Every summer it seems like the days stretch before me and I’m going to fill it with SO MUCH! Especially books. I fool myself into believing that I have the same kind of time as I did as a lonely-can’t-drive-yet-high schooler. The amount of time may be the same, but my life is filled with SO MUCH! Kids activities, being a wife, caring for parents, having a garden-the list goes on and then poof! Fall is here. Today is the first day of school for our city and summer is winding down. I still read a lot in the summer and enjoyed my book choices this summer. Here’s a reading round up….yee-haw!
1) The Value of Nothing by Raj Patel– This is an economics book, so it’s not for everyone, but it had some great points on how and what we value and the true cost of things. Mr. Patel works a great deal with food systems in developing countries, but his background in economics is solid. This was not the trickle down economics book, but rather a book that faces the reality that nothing is free and our $2.00 cup of coffee costs about $200 to produce in terms of labor, fuel, and materials. My favorite quote from this book though was one I’ve seen attributed to others so I’m not entirely sure if Mr. Patel actually said it first or was just re-using. “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.” Now, I loved both The Lord of the Rings books and I’ve read Atlas Shrugged about 4 times (still can’t get through the John Galt speech though) and I laughed out loud when I saw that bit.
2) The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome by Susan Wise Bauer. Those who know my homeschooling tendancies know I love Susan Wise Bauer. Really, I want to be her when I grow up or she’s the person I would love to be friends with and get together for coffee. She was homeschooled when homeschool was certainly not cool and barely legal, she went on to become a professor at The College of William and Mary where she still teaches and homeschools her four kids on a farm in VA. I use some of her homeschooling materials now, but this coming year we are starting history using her Story of the World series for kids. So I thought to myself, “you know I do like history, but haven’t taken it since college. I guess I’ll read SWB’s adult version.” This is a tome, but if you enjoy history it is worth the time. What I like about SWB in this book is she is not trying to give you all the little details. Rather she pieces together what is happening across the globe in the same time periods. So you get what is happening in Ancient India and China alongside what is going on in Ancient Egypt. I loved that. So much of the school-appropriate history just focuses on the big stuff and we forget that there were other peoples, cultures, and contributions happening all over. I also like SWB’s writing style-she is coherent and gives the facts, but also throws in her own snarky observations for the occaisional funny.
3) This Life is in Your Hands by Melissa Coleman: While trolling through the library catalog looking for books on having backyard chickens (yes, we are considering; no, we are not jumping into it) I came across this memoir. It was about a family who, in the 1960s purchased sixty acres of land in rural Maine and tried to build a self-sufficient lifestyle. This was on the tail-end of the 60s and moving into the more conservative 70s. The author writes about her parents struggles as homesteaders and trying to live an ideal while also herself being a child in that environment. The marriage struggles even as their work prospers and when the author’s younger sister tragically drowns the family comes apart. One reviewer compared it to Jeanette Wall’s The Glass Castle and I would agree. IT is a moving memoir and an interesting warning for those who might idealize farm life.
4) False Mermaid by Erin Hart: Now this was a beach read! Erin Hart has written three mysteries involving an Irish-American pathologist Nora Gavin who specalizes in ancient bog remains. This was the latest one. It follows Dr. Gavin as she travels back to the states from Ireland to look into her sister’s death and she thinks her sister’s husband is the prime suspect. I would recommend reading the first two, Lake of Sorrows and Haunted Ground, before reading this one because it helps to know the storyline. However, if you like good mystery novels with a little murder and romance thrown in it is, like I said, the perfect beach read!
5) The Pellinor Series by Allison Croggon (The Naming, The Riddle, The Crow, and The Singing): ok, I’ll admit it. I have a fondness for young adult fantasy books. The Harry Potter series is one of my favorites and every so often I’ll troll through the library to see what is on the shelves. I guess I like this genre because it has absolutely no bearing on my life and the young adult versions don’t get bogged down by adult worries. My husband reads the Robert Jordan Wheel of Time series and each time he starts a new book he says how much he hates the series, but feels compelled to finish it. I don’t want to to feel like that, so I go for lighter stuff. This was a series by an Australian author and of course it is compared to Tolkien. Folks, nothing can beat J.R.R. so stop trying! But it was a series that had a strong female hero and I liked that. The series follows Maraed and her brother Hem, who are orphans and bards (in this fantasy a bard has some magical powers…I guess it would be a wizard who sings). They, of course, have a huge quest and get help and hinderences along the way.
Along the way I also discovered a cookbook I love, Supernatural Every Day by Heidi Swanson, and a great read-aloud series for my kids, The Catwings by Ursula K. LeGuin. The Catwings series has four short books about a group of cats that were born with wings. My daughter, who loves cats and horses and unicorns and butterflies, loves this series and it is well written (it should be since it is by Newberry award winning LeGuin). We’ve read The Catwings, The Catwings Return, Wonderful Alexander and the Catwings, and are now starting Jane on her Own. This summer, as every summer, I’ve had an overabundance of cherry tomatoes and I never can eat them all on salads or plain. I discovered an amazing recipe in Supernatural Every Day for oven roasted cherry tomatoes and I love it. It’s awesome to eat on bread, but the author mixes it in with her salads too. Below is the recipe.
I make these roasted cherry tomatoes constantly when cherry tomatoes are in season. The tiny globes collapse and caramelize, while their flavor concentrates tenfold. I keep them in glass canning jars in the refrigerator, to add little explosions of flavor to any dish that needs them.
When selecting cherry tomatoes, look for baskets of various colored tomatoes—red, orange, and yellow. I love the combination of colors, but using all same color is just fine, too.–Heidi Swanson
Active time:5 minutes | Total time:1 hour
Roasted Cherry Tomatoes Recipe
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, whether red, orange, yellow or a combination, stemmed
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespooncane sugar or maple syrup
- 1/2 teaspoonfine-grain sea salt, plus more to taste
1. To make the roasted cherry tomatoes, preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C). Adjust the oven rack to the top third of the oven.
- 2. Slice the tomatoes in half and place them on a rimmed baking sheet.
- 3. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, sugar or maple syrup, and a scant 1/2 teaspoon salt. Pour the mixture over the tomatoes and gently toss until well coated. Arrange the tomatoes in a single layer, cut-side up, and roast, without stirring, until the tomatoes shrink a bit and start to caramelize around the edges, 45 to 60 minutes.
- 4. Nibble the roasted cherry tomatoes straight off the baking sheet. Or, if you aren’t using them immediately, let them cool and then scrape them into a clean glass jar along with any olive oil that was left in the baking dish or sheet. Sometimes I top off the jar with an added splash of olive oil. The tomatoes will keep for about 1 week in the refrigerator.