Review: The Worst Witch

Title: The Worst Witch (Worst Witch #1)
Author: Jill Murphy
Publisher: Puffin Books
Publication Date: 1974
Genre: Juvenile Fiction, Fantasy

Mildred Hubble attends Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches and is probably the worst student the school has ever seen. Mildred seems to be always getting into trouble. Whether it’s potions, spells or broomstick riding, she can’t seem to do anything right. When Mildred’s class does a display for this years Halloween celebrations, Mildred finds herself at blame when their presentations turns into a disaster. How will Mildred ever earn her Witches Higher Certificate when she is the worst witch to ever attend Miss Cackle’s Academy? When a group of evil witches conspire to take over the school, Mildred might be the only one able to save the school.

The Worst Witch was a television show when I was younger, and I never had any idea that it was based on a book. I thought this would be a good read for Halloween, which it definitely was. It was a cute, simple story about a clumsy girl who attends a boarding school for witches. It was a quick and entertaining read that I would have loved when I was younger. You can’t help but love disaster prone Mildred, Maude, Miss Cackle and even the strict Miss Hardbroom. The illustrations were very sweet and added a lot to the book as a whole. It’s easy to compare this to another book about a magic boarding school, but I don’t think this would have such a wide appeal as Harry Potter. I think The Worst Witch is mainly for children, and doesn’t have the same complexity as J.K. Rowling’s books. I loved the simplicity of The Worst Witch, and I think it would be a great book for children this Halloween.


Flaky Whole Wheat Biscuits

Good morning!
How was your weekend?
Mine was wonderful, thank you.
Since I do a lot more harvest celebrating than Halloween anyway, I think some pumpkin patch photos are in order. Nothing spooky here--just a lot of vibrant earthly beauty.

Bright and shiny sunflower mornings like this one are best celebrated with some good down-home-hearty breakfast cooking. Since I was a young girl sitting on a stool in my grandmother's California home, I've known that the best way to complement a morning is with biscuits. Janny (as I nicknamed my grandmother) used to let me sprinkle the counter with flour and cut morning biscuits into rounds with a small glass. When she stepped outside to feed her cat, I would look both ways and sneak a nibble of biscuit dough. I've always had a strange fetish with dough. Isn't it wonderful?

We made our biscuits with Bisquick back then, and up until a few days ago, I didn't think anything could beat them. Especially not a recipe with whole wheat flour. Well ladies (and gents?), I have stumbled upon a most glorious ingredient list for whole wheat biscuits. They are flaky. They are soft and crispy at the same time. They pair wonderfully with scrambled eggs and breakfast potatoes. They are even tasty warmed up the next day.

Slather them with butter, drizzle them with honey, dollop them with whatever you do with biscuits. Just make sure to scarf them with a big glass of milk nearby.

Whole Wheat Biscuits
Inspired by a cozy kitchen
Yields 8 - 10 rounds of buttery goodness

I used a cup of Greek yogurt + a tablespoon of milk in place of the buttermilk, because it's what I had; it worked marvelously. The entire stick of butter may seem like a bit, but I think it's worth the perfect flaky inside and slightly crunchy outside. This dough isn't hard to handle, so it wasn't a problem keeping the butter really cold while kneading it. 

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons sugar (I used raw cane sugar)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 stick unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces

1 cup buttermilk, cold (I used Greek yogurt + 1 T milk)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

In a large bowl whisk flours, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt. Cut in butter with two butter knives until, as Ina would say, the butter is the size of peas. Add buttermilk or yogurt to dry ingredients, stirring until dry ingredients are moistened (this is a great time to get your hands in there).

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly 4 to 5 times and shape into a ball. Roll or pat dough out to about 1-inch thickness. Cut with a biscuit cutter and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Combine the remaining scraps of dough together, roll and cut a few more biscuits and transfer to baking sheet. Stop here. Any extra dough you have discard, since it will probably yield tough biscuits.

Bake for about 12 to 14 minutes or until a light golden brown.

My favorite way to eat these biscuits is drizzled with honey. Because of all the butter in the actual biscuits, I don't think you need any extra.

Note: These biscuits freeze quite well. I layered them between wax paper in a tupperware. Put them in the oven frozen and bake them at 450 for 18 - 20 minutes.

Right when the biscuits come out of the oven, sprinkle them with garlic powder and Italian seasoning for a garlic bread feel.

In My Mailbox (11)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren, in which book bloggers post about the books they've bought, borrowed or received in the past week.

Happy Halloween! It would be cool if my books this week were relevant to the holiday, but they're not. Instead, this week seems to be sequel week. I read The Maze Runner in August and I'm really looking forward to The Scorch Trials, the next in the series by James Dashner. I also picked up Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World by Bryan Lee O'Malley. I read it on Friday and I need to write the review soon. Any book that includes a fight inside the Toronto Reference Library is my kind of book. 

The picture above was taken in the little graveyard we made in our front yard for Halloween. It's a strange graveyard that includes a homemade guillotine. This year I'm dressing up as the (current) Doctor from Doctor Who. 

What was in your mailbox this week? 

Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Title: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Author: Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
Publisher: Quirk Classics
Publication Date: April 4th, 2009
Genre: Fiction, Horror

When England is stricken by a zombie plague, Mr. Bennet puts all of his energy into training his five daughters in the deadly arts so that they can fight the Unmentionables. His wife, however, is only concerned with finding suitable husbands for the girls. When Netherfield Park is let by the handsome Mr. Bingley, she hopes that he will marry one of the Bennet girls. While Bingley takes to Jane Bennet at once, his friend Mr. Darcy slights Elizabeth. Since the Bennet estate is entailed to the closest male heir, a distant cousin, it is important that the girls marry well. But how will the ever be able to find suitable husbands when they are can’t leave their house without being attacked by zombies?

I should start by saying that Pride and Prejudice is one of my favourite books of all time. My Mom is a huge Jane Austen fan and I don’t remember not loving P&P. I was obsessed with the BBC Pride and Prejudice when I was about five or so and used to act out the wedding scene with my dolls. I first actually read the book about ten years ago, and I pretty much grew up with Pride and Prejudice. Despite that, I was surprisingly open minded about mixing Jane Austen’s classic with zombies. It’s definitely an original idea, and I thought it could be quite funny. Although there were funny parts, it was usually because everything was just so ridiculous. You would assume that a book about zombies would be exciting, but this book became boring a few chapters in. It wasn’t scary or suspenseful, and the zombies just felt like an annoyance rather than something life threatening. The zombies were added to the story with few changes to the plot, and I think it would have worked better if more alterations to the original story were made. Some of the changes didn’t make sense to me. Considering the circumstances, why would Charlotte Lucas choose to marry Mr. Collins and leave her family and friends? Although there were very few differences in the actual plot, Elizabeth was a completely different character. Instead of the witty and charming Elizabeth I love, Grahame-Smith’s heroine is bloodthirsty and often rude and cruel hearted. I don’t think that the writer did a good job of imitating Austen, and he often over explained things. Although this was a dumb-downed version of the original, I somehow found it harder to get through. It only made me want to re-read Pride and Prejudice.

Overall, not sure I’d recommend this one. If you have already read and loved Pride and Prejudice, I’d say you would be smart to skip its zombie parody. It would have been better if more changes were made to the plot. However, the idea was very clever and I’d have to give Grahame-Smith 5/5 for originality. But as a whole, I was disappointed.


“The business of Mr. Bennett’s life was to keep his daughters alive. The business of Mrs. Bennett’s was to get them married.”

Review: Vampire Academy

Title: Vampire Academy (Vampire Academy #1)
Author: Richelle Mead
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: August 16th, 2007
Genre: YA, Paranormal Fantasy

When Rose and Lissa return to St. Vladimir’s Academy, they are the talk of the school. Although St. Vladmir’s may seem like an average high school, it is actually a boarding school for vampires. While Lissa is a vampire with distinct powers, Rose is half human and must train to become a bodyguard for a vampire like Lissa. Rose happens to share a rare and special bond with her best friend, and intends on doing anything to protect Lissa. But the girls are more in danger at St. Vladimir’s than they ever were on their own. The Strigoi, a vicious breed of vampires, are out to get Lissa. When Lissa’s special abilities might put her at risk, Rose will have to be the one to protect her friend.

This was recommended to me by an anonymous follower, and I’m very grateful for the recommendation! I never would have read this on my own, based on the title, the cover and the genre. Which shows you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, sine Vampire Academy was quite good. A lot of people who do not normally read vampire sagas enjoy this book, and I can see why. I liked how St. Vladimir’s felt like a normal high school: it had the drama, the mean girls and the parties. That aspect of the book was a lot of fun and made it feel real. The vampire lore was intriguing and worked well as the backbone of the novel. The plot was well paced and I loved how the author held back information to keep suspense. I managed to guess who was after Lissa, but there were some things that I didn’t see coming. Initially, I thought I was going to prefer Rose to Lissa. Lissa just seemed so submissive, while Rose proved herself to be brave early on in the novel. However, I ended up disliking Rose after she meddled with Christian and Lissa’s relationship. I did like how she had a strong personality, but some of the things she did were too much for me. Dimitri was an uninteresting love interest who felt very dull (I preferred Mason.) Despite this, I found the plot to be engaging, especially the story line concerning Lissa and her abilities. The flashbacks worked well and I loved how there was a bit of a mystery element to the book.

Overall, I thought that Vampire Academy was a great story and a good start to the series. It was definitely entertaining. If you don’t usually like vampire sagas or paranormal romance, you might like this anyways. Due to the interesting vampire lore, I think this could be a good read this Halloween.


“It's worth it. It's worth giving up the sun and magic.”

Review: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Title: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Author: Washington Irving
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Publication Date: 1819
Genre: Fiction, Horror

Sleepy Hollow is a small town in New York, inhabited by Dutch settlers. Ichabod Crane is the superstitious village schoolteacher. Ichabod is trying to win the hand of Katrina Van Tassel, a beautiful eighteen-year-old girl in the village. When Ichabod leaves a party he attended at the Van Tassel estate, he is chased by a mysterious headless horseman on the lonely road leading to his house.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is a short story that pretty much everyone is familiar with but not very many people have actually read. I’ve seen the Disney version, the Wishbone episode and the 1999 film with Johnny Depp. However, I’d never read the book (which I happened to own.) This Halloween, I thought I would finally give The Legend of Sleepy Hollow a try. I was surprised to find wit and humor in this book, especially concerning Ichabod (who I still picture as looking like he did in the Disney cartoon.) Irving’s prose is a bit wordy, but I liked his writing overall, especially some of the descriptions of animals and plants. He did a very good job at painting a picture of a sleepy little town. The story is fairly simple, unlike the Tim Burton film. Ichabod leaves a party late at night, and is chased by a headless horseman. Ichabod is never found. I loved how we never know exactly what happened. Overall, it was a creepy ghost story that is perfect for Halloween.


“They are given to all kinds of marvelous beliefs; are subject to trances and visions; and frequently see strange sights, and hear music and voices in the air.”

Quick and Easy Homemade Bread

I'd like to tell you of a little loaf of bread who came to visit the other afternoon. It filled our kitchen with steady wafts of homemade goodness, twirling and swirling around for all to smell and smile at. This little loaf popped easily out of its bread pan home and happily steamed as I took a taste-test slice. Absolutely wonderful. A couple slathers of butter and a mason jar of milk later, my tummy was satisfied as can be.

Homemade bread. There's nothing like it.

But guess what is special about this particular loaf? From the bloom of the yeast to the ding on the timer, this bread only took one hour to make. Yes. Start to finish.
Mix it, pour it, rise it, bake it, eat it.
Sixty minutes.

There's no messy kneading, but you still get the pleasant taste and a slight rise from the yeast. I love this bread because it's a speedy way to calm a craving for a freshly baked loaf. Fill a basket with its slices for the perfect side to autumn stew. Or butter and broil a morsel the next day--it keeps nicely wrapped tightly on the counter for a few days.

As you can see from the pictures, this loaf is short and a little dense (not meaning to insult it or anything...). Because this bread is best when sliced thickly, it's perfect for open-faced sandwiches, but not ideal for a regular sandwich.

I am still getting the hang of yeast bread recipes myself, so if you look sideways at the little granules in a jar like I do, this is a great bread to start with. Using instant yeast also helps me breathe a little easier; I haven't had it fail me yet!

Now that I have this under my belt, I think I'll be ready to conquer a nice wheat sandwich loaf or, even better, a round of crusty artisan.

Any stunning (easy) bread recipes you're dying to share?

Quick and Easy Homemade Bread
only slightly altered from 101 Cookbooks 

1 1/4 cups warm water
2 teaspoons rapid rise yeast
1 tablespoon runny honey or agave nectar
 2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup rolled oats (not instant oats)
1 1/2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted, for brushing

In a medium bowl, sprinkle the yeast onto the warm water and stir until the yeast dissolves. Stir in the honey and set aside for a few minutes, until the yeast blooms and swells a bit (5 - 10 minutes).

In the meantime, mix the flours, oats, and salt in a large bowl. Add the wet mixture to the dry and stir very well.

Brush a 8-cup loaf pan generously with some of the melted butter. Turn the dough into the tin, cover with a clean, slightly damp cloth, and set in a warm place for 30 minutes to rise.

Preheat the oven to 350F with a rack in the middle. When ready, bake the bread for 35 - 40 minutes, until golden and pulling away from the sides of the pan. 

Before pulling the bread out of the oven to cool, I poured some melted butter over the top and set the broiler to high, just for a moment or two.

Remove from oven, and turn the bread out of the pan quickly. Let it cool on a rack so it doesn't steam in the pan. Serve warm, slathered with butter.

Makes 1 loaf.

#236: Freaky Flower Friday

What's scarier than this jack-o-lantern?

Nothing.  Honestly, I can't think of anything more menacing than that pumpkin's face, but the South Bend Potawatomi Conservatories' "Freaky Flower Friday" promises to feature some equally frightening flora and fauna.

Trick-or-treaters and boo-tanists of all ages are invited to visit the Potawatomi Conservatories for an evening of horrifying horticulture, vexing vegetation, and delicious Halloween candy.  If you're asking yourself "how scary could a plant be?" take another look at the creep-o-lantern above.  That image will haunt my dreams, and I bet the folks at the conservatories have some spookier botany planned for tomorrow night.

Location: Potawatomi Conservatories, 2105 Mishawaka Ave, SB
When: Tomorrow!  Friday, October 28th from 6 to 8 pm
A Fun Freaky Fact: These conservatories are heated by computers owned by the University of Notre Dame, which is an especially green use of that energy.  So tomorrow evening when you escape the cold for a little Halloween fun, it's thanks to an eco-friendly example of collaboration between the City of South Bend and Notre Dame.
Warning: Don't eat the plants, just the Halloween candy - unless instructed otherwise by Potawatomi Conservatories staff...

Mulling Spices for a Brisk Evening

Autumn has finally struck this town! My rantings about it before this week were all wishful hopings of what could be, but I am thrilled to announce that the leaves out my window are truly golden and the breeze refreshes my face as I breathe it in. At long last, the hot and sweaty summer has left us.

Early yesterday evening, Chad and I took a walk with crunching leaves under our boots, floating leaves zooming around in the wind, and waving leaves still hanging onto their branches.Our neighborhood scene was the perfect backdrop for a pair of mugs filled with warm goodness when we returned home.

Warm goodness like cider slowly mulled with citrus zests and aromatic spices.
Yes, it's the very best.
I only used orange and lemon peel for this one, but I imagine a little grapefruit zest could be wonderful. Or maybe using grapefruit juice with a little honey as the base instead of apple cider?
Use whichever flavors suit your mood the best.
You can even prepare the mulling spices in great batches and keep them in a jar for future cool evenings.
(They'll last up to a year in an airtight container!)

What's your favorite thing to sip come autumn-time? 

mulling spices*
inspired by cafe zupas

strips of zest from an orange and a lemon (about two or three strips from each fruit will do)
cinnamon stick or two
equal sprinkles of whole cloves and whole allspice
drop or two of pure vanilla extract

Add spices to fresh-pressed apple cider and simmer (don't boil) in a saucepan over low heat until the aroma has filled every corner of your home. Divide into mugs, add cinnamon sticks for stirring, and cozy up in a cushy armchair next to the window.

*If you'd like to store the spices, dry the citrus peels on a lined cookie sheet at your oven's lowest temperature. be sure to keep the door propped open a bit. Depending on the water content of your zest, the drying process could take 30 - 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, break the cinnamon sticks into small pieces. combine with allspice and cloves in a little bowl. Toss with a splash of vanilla.
When the citrus has finished drying, cut the peels into little chunks and stir into the spice mixture.
Store in an airtight container for up to a year.
NOTE: When serving, use about two quarts of cider to 1/4 cup mulling spices.

#235: Club LaSalle

I imagine even the most infrequent reader of this blog is aware of our fondness for dive bars.  Earlier this year, we even dedicated a week to our favorite Michiana watering holes (Ewing CafeFrank's PlaceMidway, and more).  Personally, I'd be happy writing exclusively about dives for another 365 days.

That being said... every now and then, I think we all have a craving for the finer things in life.  There are moments when we want to indulge, but not be indulgent - treat or even pamper ourselves without extravagance.  For those evenings, I suggest Club LaSalle. (cue subtle jazz music, sound effects of soft laughter/conversation, aaand dim the lights)

Two floors above its dinning counterpart, LaSalle Grille, yet on the same level of quality, Club LaSalle is South Bend chic in all of the right ways.  If you can describe Fiddler's with a Guinness or Club 23 with a PBR, then perhaps a martini or even an old fashion would best characterize the atmosphere.  The low lighting, exposed brick, and upscale cocktails combine to make it classy, yet far short of stuffy.

Open at 5 pm and live music starting around 9:30 pm, Club LaSalle is great for that pre-dinner aperitif or post-dinner digestif, but not necessarily for a full night out because the music and service end before midnight.

Location: 115 West Colfax Ave, SB - 3rd floor
Hours: 5 pm to 12 am Monday - Saturday, closed Sunday
More info:
Tip #1: Club LaSalle can be hard to find on your first visit.  Walk down that little alley way in between LaSalle Grille and The Vine, and go in the back door of the LaSalle Grille.  Take the staircase on your left up 2 flights of stairs, and enter through the glass door.
Tip #2: check out the website for a schedule of their live musical acts almost every day of the week
My drink of choice at Club LaSalle: Manhattan

Cilantro-Lime Quesadillas

I have a favorite local restaurant.
Its name is Guru's.
I only ever order one thing there,
a habit I am in when eating out.
The one time I diverged from this practice,
my entree was yucky.
Totally not worth the risk.
I eat what I like (similar to Apple Jacks eaters in the '90s...).

And what I like is the cilantro-lime quesadilla.
Heaven, I tell you. 
Here's how we avoided the $9.99 and made it on our own skillet:

1. Butter a few raw tortillas on one side. Sprinkle the buttered sides with paprika, seasoned salt, and pepper. Cook on both sides until just under done.

2. Saute chicken breasts in olive oil and lime juice; shred when cooked through.

3. Chop one bunch cilantro as finely as possible (this may take a few minutes). Add juice of two limes and zest of one lime. Sprinkle with S&P. Get a little pleasure from a taste test. If it's too limey for your liking, add some olive oil. Pesto should be thick.

4. Place one tortilla, seasoned side down, in the a hot skillet. Sprinkle with cheddar + chicken + cilantro pesto. Top with another tortilla. Cook like a quesadilla, being careful when flipping.

5. Serve with sour cream and pico de gallo.

6. Love yourself.

Review: The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey

Title: The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey (The Mysterious Benedict Society #2)
Author: Trenton Lee Stewart
Illustrator: Diana Sudyka
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: May 1st, 2008
Genre: Juvenile Fiction, Adventure, Mystery

After a year apart, the members of the Mysterious Benedict Society are about to finally reunite. Mr. Benedict has planned a surprise for them that will provide them with a safe chance for adventure and challenge. However, things change unexpectedly when Mr. Benedict and Number Two are kidnapped by Mr. Curtain. When Reynie, Constance, Sticky and Kate see the clues for the scavenger hunt Mr. Benedict had planned, they might be able to retrace his steps and find him. As the foursome embark on their journey, all of their skills will be needed to save the founder of their society.

After I read a book that I love, I’m often hesitant to read the sequel. I’m always worried that the later books in the series won’t live up to the original. But The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey was just as enchanting as its predecessor. All the things I loved about The Mysterious Benedict Society were back for the sequel: the quirky and original characters, the puzzles, the clever writing and the adventure. Together, Sticky, Reynie, Constance and Kate make the perfect team. Sticky is perfect for when you need accurate information. Reynie is the ultimate problem solver and notices everything. In this novel, Constance proves to be excellent at predicting outcomes. Kate’s the girl you want if you need someone to act fast under pressure. They are all great characters and I love them to bits. A year has passed between the first book and the second, and the children have grown up quite a bit. Constance, for example, shows new abilities that were never there before. You can tell that the other children have also matured in the course of the year, especially Sticky. In some older children’s books it feels like the characters are children forever, and I like seeing the characters grow up with each book. The children grapple with some bigger issues in this novel: Reynie has trouble believing that there are very many truly good people. Stickie struggles with his newfound pride and Kate has trouble understanding why they can’t occasionally sink to the level of their enemies, if it’s for the better good. The villains were much more frightening in this novel and the threat felt very real. The Ten Men turn ordinary items (such as bowties, clipboards and pencils) into instruments of torture. I thought this was both creative and terrifying. In The Mysterious Benedict Society, the villains' intellect didn’t match the children. In fact, many of the Executives weren’t that bright. In The Perilous Journey, the Ten Men outsmart the children at times, and it felt like they were in much more danger than ever before.

The plot was fast paced and exciting. The children travel a fair bit, including a ride on the boat from the cover. There were parts that were so clever, such as how Mr. Benedict concealed the truth when taking the truth serum. Everything was just so smart and fun and I loved it. While the illustrations for The Mysterious Benedict Society were drawn by Carson Ellis, the rest of the books in the series are illustrated by Diana Sudyka. I think she did a fantastic job at both keeping the style of Ellis’ drawings while still adding something unique. My favourite illustrations were for the chapters “Awkward Exchanges and Clever Disguises” and “Dusk Before Sundown.” Sudyka’s illustrations of the characters were brilliant, as was the cover. Overall, I really think that this is a book that has everything. With adventure, mystery, danger and excitement, this is a children’s book that can appeal to anyone and a good example of how to do a sequel.


“May your adventures bring you closer together, even as they take you far away from home.”

In My Mailbox (10)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren, in which book bloggers post about the books they've bought, borrowed or received in the past week.

This week, from the library I took out You Are Here by Jennifer E. Smith, Shine by Lauren Myracle, Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, Pies & Prejudice by Heather Vogel Frederick (already read and reviewed) and The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy (e-book.) I will probably start Shine today, if I have time. 

I ordered The Mysterious Benedict Society box-set from amazon and I've read 2/3 of the books. They're really good and I'm happy to own them! Unfortunately, these are the last books I'll be buying for myself until after Christmas. 

What was in your mailbox this week? 

Review: The Atheist’s Daughter

Title: The Atheist’s Daughter
Author: Renee Harrell
Publisher: Hunting Monsters Press
Publication Date: September 2011
Genre: YA, Paranormal

Kristin Faraday is finding life after high school difficult: she can’t manage to find a job and leave the small town of Winterhaven. Kristin is also known as a local nutcase after spending time in a psychiatric hospital when she was younger. But Kristin isn’t crazy: she can tell when people are lying to her. Although she doesn’t know it, it was the mysterious Mrs. Norton who gave her this gift, before murdering Kristin’s father. When Mrs. Norton reappears in Winterhaven accompanied by her family members, Kristin seems to be the only person who can see them for what they really are. Thanks to her strange gift, she might be able to stop Mrs. Norton and her companions from terrorizing the citizens of Winterhaven. Will Kristin be able to protect the peoples she loves from the monsters who have taken so much from her?

Let me just start by saying that I love how this book is dedicated to “Danger and Adventure.” I thought that was amazing! This book starts off with Kristin’s diary entries from her time in a psychiatric hospital. These worked very well as an introduction and they also appeared sporadically throughout the novel. I loved these entries because they showed so much of Kristin’s personality. I could relate to Kristin: other than her ability to see whether someone is lying, she’s pretty average. She’s stuck living at home and can’t manage to get a job. I loved Kristin’s relationship with her Mom, and enjoyed all of the secondary characters. I’m looking forward to learning more about Hawkins and Liz in the next novel in the series. Mrs. Norton and her family members were pretty creepy, and made excellent villains. They were very original and helped make this book memorable. The plot was gripping and made reading The Atheist’s Daughter fly by. It was well written and I loved the dark tone of the novel. The plot was fairly fast paced and unique. I wish it had been more character driven, but I think that’s just my preference, not an actual flaw of the novel. I would definitely recommend this as a Halloween read (or just an every-day read,) since it was eerie and unique.

Thanks to the authors for sending me a copy to review!


#234: Brewfest

I have highlighted a slew of beer-related events recently, and oenophiles and die-hard Smirnoff icers: I am sorry.

But I will argue -- save the lone winery in Granger and tequila tasting at Agave -- that this is a beer town.  Between South Bend and Elkhart, four breweries have arisen in the past two years.  You can find dollar drafts, rare crafts, and everything in between.
This weekend features the inaugural South Bend Brewfest.  This Saturday, before the USC-ND game, thirty-six breweries from around the world will be offering samples of 120 beers.  South Bend's Four Horsemen and Evil Genius will be present, and Granger's Bare Hands, whose brewery doesn't open for another month, will offer advance tasting.  You can find familiar brews as well, such as Blue Moon, Sam Adams, Woodchuck Cider, and Three Floyds.  For the complete list, check out the blog The Beer is Good.

Tickets cost $30 at the door, and your ticket gets unlimited tasting, a pint glass, a ticket for a food item, and a chance to win a range of raffle items.

Where: Century Center (outside on Island Park if the weather is nice)
When: Noon - 4 PM
Cost: $25 in advance, $30 at the door.

Tip: Designated driver tickets are only $10, which includes unlimited non-alcoholic beverages, a food ticket, and a raffle ticket.  Otherwise, TRANSPO is advised.  And don't forget your ID because obviously 21 and up-only event.  (Sorry college kids!)

Review: The Mysterious Benedict Society

Title: The Mysterious Benedict Society (The Mysterious Benedict Society #1)
Author: Trenton Lee Stewart
Illustrator: Carson Ellis
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: March 7th, 2007
Genre: Juvenile Fiction, Adventure, Mystery

When Reynie Muldroon sees a newspaper advertisement looking for gifted children, he is one of the many children who take a series of challenging tests to determine if they have what it takes. In the end, Reynie is one of the four children selected, along with Sticky, Kate and Constance. Mr. Benedict created the tests to find capable children who are willing to help him save the world. The foursome will have to go under cover at The Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened to stop the scheming Mr. Curtain. As the four children encounter the unimaginable evil taking place at The Leaning Institute, they will have to rely on one another and their own special talents to save the day.

This book was definitely something special. It had my interest right from the start when Reynie takes a series of challenging (and mysterious) tests. Solving the puzzles at the beginning of the book was a lot of fun, and I thought it was very interesting how the idea behind this book was based around a chess riddle. I found the book to be mysterious and intriguing even as the story was just beginning. The characters were wonderful and quirky, especially the child members of the Mysterious Benedict Society. I love reading books about children who are out of the ordinary. You have Reynie, who is good at puzzles, Sticky, the walking encyclopedia, Kate, who works well under pressure, and the ever-resisting Constance. They were all very original characters with a lot of depth. I liked how the children all had their own approaches to Mr. Benedict’s tests. None of them solved the problems in the same way but they were all correct. The story was fresh and unique and the style reminded me of A Series of Unfortunate Events. I liked the whimsical tone and how the book felt withdrawn from the modern world. Although they have television and radio, there’s no reference to cell phones or the Internet and the characters don’t use modern slang. Trenton Lee Stewart never underestimated the reader, which is a pet peeve of mine in children’s literature. Like J.K. Rowling, Stewart didn’t have to end the book with a cliffhanger to make me crave the next in the series. The Mysterious Benedict Society was a clever book, with unexpected twists and a lot of suspense.

This book was illustrated by Carson Ellis, who I am a fan of. Her illustrations are as brilliant as ever, and I loved how well she captured the different characters. Overall, The Mysterious Benedict Society was well paced and very difficult to put down. With excitement, friendship, secret societies and adventure, it was a great book for all ages.


“You must remember, family is often born of blood, but it doesn't depend on blood. Nor is it exclusive of friendship. Family members can be your best friends, you know. And best friends, whether or not they are related to you, can be your family.”

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

Perched on a high wooden chair, the dregs of chamomile herbal tea wafting to my nose, I sit at the kitchen table dreaming about food. Isn't it beautiful? Food, I mean.

Yesterday Chad had to get his blood drawn after fasting for two meals, and before he had eaten again, he said, "I just missed eating today. I missed having that experience!"

Call us crazy, but we have made mealtimes into times of indulgence. From picking the best veggies and fruits from the produce stand, to chopping and slicing and sautéing, to smelling the flavors as they simmer in the oven, and then to twirling the pasta around our forks and feeding our bodies (after snapping a couple pictures, of course).

What a lovely experience we have three times a day (or in my case, six or seven). Why not take joy in a task that could be otherwise mundane? Partaking of food in this way brings me pleasure every day. It's my own form of creation, my own form of bliss.

The sky is vibrant and blue today, the air crisp enough to let you know it's there. This time of year, I look for any excuse to make hearty bowls of goodness that warm your body from the inside out. So far I haven't found a better way of doing that than roasting my ingredients.

A pan of roasted things just has more juice, more flavor, more umph.

It was this new devotion to roasting that inspired today's recipe. Based on my grandmother's Christmas specialty, this lasagna is filled with succulent end-of-summer vegetables and lots of cheeeeeese. The tomatoes and parsley came from the garden in our backyard (planted and kept up by our generous neighbor). After tasting these babies, I never want to go back to store-bought parsley or tomatoes ever again. There is nothing quite like homegrown flavor.

I'm going to say I don't have any pictures of the finished product because you all know what lasagna looks like, but really we just ate the whole pan within 24 hours: seconds for dinner, friends for lunch the next day, and the pan was scraped clean. That's okay. The pictures wouldn't have done it justice anyway. Melted mozzarella isn't the most ideal subject to photograph. To make it up to you, these pictures of the vegetables pre-roast were not edited in any way. Soak in that color saturation and enjoy!

But first, 
what's your favorite way to warm up when the air gets chilly?

Time-Saving Options:
Roast the veggies the night before
Replace the veggies with two 19-ounce packages of frozen chopped spinach, cooked
Use pre-cooked lasagna noodles

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

1 zucchini, quartered then sliced
2 cups fresh mushrooms, thickly sliced
5 Roma tomatoes, quartered
½ white onion, diced
Olive oil
Fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 package whole wheat lasagna noodles (I only used about 14 noodles)
1-8 ounce can tomato sauce
1-6 ounce can tomato paste
2 cups cottage cheese, drained (Knudsen's is the best; no need to drain it), or ricotta cheese
1 pound mozzarella cheese, grated
Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Combine first four ingredients in a bowl. Toss with olive oil, parsley, and S&P. Spread into a lined baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, break lasagna noodles in half and cook in boiling, unsalted water for 8 – 10 minutes or until barely tender. Drain and set aside.

Mix tomato sauce and tomato paste together. Set aside.

Note: When taking roasted vegetables out of the oven, reduce oven temperature to 375. Also, the noodles fit into the pan best if you lay five horizontally (pan is vertical) and two vertically.

In a greased 9 x 13 pan, layer half the noodles, roasted vegetables, cottage cheese, tomato sauce/paste, and mozzarella. Repeat the layers reserving ½ cup mozzarella cheese for the top. Sprinkle the finished product with Parmesan cheese before putting in the oven.

Bake for 30 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving to make sure the layers stay together. Freezes well!

Review: Pies & Prejudice (The Mother-Daughter Book Club)

Title: Pies & Prejudice (The Mother Daughter Book Club #4)
Author: Heather Vogel Frederick
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing
Publication Date: September 14th, 2010
Genre: Juvenile Fiction, Realistic Fiction

Three years ago, the Mother-Daughter Book Club was formed when four friends decided to start a book club to bring them closer to their daughters. The four girls had very little in common, but they soon became best friends and book lovers. Now Jess, Emma, Megan and Cassidy are about to enter the ninth grade. All their plans for high school change when Emma’s family decides to house-swap and spend the year in Bath instead of Concord. The book club perseveres by having Emma and her mom attend the monthly meetings via webcam. In honour of Emma spending the year in Bath, the book club is going to read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. While Emma moves to a village outside of Bath, a new family lives in her house. The boys, Simon and Tristan, go to school with the other girls in the book club. Cassidy immediately clashes with Tristan, a stuck up ice dancer. Megan hits it off with Simon and starts a fashion blog called Fashionista Jane. However, her blog causes problems for her at school and with her budding relationship with Simon. As Jess struggles with her crush on Emma’s brother Darcy, she also worries about not knowing what she wants to do when she grows up. When Emma gets on the wrong side of Annabelle, a regular Caroline Bingley, she makes Emma miserable with some unflattering photographs. The girls want to surprise their friend by paying for her to come visit for spring break to cheer her up. They come up with their own business selling pies to friends and neighbours, called Pies & Prejudice. As the girls adapt to high school and deal with crushes and Queen Bees, they ask themselves, what would Elizabeth Bennet do?

I picked this one up based entirely on the title, since it references two things I love (I’m referring to pies and Pride and Prejudice, not pies and prejudice. That would be weird- I hate prejudice.) I really wish that these books were around when I was a pre-teen, since I would have loved them. When I was younger I would have related to Emma, since we have a lot in common. We actually were both named after the book Emma, oddly enough. The girls were all great characters and a lot of fun. They were all very different and I feel like there’s a character for everyone to relate to. I loved how all the girls found different things that that enjoyed and found their own projects to do. They were all so resourceful! I thought Megan’s blog was very clever and hilarious, although I knew it was only going to cause trouble. From early on I knew what was going to happen in the story, but I still had fun reading. The audience intended for this book is middle school aged, and as a whole it didn’t matter that I’m 6 or 7 years older than the characters. The actual book club discussions were too juvenile for me, but I still enjoyed the book overall. It was very character driven and I really liked that. The writing was great and I found myself feeling everything along with the characters. It didn’t matter too much that I hadn’t read the earlier books in the series, although now I want to read them. I loved how Pride and Prejudice was worked into the plot. Throughout their first year of high school, the girls dealt with a lot of issues, such as dealing with bullies, crushes and finding out who they are and what interests them. Overall, Pies and Prejudice was a fun take on a classic, and a great read for middle school aged girls.


“Never say 'I can't.' 'I can't' is a limit, and life is about breaking through limits. Say 'I will' instead.”

Review: Before I Fall

Title: Before I Fall
Author: Laruen Oliver
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: March 2nd, 2010
Genre: YA, Contemporary

Sam Kingston has it all: the perfect boyfriend, the coolest friends and the best table in the cafeteria. She never stays home on a Friday night, and is one of the most popular girls in school. Friday February 12th is supposed to be a special day for Sam. Not only is it Cupid Day, but it’s also the day she is supposed to lose her virginity to her boyfriend. The night ends in a way no one could have predicted when Sam is killed in a car accident. Instead of her life flashing before her eyes, she wakes up in her bed on the morning of February 12th, again. For one week, Sam relives the same day over and over again. As the details of her death become clearer, she will have to decide how she will spend the last day of her life.

Before I Fall starts with an intriguing premise: what if you could relive the last day of your life? Who would you spend it with and what would you do? A promising concept mixed with Oliver’s great writing pretty much guaranteed that this would be good. I was really looking forward to it and it didn’t disappoint. This was an honest story about being a teenager. I don’t usually like books about the “mean girls” but this was an exception. I know a lot of girls like Sam and her friends and this book gave me a bit of a high school flashback. Although popularity at my high school wasn’t as simplistic as it was for Sam, Oliver did a good job at capturing life as a teenager. Sam goes to a small high school in Connecticut where everyone knows each other, and she believes that bullying the occasional person is just a part of high school. Although there were times when I hated Sam and her friends, there were also times when I could understand why they were popular. They were complicated and very realistic. There were some fantastic characters, including Kent, Izzie and Anna. It was amazing how Sam grew as a person throughout one week. I went from basically hating her to loving her. The characters ended up being one of the strongest points of the novel. The plot could be compared to Groundhog Day, but it was carried out brilliantly. You would assume that things would drag on, with Sam repeating the same day over and over. That wasn’t the case at all, since different things happen each day. At first, Sam’s death appears to be very simple, but as we learn more each day it becomes clear that things are more complicated than they appear. I loved how everything came together in the end. The writing was beautiful, making Before I Fall an amazing debut novel.

This book asked a lot of interesting questions: what would you do if no one would remember it in the morning? How would you spend the last day of your life? What would you regret? What would you miss? And most importantly, what would be worth dying for? With characters that jump of the page, great writing and an absorbing plot, Before I Fall was memorable and fascinating. It didn’t have the same emotional effect on me as Delirium, and I think that’s one of the reasons many people prefer it to Before I Fall. However, this was a captivating novel that I’d definitely recommend.


“I guess that's what saying good-bye is always like--like jumping off an edge. The worst part is making the choice to do it. Once you're in the air, there's nothing you can do but let go.”

Why I Eat the Way I Eat

I think it's important for you to know something about me before I go much further sharing food ideas with you. It will help you make more sense of the way I do things, especially food things.

I have reactive hypoglycemia.
I am reactively hypoglycemic.
I react to hypo (low) glycemia (blood sugar).

It means that my blood sugar level drops easily and quickly when I don't eat at regular, small intervals. If I don't eat, my brain doesn't get its glucose, leaving me absent of energy. All at once.

When I haven't eaten in, say, a couple hours, the symptoms come a knockin':
-draining headaches
-mental stupor
-MOODINESS, irritability, general annoyingness
-total drowsiness...
-basically an inability to function without eating some protein. And fast!

After 22 years of living with recurring headaches and total weirdness when I was hungry, Chad talked me into seeing a doctor last winter.

I took a three-hour Glucose Tolerance Test (fast overnight, drink sugary drink, get blood drawn once an hour for three hours, feel like you're going to faint/die while sitting in the waiting room) and lo and behold: Reactive Hypoglycemia. There's a name for what I have. And no pills or shots to be heard of! Just some little dietary changes.

And so to keep the migraines away and keep myself from snapping at my loved ones (I have a very patient husband), I have adapted these eating guidelines:

-avoid simple, refined carbs (no sugar!)
-increase intake of complex carbs (grains! veggies! beans!)
-increase intake of fiber (grains! veggies! beans!)
-eat smaller, more frequent meals (harder than it sounds!)
-eat fruit--fresh, or canned without sugar--instead of fruit juice (mangoes! apples! strawberries!)
-avoid naughty fats (chicken nuggets...)

I've taken to describing food with words like "substantial" and "satisfying" and "natural" and "real." Ingredients have to be darn good to earn those titles from me, but I think I've tracked down a lot of things that fit nicely into that description.

Those are the kinds of foods you will find on this blog.
It's changed my life, eating this way.
I urge you to figure out the kind of diet that's best for your body.
Look into food allergies. Research healthy foods that sound good to you.
Rejoice in the vibrant, natural colors of things grown from the earth and realize "It just grew that way!"

The way I eat may not be the exact right way for you and your body, but I think it's generally good to avoid processed, pre-packaged things. Striving to know exactly what you're eating every time you eat can't be bad, right?

Give it a go and let me know what you discover.
This stuff thrills me in a weird, obsessive sort of way.

Review: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life

Title: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life (Scott Pilgrim #1)
Author: Bryan Lee O’Malley
Publisher: Oni Press
Publication Date: July 28th, 2004
Genre: YA, Graphic Novel

Twenty-three year old Scott Pilgrim’s life is pretty awesome. He lives in Toronto with his roommate, Wallace Wells, and he’s currently in-between jobs. Scott spends his time playing bass in his band, shopping at goodwill, playing video games and listening to music. Scott is also dating Knives Chau, who is only seventeen. Things become complicated when he meets Ramona Flowers, who is literally the girl of his dreams. Cool and mysterious, Ramona is the opposite of Knives, and Scott can’t stay away. Unfortunately, if Scott wants to date Ramona he will have to defeat her seven evil ex-boyfriends. Will Scott, the ultimate slacker, be able to fight to be with the girl he loves?

Amazing! I loved the movie and I loved the book. I’ve wanted to read this ever since I saw the movie last year. However, since I knew I’d read it very quickly, I didn’t want to spend the $10 to buy it. After waiting on a very long list at my library, I was finally able to read it a few days ago. The movie followed the first book very closely, and I wasn’t disappointed. I basically love everything about Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life. First off, Scott lives in Toronto, and many references are made to places in the city. This might make me sound very lame, but I love it when books or movie reference places I’ve been to. The characters were amazing; they were all quirky, original and very funny. Scott’s kind of a strange hero; he’s a major slacker and can be a jerk at times, but he can also be charming and adorable. Overall, he’s a good guy who has a lot of growing up to do. I found Ramona to be a lot more likable in the book than in the movie. I found Movie-Ramona to be annoyingly aloof, while Book-Ramona feels more like a real person to me. The plot definitely was original and quick paced. I really liked the drawings, especially the funny captions (such as the diagram of Scott and Wallace’s apartment and who owns what.) Overall, Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life was a quick read that was fun, original and hilarious. I don’t usually read graphic novels, and this makes me want to read more of them. If you are a little bit nerdy, I’d definitely recommend this. I’d also recommend this to reluctant readers. Easily one of the funniest things I’ve read in a long time.


In My Mailbox (9)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren, in which book bloggers post about the books they've bought, borrowed or received in the past week.

This week I went to the bookshop inside the Toronto Reference Library and bought The Girl Who Played With Far, A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian and The Friday Night Knitting Club all for $1. I still haven't read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, so it will be a while before I get to The Girl Who Played With Fire. I also bought Matched from Mabel's Fables, also in Toronto. 

For review, I got The Atheist's Daughter by Renee Harrell in the mail. From the library, I picked up Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O'Malley and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. I read Scott Pilgrim earlier in the week and it was awesome. I'm currently reading P&P&Z, and I'm actually having trouble getting into it. 

What was in your mailbox this week? 

#233: Support Breast Cancer Awareness Month

In support of National Breast Cancer Awareness month, there are many, many events in the area.  Here's a few of the upcoming events that represent the range of ways you can support this cause:

  • Pinkstock 2011: This third-annual night of music at Club Landing features six local bands (BLAMMO, Delusions of Granger, Stillshot, The Edge, Van Hamel, and Vyagra Falls).  ALL ticket proceeds (and a portion of the money earned from drinks!) go to the local Komen Northern Indiana office.  At Club Landing, 1717 Lincolnway East.  Friday Oct 14, 4:00-10:00 PM.
  • 3 Blonde Moms: A nationally-touring comedy show comes to Three Oaks, Michigan for a Sunday afternoon show.  Think "Desparate Housewives" on-stage.  Portion of the ticket sales goes toward breast cancer research.  Acorn Theater, 107 Generations Dr.  Sunday Oct 16, 4:00 Pm.
  • Breakthrough:  A free event at the Hilton Garden Inn that is geared to cancer patients, survivors, and their families.  There will be cancer support informational booths as well as a performance by Scott Burton, a cancer survivor and comedian.  Hilton Garden Inn, 53995 Route 933.  Thursday Oct 20, 6:00-8:00 PM.

A Little Pumpkin for Your Weekend

Autumn has my favorite everything.

The flavors:  pumpkin, apple, squash, cinnamon (and her sister spices)
The colors: my favorite are the golden leaves
The clothes: boots, scarves, sweaters, all things cozy and soft
The feeling outside: crisp, refreshing, deep-breath demanding
The feeling inside: aromatic, cozy, heater on

The way leaves stamp the sidewalk when it rains, preserving their unique shapes on the pavement.
The smell of mud and grass, and how it reminds me of dirty cleats, half-time orange slices, and slide tackling.
The feeling in your belly as you slurp down a freshly brewed stew or exceptionally percolated herbal tea.
The aura generated by cloud-skirted mountains.

Wool socks. Mugs. Wood stoves. Log cabins. Fleece pants. Flickering candles.

Autumn is me.

I can remember sitting in my neighbor's kitchen when I was small. The windows were a little steamy from the cranked oven, and the light was glowing golden.
We were baking.
Something I had never tasted or baked before: Gingerbread.
Not the little cookies shaped like expressionless little men.
No, no. This was the real stuff.
The kind that's more like cake, that you cut into squares and drizzle with applesauce.
Spicy molasses goodness all warm and toasty from the oven.
I was in autumn heaven, even as a child.

This bread that I'm about to show you will put you in an autumn heaven of your own. I took the idea of my first experience with gingerbread, added some creamy pumpkin, and pumped it full of whole and good ingredients. The result was dense and moist and perfectly sweet all at once (let us remember that the absence of sugar from the ingredient list does not mean the recipe is devoid of sweetness). One slice fills you full. Top it with whatever you'd like, even nothing at all. But I still favor a big scoop of applesauce.

Pumpkin Gingerbread
Inspired by memory

If you're not wholeheartedly keen on the molasses idea, reduce it to 1/4 cup and add more agave nectar instead. Honey can easily be substituted for the agave. If you don't have wheat bran or ground flax seed,  up the flour measurement to 2 cups. Or go buy some! The addition of both adds a healthy fall heartiness.

1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
¼ cup wheat bran
¼ cup ground flax seed
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon each: ground cloves, ground allspice, ground nutmeg, ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ cup natural unsweetened applesauce
½ cup molasses (full flavor, unsulphured; used Brer Rabbit®)
½ cup agave nectar
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix dry ingredients together and set aside. An easy way to do this is to measure out your flour, wheat bran, and ground flax seed in a two-cup glass measuring cup. Then add the remaining dry ingredients to the measuring cup and stir to combine.

In a large bowl, mix wet ingredients together until pumpkin clumps are small and mostly gone (a whisk helps).

Add dry-ingredient mixture and stir until just combined.

Pour into a greased 9x5 loaf pan and bake for 30 – 35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center.

Cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack, then remove from pan.

Serve in thick slices with a mug of cold milk.

Serving hints:

Butter and a dash of cinnamon
Cream cheese
Bananas and whipped cream

Keeps for about four days on the counter. Try freezing an extra loaf or extra muffins in a freezer Ziploc bag for a welcomed treat a few weeks after baking day. Since each slice is so filling and there's only two of us in this house, I should have frozen half of our loaf so we could enjoy it later on.

Eat your hearts out, autumn lovers!

#232: Get Historical II: House Detectives

Once upon a(nother) time, bog iron was discovered along the river in northwest Indiana.  A town was formed there, named after the Native American princess, Mishawaka, and it grew into a prosperous little town.  Not even a fire in 1872 that destroyed three-quarters of the businesses could wipe it off the map.  

As I was pontificating in my last post, I think architecture is great.  Why?  It's like a picture book, telling the story through icons.  If you are not able or willing or interested in walking around Downtown South Bend to learn about that city's history, perhaps I might interest you in this event.   This Saturday, at the Mishawaka Public Library (safe from the elements), Todd Zeiger of Indiana Landmarks will show participants how to research their home's history.  He will show you all the tools to delve into those dusty, dark corners of your home's past, to learn who has owned your house before and what's its role in the history of the city is.

While this seminar is free and open to anyone, pre-registration is required.  Contact Elicia D. Feasel at 574.235.9798 or

Where: Mishawaka Public Library, 209 Lincoln Way East
When: Saturday, Oct. 16; 9:30-11:30 AM

#231: Get Historical I: A Walking Tour of Downtown South Bend

Once upon a time, a trading post was established along a bend in a river.  It grew into a place where innovators and intellectuals came to dwell and disseminate their knowledge and products.  While these new settlements drove out the people who had been living off the land, this outpost enlarged into a bustling city, and its buildings reflect the different periods of expansion and renovation.

The architecture of a city tells a lot about its city, and South Bend is no different.  Learn more through a guided outdoor walking tour offered by Historic Preservation Commission of SB/SJC, DTSB, and Indiana Landmarks.  Tomorrow, this 1.5 hour tour starts at the American Trust Company clock and reviews the city's history (as seen through its landmarks) from Pierre Navarre's first arrival in 1820 to today.

While this wonderful learning experience would be a unique way to kick off a night in downtown South Bend, there are other opportunities to take the tour.  On October 21 and October 28 there will be one hour tours offered at noon (walking lunch break?).

Also, as a true 21st century city would have it, there are cell-phone tours available...for free!  Just download the guide here and call 574.307.7006.

When: Friday, Oct. 14; 6:00-7:30 PM
Where: Tour begins and ends at American Trust Company clock at the corner of Washington and Michigan Streets
Cost: FREE!

Reservations are recommended -- call DTSB at 574-282-1110 or to reserve a spot

Bookish Halloween Costumes

When making your costume selection for this years Halloween party, why not go literary? I made a list of some costume ideas based on characters from books, excluding some of the classic ones, like Dracula and Frankenstien. These are just ideas, but I’m sure you can find some help for making the actual costume on the Internet. If not, message me.

1. Max from Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

2. The whole gang from The Magic School Bus by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen. A large group of kids in my high school got together and dressed up as Miss Frizzle, Liz, Dorothy Ann, Phoebe, Carlos, Arnold, Keesha, Ralphie, Tim, Wanda and the Bus.

3. Madeline from The Madeline Books by John Bemelmans Marciano

4. The Paper Bag Princess and the dragon from The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch.

5. The Cat, Thing 1 and Thing 2 from The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss

6. Amelia Bedelia from the Amelia Bedilia books by Peggy Parish and Herman Parish

7. Willy Wonka and the Oompa Loompas from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, the twits from The Twits and a witch from The Witches.

8. Pippi from the Pippi Longstocking books by Astrid Lindgren. I had a friend who did this by braiding their hair around copper wire, to make it stand out.

9. Alice, the Queen of Hearts, The Mad Hatter and The March Hare from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. If you’re really into it, you could be Alice when she’s stuck in the house and make a house out of a cardboard box.

10. Aslan or Mr. Tummus from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.

11. Anne from Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

12. Mary Poppins from Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers

13. Peter Pan from Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

14. Dorothy, The Tin Woodman, The Scarecrow and The Lion from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

15. Various characters from Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling. If you’re depressed that you’ll never be able to dress up for another movie/book release, then there’s always Halloween. There are so many characters to choose from; the possibilities are endless. From the trio, Snape, Luna, Voldemort, Moaning Myrtle, Hedwig and The Fat Lady, you could be anyone

16. The Fellowship from The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

17. Katniss from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I wouldn’t set yourself on fire, though.

18. Ramona Flowers from Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O’Malley. I was Ramona last year.

19. A Greaser from The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton.

20. Georgia’s stuffed olive costume from Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison. This is only mentioned in the book, but it’s so brilliant that I’m putting it on the list anyways.

21. Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. Wear a red hunting cap and carry a baseball glove.

Review: Queen of Hearts by Martha Brooks

Title: Queen of Hearts
Author: Martha Brooks
Publisher: Groundwood Books
Publication Date: July 19th, 2010
Genre: YA, Realistic Fiction, Historical Fiction

In the summer of 1940, Marie-Claire’s life changes forever when her Oncle Gerard comes to live with her family. He entertains his nieces and nephew with stories of the shadow man, despite the fact that he is getting sick. When her uncle is diagnosed with tuberculosis, he is sent to a near by sanatorium where he lives throughout his final days. After his death, Marie-Claire goes on with life as normally as she can, filling her time working on the family farm and even going to a dance with a soldier. When Marie-Claire and her younger brother and sister are diagnosed with TB, they are all sent to the sanatorium where their uncle died a year earlier. Marie-Claire is angry with her parents, with God and even with her cheerful roommate, Signy. As Marie-Claire “chases the cure,” she wonders if she will ever be able to live a normal life again. As she grows up while fighting TB in a sanatorium, Marie-Claire learns about love, loss and friendship.

I was interested in this book because my Great-Grandfather died of TB in a sanatorium in Ontario, Canada in the early 1920s. In Queen of Hearts, Marie-Claire and her family are sent to a sanatorium in Manitoba, Canada. Since I knew fairly little about the treatment of TB, I thought I’d give this book a try. At first, I thought the writing was a bit coarse and hard to get used to. There was little build up to Oncle Gerard, and then Marie-Claire, contracting TB, and I wish we had seen more of Marie-Claire’s life before she was sent to the sanatorium. Things picked up when we are introduced to Signy, Marie-Claire’s roommate in the hospital. In many ways, the two girls are opposites. Marie-Claire is a hardworking farm girl, and Signy is an upper class city girl. While Marie-Claire is openly angry about her situation, Signy does her best to put on a cheerful face. Signy was a great character and my heart really went out to her. While sometimes I was frustrated with Marie-Claire, but I liked how she was headstrong and how she dealt with her losses much better than I ever would have. I think this book’s strongest asset was its emotional effect. Although it was sad, I was still able to enjoy it and feel like there was hope in the end. As a piece of historical fiction, I think Brooks did a very good job of showing life in the sanatoriums and how not only the poor were touched by TB. Set during World War II, I liked how the novel showed a girl going through a different kind of war at home. It was a short and fairly simple novel, but it managed to portray a realistic and poignant story about a part of history that is some times overlooked.

Overall, Queen of Hearts provided an in-depth look into a part of Canadian history that I knew fairly little about. It was definitely worth reading, and although there were some flaws, it was a memorable coming of age story set in a tuberculosis sanatorium.