Cranberry Crazy

feastMy in-laws didn’t want me to bring anything to the Thanksgiving dinner. They are gourmet all the way so I wasn’t really all that surprised. “We’re all set. Just bring yourself” they told me. But, that didn’t mean I didn’t offer – Stuffing? Done. Green bean casserole? P has her recipe. Sweet potatoes? Covered. Dessert? Five pies and counting. Mashed potatoes? Check. Finally, finally it was decided I could bring the cranberry sauce. Cranberry sauce! Instantly I thought: citrus, spicy and adult. One of each. Something raw (relish), something cooked (sauce). And…if they all sucked, I could always grab a few cans on the way out of town (hey, I used to eat that stuff straight from the can – STILL love it).

So, the citrus relish was in honor of my husband’s niece. Pineapple, tangerines, lemons, lime, maple syrup, and honey. If I had thought about it I would have added raisins and nuts since this was an uncooked, crunchy relish. Something for next year, maybe?

The spicy sauce was intended just to be a sauce for kisa and I – something a little kicked up. Cranberries, chipotles, Mexican cinnamon, sugar, ancho chili powder, and red wine vinegar. Simmered for a long time on really, really low heat. If I had thought about it I would have added shallots and garlic since this was a savory sauce. Something for next year, maybe?

The adult sauce was intended to be a port – a traditional cranberry sauce that everyone makes. I decided at the last minute to make a tribute to September 18, 2004 with some Tuaca – a vanilla orange liquor. Those of you who attended the festivities on that day will know exactly what I’m talking about! *wink*wink* So, it was a mixture of mustard, cinnamon, cardamon, cranberries and Tuaca. If I had thought about it I would have soaked dried fruit in more Tuaca for a really adult kick. Something for next year, maybe.
But, here’s the thing – they loved the sauces, all of them. Even the spicy sauce disappeared. Who knew?

So, I have officially been put in charge of cranberry sauce from here on out and my husband won’t stop calling me the Queen of the Bog. I’m already thinking of next year – sweet with strawberries? Spicy with jalapenos and tomatoes? Adult with sangria? Any ideas are greatly appreciated!

November Is…

November is completely out of whack – already! I posted a review and then realized I hadn’t even listed out everything I plan to read. Woops! Truth be known, I hadn’t really decided what I wanted to read this month (hence the silly delay). But, this is what November is: November is when I wanted to turn on the heat. It actually came on 10/24 (at 56 degrees), but maybe now I’ll turn it up…to 60. This November marks the first time in my life I am not planning anything for the holidays (watch me cave and change my mind in the next two weeks). November is a marriage forever stuck at 22. November is (hopefully) a month of music. November is also the attempt to get a lot of reading done since it is National Novel Writing Month. Here’s the list:

  • Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson (in honor of first novels) -already finished and reviewed!
  • A Continent for the Taking by Howard W. French (in honor of the best time to visit Africa).
  • The Darling by Russell Banks (in honor of Transgender month*, but, conveniently, also about Africa).
  • Passionate Nomad by Jane Geniesse (in honor of National Travel Month – or one of them, at least!).

and if there is time:

  • As I Live and Breathe: Notes of a Patient Doctor by Jamie Weisman (in honor of National Healing Month).
  • Battle Cry of Freedom: the Civil War Era by James M. McPherson (in honor of November being the month the Civil War ended).

And a few “goals” such as they were: getting my car fixed & getting life as I know it back on track. Period.

*None of the books I will be reading in honor of Transgender Month actually are about people of transgender. Nancy Pearl has a chapter called “Men Channeling Women” in More Book Lust (p 166), but since National Men Channeling Women month doesn’t exist (yet), I thought this would be a good tongue-in-cheek substitute.

Little Porcupine’s Christmas

Slate, Joseph. Little Porcupine’s Christmas. New York: Harper, 1982.

Cute. Cute. Cute! Felicia Bond illustrates this story and, for those of you who don’t know, Felicia Bond is the illustrator for another favorite of mine, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. This isn’t about a mouse. This time it’s a porcupine who can’t be in the school play because of his sharp and pointy quills. It’s a typical story about how cruel “kids” can be towards an outsider, But, but, but, in the end Little Pocupine prevails and proves his worth. The adult in me hates stories like this because the other animals are never corrected when they say “you’re too — to participate. You don’t belong,” all because he is different. I worry (too much) that kids reading the story will learn that it’s okay to push someone outside the popular circle because that someone is different. I’ve been there and it isn’t fun. But, that’s the stoic, always serious adult talking. Take the book at face value and it’s a cute story about someone who is unique finding his niche and belonging after all.
Note: This story is also called How Little Porcupine Played Christmas.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter “Christmas Books for the Whole Family to Read” (p 56). Pearl calls Little Porcupine “heartwarming.”

Polar Express

polar expressVan Allsburg, Chris. The Polar Express. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1985.

Is it any wonder that The Polar Express won a Caldecott award? Is it any wonder that Hollywood made a movie out of it? This is a gorgeous book for adults as well as children. It’s fantastic to read aloud to a child because not only is are the pictures spectacular, but the storyline is wonderful, too. See, I can’t say enough nice things about this book!
It’s simply the story of a boy who takes a trip by train to visit Santa at the North Pole. He is given a special gift that proves his belief in all things Christmas – the elves, the gifts, the reindeer, the North Pole, and of course, Santa Claus himself. This book was such a treat that I now want to go see the movie!

“We climbed mountains so high it seemed as if we would scrape the moon” (p 9) and “Though I’ve grown old, the bell still rings for me as it does for all who truly believe” (p 29) are my favorite lines.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust  and the chapter on “Christmas Books for the Whole Family to Read” (p 55).

Twelve Days of Christmas

12 days of ChristmasKnight, Hilary. Hilary Knight’s Twelve Days of Christmas. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2001.

On the surface this book looks like your average kids’ book. Cute pictures and a storyline you can sing. We all know “The Twelve Days of Christmas” – it’s that silly song that involves milking cows, egg producing hens, and ladies dancing among other things. What makes this book special is what is going on behind the scenes. There’s a whole other story unfolding in the illustrations.  On the surface Bedelia the bear is trying to tell you what her true love gave to her during the twelve days of Christmas (Dec 25- Jan 6) and then there is Benjamin, for those twelve days straight, bringing her the goods. In the background there’s Reginald the raccoon. He lives in Bedelia’s basement for some strange reason, and if you are observant, you learn that he pines for the perfect girl. Throughout Benjamin’s trips to Bedelia’s door with various (odd) gifts, you see Reginald struggling with something of his own.
In the end (and I won’t ruin it for you), you will want to go back and look at all the illustrations just a little closer. Everything has a meaning – beyond Benjamin looking to woo Bedelia with twelve lords a~leaping (my favorite). Seriously. Check out the lords. They’ll crack you up.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust and the chapter “Christmas Books for the Whole Family to Read” (p 55).

Father Christmas Letters

Father ChristmasTolkien, J.R.R. The Father Christmas Letters. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1976.

Pure magic. I loved every minute of this book! I have always loved J.R.R. Tolkien’s imagination. From The Hobbit to The Two Towers I have always enjoyed submerging myself in his work. This book is something special. I think Nancy Pearl sums it up best in Book Lust “Tolkien wrote these letters for his children, beginning in 1920 and ending in 1939. Whimsical pictures complement the descriptions of Father Christmas’s life at the North Pole” (p 56). But, what Pearl doesn’t tell you is that Tolkien is posing as Father Christmas, and each letter (one for each year) is a continuation a story (involving a polar bear, elves and ) from the year before. The illustrations that accompany the letters are as captivating as the storyline. I can truly imagine being a child, caught up in waiting for the letter from Father Christmas.
The sobering thing about this book is that it ends the same year that World War II starts. Tolkien even makes mention of it on the last page “Half the world seems in the wrong place.” It seems like everyone needed to put aside childhood in 1939.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust  in the chapter “Christmas Books For The Whole Family To Read” (p 55).