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This month has been pretty slow, book mail-wise. Which is probably a good thing, since my shelves are stuffed enough that I’m actually thinking about the possibility of maybe one day doing a purge. The odds are 50/50 at this point.
Oh! I almost forgot! My #BookLove #bookmail from @randomhouse’s 16 Days of Summer giveaway!
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Earlier this week we played an impromptu round of dress-up, and Peedee ended up in my old blue and white Wal-Mart bikini top (which, incidentally, has been stored in the dogs’ costume box for the last decade or two). This is the same top Ralphie sported in the infamous “sexy beast” birthday card.
So who wore it better?
My vote goes to Ralphie. While Peedee is indeed a fine specimen, he lacks Ralphie’s wide chest and ample bosom (singular). See how the extra fabric gathers and flaps around his midsection? SO unattractive. His stylist really should have pinned that back with safety pins or something.
This month’s Dive Into Diversity & LGBT Reading Challenge roundup comes with the usual disclaimer: In several instances, I’m not 100% certain that the book’s diverse enough to be included in the challenge (for example, how to judge a book of short stories? Is one or two diverse tales out of a dozen or more acceptable?) – so I’ve included a brief note about each book’s qualifications at the end of the post, so you can judge for yourself.
Pro tip: these notes may contain spoilers.
Long story short: I finally signed up for NetGalley and Edelweiss this spring, and ooops! There goes my Real Book Challenge. In the past three months, I’ve only managed to read one physical book. (In Wilderness, my sole contribution for July.) I guess the good news is that I was so far ahead to begin with that I’ve only fallen one book behind – and hopefully I’ll soon be able to make those numbers up, now that I’m almost caught up on all those digital galleys. (*fingers crossed*)
If not … there are always comic books. (Cue evil laughter.)
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A Mostly-Solid Batch of Swedish Speculative Fiction with a Few Standouts
(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic copy of this book for review from the publisher. Trigger warning for rape and violence.)
Short story collections are always a little tricky to rate, especially when there are a number of different contributors. In Waiting for the Machines to Fall Asleep, there are exactly twenty-six. The unifying factor? All are Swedish authors, and the anthology has a speculative fiction/scifi/fantastical bent. Keeping with the title, most of the contributions are science fiction, or at least science fiction-y, with robots and AI figuring into many of the plots. As promised, steampunk horses (in an old timey Western setting, no less!) and sassy goblins also make an appearance.
The result is a mostly-solid mix of speculative fiction, though the odd fantasy/fantastical stories felt a bit out of place and disrupted the overall feel of the collection. As usually happens with anthologies, I enjoyed some stories more than others; there are a few that I absolutely fell in love with, and will no doubt revisit again in the future (“The Rats” in particular) and, on the opposite end of the spectrum, I DNF’ed two of the tales (“Melody of the Yellow Bard,” which is way too wordy and could benefit from a more ruthless round of editing; and “The Philosopher’s Stone,” which seems like a perfectly fine story but just wasn’t for me).
Many of the pieces fall somewhere in the middle, with quite a few 3- and 4-star ratings, and a smattering of 2-stars.
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Banana bread is pretty much my favorite use for overripe bananas – except MAYBE for banana bread banana ice cream! – so when I saw the Big Boat Banana Bread in Cookin’ Up a Storm, I knew it was just a matter of time before I tried it. Time to remember to pick up a bunch of bananas, wait for them to properly brown – while also not eating them in the interim – and then bake ‘em instead of slicing ‘em up for future ice cream. It took me at least three tries before I got it right, you guys. The instinct to turn ALL THE BANANAS into ice cream is strong.
The end result turned out quite tasty, though procuring bananas wasn’t the only misstep I encountered along the way. Exhibit B: The recommended bake time for this bread, which is 25 to 30 minutes. Considering that banana bread normally takes ~an hour to bake, I had my doubts. Actually I thought it was a typo but whatever. I checked as directed at 25 and 30 minutes, and to no one’s surprise, the batter was still wiggly and jiggly – not even close to done. After that I let it go for a half hour and then started checking on it every ten minutes or so. Ultimately I let it bake for 90 MINUTES before the toothpick came out clean. Even then, the bottom quarter of the loaf remained a little undercooked, as I discovered when I cut it open. (You can kinda sorta see what I’m talking about in the last picture.)
Also. This recipe makes enough batter to almost completely fill a 9″x5″ loaf pan. I wasn’t even sure it’d all fit! Anyway, it’s by far the thickest loaf I’ve ever made; I bet if I were to divide the batter between two loaf pans, it’d bake more quickly and evenly.
On the plus side, I am hella glad I lined the pan with parchment paper as directed. I hate hate hate trying to cram and jam parchment paper into deep pans, but it totally paid off here. While the lower portion of the crust ended up thicker than normal, the paper kept it from burning outright.
Also awesome: The topping, which is an even mix of brown sugar, rolled oats, and crushed almonds (I used almond meal/flour). Even if I never make this exact recipe again, I WILL carry the topping over to other banana breads.
The bread itself is tasty enough, though a little plain; I think some walnuts or chocolate chips could work wonders with it.
The center seemed to firm up a bit overnight, and it only got better when toasted. I reheated a slice in the toaster oven – about ten minutes at 350F – and it seemed a little closer to done after that. A little pat of margarine added with an extra minute to melt it = pure bliss. And a thick slice is actually hearty enough that it filled me up for an entire meal.
There’s a second recipe (Chocolate-Banana Fudge Cake) utilizing brown bananas that I’m curious to try, but I don’t know if I’ll get to it before writing a review. It took me a month just to get the bananas together for this recipe!
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Chore day! As a reward we finished it off with salt & vinegar popcorn and an episode of Orange is the New Black. Peedee is captivated.
– MONDAY –
We had a brief reprieve from the sweltering weather this week, so we crammed in as many walks as we could. First up: one end of the Cabin Fever Trailhead, which shares a parking area with the Anita B. Gorman Trailhead. If you remember, we walked it in two parts a few weeks ago. We could do that, on accounta it’s just two miles long; but seeing as this one’s six, we’ll probably never explore the middle section. At least not with these old squirts, anyway. Unless…Radio Flyer Wagon, anyone?
“Don’t worry, mom. WE GOT THIS.”
(The flood must’ve been nearer the mid-way point, because we never found it.)
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Family is as Family Does
(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic copy of this book from review through NetGalley.)
If you have a momma and a mommy, who fixes things when they break?
Oh, Mommy has all the tools. There’s nothing she can’t fix or make.
The young and super-adorable protagonist of this picture book lives in a non-traditional family, a same-sex household with two moms. As they play on the beach, his friends ask which of his moms – momma or mommy – help him with various tasks. Just as in a family with one mom and one dad, we come to see that each parent has different strengths and talents: Mommy makes a mean rice and beans, while momma is aces at climbing trees. (But kiddo empties his own pockets, mkay!) Of course, both moms are there when he needs to talk; there’s no shortage of tender loving care in this family.
When I reviewed A Tale of Two Daddies back in April, I hadn’t realized that Oelschlager and Blanc had already written a sequel. Happily, A Tale of Two Mommies shows much greater racial diversity than the original: the MC is a little boy of color, and one of his friends looks to be of Asian descent. (The third member of the trio is a cute little red-headed girl.) The two mommies are presumably white, making this a nice selection for families of interracial adoption, as well as those headed by same-sex couples. It also helps to bust up gender roles, as the moms perform both “masculine” and “feminine” tasks.
Of course, this isn’t to suggest that A Tale of Two Mommies is just for adopted kids or LGBTQ families: children from all backgrounds can benefit from its simple yet compassionate message. Non-traditional families are just like yours, at least in the ways that count most.
As a vegan, I could have done without the panel on fishing, but otherwise I recommend A Tale of Two Mommies wholeheartedly.
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