Thursday, June 14, 2012

February follow-up,summer reading, and freedom!

After talking to some friends today about my blog and extensive discussion about Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer, I went back and re-read my post on the book, and realized I had not reported on the changes I made in my language arts class in February.  I am happy to say that I was pleased with the results of my project!  Overall, my students' reading enjoyment, perceptions of themselves as readers, and amount of reading done all increased.  Even if the changes were small, they were still heading in the right direction.  I was encouraged enough by the results that I'm going to start at the beginning of the year with the same systems in place, and see how far we can get in a full school year!

The Iron Thorn The Iron Codex Book OneSummertime, and the reading is easy.....yay!  Aside from a brief six-hour stint of madly cramming for my certification test (I will know the results in a few days!), I have been reading for fun EVERY day!  Sometimes it's just a magazine, sometimes it's professional journals (yes, they can be fun to read!), and's a book!  I finished reading The Iron Thorn by Caitlin Kittredge on my nookColor e-reader, and downloaded the next in the series, The Nightmare Garden.  This is a young adult steampunk story set in the post-Korean War era.  Not as much history interwoven in these as was the case with Leviathan by Scott Westerfield--maybe because there are fairies, elves, ghouls, and "nightjars" (vampire-types) lurking about the settings!  A strong girl protagonist is at the center of the story--and people who know my bias know that I like that!

By Wally Lamb: I Know This Much Is TrueMy daughter and I went to the public library last Friday, and of course I had to check out some books there, too.  One is on home spas and relaxation tips for women (ahhhhh!), and the other is Wally Lamb's I Know This Much is True.  If any kiddos are reading this, the latter is a grown-up novel!  I don't know if my attention span has shrunk, or I'm in a lazy stage post-graduation, but I could not read the book cover-to-cover.  So I scanned my way through, finding the bits that were diary entries (they were in a different font), and read back-and-forth among the important events of the storyline.  When you are reading "for fun", it is okay to read a book any way that makes sense to you!  If I'm not sure that I'll like a particular book, I will often read the ending, and decide if it's good enough to go back and see how the characters and storyline end up there.  Remember your readers' rights!

Speaking of readers' rights....during my studying, I came across the "Freedom to Read" statement endorsed by the American Library Association (ALA).  I went online to find out more about it, and discovered the Freedom to Read Foundation, affiliated with the ALA.  I am proud to say that I am now a member!  Here's the foundation's webpage, should you also be inclined to join:

Think I see some couch time with a good book in my very near future!  Read on.....

Monday, June 4, 2012

Read to cook!

I promised some friends back in April that I would  blog about some of my favorite cookbooks, but with two graduations in our house (mine and my daughter's), a funeral (my grandpa's), and the usual end-of-school-year tasks, it's taken me this long to get around to doing so!

I've written before that much of my reading is done outside of books--and cookbooks are a big part of my "outside reading."  I like to plan my family's dinner menus every two months, which means pulling out a few of my dozens of cookbooks to help with meals and shopping lists.  There are certain cookbooks I only use for certain seasons (I rarely cook stews in the summer, for instance).  I usually use five or six of them each time I plan, and spend a couple of hours a day for two or three days to finish the process. 

How do I know what's in each cookbook before I plan?  Because as I collect them, I usually read through each one.  Yep, I have even been known to read cookbooks before I go to sleep!  That doesn't mean that I read through each and every recipe; I just go through the sections, and read the ingredients and directions for the recipes that sound good and/or interesting.  I usually tag the "good" ones with sticky notes for future reference.  After I've tried a recipe, I write notes in the books themselves, and give one to three stars for how well they are received by my family.

Now, I don't advocate writing in all your books, but I like writing notes in my cookbooks, and I LOVE finding old cookbooks with someone else's notes written in them.  It's a connection with history, kitchen to kitchen.
So enough blathering....let's get down to the cookbooks.  My latest purchase is The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl, by Ree Drummond.  I read it during our recent roadtrip; it has great passages about life on the ranch and living with real, honest-to-goodness cowboys.  Not to mention some great recipes picturing every step along the way!

My all-time-favorite slow-cooker cookbook is The Busy Mom's Slow Cooker Cookbook, by Jyl Steinback.  We use the pork meatballs-and-sauerkraut recipe every New Year's Day!  There are vegetarian options, side dishes, bonus recipes...and each and every recipe has a SHOPPING LIST!  Thank you, Jyl, for making my life that much easier!

An oldie-but-a-goodie is the 1981 edition of Better Homes and Gardens' New Cook Book.  It has my go-to recipes for chocolate chip and spritz cookies, lemon curd, and how to cook cuts of meat with which I'm unfamiliar.  I even got the 2006 edition...but I haven't used that yet!

I was addicted to Gooseberry Patch cookbooks for over a decade, and their seasonal cookbooks still get pulled out four times a year.  The two I use year-round are Country Quick & Easy and In the Kitchen with Family and Friends

Another all-time favorite, especially during the school year:  The Four Ingredient Cookbooks.  Literally four ingredients per recipe...doesn't get much easier than that!

Magazine cookbooks are usually pretty good, too.  I like the Woman's Day Cookbook, and keep meaning to use the Investment Cooking section sometime (cook all weekend and freeze a bunch for later).

Last, but not least, is an example of my favorite kind of cookbook:  the organization publications.  You know, the ones that churches, bowling leagues, fraternal groups, etc. publish for fundraisers.  You can find the best home cooking recipes in these!  I get them at garage and estate sales, plus I've inherited a few.

I've got over three bookshelves full of cookbooks, and collect even more recipes from magazines.  They make for good reading, and even better cooking!  Hope you've enjoyed this little foray into my kitchen and my "outside reading"!