Little Free Library, Toronto

A month or so ago I read this article in the Toronto Star about a Little Free Library in the Beaches. These Little Libraries have been sweeping the internet lately, and the idea began in Hudson, Wiscousin. The first Little Library was built in memory of school teacher June A. Bol, and the idea soon caught on. These libraries rely on the honour system, and ask you to leave a book and take another.

The project began in 2009 and there are now Little Free Libraries throughout the United States (with the most in Wisconsin), and in Canada, Germany, Ghana and the U.K. Anyone can have their own Little Library, either by purchasing one online, or by making your own. You can read more about the project (and find out if there's a library near you) here
The Little Library in Toronto was created by Bill Wrigley and is modelled after the nearby Beaches Public Library. It is the first Little Library in Toronto and you can find it on Lee Avenue. Unfortunately, my pictures didn't capture how beautiful this Little Library really is. It holds approximately two dozen books. I exchanged my copy of Around the World in 80 Days for Girl in Days for Lost in Translation by Jean Kwok. 

Review: The Apothecary

Title: The Apothecary
Author: Maile Meloy
Illustrator: Ian Schoenherr
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Publication Date: October 4th, 2011
Genre: Juvenile Fiction, Fantasy

The year is 1952 and Janie Scott has just moved from Los Angeles to London. Leaving sunny California for post-war Britain is difficult for Janie, but the local Apothecary makes things easier for her by giving her a cure for homesickness. When Janie meets Benjamin Burrows, the Apothecary’s son who dreams of being a spy, she finds herself drawn into the mysterious world of the Apothecary. When the Soviets come looking for the Apothecary and he goes missing, Benjamin and Janie are left with the Pharmacopoeia. The Pharmacopeia is the Apothecary’s ancient book that can tell one how to turn themselves invisible or into birds. With it and their new friend Pip, Benjamin and Janie try to save the Apothecary and end up in the middle of an adventure not to be forgotten.

Perhaps since the first books I fell in love with were junior fiction, I’ve never really stopped loving the genre. I used to get a lot of criticism from friends in high school for still loving books for the younger set, but I honestly could only read books for middle schoolers and be perfectly happy. The Apothecary caught my eye because of the beautiful illustrations by Ian Schoenherr. What’s interesting about this book is that it mixes history and fantasy. Set in London during the Cold War, Janie’s family is forced to leave America during the McCarthy years. In grey and war torn London, she meets a mysterious Apothecary and his intriguing son. Their adventures are tied closely with the Cold War and the events of the time. Perhaps because of this, The Apothecary at first didn’t feel like a fantasy book. Actually, at first it didn’t even read like junior fiction. This might be because Janie tells the story from her perspective in the future. I really liked the writing and the voice of Janie. I also thought the young characters were realistic while still being interesting and original. These things pulled me in, and I was initially absorbed in the story. I loved the concept, but things started to fall apart a bit for me as the story progressed. I didn’t like the pace and I thought that the plotting wasn’t as strong as the writing. In the end, certain parts of the story, especially those related to the nuclear bomb, didn’t make sense and felt a bit sloppy. I still loved the sense of adventure and the combination of historical fiction with magic. The Apothecary is one of those books that could have been better, but it still was an original and engrossing novel.


In My Mailbox (24)

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.

Lots of books from the library this week! This week I took out The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits and A Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall, If I Stay by Gayle Forman and The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler. I finished The Penerwicks, which was wonderful. Review to come. Earlier in the week, I also took out Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden, which I already have read and returned. 

On another note, I started volunteering at my library's little bookstore this week. Paperbacks are 50 cents, so I will likely be bringing home a few of those in the future. 

What was in your mailbox this week? 

Embracing the Leafy Greens + Potato-Lover's Salad

I've been watching lots of food documentaries lately (more on these later), which has left me thinking how I feel toward leafy greens. All the documentaries say to eat lots of leafy greens.
Leafy greens,
leafy greens,
leafy greens,
they say.
Since I was a child, I have professed to despise, dramatically choke on, and loudly loathe anything green and leafy. I don't know if I did it to obnoxiously fight the I'm-a-girl-so-I'll-have-a-salad-please stereotype or to make it known that I just think of other ways to eat healthily...ways that do not involve salad.

Here's where the confession comes: I love salad now.

I don't know that I have ever said that statement out loud (and, technically, I still haven't...). But it's true; I even crave leafy greens sometimes. Now my love for salad did not come from trying hard to like it because I thought I should. Quite the opposite, really.

On a picnic blanket at our neighborhood park, sometime during last summer,
salad snuck up on me.

The secret up its sleeve?
Crispy, golden roasted potatoes, lightly steamed asparagus, and a delicate yet flavorful dressing.
It was Karli's potato lover's salad and I was hooked.

Since that summer day, I have incorporated leafy greens more often into my kitchen experiments and have been pleasantly surprised at the results. If you have ever struggled or are now struggling to embrace the salad, I suggest you try my tried-and-true tips for a good plate of leafy greens:

1. Toss them with lots of the vegetables that you love
2. Use crisp, fresh greens (I've had the best luck with red- and green-leaf lettuce)
3. Find a couple of favorite dressings and stick to them (try Brianna's poppy seed dressing or French-style vinaigrette)

I'm always hungry for more tips!
How do you eat your leafy greens?

Potato-Lover's Salad
With help from Karli

6 new potatoes, thinly sliced
1 cup broccoli florets
1/2 bunch asparagus spears cut into thirds
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika

4 cups leafy greens

1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon olive-oil mayonnaise
freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Toss potatoes, broccoli, and asparagus with olive oil, salt, and paprika. Arrange in thin layer on foil-lined baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes. Remove the green veggies when tender and set aside to cool. If the potatoes are not crispy enough for your liking, increase oven temperature and broil the potatoes until tender and golden.

While veggies are roasting, tear the leafy greens into bite-sized pieces and prepare the dressing.

Toss all elements together and enjoy!

The Strand, New York City

Earlier this month I was lucky enough to be able to visit the Strand Bookstore in New York City. After Shakespeare & Company in Paris, the Strand is perhaps the most hyped bookstore I know about. Featured in Dash & Lily's Book of Dares and shown very briefly in the movies Julie & Julia and Remember Me, the Strand is within walking distance of many other book shops and was the first stop on my list. 

While the Barnes & Noble at 18th Street claims to be the world's largest bookstore, the Strand certainly felt bigger to me. Carts like the one pictured above surround the outside of the shop, and the inside contains four floors of books. The books were cheaply priced and the store also sold some wonderful bookish merchandise (tote bags, t-shirts, mugs, journals, etc.) While I heard that the staff was infamous for being rude, I thought they were all perfectly nice. 

Before I went to the Strand, I imagined it to be massive but very dusty, with primarily used books. While I was right about the size, the Strand sells used, new and rare books and is a warm and charming bookstore. Definitely a must-see for anyone bookish while visiting New York. 

Review: The Art of Fielding

Title: The Art of Fielding
Author: Chad Harbach
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: September 7th, 2011
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary

At an August baseball tournament in Peoria, Henry Skrimshander’s life changes forever when he catches the eye of sophomore Mike Shwartz. A month later, Henry finds himself at Westish College, able to continue playing baseball. Guided by his favourite book, The Art of Fielding, Henry proves himself to be a skilled shortstop. In his junior year, scouts are showing interest in Henry, who has lead the Westish Harpooners to success. When Henry makes an unexpected mistake in a game that puts his roommate in the hospital, his error serves as a spark for change in his life and in those connected to him. The College president finds love in someone he never imagined having feelings for. His daughter Pella has just left her husband of four years and has returned to her father. Schwartz becomes jealous of Henry's success and feels that his life isn’t going anywhere. Henry’s pending success and the pressure seems to have hindered his skill. And Owen, recovering from his injury, finds himself in a relationship that could end badly for both involved. Henry’s skills as a baseball player were extensive, but can something extraordinary last forever?

I have a strange relationship with sports. While I’m horrible at every single one and have very limited understanding of any sport, I still love the energy you feel in the stands when watching a game. I’ll always enjoy a good, inspiring sports movie, especially if the main character is an underdog. And Henry Skrimshander is definitely that. Skinny and often overlooked, at seventeen he looks fourteen or fifteen. As the book begins, he is finishing playing summer baseball, and believes that he will have to go work in a factory instead of going to college. Michael Schwartz finds him a place at Westish after seeing him play, and Henry seems to have everything he ever wanted. I was drawn to the characters from the start, and I think that one of reasons for all the praise is the characters that are so realistic that they jump off the page. I picked this book up entirely based on hype, and it wasn’t until I started reading that I realized this book is about baseball. Any fears I had about reading 500 pages about a sport I know little of were erased by the writing. The plot was interesting and well paced, although things started to drag on midway through, leaving me feeling that this book would have been better if it ended 100 pages sooner. At its core, The Art of Fielding is a character driven novel. The only character that didn’t feel developed was Owen, but maybe that was the intention. Since Owen is the only one of the main characters whose point of view we don’t see, perhaps he was supposed to be a bit of an enigma. I loved the writing, and it was a truly absorbing novel that made me forget everything else. Overall, this book felt a bit dull at some points, but it was essentially an enjoyable book that was more about people becoming who they want to be, and less about baseball.


“It was strange the way he loved her; a side long and almost casual love, as if loving her were simply a matter of course, too natural to mention.”

A Chicken-Noodle-Soup Day

And then there are those days when you feel downright icky.
Like today for me.
It was all I could do just to pull myself off the couch and go to the grocery store.
But I went. In pink plaid pajama bottoms, an over-sized gray sweatshirt, and a teal beanie. And brown moccasins. With black and white wool socks.
I looked hot, let me tell you.
At least I now have a fruit bowl filled with citrus and Granny Smiths and a cabinet filled with canned beans and tomatoes. No matter how tiring it is to carry grocery bags up two flights of stairs, there is no feeling quite so good as when you're looking at a freshly stocked pantry.
Am I right?
Sometimes pregnancy is really hard. Kaylie said today that God helps women forget the pain and emotion of pregnancy (and labor) so they'll want to do it again. It's true for me already: First trimester woes are not only things of the past, but only minor rough patches that I could easily get through again.
I'm grateful for this.
Tomorrow will be a new day and I will love being pregnant again.
But today just kind of stunk.
I guess it's only fair; I can't always have dreamy thoughts and surprising energy.

On days like today, all I want to eat is chicken noodle soup (and maybe a grapefruit). I've embraced homemade soup this winter and realized how versatile it can be. This recipe isn't anything you haven't seen before, but it's the one I keep coming back to. Once I had this realization, I started making a pot of soup at the beginning of each week. I highly recommend this practice; it's a lifesaver on blustery days when you're hungry right this minute. You can add Brussels sprouts and Yukon gold potatoes (like I did last week) or keep it simple and traditional. I don't even thaw the chicken before tossing it into the simmering broth. Easy, easy, easy.

Here's to a day on the couch and multiple bowls of warm soup!

Chicken Noodle Soup

1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil
carrots, chopped
celery, chopped
6 - 8 cups chicken stock + water
juice of 1 lemon
black pepper (chicken stock usually has plenty of salt already added to it)
parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme (a dash of each)
4 chicken tenderloins (frozen or thawed)
1 cup homestyle noodles

In a large pot, heat onion and garlic with olive oil until soft and fragrant but not browned. Add carrots and celery, and saute for a few minutes until both are tender.

Add chicken stock / water, lemon juice, black pepper, and herbs. Bring to a simmer, then add chicken.

Let simmer on medium-low for about an hour (or at least 20 minutes). When chicken is cooked through, remove from pot with a slotted spoon and shred. Return chicken to pot.

Fifteen minutes before mealtime, add the noodles.

Serve with a cold beverage and some crusty bread.

#249: Winter Restaurant Week in South Bend

I am a day late, but it's Restaurant Week in downtown South Bend!

If you like food, or hate to cook, this event is for you.  If T.G.I.Friday's commercials about its 3/2/$20 deal entice you, this is your event.

Thirteen restaurants -- with a wide range of ambiance, cuisine, sophistication -- give you a reason to try them out, whether for the first or fifteenth time.  They have set special menus to highlight their best dishes and to lure you (if you need luring) downtown to eat. 

Most of these multiple course meals cost $25/person for 3 courses, with several restaurants offering meals for $25/couple.  Some two-person lunches run for $15.  Restaurants are featuring New Belgium beers for $3, Finlandia mixed drinks for $5, and Guernoc Lake County wines for $6/glass ($25/bottle).

In less words: a wonderful blend of big city extravagent with small town prices. The website has all the information you need -- parking, menus, participating restaurants.

Those who lack the ability to indulge a litte are not forgotten.  Diners can opt to pay $5 for 'an extra helping,' not for themselves, but for the Northern Indiana Food Bank.  These donations contribute to its task to nourish more than 10,000 people in the community.

Don't forget to make reservations to guarantee a spot.  Restaurant Week runs until February 4.

A Baby Girl Room


Everyone loves your nursery, especially the yellow dress Daddy hung on the wall above your crib and the cubby shelves that display your belongings.

We had so much fun decorating your bedroom, your Dad and I. You're going to love it.

Sunshine seems to be streaming in the window all day long, even if the rest of the house has become dark. The pale blue walls give it an even more cheery glow. I feel like we've done our part to make it a happy place for you to dress and sleep and play in.

Love, Mama

Photos taken by Chad

Review: The Hidden Gallery

Title: The Hidden Gallery (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place #2)
Author: Maryrose Wood
Illustrator: Jon Klassen
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: March 1st, 2011
Genre: Junior Fiction, Fantasy, Historical Fiction

After the disastrous occurrences at the Christmas ball, Ashton Place is under construction and the Ashton’s decide to take refuge in a rented house in London. Miss Penelope Lumley is the governess of the children Lord Ashton has adopted, but the children under her charge are unlike any others. Alexander, Beowulf and Cassiopeia Incorrigible were found in the woods behind Ashton Place, and they appear to have been raised by wolves. Under Miss Lumley’s care, the children have improved considerably. However, they still enjoy howling at the moon and chasing the occasional rodent. Considering their upbringing, who can blame the children for becoming a bit unsettled by the Palace guard's bearskin hats? Or for climbing into a cage at the zoo? As Miss Lumley tries to piece together the clues of the children’s mysterious past, things will certainly never be dull with the Incorrigibles around.

Writing a review for a sequel can be difficult if I’ve already reviewed the first in the series. If both books were enjoyable, than many of the good things I mentioned in the first review still apply for the second. Of course, if the second book in the series doesn’t live up to the first, than writing the review is easy (although actually reading the book might have been a bit more unpleasant.) For that reason, reviewing The Hidden Gallery feels very repetitive since many of the things I liked about The Mysterious Howling are ever present in the sequel. I enjoyed the writing and the tone, the humour, the characters and the story. I still love the Snicket like writing style, with its explanations of words or phrases. I actually found the sequel to be even funnier than the original, with the narration just as clever as ever. It did feel like not very much happened, and the climax could have been more exciting. This book raised even more questions and answered none, so I’m not sure if I feel unsatisfied or just more anxious for the third book. If the average book did this, it would probably be enough for me to dislike it. However, The Hidden Gallery was just so charming that a few flaws aren’t enough to stop me from loving it. We are introduced to a new character and finally meet Penelope’s former headmistress, who has been frequently mentioned from the start. The more familiar characters are the same as ever, whether that means being plucky and optimistic in Penelope’s case, selfish and spoiled like Lady Ashton or mysterious and suspicious like Judge Quinzy. The children are the sweetest wild things you’ll ever meet, and have become star pupils under Miss Lumley’s tutorage. Wood makes full use of the wonderful setting, Victorian London, which helped make The Hidden Gallery feel quite different from the previous book in the series. Overall, I’d definitely recommend this series for the young, the young at heart and even for those who don’t usually read junior fiction. This tale about three peculiar children and their spirited governess is a delightful read that can make the most civilized person want to howl at the moon.


"Don't look now, but everything's about to change."

A Baby Shower + Becky's Breakfast Pudding

From a journal entry dated 21. January 2012

Dear Baby Girl,

From the moment I awoke this morning I knew it was going to be a happy day. Even without my contacts in I could tell that the sky was gray and the clouds were low. With any luck we'd have a little rainfall today. And we did. Rain turned to hail turned to snow; never once did the precipitation cease and I have enjoyed every moment of getting lost in it as I look out the window.

You see, today, my sweet girl, was a party for you! Your baby shower! Many wonderful women filled the living room: some squeezed onto the couches, others sat on mismatched chairs, and a few even sat cross legged on the floor. All for you!

I loved celebrating you with such classy women. Kaylie made a stack of crepes that we served with fresh berries and whipped cream. Becky made a delicious breakfast pudding (like the rice pudding Grandpa makes on Christmas Eve, only this one had dried cranberries and pecans and lots of cinnamon mixed in). Kaylie and Kendra hung signs and taped up balloons outside to lead the girls upstairs to our part of the house. And Brooke brought some yummy fruit that she sprinkled with cinnamon and nutmeg like she always does.

Becky made some beautiful garlands out of fabric and string; she's going to make the birdy one into a mobile to hang over your crib! She did such a good job picking out just the right colors and patterns for you: light yellows and greens, white with tiny rosebuds. I'm really grateful she took such thoughtful time preparing our little celebration. It was absolutely perfect.

(Daddy got to go snowboarding with his friends Jordan and Jesse. Jordan lent him a pass so we didn't even have to pay! They're on their way home right now. I keep texting him to make sure they're doing okay in the storm. Dad says the roads are pretty messy, but they're driving slowly and being safe.)

After everyone had filed through the kitchen and loaded up their plates with brunch, Becky led the group in introducing themselves. Everyone said their name and how they know me, and then they each said a wish they have for you.

All those tender wishes seemed like little prayers of goodwill towards you: that you'll have a happy smile, a good laugh, twinkling eyes. That you won't teethe too early, that you'll sleep well during the night, that you'll have a passion for life like your mom and dad (we do, too!). But most of all, your friends wished that you will be healthy.

I sure wish for that, too. When the girls asked me what my wish would be, I said that for now I just pray that you'll be healthy. Once I'm holding you in my arms, once I know that you are warm and comfortable, I'll be able to wish for other things.

But for now, little one, know that there are lots of people who love you already. And today, all in a group, they sent wishes your way. I love you, darling girl.

Love, Mama

Fantastic photos courtesy of Becky from Baby Making by Becky

Becky's Breakfast Pudding
Also courtesy of Becky
NOTE: Brown rice will either need to soak beforehand or be cooked for longer before going into the oven. 
NOTE 2: Soy milk doesn't work particularly well in this recipe. 

4 cups milk, divided in half
1/2 cup uncooked rice
1 cup dried cranberries or raisins
1/4 cup butter, melted
4 eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla
pinch of salt
1 cup oatmeal or granola
1/4 cup ground pecans
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 320 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large saucepan bring 2 cups of milk to a boil with rice and dried cranberries / raisins. Add melted butter and reduce heat. Stir constantly for five minutes, and then remove from heat.

In a separate bowl, blend eggs, other 2 cups milk, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt. Add cooked rice mixture (from the stove) to egg mixture (in the bowl) and stir well.

Pour into a 9x13 casserole dish and sprinkle oatmeal / granola on top.

Bake for 20 minutes, and then sprinkle with pecans and spices.

Bake for another 20 minutes until pudding is solidified.

Serve warm or cold (I loved it warm right from the oven!).

In My Mailbox (23)

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.

Every time I go to the library I check the holds shelf, just in case I have a book in and I missed the call. I was very happy to find The Hidden Gallery (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place) by Maryrose Wood on the shelf for me. I read and loved The Mysterious Howling, so I had to check out the next in the series. I also took out The Paris Wife by Paula Mclain, which was recommended to me by my Grandmother. It's about Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley Richardson, and their life in 1920's Paris. I was also send an e-galley for The Truth About Us by Dalene Flannigan. I'm quite excited about this one: it's about three former college roommates and a confession about their past that will change everything. 

That's it for me- what was in your mailbox this week?

Collaboration + Fresh Veggie Pasta Salad

Good heavens! If I had known a post about pregnancy realities would inspire so much feedback, I would have written it a long time ago! You people out there, you are wonderful. Knowing that something I wrote impacted you for the better is the coolest feeling.

I spent a good portion of last evening brainstorming post topics that would be similar to yesterday's. Many of those ideas could easily be found elsewhere, which doesn't necessarily mean I'll drop them. But I've recently learned that a good writer's goal should be to present previously untapped information, things no one else has said before with an angle no one else has thought of before. Sounds impossible!

My conclusion before turning out my light was this: No one knows my experience like I do. Perhaps something I've learned on my own, from inspiration, from conversation, will help someone else find joy. I solemnly declare that as my goal: To search for things that may help us walk a little taller.


I've recently discovered that learning is all about collaboration. Life is all about collaboration.
With each other's help, we can be happy and free and clear-headed.
We can learn important things, fun things, enlightening things.

I feel as if every epiphany is the beginning of a new journey; but really, it's just sharpening my focus on my destination: Happiness. Forever.

Your feedback thrills me, helps me to find that focus we're all searching for. I hope that you will always feel free to comment here. Write to me and I'll write to you. Or stay silent if you wish.

But it's much more fun when we


Sometimes you just need something that's fresh and easy--little to no cooking required.
You've had enough leftover stew or comfort meatballs or mashed potatoes.
Summer produce is beginning to faintly call to you, but winter still stretches on.
You'd like something light and tasty that will still fill you up.

Take a gander at one of my favorite things to toss together:

Fresh Veggie Pasta Salad

-3 veggies of your choice, raw or lightly steamed  (my favorites are cucumber, red bell pepper, and carrot)
-cheddar cheese, cubed
-whole wheat pasta, cooked to al dente (long, thin pastas are easiest to eat with chunky veggies)
-vinaigrette dressing (our favorite is Brianna's Real French Vinaigrette)

Toss ingredients together, and top with S&P and parmesan to serve.

Pairs beautifully with a big glass of icy lemonade.

Review: This Dark Endeavour

Title: This Dark Endeavour: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein
Author: Kenneth Oppel
Publisher: David Fickling Books
Publication Date: August 23rd, 2011
Genre: YA, Fantasy

Victor Frankenstein lives a charmed life at Frankenstein Chateau, outside of Geneva. He lives with his kinder and more skilled twin Konrad, and their distant cousin Elizabeth who has been like a sister to them. Everything changes when Victor discovers an unfamiliar secret passage that leads to the Dark Library, which is filled with his ancestor’s studies in alchemy. When Konrad becomes ill, alchemy might be the only way to save his life. Victor, Elizabeth and their friend Henry embark on a dangerous quest to find the ingredients for the elixir of life. As Victor discovers his feelings for Elizabeth, he realizes that she is already in love with Konrad. Despite his complicated feelings towards his brother, Victor will do anything to save him. Is it possible that the elixir of life truly works and to what extremes will Victor have to go to to create it?

This book has been getting a lot of hype lately, due to the captivating premise and the success of Oppel’s other books. This Dark Endeavour is a prequel to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which I haven’t read. At first, I found this book difficult to get into. It was slow moving and I had to force myself to keep reading. However, I had enough faith in Kenneth Oppel to carry on. Things did get better, of course. I loved the dark tone and the gothic atmosphere, which I imagine when I think of Frankenstein. Throughout past reviews, you will often hear me being hard on the romantic relationships in books and wishing they were omitted. In this case, I found the romantic aspects of the plot very interesting, but not for the reasons that you would think. While usually the author intends us to root for the protagonist and hope he gets the girl, it is clear that Victor is the less deserving twin and that Konrad belongs with Elizabeth. In fact, I never felt that Victor’s feelings for Elizabeth were genuine: it seemed like lust to me. I liked having a protagonist who was complicated and not entirely likable. I’m sure some would argue that he’s not likable at all, but in the book’s climax he was very brave. I enjoyed the characters and thought they felt real, although whenever the younger Frankenstein brothers were mentioned it felt like an after thought. As I mentioned before, the plot was slow moving at first but picked up later on. I really liked the ending, which almost made me forget about my dissatisfaction at the start. The plot centres around alchemy and overall it was exciting and intriguing. This book has been dubbed the best of the year, and while I didn’t feel that strongly about it, I enjoyed it and would recommend it. This Dark Endeavour shows the beginning of Victor Frankenstein becoming what he is destined to be: a monster.


Baby Bump + Things to Remember: Pregnancy Edition

Twenty-nine weeks along and the rain is finally coming down out my window (what's with Utah's warm weather this year?)
Addie-girl has been turning somersaults and kicking gently nudging my rib cage all day today. 
And I love it. 
I'm going to miss that part of pregnancy.
All in all, having a little babe inside of me has been more wonderful than I could have predicted.
Yes, I was sick for a time.
Sure, I spent my days feeling famished (still do).
But the chance to really truly feel my little girl growing inside of me,
well that's just been priceless.

Things I want to remember:
+ Gummy prenatal vitamins are heaven sent. How is a gagging, nauseated pregnant woman supposed to swallow TWO gigantic vitamin pills every morning? She can't. Do yourself a favor and get the gummy ones (or this) from the start.

+ Record pregnant notes-to-self. How I flipped through the Pottery Barn Kids catalog for a solid hour the night my pregnancy test was positive. How morning sickness can actually mean all-day sickness; how Saltine crackers before getting out of bed eventually help with that. Also Ricola cough drops, strangely.

+ There are fantastic sushi options that you can eat! Just ask the waitress at Happy Sumo. She knows the way. (The Frida Roll is a knockout.)

+ Taking time to look your best every day will do wonders to your confidence. A belly that seems to double in size on a regular basis can do strange things to your self-esteem (sometimes it's a boost, sometimes it's deflating). Get a haircut that makes you want to look in the mirror. Don't settle for frumpy maternity clothes; invest in great t-shirts in great colors and experiment with what you pair them with. Be proud of your belly. Embrace accessories. Always put on makeup. Trust me; your days will be happier.

+ Believe your husband when he tells you you're beautiful. Thank him for how quickly he comes to the rescue to rub your cramping feet.

+ Remember that, when you're pregnant, most everything weird that happens to you is normal. That being said, keep the nurse's phone number on speed dial for when you're worried; she has a gift for calming reassurance. Never hesitate to ask her lots of questions.

+ Find a doctor and a hospital that you feel comfortable with. Ask around from women who appreciate the same things you do: a doctor who listens, who reassures you, who takes time to answer all your questions.

+ Let yourself cry when you need to. Understand that it probably really is the hormones.

+ Figure out if pregnancy books help you or freak you out. If they help, ask around for favorites. If they freak you out (like they do me), stay away from them. Gather information through conversation instead.

+ Do not compare the size of your belly to the sizes of other pregnant women's bellies. As long as your doctor says your baby is healthy and progressing normally, do not worry. Don't get offended when people tell you your belly is too small or big or round or oblong. They just had a different experience. Every woman's body is different. You'll likely be smaller with your first pregnancy and be bigger for subsequent pregnancies.

+ Love that precious babe growing inside of you. Tell her good morning. Let her hear you laugh. Sing her to sleep at night. Thank God every day for the precious gift He's giving you.

See other pregnancy tips here

Back to recipes tomorrow!

Review: The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma

Title: The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma (The Mysterious Benedict Society #3)
Author: Trenton Lee Stewart
Illustrator: Diana Sudyka
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: October 27th, 2009
Genre: Juvenile Fiction, Adventure, Mystery

The four young members of the Mysterious Benedict Society are feeling a little like prisoners, since they are all living in Mr. Benedict’s home and are under strict surveillance for their own safety. The house holds the Whisperer, a dangerous and powerful machine that is able to plant thoughts into people’s mind, or erase them altogether. The Whisperer is the creation of Mr. Benedict’s brother, Mr. Curtain, who will do anything to get it back. Reynie, Kate, Constance and Sticky will have to use their considerable talent to save all of Stonetown from Mr. Curtain’s nefarious scheme.

This is the third and final book about the Mysterious Benedict Society, a group of gifted children selected by Nicholas Benedict to help save the world. I adored the first two books in the series, and I started The Prisoner’s Dilemma with high hopes. In the end, I was left feeling unsatisfied. After reading reviews, I had to ask “Is it me?” I read this book on December 24th, so at first I wondered if my stress about Christmas got in the way of my enjoyment. After mulling it over for a few days, I think that it’s the book, not me. Not to say this isn’t a good book; it was actually great. The plot was fast paced and exciting, and I liked that it once again centered around the Whisperer. It was an exciting story that made me forget about everything else going on. We learn about Constance’s parentage and mysterious past, which was one of my favourite things about this book. We see how the children have grown and developed as characters, while they are still as amazing as they were in book one. While all these things made me really like this book, there were a few things that stopped me from loving it. There were less clever puzzles and I don’t remember a single moment where something got past me. In the previous books, I was constantly reminded how brilliant Trenton Lee Stewart was with the many puzzles and riddles. Sticky, who is the group’s walking encyclopedia, was put in the background in this book, which I disliked. There were some things that we just too over the top for me, such as Constance’s powers, which I felt were unnecessary. Despite all this, I had a lot of fun reading this book. While it didn’t live up to its predecessors, The Prisoner’s Dilemma had some pretty big shoes to fill. I am very glad that there is going to be a sequel about Mr. Benedict’s youth, and I’m hoping it will be filled with intelligent puzzles like the earlier books in the series. If you’re looking for mystery, adventure and creative writing, then look no further than The Mysterious Benedict series.


Meatball Fiasco + Easy Beef Stew

Last night I gave the Pioneer Woman's comfort meatballs a go. By the end of what became a two-hour escapade, the result was absolutely fabulous. My husband literally had thirds. Once I had filled my own plate of dinner, I felt like the time it took to make the meal had been worth it. But not during the preparation! I've made note of a few ways to make the experience easier (namely, making then freezing the meatballs ahead of time so all I have to do for dinner is toss them in a pan with that scrumptious sauce).

All in all, there is a time and a place for kneading, rolling, dipping, frying, baking comfort meatballs. (Just be sure not to drop the pan of 50+ raw meatballs onto your kitchen floor...which is carpeted...) The lunch of leftovers I just had was absolute heaven.

But I would like to share with you a recipe that is always easy, always perfect, and always satisfying to your taste buds. This beef stew is slowly cooked in the oven for about four hours which makes for the most tender meat I've ever been able to muster.

And the directions are literally
chop, chop, chop;
add, add, add;
stir, stir, stir;

Now that is something I can handle every day of the week.

Easy Beef Stew

1 pound stew meat, cubed
1 pkg. fresh mushrooms*, sliced
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
2 medium carrots, cut into chunks
3 medium potatoes, cut into chunks
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 can condensed tomato soup
2 cloves garlic, minced
a few sprinkles of Worcestershire

Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix all ingredients together in a 9x13 baking dish. Cover tightly with foil. Bake for four hours or until meat and vegetables are tender and caramelized.

Serve over rice or egg noodles, or omit the potatoes and serve over mashed potatoes.

*Feel free to experiment with different veggies; these are just my tried-and-true faves. When the tomatoey sauce has been cooking for four hours, it gets pretty sweet so go for heartier vegetables. 

#248: LaSalle Grill

Since I left South Bend, I’ve become an infrequent guest visitor to this blog and the city itself. I made it back for the recent holidays and re-visited many of my favorite South Bend spots along with a few new ones. One of those new ones happened to be one of the most renowned dining establishments in the city, the LaSalle Grill.

Since 1991, the restaurant has been a focal point of the city’s dining scene. AAA, the national travel organization, has awarded the restaurant 4 diamonds out of 5 for a dining experience described as:

“A distinctive fine-dining experience. Often an executive chef and accomplished staff. Menus reflect high degree of creativity and complexity using imaginative presentations to enhance market-fresh ingredients. Proficient service staff meets or exceeds guest expectations. Wine steward typically available. Ambiance is highly refined, comfortable and well-coordinated, incorporating quality materials and upscale design enhancements for a first-class impression. Typically expensive.”

Our visit only confirmed all of the above. We ordered a first course of the house salad and bison soup followed by entrees, Amish chicken with potatoes and asparagus and a New York strip steak, respectively, and dessert, a chocolate cake with peppermint ice cream, all accompanied by wine selections recommended by the wait staff. The food is simply classic, and the atmosphere is warm and friendly. If you’re looking for drinks after dinner, visit Club LaSalle (on the third floor of the building) which we’ve featured previously. If you’re a South Bend resident or just passing through, this is a restaurant you don’t want to miss. For me, it was a wonderful welcome home.

For more information and a menu, visit their website here.

115 West Colfax Avenue

Tip #1: Their stated attire is “Coats and ties for gentleman preferred but not required”. Go fancy or go home.

Tip #2: The owner, Mark McDonnell, is a huge supporter of the South Bend food scene, and, in particular, the upcoming Winter Restaurant Week from January 23-February 4. This might be the perfect time to visit!

A Day at Home + Chicken Cilantro Burritos

via pinterest

Enjoying my leisurely day at home.
Wrote a letter. Sent a letter.
Finished another letter. Sent that one, too.
Ate homemade soup and buttered toast.
Showered at noon.
Daydreamed about Addie-girl.
Felt her kicking and saying hello.
Need to call Mom. Need to call Brooke.
But for now, enjoying the silence from my desk chair.
Writing, thinking, smiling, eating, dreaming.

Chicken Cilantro Burritos
from childhood

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
4 chicken breasts, thawed and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
juice of 1 lemon + some zest if you're feeling citrusy

In a large nonstick pan, melt butter and olive oil together on medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Saute for two minutes or until onion has become translucent.

Add chicken and S&P. Cook until chicken is lightly browned and cooked through.

Stir in cilantro. Continue to cook for one minute.

Stir in lemon juice and zest.

Serve over rice or in tortillas with all the usual burrito fixin's (Monterey Jack cheese, sour cream, black beans, lettuce, tomato, etc.).

Review: The Fault in Our Stars

Title: The Fault in Our Stars
Author: John Green
Publisher: Dutton
Publication Date: January 10th, 2012
Genre: YA, Realistic Fiction

When Hazel Lancaster was thirteen she was diagnosed with stage IV thyroid cancer, but a miracle and a new drug have bought her some time. However, she still has tumors in her lungs and uses an oxygen tank to help her breath. Now sixteen, Hazel’s best friends are her parents and her greatest obsession is a book called An Imperial Affliction by Peter Van Houten. When Hazel is introduced to Augustus Waters, an amputee who has Osteosarcoma, she realizes that she has become the disease. Augustus is beautiful and interested in Hazel, and he soon comes to share her love for An Imperial Affliction. But when Hazels feels like a bomb about to go off, how can she possibly become close to another person? When Hazel and Augustus are given the chance to visit Van Houten to learn how their favourite book ended, they try and have bit of forever even if there time together might be limited.

What a book! It’s been a few days since I finished, but I’m still not sure exactly how to describe The Fault in Our Stars. I’ve loved all of John Green’s previous books, and with all the hype surrounding his latest it would make sense for it to not live up to anyone’s expectations. I went to the New York book signing and started this book while waiting in line to see John and Hank, and finished it in my hotel room. Despite my excitement, this book managed to surpass any of my expectations. Some books I’ll finish and all I want to do is talk about them. Looking for Alaska is that type of book for me. The Fault in Our Stars is a difficult book for me to actually talk about, because reading it felt like such an emotional (and therefore personal) experience. It’s not exactly like how Hazel feels about An Imperial Affliction, since I can’t relate to Hazel: I’m perfectly healthy and don’t understand what she is going through. This book focuses on the fleetingness of life and how many people want to make their lives and their deaths mean something. I love the themes and the writing, but the characters took the cake. I still can’t stop thinking about them, and I think it’s been a very long time since characters have affected me so much. This is the kind of book that actually makes me hurt, but I just loved it so much. Not only is it my favourite by far of John Green’s books, I’d say it’s tied with The Book Thief for my favourite YA book. The common criticisms of his books are that they are all very similar, but this definitely doesn’t apply for The Fault in Our Stars. The fact that Hazel is a girl is the smallest difference from the other books. You might think that a man writing from a teenage girl’s perspective wouldn’t work very well, but Hazel actually reminded me a lot of a friend in high school. Often books can portray an unrealistic male love interest, but Augustus was wonderful while still being flawed and real. While Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines and Paper Towns all had well planned out plots, The Fault in Our Stars didn’t have such a strict plotline. It didn’t have as much humour or the epic adventures featured in the other books. While I wouldn’t describe his other books as love stories, that would be the best way to describe The Fault in Our Stars. It was certainly an emotional read, and it needs to be read when you have time to essentially read it straight through, since it was so difficult to put down. I’ve always loved the title, which was of course taken from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. I liked the cover well enough from the start, but it looks so beautiful in person. After reading the book, I appreciate the cover even more. The Fault in Our Stars was certainly John Green at his best, and fans of his earlier books will fall in love with this achingly beautiful love story.


“I'm in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we're all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we'll ever have, and I am in love with you.”

#247: MLK National Day of Service

"Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Although it feels so nice to laze around on a day off, consider the reason why you have the day off.  I encourage you to participate, in whatever you can, in a national act of giving -- you will feel great.  Tomorrow is the only federal holiday designated as  a day of service, a fitting tribute to our nation's great civil rights activist.
Although lists only one serve event for the South Bend area, there are multiple MLK-related activities around town -- South Bend Tribune has compiled a thorough list, and we highlighted the annual concert for Post #107 -- but any act of kindness honors his legacy of non-violent activism.  "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere," Dr. King wrote in his "Letter from Birmingham Jail."  Even if you donate some canned food (Ivy Tech is holding a drive) or that extra pair of gloves you have, you will be doing something for justice.

If you have to work tomorrow,  you could take a lunch break for a long-standing South Bend tradition: the annual MLK march.  Join city leaders in government and in religious groups at 12 Noon for a non-denominational prayer service outside the County-City Building, the seat of the government for South Bend and St. Joseph County.  Afterward, march with great fanfare to the Century Center, where various events are happening all day long. 

For those who work at Notre Dame, there is another non-denominational prayer service happening right on campus.  University president Fr. John Jenkins will lead the service, which starts at 11:30 AM in the Main Building.

"More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will," Dr. King also wrote in his famous letter.  If we were lucky enough to have him still with us today, let us hope that he would think differently.

In My Mailbox (22)

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 SEVEN bookstores and bought SEVEN books. I actually devoted an entire day in my trip to NYC to going to bookstores and to the John Green event. I went to the Strand, where I bought The Book of Lies by Mary Horlock, The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides and Not Much Fun by Dorothy Parker. The Strand was amazing, and I also bought a The Great Gatsby t-shirt, a pin and a free tote bag. I'm kind of disappointed with all the pictures I took at bookshops though. After that, I went to Shakespeare & Company, Forbidden Planet, NYU Book Store, the 18th Street Barnes & Noble (which claims to be the biggest book store in the world,) Books of Wonder and 192 Books. From Books of Wonder I bought a signed copy of The Mysterious Benedict Society: Mr Benedict's Book of Perplexing Puzzles, Elusive Enigmas, and Curious Conundrums. Then that night I went to John Green's Book signing, where I finally got my signed copy of The Fault in Our Stars. I also bought Paper Towns, since I really like that edition and can't seem to find it anywhere at home. I also bought 13 Little Blue Envelopes there and got it signed by Maureen Johnson. I've already read it, but I'm happy I now have my own copy. After the show we waited around if we wanted our copies personalized (which pretty much everyone did.) When my row was eventually called I got to quickly meet John and Hank and get my books personalized. You can see my copy of The Fault in Our Stars here. After all that, it will be a long time before I buy any more books. 

What was in your mailbox this week?  

Tour De Nerdfighting 2012

What a week! I just got back yesterday from New York, and the highlight of the trip was Tour De Nerdfighting (which was my reason for going.) I don't really have any friends who are interested in the things I like, so it was amazing to be in a theatre full of people who not only love the Vlogbrothers, but also love Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Charlie McDonnell and so much more. While waiting for our books to be signed, there was a lot of singing and general merriment. 

While I thinking that normal books signings only feature a reading, questions and the actual signing, this tour also had shocking, singing, Rick Rolling, tutus and just so much awesomeness. 

After the actual 'show' there was a lot of waiting around, but luckily Maureen Johnson was there and I got her to sign my book and pose for a picture! If you don't know what she looks like, I'm the one in The Great Gatsby t-shirt. 

And then afterwards I got to get my books signed by John and Hank, who were so wonderful. John said he liked my shirt and I after talking to him I was so dazed that I couldn't think of a single thing to say to Hank. The book itself is amazing and I'd recommend it to everyone. While I'm suffering from post holiday exhaustion, I'll try to hurry with my review and posting some other book related photos from my trip. 

#246: Cocoa and Candlelight Ski

Think you have to drive miles away from South Bend to ski?  You need to drive (approximately) five miles away from the heart of downtown to reach St. Patrick's Park, where there are groomed cross-country trails.

Last year, we highlighted their tubing hill (which isn't open yet this season!), but for this post, I'm going to highlight an event that occurs only a few times each season.  Tonight, thanks to a well-timed snowstorm, "Cocoa and Candlelight Ski" will be taking place.

Full disclosure: I am vouching for this activity without ever having participated -- never skied before in my life! -- but I do love the way snow reflects light, brightening the night.  The routes at St. Pat's will be lined with luminaries to guide your way to Marion Cabin, where a fire and hot cocoa will be ready.  Dress in warm layers, but once moving, you'll heat up fast -- cross-country skiing is a top calorie-burner.

The park is normally closed after sunset, so this is rare opportunity to see it by night.  I am sure it will a unique, gorgeous, and romantic (if you're not a huge klutz on skies) way to spend your evening.

If tonight's cold warning makes you leery of heading outdoors, you have two more chances.   The event will repeat on Jan. 27 and Feb. 10.

Where: St. Patrick's Park on Laurel Road, north of Auten Rd.
When: 6:00 - 9:00 PM, Friday
Cost: $5 for the event; $10 for a skis, boots, and poles
Phone: 574.277.4828

Review: The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Title: The Invention of Hugo Cabret 
Author: Brian Selznick
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Publication Date: March 1st, 2007
Genre: Junior Fiction, Historical Fiction

For the past three months, Hugo Cabret has been living alone in the clock keeper’s apartment in Gare Montparnasse station in Paris. It was Hugo’s uncle’s job to look after the station’s clocks, but for months he has been missing and the responsibility falls to Hugo. While spending his days caring for the station’s many clocks, Hugo also has a secret that might hold a message from his dead father. When Hugo meets Isabelle, whose godfather owns a toy stall in the station, they find themselves entangled in a mystery. When Hugo discovers a way to find the message he thinks his father left him, his life will change forever.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret has been out for four years, but has recently peaked in popularity due to the recent movie adaptation. Before you even pick up this book you should know that the majority of it is made of illustrations. Unlike other books I’ve read, the illustrations are essential to this book. In some ways, The Invention of Hugo Cabret is like a graphic novel, since the pictures tell part of the story. At times there are breaks in text, which are followed by pages of photos that show an action. Sometimes descriptions of characters, places or objects are replaced with illustrations. In a lot of reviews I’ve seen people complain about half of the bulk of the book being made of drawings. While I loved this book, I would only recommend it to people who are open to reading a book with so little text. That being said, the illustrations are beautifully done and I enjoyed the book’s unique format. You might assume that since illustrations played such a key role in the story telling that the writing would be lacking. I was surprised by how great the writing is, since I assumed that Selznick was originally an illustrator. I felt that his writing left me with a sense of wonder, akin to what Isabelle and Hugo often felt. The story itself is amazing. Occurring in 1931, the majority of the book takes place in a bustling Parisian train station. I loved the role that films had in this book, which is essentially about the life of Georges Méliès. While the book has a great number of illustrations by Brian Selznick, it also includes some photographs of films, which added a lot to the book overall. Sometimes in books the author will reference films that he made up, but I love it when references are made to real films. While Hugo Cabret is more aptly described as historical fiction, the way the story was told made it feel like fantasy. I think one of the special things about this book is how it focuses on the type of magic that can be found anywhere. I’m worried that some kids passed this book up just because of its volume, where as in reality it is a very quick read. The Invention of Hugo Cabret was a captivating and unique book that takes you on an adventure you won’t soon forget.


“I like to imagine that the world is one big machine. You know, machines never have any extra parts. They have the exact number and types of parts they need. So I figure if the entire world is a big machine, I have to be here for some reason, too.”

#245: Trio's Restaurant

With a lot of buzz going on about the opening of Cafe Navarre, the new upscale restaurant in downtown South Bend, it's easy to forget the other fine dining establishments DTSB, some even in the same block.  I was fortunate enough to try Cafe Navarre tonight -- the food was excellent, and the decor spot on -- but on my way in, I could not help but think of its neighbor just down the street, Trio's.
Trio's, opened in 2007, is distinguished from other restaurants in the area by its Cajun twist.  The menu serves quality steaks, a decent wine list (at least to my limited knowledge), and some interesting ingredients to spice up the dishes.  My favorite meals have been pasta-based, but they have gumbo, house made Cajun ribs and--unexpected but quite welcome--fried green tomatoes, although prepared fancy-like.  For a sit-down business lunch, there is also a nice menu, with options ranging from a grilled vegetable sandwich to fried macaroni and cheese (food coma alert). 

A unique feature about Trio's is the jazz club next door, which features live acts several nights a week.  There's a separate menu for this place, but you can "Eat steak even late," to borrow a Wendy's jingle.  When I came in for food on a weekday night after 9:00 PM, a time at which most DTSB restaurants have closed for the night, they were happy to serve me from the regular menu as well.  The chef was also happy to accommodate my quirky requests (eg. the time I wanted the wild mushroom risotto as my main dish...too good to be an accompaniment, okay?) and go above and beyond to make it a quality dining experience.  The quality of the service is a big factor in feeling like you get what you pay for, and in this case, I was not disappointed.

We have highlighted Trio's Jazz Club before, so I won't go into great detail, but as a heads up, this weekend, you can hear such performers like regulars William Cole Quartet, internationally-playing Bill Boris Group, and the 24-year-old Chicago sensation Marquis Hill.  No charge for admittance into the Jazz Club for most events.

I hope the addition of a new restaurant in downtown South Bend is not seen at the expense of the restaurants, but rather as an addition to the family.  I hope it will be a draw for people into the city, a 'foodie' district.  Even without organized events like the Holiday Wine Walk, it would be so easily to hop from one place to another, sampling the mussels parisienne there, the Cajun crab cakes here.

Where: 129 N. Michigan St. (you can park in the lot across the street after hours)
When: Lunch--11 AM - 2 PM (M-F); Dinner--5 - 10 PM (M-Th); 5 - 11 PM (F, Sa) and the Jazz Club is open two hours later than the restaurant

Review: How to Save a Life

Title: How to Save a Life
Author: Sara Zarr
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Reader
Publication Date: October 18th, 2011
Genre: YA, Realistic Fiction

It’s been ten months since Jill’s father died in a car accident, and she’s still struggling with how she’s supposed to grieve. After pushing away her friends and boyfriend, Jill is left only with her anger and her loss. When her mother decides to adopt a baby, Jill is adamantly opposed to the idea, since it feels like her father is being replaced. Mandy is brought into their lives in the last months of her pregnancy. Mandy is Jill’s age, but the two girls have little in common. Mandy moves into their home, bringing with her emotional baggage and secrets. As Mandy tries to cope with her past and her future, it becomes clear that her baby isn’t the only one in need of a family. As Jill tries to adapt to life with Mandy and the major change she is bringing, she also struggles with the loss of her father. When it feels like she can’t remember the person she used to be, Jill will to learn that she will never be the same person she was before her dad died.

This book was recommended to me on goodreads in the “readers also enjoyed’ section. I completely forget which book it was I was looking at, but I’m glad I picked up this book. How to Save a Life is about two eighteen-year-old girls: Mandy, who is pregnant, and Jill, whose father died less than a year ago. The two are thrown into the same house when Jill’s mother decides to adopt Mandy’s baby. I was impressed with how different the two girls’ narrations were, since I often find that writers have difficulty when writing from different character’s perspective in the first person. I was also amazed with how realistic the characters and their relationships with one another were. I especially liked how Jill and Dylan’s relationship was portrayed. It feels like if a couple are together as a YA book begins, the guy will cheat on the girl, or do something else that is equally horrible. Their relationship was more like something you’d often see in real life, rather than what I’m used to reading about. Part of what makes the characters so realistic is that they are so flawed. I feel like I know a Jill, a Mandy, a Dylan and a Ravi. I was a bit confused at times by Mandy’s character: she was too childlike and clueless, which you saw best through her interactions with Alex. The writing was very good: reading this book made me block out everything going on around me. I thought that it was a moving novel with strong themes. The ending left things too tidy for my liking, but I still enjoyed How to Save a Life. I think fans of YA contemporary will enjoy this book about dealing with loss and the changes life brings your way.


“But I’m still going to love you, always. And in the rock-paper-scissors of life, love is rock. Fear, anger, everything else… no contest.”

The Hunger Games

Tonight, after finishing my homework (reading about how to outstandingly edit a magazine equals world's best homework) and pondering my potential at being a real freelance writer someday, I settled into bed around 11:15.

Two minutes later, my stomach began to make that too-familiar call: I'M HUNGRY! Those don't-you-dare-ignore-me-and-just-fall-asleep hunger pangs that I've lately become so intimate with.

And so I'm up again. I know it's not desperately late or anything like you hear pregnant women talk about, but I would still much rather be in my warm bed right now.

Lately I can't even make it through Sunday School without leaving the room because a) I am burning up, b) I need a snack to even be able to focus, or c) both a and b.

I keep telling myself things like "At least you're not overly gigantic" or "It's worth noting that you no longer throw up every morning."

But man, when you are scarfing down a bowl of stew two bowls of stew, a string cheese, and an orange at this time of night like I am right now, you start to wonder if twenty extra pounds would really be that bad if it meant you weren't famished five minutes after you last ate. These games of hunger are like my experiences with hypoglycemia...only magnified by a thousand.

It's time to figure some things out, namely, how to keep myself from feeling starved all the time (despite the fact that I eat all day long). (I am now chomping ravenously on a Granny Smith apple.)

We'll call them my Tips for Avoiding Insanity By Eating Food, Pregnancy Edition. Maybe one of you will benefit too. Heaven knows my future pregnant self (as in, myself tomorrow) needs to realize and remember some things.

Tip #1: When pregnant, eat a second dinner. Yes, a full second helping of that night's feast or, if you're lucky, another tupperware-encased delight you have saved in the fridge (see Tip #2). Of course, eat only what you feel hungry for, but for me, if I try to go to bed when it's been four hours since I ate dinner, I ain't sleeping.

Tip #2: Keep appealing, protein-rich, healthy meals ready to go in the fridge. Since I never get tired of spaghetti, I plan to keep a vat of it in my refrigerator. Plus a big container of homemade vegetable stew (with chicken or beans or both) and maybe even some leftover broccoli cheese casserole. The trick here is to make these ready-at-a-moment's-notice meals out of food you generally love to eat. Don't kid yourself into thinking that you'll eat quinoa salad with cherries and pistachios when you're totally famished (unless that's your leftover of choice, of course). Having meals like these at the ready is easiest if you make double the amount when making a particular item for dinner. And if you don't like leftovers, well, you may just have to get over that for a few months.

Tip #3: Never leave home without stashing a generous snack in your purse; you will get hungry before returning home. My usual go-to is a string cheese or sticks of cheddar, a green apple cut into slices or a baby orange, and either Triscuits or a granola bar (have you tried these delicious babies from Costco?). I also make sure to top off my 32-ounce Camelbak bottle with ice cold water. Every day I consider not bringing a snack with me, a delusion my subconscious calls "toughing it out." And then I smile to myself when I do get hungry in the middle of class and I have adequate sustenance in my bag.

Tip #4: I don't know if this is true for every pregnant woman, but I've found that I need a substantial snack / small meal at least every two hours (if not every hour). Yes, I literally feel like I'm eating constantly when I stick to this rule, but I am much happier in the long run when I do. Adjust the size of your snack / meal according to what you feel your body needs at that time. You may just need a handful of almonds and a handful of dried cranberries. Or you may need a bowl of spaghetti and a green salad (see Tip #2).

Tip #5: When you're hungry, eat. Even if it's in the middle of church and you didn't bring any food with you. Go find some food and feed it to yourself (or have a patient husband find the food and feed it to you). Even if you (or patient husband) have to drive home! In the middle of church! Heaven forbid! Eat. Just do it. You'll feel better.

And with that, my friends, I say sayonara to you.
I'm going to sleep with a stomach that is happy and a mind that is at peace.
Good night, dear ones.