#262: Beer Is Good Craft Brew Fest

So it's already started (and perhaps some of the beers have already run out), but this event is too good to ignore.

People lined up for the 11 AM opening of Fiddler's Hearth, where more than thirty unusual craft beers are available for a on-day event.   Organized by 'The Beer is Good!' blogger, Andy, today you can find beers on tap not available elsewhere -- including five beers from cult favorite Three Floyds and Flat 12's Haggard Jo.   You can check out the full list here.

Going forward, there is no set schedule for when each beer will tapped, except for Bell's Black Note (at 6pm), but just head on over to Fiddler's and enjoy trying something new.

There is also a special food menu coordinated with the event.  AKA good drinking food, but foodie style. Think frog legs and bacon-wrapped goodies.  Perhaps the food alone is worth checking out.

When: Saturday, 11 AM - midnight
Where: Fiddler's Hearth, DTSB

TIP: If it gets crowded, don't forget that Fiddler's has a biergarten at the rear of the restaurant!  Look for the inside alley leading back next to the bar.

Just as I'd hoped

just as I'd hoped
for a better day
with the local possum
hissing through its teeth

—A Hundred Gourds, March 2012

Midsummer 2011. Already, I'm ready for 2012. Record heat, record drought—and things would only get worse in the weeks to come. Still trying to sell this home, this perfectly decent home, for much longer than I care to admit to anyone. Living a life in transit: each week, back and forth from the old place to the new one up north. Whenever my cell rings, I jump. Often, it's the showing service, informing me that someone wants to see our house within the next hour or so; time to do a superficial clean-and-freshen. The same song keeps repeating itself; I'm stuck in my own Groundhog Day.

This afternoon, with forced optimism, I step outside. And there he is on the concrete breezeway, just a few feet from me, his teeth bared. We've seen him a few times during the past couple of years, though never before in the afternoon, never this close. Once a fine creature, now he's scraggly, perhaps emaciated. I run back inside while he turns and saunters off into the back yard, a bent elderly man down on his luck. 

(Mostly Raw) Ginger-Almond Granola

Image property of So Good and Tasty.

What a pleasure to hear from my long-lost friend Annie this morning! I was her peer mentor at a leadership camp a few summers ago, and even though we were only together a few short days, we learned a lot together--about ourselves, about friendship, and about spirituality. Now she's all grown up and married and so full of joy. I explain this to you, because we're continuing our learning journey together today.

We are learning about granola.

Granola is good. Granola is great.
But, like Annie mentioned in her comment, so many recipes out there are more fit for dessert than breakfast.
I've been on a search for a couple years now to find the perfect granola recipe.
Thoughtful friends have sent me their recipes and I've found some great ideas on other food blogs, too.
But I've discovered that I get rather tired of any certain kind of granola when I've eaten it for breakfast every day of the week.
For me, there is no one granola recipe.
I must have options.

Today I bring you the recipe for my latest granola endeavor. I didn't take any pictures of it, because I used it for the photo shoot I was telling you about here (pictures to come soon!). So Jacqui's gorgeous picture will suffice for now.

In this granola, ginger plays beautifully with sweet honey, and almond butter and raw almonds add my favorite nutty flavor. I love the way the granola clumps together in spots. However, the texture is yucky when eaten with milk (at least after being baked); instead, toss it with some yogurt for breakfast or into a baggie for a snack. The original recipe called for pumpkin seeds and dried blueberries, which I left out only because I didn’t have any; they definitely make for a lovely color palette. Because dried blueberries are too sweet for my liking, I think I would like this granola with a more tart kind of dried fruit like cranberries, cherries, or even chopped-up apricots.
Best of all, this granola is flavored with only a bit of honey.
No clumps of brown sugar, no overly sweetened coconut, no Cocoa Krispies. 
Just the right touch of sweet, salty, and crunchy.

Ginger-Almond Granola
adjusted from So Good and Tasty

I liked this granola way better in its raw form. If you choose to forego the baking like I did, keep your granola in a big Ziploc in the fridge. It should last a good two weeks stored that way. If you do decide to bake it, just make sure it's in a sealed container; the granola will be fine for two weeks if kept at room temperature.

3 cups rolled oats
2 cups whole raw almonds
1 cup wheat bran
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 cup honey
3/4 cup natural almond butter
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup olive oil
3/4 cup dried fruit (optional; see note above)

If you want to bake your granola, preheat the oven to 325* F. Line a large baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine oats, almonds, wheat bran, salt, cinnamon, and ginger. In a small saucepan, warm the honey until very runny. Turn off the heat, and stir in the almond butter and vanilla until smooth.

Pour the honey mixture over the oat mixture. Pour in the oil, and stir it all up so everything is well coated.

If you're keeping your granola (mostly) raw, you can be done here.

Spread the oat mixture evenly on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, stirring twice while baking. Transfer the granola to a large bowl and add the dried fruit, if using. Toss to combine. (Clumps are soft when hot, so you can break them up a little at this point if you want to.)

Store at room temperature tightly covered (or in the fridge if it's not baked).

Serve over yogurt and fruit for breakfast (rhubarb compote adds a nice touch) or by itself for a snack full of protein.


Review: No One Is Here Except All Of Us

Title: No One Is Here Except All Of Us 
Author: Ramona Ausubel
Publisher: Riverhead
Publication Date: February 2nd, 2012
Genre: Historical Fiction

It is 1939, and the one hundred residents of an isolated Jewish Romanian village live in fear as they feel the war closing in on them. When a stranger arrives in the village with news about the horrors taking place where she is from, eleven year old Lena gets an idea. When the sun rises on the next day, they will start over, as if it’s the first day in the world. Their village will be the only place that exists, and by ignoring the past and the rest of the world they hope that they will be able to protect themselves. As Lena grows up in this new world she helped create, she becomes a wife, a woman and a mother. But as hard as the villagers try, they can’t truly keep out the outside world. When Lena and her children are forced to hide out in the woods to protect themselves, she will have to be the one who carries on the story of their village.

I was really looking forward to this original story about the Holocaust. I expected more of a fantasy novel, in which the villagers truly do create their own world, but find traces of the old one slowly sneaking in and threatening their safety. In the book, the villagers try and rewrite the world and pretend everything has started anew, when in reality it hasn’t. The author’s prose was poetic and had the style of a fairy tale. The writing style reminded me a bit of The History of Love, although the two books are completely different. While the concept was interesting, I don’t think that this novel was for me. My expectations may have played a role in this, but overall I was disappointed. I wanted characters I could relate to that felt real, and this book didn’t have that. The villagers just felt like people that were made up for a story, partly due to their illogical naivety. I wasn’t interested in the story, but I did like the book’s themes, such as the importance of stories and how war can make you forget who you are. If you’re looking for lyrical prose and a uniquely written story about World War II, than you might enjoy No One Is Here Except For All Of Us.


My nose; the green; van Gogh's Irises

my nose
inches from the brushstrokes
of a master. . .
and yet I'm alone
in my own time and space

red lights, January 2012

                   the green
               in van Gogh's Roses
               vibrant enough
               to be supernatural. . .
               a man just weeks from death
                  red lights, January 2012               
van Gogh's Irises
from brushstroked ground
the depth of his
perennial blueness

Sixty Sunflowers, 2007

I end up making the across-town trek to the museum by myself. It's been many years since I've been there, and the facilities have nearly doubled in size. Midmorning on a weekday: the main parking lot is overflowing, yet oddly I'm the only one roaming the rooms of this particular special exhibit. That is, except for the watchful eyes of a guard, who I guess needs to ensure I don't stuff a work of art into my purse. Still, I manage to get as close to the paintings as possible without actually touching them. Dust-quiet, the only sounds are the conversations of old masters.

*Link to Roses.* *Link to Irises.*

We solder

we solder
another heart charm
to the bracelet. . .
I never could dangle
myself out there like that

—Moonbathing, Issue 5, Fall/Winter 2011 - 2012

Plain and simple, practical, reserved yet fairly sturdy: the way I grew. I guess I don't care for a ton of frilliness. But I admit I do like hearts (flowers too). So perhaps there is some vulnerability beneath the protective exterior.


#261: Jazz vs. Blues ...vs. Ska?

Today, you have to make a decision: blues or jazz.*

This weekend features both the South Bend Ribs and Blues Festival and the Elkhart Jazz Festival.  Which will it be?  Lots of barbecue vendors and  bands at the newly-renovated Coveleski Stadium?  Or an established and nationally-acclaimed jazz festival that features six stages scattered around downtown Elkhart? 

Or how about something completely different?  Slalom skateboarding -- the first (and perhaps first in Michiana ever) Pinhook Slalom Open, a time-based competition features 22 skaters from several states.  Perhaps most importantly, it's a fundraiser for charity:water. 

For more information about performers, ticket prices and parking: 

Elkhart Jazz Festival:
Now - Sunday afternoon
Tip: Don't have the dough to shell out?  Check the student pricing and/or the free concert at 5:00pm by Jenna Mammima and Robin Lewis at the Ruthmere Museum.

South Bend Ribs Festival: 
First act begins at 12:15 pm - last band goes on at 8:00 pm
(and check our profile of it last year here)

2012 Pinhook Slalom Open:

*Actually, you can experience them both -- the Elkhart Jazz Festival continues on Sunday.  Whew.

Review: The Unseen Guest

Title: The Unseen Guest (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place)
Author: Maryrose Wood
Illustrator: Jon Klassen
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: February 21st, 2012
Genre: Junior Fiction, Fantasy, Historical Fiction

After their misadventures in London, the Incorrigible children of Ashton Place are trying to go about their life as normally as possible. This is more difficult than it would seem, for the Incorrigible’s are not ordinary children. Found living in the woods by Lord Ashton, their governess Penelope Lumley has done her very best to turn her peculiar charges into well-bred children. Alexander, Beowulf and Cassiopeia have proven to be gifted students, and their latest academic endeavor is bird watching. Things become much more interesting than watching sparrows and finches when as ostrich appears at Ashton Place. Lord Ashton’s mother has brought her friend and explorer, who looks to the Incorrigibles for help in locating his lost ostrich. Together, the children, Penelope, and the explorer venture into the vast forest. In the classroom, Penelope is at her element and has many things to teach her eager pupils. However, in the forest Penelope is in the Incorrigibles’ world and finds herself clueless when it comes to the great outdoors. Although Penelope knows little about forests, she is quite sure that sandwiches and comforters are not usually left in caves. Someone has been looking after the Incorrigible children, but who? As Penelope delves deeper into the many mysteries of Ashton Place, she begins to wonder if the children are really better off in Ashton Place, when they clearly belong in the forest.

This is the third book in the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series, which follows three wolf like children and their governess in Victorian England. Mysteries are abundant at Ashton Place, and the plucky young governess, Penelope, does her best to string everything together. The Ashton’s are self-involved and rather silly, neglecting their wards. The Incorrigible children are charming and very clever, and in this book we get to see them at their element and learn more about the dangers they are in, due to their peculiarity. A lot of what I’ve said in the previous two reviews is still the same for this book. I love the writing style, the wit and the humour presented in this book. While the writer utilizes the Snicket style of writing and explains words and phrases, at the same time it never feels like she is talking down to the reader. The plot is fairly simple, but there is enough excitement to keep to reader interested, from ostrich chasing to séances. Towards the end, I was worried The Unseen Guest would hit the third book slump, and that things would become too farfetched or ridiculous. While there were a few moments when this came close to happening, the series is still going strong. Delightful and original, the third book does true to the other books in the series. The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place combines magic and fantasy with a story about a Victorian governess. While books in a series can sometimes disappoint, The Unseen Guest still has the charm that drew me to this series.



Another one for today:

in my posted prose. . .
my fingers
red from stringing
sentences together

—June 2012

Whoever thought composing a few lines of text for a blog could be so big a task? I write, I condense, I tweak, I tweak the tweaks. And then there are the typos—and then more typos after retyping an entire post because something screwy happened to the formatting. To think I used to write and edit reams of my own work for a living. But now, having trouble with just a handful of sentences? Crimson-faced, I'll try to due better nest thyme.

Smooth stones

smooth stones
so sensual
we must not only
touch them softly
but write about them also

Simply Haiku, Autumn 2005

twigs&stones: A title I've had in my head for a long time, though it's not necessarily as unique as I'd hoped. E.g., when I Google, I find there's a similarly named viral video, a catchy folk-rock song (see link below), a gemstone hairpin company, etc. Ah, well. . .

We writers seem to love stones and mention them not infrequently in our poems and blogs. Is that how we think of our short poems, our realized moments, as stones both sturdy and delicate, anchoring us, delivering us from a tenuous world? Packed with an intensity of feeling we ourselves cannot easily contain?

The above entry was one of the first two tanka, or "tanka-like poems," I ever wrote. Admittedly, it's a little different (odd?); surely it violates a few "rules" and might not pass muster with some critics. Yet I had no problem getting it published originally, and someone else (a haiku editor at the time) once wrote me a very nice message about it. Above all, it said what it needed to say for me, and still does, so I guess I still kinda like it. ;)

*Check out the Twigs and Stones video by Canadian band Siskiyou.*

A New Fave: Vegan Overnight Oats

I have found a beautiful breakfast.
Yes, the last post was also about a breakfast I then deemed beautiful, but this recipe is even more lovely.

These oats are better because they left me feeling so clean inside. Clean and full!

We're taking the vegan plunge this week to see how it makes us feel. Chad and I have just been dragging lately and we think it's because we've let our diets slide a bit. (By the way, I hate that the word diet is tainted to mean "restricting oneself to a small amount of food in order to lose an inordinate amount of weight." Diet to me means "the food that I eat." Just wanted to make sure we were clear.)

So yeah. Here's the recipe for my new favorite thing. Try it if you dare.

P.S. You can use any kind of milk you want in this recipe, but to make it good, you must have the chia seeds. See Sheena's post for a little rundown on their nutritional benefits. I got a little baggie of them from the Winco bulk bins yesterday...just to try them out. Mixed with a little liquid, they turn into a gel that resembles an egg. Except not nasty goopy. More like pudding. Which is what this recipe for overnight oats turns into. A fantastic pudding. For breakfast.

P.P.S. On my personal copy of the recipe, I wrote the following message to myself: "Yes, sir. It’s a new favorite! Packed with flavorful crunch, this bowl of oats was cool and refreshing for a warm morning. It was the quintessential foreshadowing of a calm, peaceful, un-sweaty day."


Vegan Overnight Oats
slightly adapted from Oh She Glows

1/3 cup rolled oats
1 1/2 T chia seeds
1 cup almond milk
splash of vanilla

1/2 apple, chopped
small handful of washed blueberries
2 dried apricots, chopped really small
1 T almond butter
drizzle of agave (or sweetener of your choice)

In a cereal bowl, stir the first four ingredients together, making sure to incorporate the chia seeds into the milk. Cover and place in fridge overnight.

In the morning, top oats with the fruit, nut butter, and sweetener.


Top Ten Books I'd Like To Read This Summer

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is Top Ten Books I'd Like To Read This Summer. I'm currently working at a summer camp, and probably won't be able to read most of these books until I'm home in mid-August. However, these are the books I want to read.

1. The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour. Colby and Bev have always vowed to take off with Bev's band, The Disenchantments, after graduation. When Bev decides to go to college instead, Colby is left confused but continues the tour with The Disenchantments, minus Bev. I've wanted to read this book for a while, although I was surprised to learn that the main character, Colby, is actually a boy. From the cover, I assumed that both Colby and Bev were girls. This looks like a good book, and an especially good read for summer.

2. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews. Greg is an invisible high schooler with only one friend, Earl. When his mother pressures him to visit a childhood friend who has leukaemia. This book is a less obvious summer read, but I really want to read it all the same. It looks unique and I especially like the cover. 

3. The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind by Meg Medina. This is literally the best cover ever. I like everything about it, including the title and even the author's name. Everyone in Sonia's village believes she has a special ability. She was born during a vicious storm that suddenly ended just as she entered the world. Sonia knows she has no special abilities, and when she is given a chance to leave her village, she finds solace in the freedom. 

4. Eight Keys by Suzanne LaFleur. Elise and Franklin have been best friends for as long as they can remember. Elise is an orphan, and has always lived with her aunt and uncle in a house with a barn behind it. The barn has eight locked doors, and Elise has never known what's behind them. Now that Elise is twelve, her friendship with Franklin doesn't feel right. When Elise receives a mysterious key, she might finally find out what's in the barn.

5. Dreams of Significant Girls by Christina Garcia. The comparisons to The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants made me want to read this. Three girls from different parts of the world spend their summers at a Swiss boarding school. The girls form close friendships and spend summers together and school years apart as they grow together.

6. My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick. Samantha Reed enjoys watching the family next door, the seemingly perfect Garrett family. They're the opposite of the Reed family, and when Samantha starts a summer romance with Jase Garrett, everything changes. 

7. Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson. I read Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson earlier this year and loved it, so I'm looking forward to checking out her next book. When Taylor Edwards' father is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and the family decides to spend their last summer completely together at their old summerhouse. As they become closer as a family and discover that the past didn't go anywhere, they can't forget that their time is still limited.

8. Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler. When Hudson's dreams were crushed by a betrayal, she decides to stay under the radar. Spending her time working at her mother's bakery, when she has the opportunity to chace her dreams again, she's terrified of being let down again. Sarah Ockler is also the writer of Twenty Boy Summer.

9. Alice on Board by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. I've been reading this series since I was 12, and I will definitely be checking out the 24th book in the series. Alice has just finished high school and before she starts college she's spending the summer working on a cruise ship with her best friends. As she spends the summer working at the best part time job imaginable, she knows that after this summer nothing is ever going to be the same.

10. Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony. I want to read this book because 1. It looks interesting and 2. I don't understand it. The book is told in words and pictures, and flipping through it in the store I couldn't really understand how the story was told. Anyways, Glory is a piano prodigy who retreats into her music after the death of her mother. 

What books do you want to read this summer? 

On bare ground

A poem that surfaced and survived as I first tried to inch away from my writing drought:

on bare ground 
I sprinkle small seeds
with abandon
as if growing wildflowers
requires a lack of care

Notes from the Gean, June 2011; Take Five (vol. 4), 2012

The many wildflower seeds I enthusiastically bought and sprinkled around didn't amount to much. Perhaps that's not surprising in this, what I sometimes call, godforsaken place where "nothing" will grow alongside the towering lobollies save hardy native vegetation such as yaupon and monster wild grape vines. Of course, the extensive droughts, ongoing temperature extremes, and certain other factors didn't help. 

But every now and then, when you're not really looking, a few seeds will work their magic: for me, a couple of years later, a single clump of Texas bluebonnets, the lemon-yellow blooms on Missouri primrose. . . 

#260: Old 2 Gold

I find it interesting to think about the things that bring out 'the crazy' in different people.  For some, it might be their beloved sports teams; for others, their cats.  Some people drive hundreds of miles for a comic book convention...or a road race.   And for some, a good bargain is worth waking up for, worth fighting crowds and inclement weather. 

Tomorrow morning marks the annual Old 2 Gold sale, a sort of Black Friday for second-hand goods in the area.  Notre Dame collects and sells off unwanted and forgotten goods gathered from its students at the end of the academic year.  The piles and piles of stuff are then sold off at rock bottom prices.  Like $5 bike and $15 TV cheap.  Goofy college t-shirts?  Four for a buck. 

The perk is that this stuff is usually of decent quality.* Students (and as a ND alum, I know) are often too busy or luggage-restricted to deal with the stuff, so they donate it, and it's often high-quality and completely functional.  That's what makes Old 2 Gold such an event.

In years past, the sale was held in the ND football stadium, and people could line up at 5 AM for the Early Bird sale.  This year, things are being done a bit differently due to construction in the stadium.  It will be held at the old Target building near Double T's.  The sale starts at 9 AM, and there will be no Early Bird admittance. 

There is a fee to enter, but at $5, it's still a bargain.  And besides, I think the people-watching will be well worth the entry fee.

When: Saturday, June 16, 9 AM - Noon
Where: Target Building (has Steve & Barry's signage) at Hickory and McKinley Avenues
Cost: $5.00
Website: http://old2gold.nd.edu/

Tip: You can scope out the site map early to formulate a plan of attack for optimal bargain hunting.

*Although I would be careful of college student bedding and cooking stuff. Who knows what happened there.

Jumpin' in: from the freeway

from the freeway
linking farmland to city
no scenic views,
just a few mountains
painted on an RV 

American Tanka, #20, January 2012

How many times we've traveled that route between city and country and back again, especially during the stressful, years-long transition from Houston to the secluded rustic community where we now live. Above: my first tanka published in 2012, after I'd emerged from a writing hiatus. Well, during my break—lasting a couple of years or so—I suppose I produced a handful or two of poems, but many of them were flimsy or clunky. Since then, it's taken a while to find my way back. Maybe someday I'll see mountains, though, granted, not in this part of the world—at most, some gently rolling hills here and there.

#259: A Single Rose Florist

We here at 365 South Bend are big fans of the East Bank Village. Across the river from downtown, this area boasts some of our favorite shops and restaurants. Junk Evolution. Just Goods. Barnaby’s. Marigold's. The East Bank Emporium.  The list could go on and on. These places are staples of the South Bend community and evidence of the lively, energizing, enterprising spirit that currently pervades South Bend business. 

But as I was biking through the area on yesterday’s sunny afternoon, I managed to stop at a store that I had not previously visited. On the stretch of Niles between Colfax and Jefferson, the sign from “A Single Rose Florist” caught my eye. I’m recently engaged and so the advertisement for “Exquisite Weddings” convinced me to stop in. The small house in which the florist shop resides was surrounded by blooming flowers; a good indication of things to come. Inside, the owner was friendly and the shop was filled with a variety of wildflowers, roses, hydrangeas, and snapdragons. I only had time to quickly browse, but as I investigated the website later, I realized that this local florist is quite well known around the area for her lovely floral designs.

So whether you just want fresh-cut flowers on your dining room table or you’re leisurely planning your wedding or special event, A Single Rose Florist seems to be the local choice for you.

For more information visit the website here.

Review: Twenty Boy Summer

Title: Twenty Boy Summer
Author: Sarah Ockler
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: June 1st, 2009
Genre: YA, Realistic Fiction

Ever since she was ten years old, Anna has been in love with Matt, her best friend that’s a boy and brother of her best friend Frankie. Everything changed when Matt and Anna kissed on her fifteenth birthday. Looking out to protect his little sister, Matt wanted to wait and tell Frankie about them in a month. Before he could, he died due to a heart defect that no one knew about. Over a year later, Anna hasn’t told anyone about her relationship with Matt, and he died without her knowing exactly what she was to him. While Frankie used to be shy, she’s become outgoing and flirtatious. Anna is going to spend twenty-three days of summer with Frankie at a summerhouse in California. Frankie decides that together they’re going to meet twenty boys, looking for the special one that could be Anna’s first. Together, Anna and Frankie experience a summer full of beaches, boys and firsts. As Anna struggles with the secret that she never wanted to keep, she’s not sure if she’s ready to move on yet. But it won’t take twenty boys to convince her, but maybe just one.

I took this one out from the library a few months ago, and ended up never getting past the first twenty pages. This was partly because I was busy and also because I couldn’t get into the story. Later on I decided to give it another chance, since I heard so many good things about it. Summer is just starting so it was a great time to read Twenty Boy Summer. First off, the cover is amazing. I love how it references the sea glass in the book and Matt’s heart defect. This is Sarah Ockler’s first novel, and at times the writing was beautiful. I’m very glad I gave this book a second chance. It was the perfect summer novel, focusing on summer fun while also about more serious themes, like loss. I enjoyed the story and the combination of summer fun while coping with grief. However, Anna never felt like a believable character. There wasn’t much to her personality other than being Frankie’s rock and loving Matt. I did love her witty comments in conversations, and Frankie was a convincing character. I loved the bits of romance we got to see, but we never saw enough to make me love the relationships Anna has. With Sam, I got to see bits of why Anna liked him, but I never felt like I ever really got to know them as a couple. That may have been the intention, because the book isn’t really about Anna and Sam, it’s about Anna learning that she can be with someone else without having to forget Matt. While Frankie and Anna don’t make it to twenty boys, they do learn a lot about moving on. Nothing that happens will ever erase Matt from Anna’s memory. Overall, this was a great beach read that touched on some more serious issues. I will definitely be checking out more of Sarah Ockler’s books after enjoying Twenty Boy Summer.


“Every story is part of a whole, entire life, you know? Happy and sad and tragic and whatever, but an entire life. And books let you know them.”

#258: Red Table Plaza Lunchtime Concert Series

It had already been quite a South Bend day when I stumbled upon the Red Table Concert Series at the corner of Jefferson and Michigan Streets in downtown South Bend. In the morning, I had biked to the Farmer’s Market along the Riverwalk accompanied by a cool breeze, several fishermen, and a group of children playing in Howard Park. After the return trip, I quickly dropped my recently procured asparagus and strawberries off at home and made my way down the library to get a good summer book.

It was after this stop that I decided to take a walk through downtown, thus giving myself the opportunity to haphazardly stumble upon live acoustic music during the lunch hour. I stopped and sat, not at one of the red tables (they were pretty much all full), but at a bench nearby. Today’s performer was a solo act and peppered his songs with interjections of his family, evidently longtime South Bend residents.  It was an exceedingly pleasant way to spend half an hour.

Perhaps I was particularly primed to enjoy the scene or the day. I recently moved back to South Bend after a year-long hiatus, and I’ve been enjoying rediscovering or revisiting some of my favorite places. Even though I’m not originally from South Bend, it has felt like a homecoming.

If you too want to enjoy the Red Table Concert Series, it will continue all summer long, every day until August 31st.  On Friday’s, the concerts will move to the Jon Hunt Plaza in a partnership with the Morris Performing Arts Center’s “Friday’s by the Fountain”. All concerts feature local artists performing from 11:45-1:15. I encourage you to take a walk, listen to some music, and enjoy downtown South Bend. I didn’t realize how much I would miss it until I moved away.

For more information, visit here.

Books You Might Like Even If You Hate The Genre

So many people have genres of books that they avoid, whether because they've read that type of books and didn't enjoy it, or they assume that they're not for them. There's usually an exception to most rules: if you hate pop music there's usually at least one catchy song you can't help but love. If you have a genre of books that you don't think are for you, you might want to give these picks a chance all the same.

Paranormal Romance With the popularity of Twilight, a lot of people are sick of books following humans in love with vampires, werewolves, angels and the like. Even if you feel that way, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor has excellent world building and great writing. Karou is an art student at Prague who lives two very different lives. While her friends admire her fantastical drawings, they don't know that the monsters featured in her sketchbook are real. In a world full of monsters and angels, Karou will have to delve deep into the past if she wants to find out who she truly is. You can read the full review here.

Supernatural The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson follows a mimic of the Jack the Ripper killings in modern East End London, with a supernatural twist. While Maureen Johnson is best known for books like 13 Little Blue Envelopes, this supernatural YA novel took me by surprise. When Rory Deveaux leaves her small town in Louisiana for a boarding school in London’s East End, she expects a bit of homesickness and some culture shock. Never would she have imagined that her arrival in England would coincide with the first of a series of murders mimicking Jack the Ripper. Or that she would find herself in the middle of the mystery. You can read my review here.

Fantasy The Harry Potter books are the obvious recommendation, and were actually my first introduction to fantasy. Neil Gaiman's books are fantastic, whether you're reading his urban fantasies like American Gods and Neverwhere or his more traditional fantasy like Stardust. His junior fiction is also amazing, especially The Graveyard Book for younger readers. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly is a sort of fairy tale retelling in which young boy from WWII London finds himself in a world reminiscent of the fairy tales we all know. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin is a political fantasy about the fight for the throne. I'd also recommend The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, which is about a magical circus which is the playing field for a competition between Celia and Marco, who have been raised to compete against each other nearly their whole lives. However, even they don't understand the real nature of the competition.

Science Fiction It's not all aliens and robots, but even when it is it can still be entertaining for those who usually avoid the genre. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams is my go to book when ever the end of the world is predicted, which is happening more often lately. Arthur Dent is your typical Englishman, but his life takes a turn towards adventure when the world is about to come to and end and he learns his best friend is an alien. Great read for fans of comedy. A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L'Engle is junior fiction science fiction, with plenty of literary references. Meg's father is missing and she will do anything to find him. With her younger brother Charles Wallace and schoolmate Calvin, Meg travels through a wrinkle in time to rescue her father. This book is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and aside from a reference to a type writer it doesn't feel dated at all. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card is also a popular choice, which I read in book club maybe four years ago. Another Science Fiction loved by all is Ursula Le Guin, and while I haven't yet read any of her books I've heard some very good things.

Romance Even if you've never cared for Nicholas Sparks novels or movies like Titanic, there still might be one or two romance novels that make the romantic inside of you swoon. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins is about a girl who spends her last year of high school at a boarding school in Paris. There, Anna meets Etienne St.Clair, and sparks fly in the City of Lights. Anna and St.Clair have excellent chemistry and you'll soon find yourself rooting for them. You can read my review here. For adults, The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger is excellent. The relationship is unique and convincing, with time travel thrown into the plot to make it interesting. On the complete other end of the spectrum, I would really recommend giving Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen a chance. Everyone know this story; girls meets boy and he makes a horrible first impression. She finds out how blind she was and they fall in love. Of course, there's a lot of stuff in-between: awkward proposals, broken hearted sisters, crazy mothers, attractive navy officers. Featuring one of my favourite characters (Elizabeth Bennet,) Austen's wit shines in this book, and while the plot doesn't sound overly appealing and exciting, Pride and Prejudice had surprised many a skeptic and even converted them into Jane Austen readers.

Young Adult YA actually refers to the suggested age group the book is for, and is not really a genre. However, a lot of people look down on YA books and don't believe they have as much literary merit. Obviously since I read a lot of YA, I don't believe that. This small selection of great YA books will hopefully convince you to give other YA novels a chance. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak follows a young girl who lives in Germany during World War II. Narrated by death, this girl finds hope in the words she reads from stolen books. You will sometimes find this book in the adult fiction section, but it was written for teens. You can read the full review here.
While all of John Green's books could fit in this list, The Fault In Our Stars is my favourite. Hazel Lancaster is a sixteen year old cancer patient. While a miracle drug has bought her time, she lives knowing that the cancer will eventually kill her. When Hazel meets Augustus Waters at support group, she knows she could care about him if she let herself, but she fears getting close to anyone, knowing she could die any time. When Hazel and Augustus bond over her favourite book, they decide to visit the writer in Amsterdam to learn what really happened to the characters after the last page. You can read the full review here.

If you're normally into classics, I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith might be a good fit for you. I had my mom read it and she's usually strictly a Charles Dickens, Jane Austen kind of girl, but she enjoyed it. In 1930's England, two sisters live in an old castle in the country side with their writer father, eccentric step mother and younger brother. In her journals, the younger sister, Cassandra Mortmain, attempts to capture the castle and the people who live there. When young Americans move into their village, things become much more exciting for Cassandra, who conspires with her sister Rose to make sure one of the brothers falls in love with Rose. But things become rather more complicated when Cassandra's own feelings get in the way.

Junior Fiction Again, not exactly a genre, but many people, teens and up, think they're too old for books aimed for the younger set. While Harry Potter is an obvious example of a book people of any age can enjoy, there's many others. This might be because I read it in University, but I honestly don't think I would have got as much out of The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman if I had read it when I fit into the suggested age group. Pullman challenges popular conceptions of Adam and Eve and the Fall, and believes that it was actually a good thing. He believes that it brought knowledge and that a sexual awakening isn't a bad thing. The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart is perfect for lovers of puzzles and riddles. It's a really clever book that doesn't underestimate its readers. You can read my review here. Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events is full of dark humour and literary references. The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place by Maryrose Wood utilizes a similar style as Snicket, while still being a unique book about a three children who were raised by wolves and their governess who has to turn them into model pupils. The classics are classics for a reason, and all always always worth checking out no matter how old you are. Some great classics include Peter Pan, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, The Secret Garden, The Little Prince and Anne of Green Gables

Summer Reading 2012

How on earth do you pick 8 books to bring to summer camp? I'm leaving today to work in the kitchen at a camp in Algonquin Park until August 25th. I managed to pick which books I'm going to take with me, since I have no idea when I'll go home or see my family. Anyways, here's what I plan to read this summer.
  • The Disenchantments by Nine LaCour
  • I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak (reread)
  • The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano
  • Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins (reread)
  • 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson (reread)
  • The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (reread)
  • As You Like It by William Shakespeare
  • Falling In Love With English Boys by Melissa Jensen (not pictured)
On my kobo I have a bunch of classics, and I recently bought Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson. While I won't be able to read as much (it's likely I won't finish these books) I just want to make sure I always have something to read. I hope everyone has a great summer! 

In My Mailbox (42)

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 will be my last In My Mailbox until the end of August, since I leave for summer camp on Sunday. I have regular posts scheduled, but no IMMs.

This week I bought Falling In Love With British Boys by Melissa Jensen, author of The Fine Art of Truth or Dare. At first I wasn't going to pick up this book, but when I found out it was about two different girls in two different centuries I changed my mind. The title reminds me of how my friend went to summer camp and met an English boy there. Later on she told me that his accent was the most beautiful thing in the world and how wonderful it sounded when he said "Pass the peanut butter." 

This week I took out Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler from the library. A few months ago I took this book out and even started it, but for one reason or another I never got past the first few chapters. Not long after I returned it I decided to give it another chance, and my hold finally came in this week. I'm glad I read this book- it was a deeper summer read that was well written. It's basically about a girl named Anna who was in love with her best friend Frankie's brother, but never got a chance to tell her about their relationship before he died. Now a year later, Anna is dealing with grief and the weight of the secret, when Frankie decides that together they will try and meet twenty boys over their summer vacation. 

I bought my third e-book ever to take with camp with me (I usually read free ones instead of actually buying them.) Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson is about Taylor Edwards, whose family is changed forever when her dad becomes sick. The family decides to spend the summer together at their old summerhouse where they become closer and get to know each other again. Morgan Matson also wrote Amy and Roger's Epic Detour, which I really liked. 

This book definitely doesn't fit with the summer theme of the rest of the books I got this week. Yesterday I read Anne Frank: Beyond the Diary, which is a very good book about Anne Frank (with lots of photographs) that I've had forever and would definitely recommend. Reading this made me want to reread the actual diary, which I read in maybe the 5th grade. I bought it today for $4 at a used bookstore. It will be interesting to read it again, since I was fairly young the first time I read it. 

That's it for me! Feel free to respond with links to you own IMM! 

Favorite Breakfasts: Raw Muesli with Yogurt

Okay, before I say anything, I need to ask you something:
Do you eat breakfast?

In my pre-Addie life, I could be seen every morning walking to school with a piece of peanut butter toast in my hand or driving to work with a cereal bowl balanced between my knees (I became quite good at eating this way...). But let's be serious. Does one piece of toast or one bowl of Reese's Puffs satisfy our hunger for more than an hour or two?


I've started making a point to have balanced breakfasts every morning. With help from a couple of blogs and an Instagram comment from Sarah, I must say I've stumbled upon the most harmonious of breakfasts.

I like to think of it as a bowl of fruit with yogurt
as opposed to a bowl of yogurt with fruit.

I also like to think of the raw oats, raw almonds, and raw fruit as a kind of fresh, raw muesli.
(Did you know that I lived in Vienna for four months when I was a college sophomore? I lived off of this muesli while in Austria.)
No need to toast the nuts or dry the fruit; this stuff has enough crunch in its raw form.

Fruit: favorites are fresh peaches, blackberries, strawberries, and apricots, but I think any fruit would go beautifully. Even rhubarb (technically a veggie)!
Grain: raw rolled oats or homemade granola (I like my granola raw)
Protein: Greek yogurt and chopped almonds

Sweetener: honey, agave
Optional Additions: cocoa powder, ground flax seed, wheat bran

Addie usually needs my care anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour after we first wake up in the morning (let's be honest; sometimes she wants to be held all day long). I love this yogurt bowl, because I can toss it in a bowl with one hand if Addie wants to be held.

And just because I like it best with raw fruit and almonds doesn't mean you can't try it with dried cranberries and roasted walnuts. Or swap out the Greek yogurt for milk. Experiment and see which combinations you like best!

I would love to hear about your favorite breakfasts,
the ones that keep you feeling full and satisfied until noon.

What do you find yourself eating every morning?

Review: Beauty

Title: Beauty
Author: Robin McKinley
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: January 1st, 1978
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Fairy Tale Retellings

Beauty has never been fond of her nickname, which she never felt fit her. Her older sisters Grace and Hope are the true beauties, and Beauty is the brain of the family. She falls upon misfortune when her family loses everything, including her sister’s fiancée. Together, they move from the city to a town outside of a forest that is rumored to be enchanted. For two years, Beauty avoids the forest, but when a storm after a long trip drives her father into its depths, he finds himself at a strange castle inhabited by a Beast. Although the strange creature allows her father to leave, once he tries to bring home a rose the Beast vows that if the man does not return in a month to stay with him or bring his daughter to serve in his place he will personally come and find him. Since the rose was a gift for Beauty, she decides to stay with the Beast in her father’s place. The Beast is different from what Beauty first imagined, and treats her with kindness, giving her all of life’s luxuries. Immersed in the magic of her new home, Beauty wonders if anyone can truly love a Beast.

I think everyone knows the story of Beauty and the Beast, whether you’ve read the original text or not. The basic story, stripped of all the magical elements, is still pretty popular: girl meets a mean guy but comes to love him and see him for who he truly is. This retelling doesn’t have any twists, although the author has added original details to make the story her own. In the special features of my Beauty and the Beast (1991) DVD, the filmmakers discuss the difficulties they had making the original story into a film. This was because the story mainly consists of Beauty going to dinner with the Beast every night, during which he asks her to marry him and every night she refuses. This, and my love for the Disney film, both may have been why I found this book to be a bit boring and slow moving. Beauty lives in a world like our own, only with magic existing within her world. She enjoys reading Greek poetry and anything else she can get her hands on. While I at first liked Beauty’s character, eventually I found her to be boring and unrealistic. In fairy tale and fairy tale retellings, I find flat characters to be a common problem. I also never loved Beauty and the Beast’s relationship, but that could just be because I liked the Disney adaptation so much. The writing was very descriptive and eloquent, and I liked the familial focus of the story. I enjoyed all the changes McKinley made to the story, and while I don’t think this book was for me I could why it’s still read after all these years (this book came out in 1978.) Lovers of fairy tales and romance will enjoy how Robin McKinley gave breath to a story as old as time.


Savory Whole-Wheat Crepes with Zucchini and Mushrooms

Zucchini seeds are growing, growing, growing in our soil.
Chances are, we're going to have a lot of that summer squash on our hands before long.

Here's a fabulous way to use zukes for breakfast, lunch, or dinner:

Savory Whole-Wheat Crepes with Zucchini and Mushrooms

1 zucchini, diced
1 tomato, diced
A few strips cooked bacon, torn into pieces (optional)
Handful of mushrooms, sliced
Handful of baby spinach

Saute bacon and all vegetables but the spinach in a skillet with some garlic (mushrooms give off enough liquid that you don't have to use oil).

When zucchini is tender and mushrooms are soft, add baby spinach, and stir until just wilted.

Use vegetable mixture to fill a batch of whole-wheat crepes

Vanilla-Rhubarb Compote

Good gracious. The past week and a half has been a whirlwind to say the least.

Addie's growing right through her three-month-sized clothes--and has the appetite to match. This means I am feeding, burping, and consoling her for the greater parts of my days. But she slept through a whole night for the first time on Saturday (!), and her smiles keep getting wider and wider.
There's no better way to repay a tired mama than with sleep and big grins.

I prepared the food for my first-ever styled shoot that was photographed by my lovely friend Brooke at Brooke Schultz Photography. With a baby strapped to my front, I spent all of Monday over my hot stove (did I mention that it was already 97 degrees in my house without the oven being on?), chopping fruit, flipping pancakes, and stirring granola.
Brooke and Calie (Calie Rose Floral & Event Design) had set up an incredible breakfast spread with copper-handled forks, coral-colored napkins, and brown-paper menus. Though I was a little quite frazzled and nervous, I loved the chance to see two professionals in action while I soaked in the scene of sunset and tall grass.

Lesson learned: A lot more planning goes into a styled shoot than my everyday snapshots of breakfast.
Just because I can write a term paper in a day doesn't mean I should write it in a day.
You know?
Next time I'll choose food that can be made ahead of time (i.e., not pancakes or donut holes),
actually make dinner for my husband before leaving for the evening,
experiment with table arrangements beforehand,
and get someone to help me make the food.
Or watch my baby.

Now, two days later, my counters are finally free of flour and cinnamon sugar, the stove is finally devoid of spilled oil, and my sink is finally clear of fruit-stained knives and sticky pots.

And so, as I sit in my pajamas with a jammied baby girl on my lap, I bring you an easy, easy little compote recipe for mornings when you just need to take it slow.
If you buy rhubarb from the store, chances are good that your compote will turn out to be a lovely rose color. The rhubarb in our garden is more dainty and didn't completely turn red before we picked it.
So my compote was green tinged with brown.
Still tasted great.

I like to preserve rhubarb's natural tartness when I cook with it, so this recipe uses just a touch of natural sweetener. If you like it sweeter, you can use 1/2 cup of sugar for every 3 cups of diced rhubarb.

I love stirring this compote into my morning yogurt topped with granola. It would also be great atop whole-wheat waffles, pancakes, or even toast.

What's your favorite way to use rhubarb?

Photo via Instagram. Follow me: @clairedannals.

Vanilla Rhubarb Compote

rhubarb, diced like you would celery (I used about 3 cups*)
drizzle of honey or agave
dash of pure vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Stirring constantly, cook on medium heat for about eight minutes, or until the rhubarb is soft and has the consistency of jam.

Keep in an airtight container. Stores well in the fridge for a week or two.

*3 cups of diced rhubarb makes about 1 cup of compote.