Book #7: Anne’s House of Dreams

Title: Anne’s House of Dreams

Author: L.M. Montgomery

Genre: Historic Fiction/Children’s Classic

Length: Approx. 146 pages (once again, I left mine in the basement on the Empty Shelf)

Read: 2/6/15-2/14/15

Summary: Anne gets married, settles in a new town with Gilbert, makes some new friends, and adjusts to married life.

New or re-read? Let’s call this a new read, since this is the first time in my life I’ve actually made it all the way through.

Why did I pick it up? To continue the series, and because this is the book I always got stuck on as a kid.

Rating: 4/5

Would I read it again? Yes

Other notes: I guess I had to be ready for it? Considering I never made it past this book in multiple attempts, it actually wasn’t a bad read. I could appreciate her adjustments to married life a little better now that I’m older, some of the new characters were truly charming (Captain Jim in particular), and this book felt like it had a little more connection to Anne’s former life than some of the other books, since there was more time with Diana and Marilla and especially Gilbert. I did also enjoy the descriptions of life in what was essentially a beach town, having grown up in a coastal state where day trips to the beach were a relatively easy thing to do and the most frequent family vacations were the yearly pilgrimages to an aunt’s family’s beach house to hang out with my cousins for a few days.

Putting the rest of this one under a cut to avoid spoilers.

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Pin-testing: Dulche de Leche Cheesecake

My husband and I grew up in very different worlds when it came to desserts. I grew up going to extended family gatherings with a mother and a lot of aunts (and, as we got older, cousins) who could bake very well. So I have a definite weakness for cake, homemade cookies, brownies, and the like. Especially if chocolate is involved! Mr. Meat-and-Potatoes, on the other hand, grew up with a family who mostly bought grocery store or Walmart baked goods, and I guess he never really developed a taste for them. So he’s much more likely to grab a smaller helping of whatever meaty dish is on the menu for “dessert”, and really only likes a few select things that are sweet. And #1 on the list is cheesecake.

But it can’t be just any cheesecake. Fruity-flavored or topped ones ones are definitely out. And while he’ll occasionally allow a candy flavor in there–I made him one that had Reeses’ cups in the filling once and he was fine with that–his favorites are either just plain, New York-style cheesecake, or the dulche de leche flavor at the Cheesecake Factory. His birthday was earlier this week, and since he’s picky about his desserts, I usually check with him now about the flavor before making his birthday cheesecake. So this year, he suggested dulche de leche.

I actually get to talk two pin-tests for this one, because the grocery store didn’t have any pre-made dulche de leche!

Test #1: a method of using the oven to make dulche de leche from sweetened condensed milk. I’d tried a crock pot method before, also found on Pinterest, and that worked fine. But I didn’t have any empty glass jars this time–after the last time I did that, I used the leftovers to sort out buttons for sewing! I think I actually liked this oven method a little better. For one thing, I could just use my normal baking dishes instead of worrying about finding jars every time I want to make a caramel-y dessert. It was also much faster, and the resulting caramel was a thinner consistency, which made it much easier to blend into a dessert. I’d imagine it would also be much easier to spread over something if needed, too! (According to the original poster, it also makes great apple dip.)

Test #2: The actual cheesecake. The entire website is dedicated to CF copycat recipes, and I’m a little curious to try out some of the other recipes sometime. (Personally, I’ve learned that I actually like fruity cheesecakes better than chocolate ones, because the chocolate ones are often so rich I can only eat a few bites. I saw recipes for both banana cream and key lime cheesecakes on there, and those have become two of my favorite flavors there!)

Doug's birthday cheesecakeThis was how my cheesecake turned out–not quite as pretty as the one in the picture, which I’m not entirely convinced isn’t the actual Cheesecake Factory cake anyway. I did make a couple of changes, and there were a couple of points in the instructions that I felt were unclear. So here’s how it went down:

  • The crust calls for golden Oreos and butter. A question was asked in the comments regarding whether this meant whole crushed Oreos, or with the cream removed. I assumed the latter, since that’s how most recipes calling for Oreos go. I probably should have used my food processor to make the crumbs, but I was having fun smashing them with my meat mallet. I was feeling rather frustrated about the pregnancy nausea relapse I’ve been having lately (worse and more constant again, arrrrrrgh), and taking it out on food was therapeutic! That being said, I didn’t quite smash them up well enough in some spots, and I’m also wondering if I should have used more butter, because I was having trouble getting the crumbs to hold together for the crust. But that also could be a result of the smashing.
  • This is the first cheesecake I’ve ever made where the recipe didn’t call for slightly pre-baking the crust before adding the filling–it said to freeze it for 30 minutes instead. I did follow that, but I wonder if that’s why the crust ended up sticking to the bottom of my pan when we were slicing it up, and if the pre-baking would be better next time?
  • I did make the filling as-is, aside from having to DIY the dulche de leche part. Wow, there is a LOT in this filling–3 packages of cream cheese, sour cream, caramel sauce, whipping cream, and even flour! Among other things. This is definitely a special occasion cheesecake, given the number of ingredients. I’m pretty sure that half of my grocery bill last week was things for this cake–though I did have to buy a few things that I normally would have had on hand, since I was running very low on vanilla extract and the brown sugar accidentally got dropped and scattered over the kitchen floor. We have two very food-oriented golden retrievers. There is no 5-second rule in this house–neither of us want to eat off the floor that they constantly lick for crumbs!
  • The other point of the recipe that was unclear was the following: “Place springform pan in a large baking pan. I use a 9×13 pan.Pour filling into springform pan over crust. Batter will come to a 1/4 inch of top of pan. Fill pan 1/2 way up the side of the springform pan.”
    Umm… fill pan with what? A quick Google search revealed that cheesecakes are often cooked in a water bath, which was new to me–I got my usual recipe for plain cheesecake from a friend, since cheesecake was never really a thing in my family, and there was no water involved in that recipe at all. So that’s what I did, and the cheesecake top looked great. At first. Except it wasn’t quite cooked all the way the first time I checked, I didn’t hear the timer the second time, and the cake ended up a little overcooked/cracked on top. Oops. So I’m not sure if this is a necessary step or not. I also had to scrounge for a pan to use for this one–fortunately, my mother-in-law randomly gave us some squarish, colorful baking dishes for Christmas, because my springform pan was too large to sit in the bottom of a 9×13.
  • As for the topping, I was looking at the recipe and trying to figure out why on earth a cheesecake would be topped with what basically looked like buttercream frosting. I asked my husband if he’d prefer that or just whipped cream, and he said the latter. So I made a quick batch of homemade whipped cream instead. It’s super-easy–the same friend who walked me through how to make a cheesecake taught me how. I just used the leftover heavy whipping cream, a dash of vanilla, and enough powdered sugar to make it a little sweet, and beat it all together until it got kind of stiff. Then I just spread that on top of the cheesecake.

The bonus of that: Even though I got the smallest carton of whipping cream that the store had to offer, and had used some in the actual cheesecake filling, I still had quite a bit of whipped cream left over after icing the cake. So I got to make fancy-looking hot chocolate! And there’s enough left for at least one more batch. Yum.

mmm hot chocolate

Book #6: Anne of Windy Poplars

For once, I found a picture on Amazon with the cover art that my book actually has!

 

 

Title: Anne of Windy Poplars

Author: L.M. Montgomery

Genre: Historic Fiction/Children’s Classic

Length: 258 pages

Read: 1/29/15- 2/6/15

Recommended age for reading: On this one, Amazon is estimating 8-12.

Summary: Anne moves to the town of Summerside to work as the principal of the high school there, boarding with two old widows and their indomitable housekeeper, Rebecca Dew. While there, she faces challenges with the “royal family” of Summerside, the Pringles, finds herself involved in the romantic entanglements of several young couples, and touches the lives of many other people in town.

New or re-read? Re-read

Why did I pick it up? To continue the series, of course.

Rating: 4/5

Would I read it again? Yes.

Would my kid enjoy this?  Chances are pretty good that a girl would. I doubt that this boy would ever get this far into the series, if he was willing to read it at all.

Other notes: This one was a surprisingly slow start for me. I was discussing it via Twitter with my “bosom friend” that I’m going through the series with, and we decided that the reason was probably an overall lack of Gilbert Avonlea characters. Not to say that I didn’t enjoy it, it just took a little longer to get into it.

Of course, that probably is partially due to how much time I’ve been spending on my pre-baby sewing list lately, too.

Book #5: Anne of the Island

This one turned out to be a pretty quick read, actually.

Title: Anne of the Island

Author: L.M. Montgomery

Genre: Historic Fiction/Children’s Classic

Length: 244 pages

Read: 1/27/15- 1/28/15

Recommended age for reading: On this one, Amazon is estimating 8-12. Interesting that it’s an earlier age than the first book…

Summary: Anne leaves Avonlea and Prince Edward Island for college–the first girl in Avonlea to do so, as one neighbor mentions early on. This story follows her throughout her four years at Redmond, the new friends she meets and places she falls in love with, and her struggles in sorting out her feelings for Gilbert Blythe.

New or re-read? Re-read

Why did I pick it up? To continue the series, of course.

Rating: 4/5

Would I read it again? Yes.

Would my kid enjoy this?  See book #1 review, since I’m easing into “boy mom” role.

Other notes: The big theme in this one seems to be transitioning from childhood to adulthood, and the changes in Anne and the lives of her friends that comes with it. *cut for some spoilers*

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the “buggy list”

I’m borrowing the title from one of the chick-lit books I read late last year. Now that I’m around halfway through this pregnancy thing (currently approaching the end of week 20), I’ve been trying to think through all the things that need to get done before our little Hobbit arrives.

Incidentally, this whole week-to-month translation thing is still boggling my mind, just as it has every time I’ve heard mom friends of mine mention it. I will freely admit that math was never my strongest subject, but I do know that 20 weeks = 5 months. And they say a full-term pregnancy is 9 months, but 40 weeks is really 10 months. What. The. Heck. I just hope that when this is all over, I finally get a day where I’m not nauseous after I eat. (Though I really shouldn’t complain, since it’s at a much more manageable level than it was for months.)

Anyway. Since prepping for this is obviously a big part of my life right now, why not make it a little blog project to go on the side of trying to read All The Things? So here’s my list so far, minus the one organization project I already did and crossed off last weekend (yay!)

  1. Finish typing up/printing the keeper recipes. I have a binder that has (mostly) the recipes that my husband and I have enjoyed, and I do have a little backlog of things I’ve tried over the last year or so that need to go into it. Better to get that taken care of while I still have uninterrupted time. (I say mostly, because he’s way less into desserts than I am, and the binder was originally a gift from an aunt, who added several recipes to start me off and I haven’t tried them all yet.)
  2. Get my stupid computer fixed. I’ve been having issues with both the mouse and the internet, ever since we moved it from what is now the nursery. (Yes, I’m on the internet, but both Windows and iTunes refuse to acknowledge that, and it’s screwing things up.) Hoping my dad, aka my IT guy, can help me with that soon.
  3. Finish the nursery. It’s coming along well, mostly thanks to my husband, who’s been quite eager to get the painting done and furniture set up. (And thanks to my in-laws, who accompanied us to Ikea a couple of weekends ago and insisted on buying us the crib and a dresser that I plan to double as a changing table.) This is actually at the point where there really isn’t a whole lot we can do until after the baby shower that my mom’s already been planning for months. Then it’ll be just a case of organizing all the little bits and bobs. I’ll probably post a picture when it’s done. Because I’m doing a book theme, and of course that fits in well here!
  4. Finish getting my hard drive organized/cleaned out. I started this sometime last year, and actually have my photos pretty much done by now. But I still have a bunch of documents and such that need to be dealt with, and I’d rather get things cleaned up now so I have room to add baby photos and such.
  5. Wash and put away all the baby clothes. Which, again, will have to wait until after the shower, since I’ve mostly been holding off on buying stuff until I see what holes will actually need to be filled.
  6. Clean ALL the things! Yeah, this one’s been needing to be done anyway. And it’s not like I’m not planning to clean at all for the next couple of months. But D (my husband) has said more than once that he wants to do a really deep clean before Hobbit arrives. My own involvement may be limited, depending on how tired and huge I am at that point, but it’s still on the list.
  7. Lots of sewing. My mom and I are teaming up to make cloth diapers, so we can mostly avoid buying disposables and save a nice chunk of change that way. (I can’t go 100%, both for church nursery and in-law babysitting purposes, but I can at least minimize it, right? And I’ve been doing the math, and this is one of the cases where sewing is actually saving me money. I’m currently at $4.25 per cloth diaper, vs. $18-20+ at the stores.) I also plan to sew a diaper bag, and there’s a couple of little toys and nursery things I’m working on as well. These things will probably mostly be documented on my other blog, but still mentioning it here.
  8. Stock the freezer with as much food as I can. I’m hoping to get around a month’s worth of food in there. So far, I’ve been working on using up older things that have been in there for awhile and compiling a list of recipes to make. I am trying to consider breakfast and lunch foods as well, since that’s when I’ll be completely on my own with Hobbit while D is at work, and therefore having someone else watch him while I cook won’t be an option.

    Incidentally, since I keep reading that I shouldn’t have too much tomato-based or spicy stuff if I’m nursing, and we’re having a summer baby, it’s making it a lot harder than I would have thought to find good, freezable recipes! It seems like everything is either pasta or Tex-Mex based, or soup. And I know that we’re not going to want to eat soup in June and July.

  9. Get the hospital bag prepped/stock up on necessary toiletries. Yeah, I’m probably not going to want to have to run out for shampoo or toilet paper for awhile.
  10. Stock the Kindle! I’m purposely trying to concentrate my reading efforts on physical books that are on my shelf for now, while I have two hands free. And while I have plenty of books on my Kindle, mostly of the Amazon freebie variety, I do think it would be good for me to purchase some things I’ve been wanting to read/newer releases from favorite authors. I’d like to have something to look forward to reading while I’m nursing at awkward times like the middle of the night, and while I’ve really liked some of the freebies I read last year and in previous years, they can admittedly be of uneven quality. I can think of at least two books off the top of my head that I got bored with and deleted partway through last year, and never mentioned on here.

Is there anything major I overlooked? Also, any suggestions for good prep-and-freeze type meals that aren’t soups or spicy?

Book #4: Anne of Avonlea

Continuing with the Anne re-read…at least, for these first few books that I did read before.

Title: Anne of Avonlea

Author: L.M. Montgomery

Genre: Historic Fiction/Children’s Classic

Length: around 276 pages (estimated, as my older copy is in the basement on the empty shelf already)

Read: 1/23/15- 1/27/15

Recommended age for reading: On this one, Amazon is estimating 8-12. Interesting that it’s an earlier age than the first book…

Summary: This story continues with Anne’s adventures (or misadventures) in her later teenage years–it picks up when she’s 16 and begins her new career as a teacher in the one-room Avonlea schoolhouse. Several new characters are introduced into Anne’s life. And, of course, old friends like Marilla, Diana Barry and Gilbert Blythe still play a large role in her life.

New or re-read? Re-read

Why did I pick it up? To continue the series, of course.

Rating: 5/5

Would I read it again? Yes.

Would my kid enjoy this?  See book #1 review, since I’m easing into “boy mom” role.

Other notes: The story continues in much the same format as the previous book–it covers the span of a couple of years, and each chapter is more like a scrapbooked portrait of a particular event in Anne’s life than a continually building plot. Her involvement with the Avonlea Village Improvement Society (A.V.I.S.), her new relationships with the rambunctious, inquisitive Davy/her sweet, imaginative student Paul/her somewhat cantankerous new neighbor/the eccentric but charming Miss Lavender, her work triumphs and accidents, her anticipation over meeting a favorite author, her steady friendship with Diana and evolving relationship with Gilbert–none of these alone consume her life, but they all play an important part. I said in my last review that revisiting these books was like reacquainting myself with an old friend. It’s really more like spending time with a friend that I’ve had for years; I’ll never know her every thought, motivation, and events of daily life, because the person living those things is the only one who really can. But I see enough to get a fairly complete picture of who she is and what’s important to her. And I like the real-life feel of that.

I also couldn’t help thinking about how different life would have been for a young woman of Anne’s time than today. I remember what I was like at 16, and I can’t imagine myself already having been through the rough equivalent of a year of community college and suddenly responsible for a classroom full of students who really weren’t that much younger than myself. After all, I would have just been starting my junior year of high school at the point that this story picks up. I guess kids had to grow up a lot quicker in those days than we’re forced to now.

I’m already about halfway through the third book–my friend and I have been keeping each other apprised of our progress through the series via Twitter–so it probably won’t be too long before I post again.

Book #3: Anne of Green Gables

It’s my first read off of my Classics Club list! I’m going to make a couple of additions to my usual reviews for these, since I’m largely focusing on children’s lit–mostly so I can save some information for myself for later. In this case, estimated recommended reading age, and whether my kid would enjoy this. At least, my best guess at that, given that I have no inklings about personality and such at this point. Also, since my last post, I’ve found out that we’re having a boy! So I will warn up front that there may be a little bias in that direction for the latter new question, as I try to prepare myself for this.

Title: Anne of Green Gables (Side note: My rather battered copy looks nothing like this cover.)

Author: L.M. Montgomery

Genre: Historic Fiction/Children’s Classic

Length: 309 pages

Read: 1/15/15- 1/22/15

Recommended age for reading: Amazon suggests 9-12 years old. Being an avid reader when I was a kid, I’m going to estimate I was probably closer to the earlier end of that spectrum.

Summary: When elderly siblings Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert decide to adopt an orphan boy to help out around their farm, they receive the shock of their lives when the orphanage sends them a girl instead. The 11-year-old imaginative, talkative, red-haired Anne Shirley is the opposite of what Marilla, especially, wanted in her life. But the longer she stays with them, the less they can imagine life without her.

New or re-read? Re-read

Why did I pick it up? Partially because my best friend and I have a pact to actually read the entire series this time around. (I guess in this case, I should call her my “bosom friend”, shouldn’t I?) But mostly because it’s been too long.

Rating: 5/5

Would I read it again? Yes. As I told my friend in a recent conversation, revisiting this story has been like getting reacquainted with an old friend.

Would my kid enjoy this?  Honestly, I do have trouble seeing a boy enjoying this story. Anne’s romantic imaginings and growing pains probably wouldn’t hold his interest for very long. (But if he ever gets a little sister, I would definitely encourage her to give Anne a try.)

Other notes: I have a few things to say this time:

1. Yes, I will admit that pretty much all of my literary knowledge of Canada as a kid was from this series.

2. Anne and I are kindred spirits, though we will have to agree to disagree on the red hair thing. (I was thrilled when my mousy brown hair started taking on a redder tint as a teenager, and every time I’ve ever dyed my hair since, it was always to red shades! And yes, it’s going back to that as soon as I can, once the baby is born. Not taking the chance, even with my more natural henna-based dye.) How do I know this? When a boy was teasing her in school, she cracked her slate over his head. I distinctly remember an incident in 4th grade where a boy was teasing me in school, and I smacked him over his head with my lunchbox. It wasn’t one of those cheap plastic boxes with cartoon characters that were prevalent in the early 90s, either. This was built like a mini-cooler. The difference is, I never became friends with that boy later in life, and we certainly weren’t academic rivals–not to brag, but I was way ahead of him in class.

3. Another childhood Anne-centric story: I also remember hanging out with one of my good friends and watching through the tv miniseries, and both of us deciding that we needed “a Gilbert”. I guess in my case, at least, it sort of worked…that’s my husband’s middle name!

First books of the year!

It’ll be much better for me if I can keep up with these from the start, right? I have two today.

Book #1:

Title: Elantris

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Genre: Fantasy

Length: 508 pages

Read: 1/3-1/12/15

Summary: From Amazon: Elantris was the capital of Arelon: gigantic, beautiful, literally radiant, filled with benevolent beings who used their powerful magical abilities for the benefit of all. Yet each of these demigods was once an ordinary person until touched by the mysterious transforming power of the Shaod. Ten years ago, without warning, the magic failed. Elantrians became wizened, leper-like, powerless creatures, and Elantris itself dark, filthy, and crumbling. Arelon’s new capital, Kae, crouches in the shadow of Elantris. Princess Sarene of Teod arrives for a marriage of state with Crown Prince Raoden, hoping — based on their correspondence — to also find love. She finds instead that Raoden has died and she is considered his widow. Both Teod and Arelon are under threat as the last remaining holdouts against the imperial ambitions of the ruthless religious fanatics of Fjordell. So Sarene decides to use her new status to counter the machinations of Hrathen, a Fjordell high priest who has come to Kae to convert Arelon and claim it for his emperor and his god. But neither Sarene nor Hrathen suspect the truth about Prince Raoden. Stricken by the same curse that ruined Elantris, Raoden was secretly exiled by his father to the dark city. His struggle to help the wretches trapped there begins a series of events that will bring hope to Arelon, and perhaps reveal the secret of Elantris itself.

New or re-read? New read

Why did I pick it up? I’m thinking that I’ll probably find it easier to read on my Kindle for awhile after the baby comes (easier to hold that and read one-handed while feeding and such), so for the most part, I’d like to concentrate my reading efforts on the more physical books for now. Also, Brandon Sanderson that I hadn’t read yet.

Rating: 5/5

Would I read it again? Absolutely.

Other notes: Apparently this was Sanderson’s debut novel. Well done. He really is a master of worldbuilding, especially when it comes to inventing magic systems.

Book #2:

Title: The Emperor’s Soul

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Genre: Fantasy

Length: 177 pages

Read: 1/14/15

Summary: From Amazon: When Shai is caught replacing the Moon Scepter with her nearly flawless forgery, she must bargain for her life. An assassin has left the Emperor Ashravan without consciousness, a circumstance concealed only by the death of his wife. If the emperor does not emerge after his hundred-day mourning period, the rule of the Heritage Faction will be forfeit and the empire will fall into chaos. Shai is given an impossible task: to create—to Forge—a new soul for the emperor in less than one hundred days. But her soul-Forgery is considered an abomination by her captors. She is confined to a tiny, dirty chamber, guarded by a man who hates her, spied upon by politicians, and trapped behind a door sealed in her own blood. Shai’s only possible ally is the emperor’s most loyal councillor, Gaotona, who struggles to understand her true talent.

New or re-read? New read

Why did I pick it up? Honestly? I have plans to start my first Classics Club read at the same time as my best friend, since she always got stuck on book 5 of the Anne of Green Gables series too, so we decided to read it at the same time to help each other stick with it. And I was waiting for her to finish her current book. Also, this was labeled “Elantris Book 2″ on my Kindle anyway.

Rating: 4/5. Good story, just short.

Would I read it again? Yes

Other notes: I’m really glad I got this one on my Kindle instead of the physical book, actually. I think I would have been a little annoyed if I’d spent $12 on a book that I easily read in one evening, which is what the paperback costs according to Amazon. Also, even though it is labeled “Elantris Book 2″, it really doesn’t have much of anything to do with the original story–the only overlap is that a couple of the countries/races mentioned are also mentioned in Elantris. The author explains this in a note at the end.

So now I just have to pick up his latest, Firefight (the sequel to Steelheart). But I think I’m going to save that one for post-baby, because I started acquiring that one on my Kindle, and that means I’m going to stick to that format. I’m weird like that.

Hey, look, I’m cooking again!

No, really, you have no idea what a big deal this is. For pretty much my entire first trimester, I couldn’t even look at pictures of food, let alone cook it. Besides putting a serious crimp in my ability to use Pinterest, this meant that all I could bring myself to make was super-easy chicken soup (i.e. noodles cooked in chicken broth with precooked canned chicken dumped in), and occasionally mashed potatoes. My poor husband was entirely on his own for dinner for these couple of months, which meant he pretty much lived on frozen pizzas and chicken nuggets, with the occasional pasta or takeout. He had a great attitude about it, but I still felt bad. So I know that he’s thrilled that I’m finally starting to be able to make some “real” meals again!

Last night for dinner, I tested a recipe that I found on Pinterest for Cheese, Potato & Italian Sausage Casserole. I have a bag of potatoes that I got, intending to make some oven fries earlier this week to go along with some hamburgers we already had in the freezer. (Normally, I’d do homemade burgers, but my in-laws got us an Omaha Steaks package for Christmas that had a box of burgers in it. The Mister really loves his meat.) Of course, that was the day that I got slammed with a relapse into all-day nausea. So while we still ate the burgers, the extra work of making those fries didn’t happen. I was able to use up about half the bag in this recipe, along with some chicken sausage and some shredded cheddar that had been in the freezer since before I found out I was pregnant, so all in all, this was a pretty cheap meal to throw together!

Here’s the result:

sausagepotato Yeah, I know, I need to clean my stovetop. One step into resumed functionality at a time.

I did do a couple of things differently than what the recipe called for, aside from swapping the Italian sausage for the milder chicken sausage.

  • I doubled the amount of cheese, because baby needs more protein/calcium. Yeah. (Ok, so I really just wanted to use the entire bag, and when I brought that cheese home from Costco months ago, I divvied it up into 2 cup bags. Also, I like cheese.)
  • I also went ahead and cooked the sausage in a saucepan, and then cooked the cheese sauce in the same saucepan, because that’s less dishes to deal with. I figured the cheese picking up residual sausage bits wouldn’t be a bad thing, either.
  • I left out the salt in the recipe, since the potato water was already salted and the cheese had salt. Unless salting the water was what it was for? It never really said.
  • I just used regular milk with a little bit of lemon juice added to sour it, because buttermilk was the one thing I didn’t already have in the house.
  • The recipe never specified where to use the pepper, so I ground some pepper into the cheese sauce while that was cooking.
  • I probably used more paprika than it called for, because I just scooped it out of the tin it’s in and sprinkled it on. (One of The Mister’s organization projects last year was reorganizing the bulk of my herbs and spices into little uniformly-sized labeled tins.)
  • Not really a recipe change, but just a note for myself– the sausage was still partially frozen when I cut it up, and this helped a LOT. Raw chicken sausage is usually impossibly mushy outside of its casing.

The verdict: It was pretty good! I liked that it was an easy way to use up the sausage, since I’m sometimes not sure what to do with that. The Mister went back for seconds, which is always a good sign. Personally, I thought it was actually quite filling, but then, I’m pretty sure my stomach has shrunk, because I couldn’t even quite finish the one smallish serving that I gave myself. (Of course, then I got hungry again a couple of hours later, because that’s how I roll right now. My geeky tendencies are not the only reason I’ve been calling the baby Hobbit!) Overall, I think this one’s a keeper.

The Classics Club

My best friend is a total enabler. Especially when it comes to book-related things. She was the one who first introduced me to the Classics Club, and encouraged me to give it a go. I finally finished putting my list together, so I figured the next major reading project would be a good way to gear up for the new year.

After some thought, I decided that my approach would be focusing largely on children’s classics (or classics that have gotten tagged as such). Given that I’m pregnant now, shorter books are probably the best way to ensure that I might actually be able to finish this challenge in the allotted time! Plus it would be good to acquaint, or in most cases reacquaint, myself with these books so I know what I want to share with this kid other than Narnia and Middle-earth. (Because those two are givens.) There are some that are more “grown-up”, too. But I’m hoping this list will be one that is both manageable with the reduced reading time that becoming a mom will leave me with, and will still allow me to work in new books by my favorite living authors as they come out. At least between the multiple readings of Dr. Seuss and The Very Hungry Caterpillar that I’m sure are in my future.

The goal is to read all 50 of these books by January 1, 2020. So without further ado, here is my list and my reasons for choosing these particular books:

  1. Northanger Abbey- Jane Austen (new read)
  2. The Mysteries of Udolpho- Anne Radcliffe (new read)
    My reasoning for this: Northanger is the only one of Jane’s main six novels that I haven’t read yet, and a big part of that is because I’ve heard from multiple sources that it’ll be much funnier if I read the Radcliffe first.
  3. Little Women- Louisa May Alcott (re-read)
    Another that I’ve read multiple times, but it’s been awhile.
  4. The Book of Three- Lloyd Alexander (re-read, I think?)
  5. The Black Cauldron- – Lloyd Alexander (new read)
  6. The Castle of Llyr- Lloyd Alexander (new read)
  7. Taran Wanderer- Lloyd Alexander (new read)
  8. The High King- Lloyd Alexander (new read)
    I have a vague memory of reading one of the Prydain Chronicles for school, though I’m not 100% sure which one it was. I somewhat recently found the entire series as a single volume at the used bookstore, so it’s high time I completed this series.
  9. Peter Pan- J.M. Barrie (re-read)
    I’ll admit that I grew up more with the Disney movie than the book. I did read this one several years ago, but refreshing my memory won’t hurt. I’ve kind of been in the mood to do this anyway, since the Pan story arc on Once Upon A Time.
  10. A Little Princess- Frances Hodgson Burnett (re-read)
    Loved this one as a kid, but it’s been awhile.
  11. The Secret Garden- Frances Hodgson Burnett (re-read)
    See above, though I’m actually more surprised that this doesn’t seem to be on my shelf anywhere.
  12. Alice in Wonderland- Lewis Carroll (re-read)
  13. Through the Looking-Glass- Lewis Carroll (re-read?)
    I know I’ve read Alice. Probably more than once. I think I’ve read Looking-Glass, but am fuzzier on that one.
  14. A Caribbean Mystery – Agatha Christie (new read)
  15. Taken at the Flood—Agatha Christie (new read)
    I’ve been meaning to read more Christie ever since the Doctor Who episode featuring her. I do have several unread books of hers on my shelf, so I picked these two partially at random, partially because the latter is referenced in that episode, and partially because the former features Miss Marple and I haven’t actually read any of the books featuring her yet.
  16. Charlie & the Chocolate Factory- Roald Dahl (re-read)
    Another one that I read multiple times growing up. Also, you can’t go wrong re-reading books involving copious amounts of chocolate.
  17. Fantastic Mr. Fox- Roald Dahl (new read)
    I have this one on the shelf, but never read it.
  18. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang- Ian Fleming (new read)
    I found this one in the free bin outside the used book store, shortly after my best friend was telling me a story about a recent family event involving the movie. I’ve heard the song before, but I’ve never seen the movie nor read the book.
  19. The Graveyard Book- Neil Gaiman (new read)
    More recent, but it’s won enough awards that it probably counts as a future classic. It’s pretty safe to say that I’ll like this one, given how many of his books I’ve read.
  20. The Wind in the Willows- Kenneth Grahame (new read)
    I know fragments of the story, and have had it on the shelf for years, but never got around to it.
  21. The Phantom Tollbooth- Norton Juster (re-read)
    All I really remember about this one was something involving the ctrl-alt-delete keys. Since computer technology is waaaay more advanced than it was when I first read the book, I’m curious to see how this one holds up.
  22. To Kill A Mockingbird- Harper Lee (re-read)
    A school read that I need to refresh my memory on.
  23. Number the Stars- Lois Lowry (re-read)
    Another one I loved as a kid, though it made me sad. And since I only read The Giver for the first time recently, I figured it would be good to revisit another Lowry classic.
  24. The Hero and the Crown- Robin McKinley (re-read)
    I remember coming across this book by accident in the school library, and LOVED it. I think this may have been the first book I ever read that featured a strong, kick-butt-with-a-sword heroine, and definitely paved the way for my later admiration for Eowyn.
  25. The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh- A.A. Milne (new read)
    I’m familiar with the characters, again mostly thanks to Disney, but I’ve never read the actual book.
  26. Anne of Green Gables- L.M. Montgomery (re-read)
  27. Anne of Avonlea- L.M. Montgomery (re-read)
  28. Anne of the Island- L.M. Montgomery (re-read)
  29. Anne of Windy Poplars- L.M. Montgomery (re-read)
  30. Anne’s House of Dreams- L.M. Montgomery (partial new read)
  31. Anne of Ingleside- L.M. Montgomery (new read)
  32. Rainbow Valley- L.M. Montgomery (new read)
  33. Rilla of Ingleside- L.M. Montgomery (new read)
    I looooooved Anne when I was growing up, and read the first four books multiple times. For some reason, I always got stuck partway through House of Dreams, though, so I never actually finished the series. Hopefully I will have more success this time.
  34. The Borrowers- Mary Norton (new read)
    I enjoyed the Miyazaki movie, and this was a book I never got to as a kid, so it’s time.
  35. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh- Robert C. O’Brien (re-read)
    I know I’ve read it, but I don’t remember much of it.
  36. Island of the Blue Dolphins- Scott O’Dell (re-read)
    Another one I loved growing up.
  37. Holes- Louis Sachar (new read)
    I’ve never read it, but I’ve heard good things about it.
  38. The Little Prince- Antoine de Saint-Exupery (new read)
    Again, never read it, but my best friend did recently and strongly recommended that I pick it up.
  39. The Cricket in Times Square- George Selden (re-read)
    I know I’ve read it, but I don’t remember much of it.
  40. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry- Mildred D. Taylor (re-read)
    I remember reading this one for school, but it’s been awhile.
  41. Roverrandom- J.R.R. Tolkien (re-read)
    It’s a given that I want my kids to know about Middle-earth, and I KNOW I’ll be re-reading The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings somewhere in the future. I’ve only read this particular story once, but I remember it being adorable, and would be happy to re-acquaint myself with it.
  42. Little House in the Big Woods- Laura Ingalls Wilder (re-read)
  43. Farmer Boy- Laura Ingalls Wilder (re-read)
  44. Little House on the Prairie- Laura Ingalls Wilder (re-read)
  45. On the Banks of Plum Creek- Laura Ingalls Wilder (re-read)
  46. By the Shores of Silver Lake- Laura Ingalls Wilder (re-read)
    I picked these five because they’re in the volume I have. I used to have the entire series, but one of the greatest regrets of my childhood was passing my Little House books on to my cousins when I thought I was “too old” for them. Stupid me.
  47. The Trumpet of the Swan- E.B. White (re-read)
  48. Charlotte’s Web- E.B. White (re-read)
  49. Stuart Little- E.B. White (re-read)
    I have the three of these as a box set, though Trumpet is the only one that I still originally have from when I was a kid. (The other two I found in the box at the thrift store one time.) It was my favorite of the three, and it shows, because there’s so much tape on the spine.
  50. The Sword in the Stone- T.H. White (new read?)
    I may have read this one, but I don’t think so. But hey, King Arthur.

Bonus if I get through all of these and still have time: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. I’ve been meaning to read it for ages anyway, since I adore the musical, and I need to actually read that unabridged volume that I spent so much time hunting down.

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