad and eat neatly with a fork. Not as much fun, but far less messy.

                                Cherry Limeade
  • 3 cups of cherries, pitted
  • 2 limes, quartered (peel on)
  • 6 cups water
  • ½ – ¾ cups of sugar, honey or your favorite sweetener
  • Ice
  • Garnish: Cherries and lime slices

    1. Combine the cherries and limes in the blender with the sugar and 2 cups of water. You can also add some ice if you want it extra cold. Blend until all the ingredients are pureed.
    2. Strain the juice and add the rest of the water through the strainer
    3. Serve cold or with ice garnished with cherries and lime slices.
    (Cherry Limeade recipe from Laylita's Recipes: )


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