Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Book Review: Under the Tuscan Sun

I bought this book in a thrift store because I'd heard of and wanted to see the movie but never had. When I set down to read the book I noticed it was signed by the author, that made me even more excited.

This is not a a bad book. However, it doesn't follow the typical story arc. It is almost more journal like than anything.

The book follows the author's adventure of  buying and renovating an Italian house. I really enjoyed the book until about midway through and then it struggled to keep my attention. I loved the descriptions of the food, the old house and the renovation process until I realized that was all the book was. Yes, the author has a bit of an internal transformation as well but it isn't expressed much throughout the book and then she suddenly stops talking about the renovation and shifts to her internal changes. However, because she doesn't do this consistently throughout the book it feel disjointed from the rest of the piece, I felt like she was slamming me with the remnants of her internal transformation at the end of the book in order to make the book read a bit more "weighty".

 The author did include her recipes throughout the book and I am excited to try them out once I have my own kitchen to play in. However, I have to mention that the prospect of trying the recipes is the only reason I haven't donated the book yet.

What do you think? Did you read Under the Tuscan Sun or see the movie? Was the movie pretty similar to the book or was there more action?

*This post brought to you by a Mama Kat prompt.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Semi-Southwest Stuffed Peppers

I love southwest stuffed peppers with tomatoes and black beans. However, Mike doesn't like tomatoes or black beans so I set out to find a stuffed pepper substitute. I thought they turned out pretty well. I used this recipe as a sort of guideline.


6 large bell peppers
1 large can pinto beans in chili sauce
1 mini can of corn, drained
1/4 cup onion
1 cup of long grain rice, uncooked
2 cups chicken broth
1 lb mixed ground beef and ground pork
1 tablespoon hamburger seasoning
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
1/2 tablespoon cilantro
1 jalapeno, diced small
grated colby jack cheese to taste
sour cream to taste
green onions to taste


1. In a large stockpot, add the 2 cups broth and 1 cup of uncooked rice. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer about 40-45 minutes until rice is soft. Fluff with a fork.
2. Cut the stems off the bell peppers and remove the ribs.  Place upright in a casserole dish.
3. Brown the ground meat. Season with cilantro, cumin, crushed red pepper and hamburger seasoning. Drain off the grease.
4. Mix together cooked meat, cooked rice, corn, pinto beans, onion and jalapeno. Stuff this mixture into the bell peppers.
5. Bake peppers at 350F for 15 minutes or until hot.
6. Top peppers with cheese and return to the oven for 5 minutes or until melted.
7. Serve with sour cream and green onions.

I served my spicy apple pie for dessert.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Hot Apple Pie

Warm fall flavors followed by a tingle of heat....

If that sounds like you, then check out my recipe for Hot Apple Pie. I took my inspiration from this blackberry pie.



4 cups apples, peeled and sliced (I used a mixture of Jazz and Honeycrisp, but use your favorite)
1 cup quick oats
1 cup brown sugar, divided
1/3 cup butter
1/4 cup honey
1/8 cup chopped pecans
2 sliced jalapenos
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

+ your favorite crust or crust recipe. I say this because I used a gluten free crust made from a baking mix to accommodate the friend I was sharing the pie with. I used this crust recipe.


1. Preheat oven to 425F.

2. Mix together the apples, honey, jalapenos, cornstarch, 1/2 cup brown sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Let set for half an hour or while you prepare your favorite crust recipe.

3. Line the pie pan with your favorite crust recipe.

3. Remove jalapenos from apples and pour filling over crust.**

4. Mix together 1/2 cup brown sugar, quick cooking oats and pecans. Cut in butter until crumbly. Cover filling with this topping.

5. Bake for 15 minutes. Cover with aluminium foil and bake for 10 minutes more. Let cool before serving.

**For a more consistent or spicier tingle, remove the jalapeno slices, dice them and return them to the apple mixture.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Book Review: Chocolate Covered Cashews

Chocolate Covered Cashews is the story of Wiley Baxter’s life and testimony. He tells about his life as a child in a large family, his divorce and second marriage. He also writes about discovering that he had fathered twin daughters with his first wife.

Chocolate Covered Cashews is a quick and easy read. He has an inspirational testimony and life story. However, the story did not do a good job of captivating my attention. People always say that writers should show, not tell and I feel, because of the nature of his story, Baxter did a fair amount more of telling than showing. To me, Chocolate Covered Cashews almost feels as if I am reading a speech that Baxter wrote to read at a church service. Also, I expected there to be a greater connection to the title.  I understand his connection to the title but I feel it was a bit misleading as there weren’t any direct scenes involving the chocolate cashews. That reflect my point of telling rather than showing, Baxter told us what happened instead of writing a scene.

*I was provided a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Officially Home

Okay, so we've technically been home for almost six weeks but today was the first time I really felt like I was home.

Today was the first day that I saw my best friend after more than two years. Two years during which she graduated, married and moved. Two years during which I moved across the sea, moved cities again, loved and lost my first pet as an adult and my first hospital stay.

This friend of mine, she is home to me. We can pick up after 2 years of intermittent Skyping and be just like we were only apart 2 weeks. We were laughing, joking, telling stories and catching up.

This friend of mine, she is like a long lost sister to me. Next year we will have been friends for only 10 years, but to me, it feels like we've known each other a millennium or more.

This friend of mine, I feel like we belong together. We fit together seamlessly. Even as the years pass, as we change and grow and become new versions of ourselves ,we still fit.

We each have husbands who we each love dearly and completely. She doesn't replace my husband or I hers. I don't mean to describe our friendship as if we are that counterpart  for each other. Rather, I think we complement  the husbands (or maybe the husbands complement us!). We fill in the girl-talk and squealing about penguins gaps. The baking chocolate cherry cakes and shelling nuts for baklava gaps.

Our friendship is older than our marriages can ever be but it is not better, only different. It is strong and constant, through the changes. A sisterhood bond that is mirrored in movies but only truly understood by like pairs.

Now that I've seen her again and we've started, not the the catching up process, but the moving on together process, I feel as if I'm officially home. I only hope that I can be as much to her as she is to me, this friend of mine.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Off We Go!

It's 7:33 p.m. and I'm sitting in my freshly cleaned apartment waiting for my freshly laundered clothes to line dry. They came out of the dryer at 6 p.m. and I immediately set the floor fan to blow on them. In about an hour or so my husband should come home from his final day at his job.

At 10 p.m. I am off to teach my final adult class. At 11:30 we will depart for the bus station where we will take the 2:30 am bus to Incheon.

Our 9 a.m flight will take us to China where we will wait for 6 hours.

After a 12 hour flight we will arrive in Chicago and a couple hours later take a short flight to Harrisburg.  If everything goes according to plan, we will arrive at 9 p.m and then be driven to my hubby's parents house.

We plan to spend the weekend camping with his family and our friends. I can't wait! I'm so excited to see everyone.

We appreciate your prayers for safe travels and a smooth transition. Next time I write, my feet will be on American soil. :)

Thursday, 10 September 2015

The First and Possible Final Breakthrough

I don't know if I've mentioned this or not but I've really struggled this year with disrespectful students. From 6-16, there were a few months when it seemed like the majority of my students were hell-bent on refusing to listen to anything I said.

If I told them to sit down, they would sit in the floor or on their friends lap.

I was hit and kicked and elbowed and stomped on. A 6/7 year old tried to choke out another kid during my class. Frankly, the children only received a quick scolding when I reported the incidents.

Everyday was a nightmare. Eventually the classes were rearranged and some of the trouble students didn't come back.

The situation improved but I never felt like I was at a place where  I felt it was good.

Anyway, this summer I had an extra class to teach during summer vacation. The class had no set books or curriculum so I was able to create everything. So much here is focused on rote memorization so I tried to stay away from that as much as possible. I picked a topic for each class and we read a story or watched a cartoon relating to the topic, sang silly songs with motions and played games that involved running around the classroom. Basically, general silliness ensued. But, it was silliness in English.

I had 2 sweet, shy little girls in this class. I'd taught them before and they were afraid to try. One little girl was too afraid of making a mistake that she wouldn't even play the telephone game.

So, I amped up the silliness. I mimed extreme facial expressions and spoke in silly voices. I made these girls my partners whenever we played loud games so I could encourage them to try.

After a month, the class ended and we went back to our regular schedule. The two shy girls went back to their regular class.

On the first day of class, we watched the movie clip and I asked a question. The two little girls were straining themselves, falling out of their seats trying to raise their hands above the others. They wanted to answer. They wanted to try. They knew they could do it. So, I chose on of them. And they blew it away and set the example for the rest of the class.

All I could say was "Wow. Thank you God!"