“Weeknights with Giada”

I will admit, I am a Food Network fan, even though I don’t cook much.  Recipes tend to scare me after a bit because my level of food know-how isn’t very high.  I can follow the directions, but I like knowing what the food is going to look like, and having terms explained.  That’s part of what I like about Giada diLaurentiis.  She’s friendly and knowledgeable, and understands that sometimes you don’t have a lot of time to make intensive meals during the week.  She lists her go-to pantry ingredients, but at my house, I think most of her recipes would be relegated to the weekends when we have more time.

Weeknights with Giada is Giada diLaurentiis’ latest cookbook.  As can be expected, the photos are beautiful and the food sounds (and looks) delicious.  I especially liked the tips (“Cook’s Note”) that is provided on most of the recipes.  She includes stories about some of the recipes – like how she substitutes wagon wheel pasta in one dish to make it more appealing to her 4-year-old daughter.  I never thought of that.

I haven’t tried out any of the recipes yet, but this will most likely be a cookbook I purchase in the next few months.  Her recipes don’t look heavy, and her desserts aren’t overly rich and sugary, which is exactly what I need as I work to lose a bunch of weight.

Thank you Giada for a delightful, beautiful, inspiring cookbook.  You make me want to try new things in the kitchen.

Amazon Product Page

I received this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.

“Confessions from an Arranged Marriage”

I will admit, when I picked up this book, I figured that “arranged marriage” meant that they had been intended for each other since birth.  A few pages in, and I realized that wasn’t the case.

Then I thought, “Ok, maybe she secretly loves him and will trap him into a marriage.”  Again….not the case.

So then I decided to just go along for the ride and stop trying to predict how the book was going to go.  I’m glad I did.

Minerva doesn’t like the Marquess of Blakeney.  In fact, he is treated kind of as a laughingstock by her.  He was previously engaged to her sister, and she was subjected to unending stories about horses and hunting.  After the engagement failed, he left London for a few years.  They become reacquainted at her coming out ball, which is being held at his parents’ house, due to the close relationship between the families.

However, things don’t go according to plan.  Partway through the night, Minerva has a migraine, takes some medicine, and lays down in the library.  An intoxicated Blakeney decides to play a trick on a friend, and thinks that Minerva is someone else when he begins to seduce her.  Minerva wakes up as an audience appears in the library door. This means that the incident can’t be hidden and the two are forced to marry.

For Minerva, this is worrisome.  She doesn’t know Blakeney well, but her impression is that he is lazy and probably not very smart, even though he graduated from college.  Blakeney doesn’t think much of Minerva, especially since she is passionate about politics, which is one thing his family does well – even though he doesn’t have any interest in it.

However much these two individuals don’t see eye to eye, they must learn how to live together and create some sort of relationship.  Add the following to the mix – a “best friend” who seems a little slimy and untrustworthy, the death of a father, spies, secrets that have been hidden since school, and families who don’t trust the new spouse – and you get an interesting story that brings you in to the characters’ lives so you feel like you are there with them.  That makes for a good story.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.

“The Smiley Book of Colors”

This book, by Ruth Kaiser, is so cute and ingenious.  It’s about how it’s your decision what your attitude is like, but it’s written so simply that kids could definitely understand it.  Plus, each pair of pages is about a different color AND each picture is a smiley face of some sort.  Everything is coordinated…it’s awesome!

I read this with my 4-year old tonight and we spent the majority of the time picking out the smiley faces and determining what they were made of.  She got all of the colors right (except white, which I can understand because it was white letters on a blue page).  I couldn’t turn the page until she had found every smiley and we figured out what the smiley was made out of.

This book would be great for preschoolers and under (to be read to) and probably ok for a kindergartener or first grader to read to a younger sibling.  The message is a good one that could resonate with anyone – even adults.

I received this book from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.

“The House at the End of Ladybug Lane” – A Lesson in Acceptance

Elise Primavera’s book The House at the End of Ladybug Lane is a delightful story of a young lady named Angelina who can’t help but get dirty and be messy.  Her parents are neat freaks, and a child doesn’t really fit their “neat” world.

One night, Angelina makes a wish, and a ladybug godmother appears.  However, there’s a problem…she’s slightly hard of hearing.  “I want a pet” becomes “I want a pest” and poof – there’s a pest in the house.  A pest that bakes the most delicious deserts, but a pest nonetheless.  On throughout the night Angelina tries to make herself understood, but the godmother just can’t get it right.

The results are quite astonishing, and the illustrations (by Valeria Docampo) are phenomenal.  My daughter liked picking out all of the little details (finding the ladybug, the pest, seeing what had happened, etc.).

The story boils down to how the expectations of the parents, while good-intentioned and well-meaning, may not fit the personality of the child.  The child may be doing their best to comply, but just can’t seem to get it right.  Rather than continually criticize the child, or be frustrated because they don’t meet the parents’ expectations, maybe the expectations should change to suit the child.

I received this book from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.

“Cross My Heart”

Cross My Heart by Sasha Gould is targeted at ages 12 and up.  I am significantly over 12 and I enjoyed it a lot.  Laura della Scala was sent to the convent as a young girl so that her family could afford to launch her sister on society.  In Renaissance Venice, she anticipated staying there for the rest of her life, only able to correspond in writing with her sister.  When she finds out her sister is betrothed to a man named Vincenzo, she is happy for her since it seems as though her sister is happy.

However, she is removed from the convent on orders from her father.  She arrives home after being gone for a number of years to find her sister dead and unmarried.  Laura is forced to take her sister’s place in the marriage…..and Vincenzo isn’t a young handsome man, but rather a withered old man who holds a lot of power…and her family needs the connection to regain its fortunes.

Laura ends up being connected to the Segreta, a group of women who can make things happen, in exchange for a secret, but it has to be a good secret.  If you betray the existence of the group, your life is forfeit.  Members are identified only by the mask they wear, and any indication that you know who is behind the mask is not recommended.

Throughout the book, I was drawn in my the vivid language and the pictures the words evoked.  The plot twists and turns (often unexpectedly) and the ending is satisfying.  I will definitely pick up other books by this author.

I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher through Edelweiss.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions are my own.

What is Your Prayer?

Quote

“For me, prayer is a movement of the heart; it is a simple glance toward Heaven; it is a cry of gratitude and love in times of trial as well as in times of joy; finally, it is something great, supernatural, which expands my soul and unites me to Jesus. . . . I have not the courage to look through books for beautiful prayers…. I do like a child who does not know how to read; I say very simply to God what I want to say, and He always understands me.”

– St Therese of Lisieux

Welcoming Others at the Lord’s Table

There has been a lot of discussion in recent years about our parish’s hospitality.  In my view, we have come a long way in the last few years.  Our Welcoming Committee greets each of our new members.  Our Hospitality Ministers greet parishioners as they enter and leave the church.  But with a parish of 1200 families, it’s hard to get to everyone, or even make everyone happy.  But if everyone tries to be friendly to those around them, attitudes can be changed.

At one of our recent adult education classes, the phrase “open table fellowship” was used.  It made me think….When we celebrate Mass, we are coming to the Lord’s table to share in the body and blood of Christ.  At His table, all are welcome – none are turned away.  So why do we turn away from our fellow diners without a word of welcome?  Just as we invite our friends, family, and neighbors into our homes and seat them around our table with words of welcome and thanksgiving, so we should welcome our fellow parishioners as we all gather at the Lord’s table.

So I challenge everyone to be more welcoming to those you meet.  A smile, a handshake, a simple “Hello” can go a long way to being a hospitable parish.  Hospitality can increase our membership and make those who may have been away from the Church for a while feel welcomed back.

Searching for Meaning

What does the Mass mean to you?  To some, coming church is what they are expected to do at Christmas and Easter.  To others, it’s where they go on Sundays because that’s what they’ve always done.  Yet to others, coming to church is a way to be a member of a living, breathing entity that has existed for over 2,000 years.  There’s no right answer to this question, because a person can have each one of those opinions at different times in their life.

The Catholic Church is all of the above.  It is a body of worshippers who come together to celebrate the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.  It is a venue for fellowship and socializing.  It is a place to go when you are seeking answers.  It is a family brought together by a common purpose, a common faith.

The central point of our mass is the Eucharist.  To Catholics everywhere, the Eucharist and wine are the body and blood of Christ – it’s not a symbol – it is Christ’s gift to us every time Mass is celebrated.  It’s part of what unites us as Catholics.  Our mass is where we come together.  We gather with our friends, family, and neighbors.  We are joined by the communion of saints to proclaim our unity with each other and to share in the Eucharistic feast at the Lord’s table.

Sister Cheryl is leading a book study on Ron Rohlheiser’s book Our One Great Act of Fidelity: Waiting for Christ in the Eucharist.  It’s an easy read and discusses the author’s journey in discovering what the Eucharist means to him.  I have found it to be a very powerful book and it has given me many opportunities to think and to figure out my relationship with the Eucharist.

I have been on my own journey to rediscover/reaffirm/understand my faith.  I’m in no way perfect, or an expert on how someone should go about doing this.  However, I have a questioning spirit and am always seeking answers.  I have been attending the classes offered by our parish staff during this Lenten season.  These classes have afforded me the opportunity to learn about the beginnings of the Catholic Church, the mysteries of our faith that I didn’t learn earlier in life (or learned and have forgotten), and the opportunity to talk to other members of the parish who are willing to share their knowledge and experiences.  This is invaluable to me.

My challenge to myself is to truly ponder what the Eucharist means in my life.  I am trying to take the time to think about the beauty and history reflected in our Mass, and to think about what the Church (as an organization, as a body of worshippers, as a faith) means to me.

I invite others to join me on this journey.  Learn everything you can.  Ask the questions you need to when you are unsure.  Become involved – attend classes, discover adoration, come to Communal Penance.

Posts in My Head

I know I have been absent from my regular posting for a while.  It’s not for lack of ideas…it’s just because life has gotten in the way a bit.  I have book reviews lined up for the next few months – the reviews are written and scheduled, but you all can’t see what’s coming.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately.   I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately.  I’ve been doing a lot of “doing” lately.  All of these will end up in blog posts that are coming. 

If you want to see something I’ve been working on, go to www.muscatinecatholiccommunity.com.  It’s a work in progress, but it’s mostly done.

If you want to see what a friend of mine has been writing, go to http://ctsteinbach.wordpress.com.

I promise, I’m coming back.  It’s just taking some time.