Monday, April 30

Swipe by Evan Angler

In Swipe's post-American, heavily technological landscape, the world is sharply divided between Marked citizens who can work, shop, and vote and the dispossessed, oppressed Markless. At the dawn of a new school year, twelve year old Logan's world begins to implode when his paranoid suspicions that he's being stalked are terrifyingly confirmed. Meanwhile, thirteen year old Erin discovers some startling truths about her father and wrestles with challenges of her own. Together, the two unexpectedly find themselves over their heads in a complex, high-stakes battle to save Logan's life and keep Erin's family together.

This is one of the first real page-turners I've read in a while. Once the story begins rolling it picks up pace quickly and leaves you eager to test your theories and spin around the plot's next twist. It was initially a little disturbing that so much of the action was confined to characters who are really little more than children, but ultimately it works. Their motivations and logic are understandable and reasonable, and none of their actions are out of place for their ages and situations.

Angler writes smoothly, carrying deeply readers into the story. The hints, clues and quiet themes woven throughout enrich the story and lay solid groundwork for the sequel to come. I enjoyed this, and found it both clean enough and engaging enough to confidently hand to anyone to read, pre-teen to adult.

Menu Idea Monday: Tomato Basil Cream Pasta

Check out this great recipe for Tomato Basil 'Cream' Pasta - it has officially made my list of busy-night and emergency back up meals! Recipe and picture from Oh She Glows.


This was amazingly fast, easy, delicious and satisfying. It is going to be a great option for busy nights or those hot days of summer when you want a proper hot meal but can't stand to turn on the oven. It can also easily become a food- storage- friendly meal!

My Modifications:

Not having any fresh tomatoes on hand I subbed half a can of diced tomatoes (you can use regular or the garlic kind). I also subbed garlic powder for the minced garlic and dried basil for fresh.

Dietary Mod Friendly?

Cashews don't tend to trigger nut allergies, so this should be acceptable to most people. It's safe for those on reduced sugar diets, contains no dairy, and can be gluten free with the simple substitution of GF pasta.

Monday, April 23

Menu Idea Monday: Chocolate Frosting Shots

Today's recipe looked much too good and too easy not to try: Chocolate Frosting Shots from Chocolate Covered Katie's blog.

(Picture hers, as always.)


My shots didn't thicken quite as much as I'd anticipated, but ended up about the consistency of cool whip. These tasted like a chocolate coconut cream pie filling - light, rich and decadently smooth. I am not a huge fan of coconut, so I won't make them again for myself probably, but if you like coconut these may quickly become a favorite - easy, delicious and almost no sugar!

My Modifications:

None, I made these to spec. Used a smidge a honey as sweetener.

Dietary Mod Friendly?

This recipe isn't modification friendly, but that's okay because there's nothing to be allergic to here! Nut free, dairy free, gluten free, sugar free - everyone wins! 

Thursday, April 19

They're Coming!

Our *new* planes have started their journey! Three gorgeous aircraft were lifted off the decks of the Intrepid museum yesterday to begin the trip to their new home at ESAM.

Intrepid posted the above video, and the New York Times covered the event with video of their own. Additional info available here.

We're thrilled to be receiving these unique planes - one which originally flew out of the Air Force base we share a runway with! Please keep your fingers crossed and say a prayer for safe travel as they make the complicated journey to us. Watch our Facebook page and website for updates!

Tuesday, April 17

Marvels of History

In this era of Google Earth and the Discovery Channel it can be easy get the impression that there's nothing left on earth to discover. Compared to great explorers of the past and the vast untamed territories they conquered (or were swallowed by), a piece of us may sigh sadly that no such adventures remain for us except perhaps amongst the stars.

Spitfire photo from The Telegraph
And then History steps in with a gift: 20 WWII Spitfires, buried in Burma and discovered though the diligence and passion of one British farmer. Inspired by the single off-hand quote of a World War II vet, British farmer David Cundall began his own personal expedition to track down the lost Spitfire fighters that retreating British troops buried -tarred, waxed and perfectly preserved - in their shipping crates at an RAF base in Burma they were abandoning. More than 20 feet below the ground, the planes have waited patiently - and now they're headed home to Britain for restoration. If restorable, they will nearly double the number of flyable Spitfires remaining in the world - last pegged at about 35.

In the grand scheme of the world, this is only one small incident - many people will flip past it with barely an acknowledgement. But I think it should be so much more than that. It should be a reminder to those who long to pursue big dreams of the amazing things that can come of one ordinary person's dedicated pursuit of an idea.

I hope that Mr. Cundall does get to see his dream of these Spitfires, restored and organized into an exhibition team for air shows. The roar of engines and beauty of flight, coupled with the depth and awe of the story behind them could be a powerful inspiration to the next generation of fliers, explorers and dreamers the world over.

Monday, April 16

Menu Idea Monday: Homemade Ho Hos

I've been feeling a smidge guilty that the last several recipes in a row that I posted for MIM have all been gluten heavy and unmodifiable. So this week, I'm happy to bring you something that IS easily modifiable and indulgent to boot: Homemade Ho Hos.

I never liked Twinkies growing up, but Ho Hos were great. At least they were until I grew up, read the label and realized they're about two ingredients away from being plastic. So imagine how happy I was to find Cookies & Cupcakes posted a recipe for a homemade version!

(Photo from the original page, as always.)


If you like Ho Hos, you'll love these. I think they'd be fun to do with kids, and the possibilities for variations are endless - colored frosting for the holidays, flavored fillings - use your imagination! If you're cooking for just a few and don't want extra tempting treats laying around, brownie recipes are easy to cut down to small batches. They also freeze well, so you can stash some for later.

My Modifications:

I actually used Chocolate Covered Katie's Jelly Roll for the cake instead of a brownie (I added 1 tbsp of cocoa powder to her recipe). It was quick, had almost no sugar, and made exactly the amount I wanted. It didn't roll quite as neatly as the brownies would have, but it tasted great!

Dietary Mod Friendly?

Guess what? Both brownies and Katie's Jelly Roll (see above) can easily be made gluten free! (Dairy free too.) So can lots of frostings and fillings! You can get away with relatively little sugar in this recipe if you use the Jelly Roll instead of brownies and fill with peanut butter or other low-sugar frosting. So this is pretty flexible and friendly all the way around! :)

Wednesday, April 11

Patience is a Virtue

If the the Pilgrim fashion of naming children after virtues continued in modern day, my name would certainly have been Persistence. It would most definitely NOT have been Patience.

Thus I am reminding myself this morning that patience made the Fruit of the Spirit list while persistence did not. As inefficient as that may seem to me, it remains a fact. So I shall endeavor to craft a simple update out of what I would like to be a rant. 

A mere 48 hours from now we should have been sitting down to close on our house. But somewhere in the convoluted chain of paperwork pushers behind the scenes there was a 'hiccup'. While we assured that everything is in order, we are being forced to wait an extra week to close and get our treasured keys.

As I apply my attention to other things in an effort to use this time efficiently, I cannot help but wish that I could send the following simple e-card to whomever it is holding up this entire process with their lack of timeliness:

Monday, April 9

Menu Idea Monday: Copy Cat Olive Garden Breadsticks

From the Chef in Training blog, I present you with your new favorite bread stick recipe. These Copy Cat Olive Garden Breadsticks are impressively like the original and so easy! 

(Gorgeous picture from original site, of course.)


I haven't been to an Olive Garden in years, but I remember their bread sticks being the gold standard for their light, buttery addictiveness. I've tried plenty of recipes since, but this is the first to actually recreate that wonderful texture. I was pleasantly surprised by how easy they were to make as well. My suggestion: make at least double this recipe - you'll need it!

My Modifications:
I made this as per the directions, except that I used significantly less butter. (We already go through it like water around here!) I didn't find the omission to hurt the end product, though I'm sure the full amount would be extra tasty!

Dietary Mod Friendly?

This is another one that's everybody friendly or easily modified except for the wheat.

Tuesday, April 3

Cute Gardeners

Every once in a while I run into something that makes me think there might be hope for our world this side of a zombie apocalypse. The latest instance even came with cute faces!

Ewe-niversally Green is a landscaping service in Georgia with a green twist - they use goats (and dogs) to clear up overgrown properties. I accidentally discovered them while following an Internet rabbit hole (thank you very much, Pinterest...)! They were featured here, helping new home owners reclaim their jungle of a yard from invasive ivy and other sprawling plants that threatened to engulf their space.

Their sheep and goats, contained by a portable solar-powered electric fence and herded/ protected by sheepdogs, cheerfully munch properties clean of unwanted overgrowth. Why does this make me happy?
  • It costs less than bringing in traditional landscape services, making property maintenance and improvement more accessible to home owners.
  •  It provides valuable work for dog breeds like border collies who need work to thrive - and who often end up in kennels or rescue farms because people can't give them work or handle the anxious behavior that results without it.
  •  It's environmentally clean - other than the initial ride over to the property in a truck, the whole operation is clean and based on renewable resources!
  • It's a small business - the kind proven to provide the most new jobs and long-term benefits to communities.  
Along the same lines, a friend recently told me about Geese Off! a company serving New York/ Connecticut that employs border collie teams to safely and humanely keep geese off commercial properties like schools, colleges, cemeteries, and golf courses.


(Want to see a happy border collie? Check out the [filthy] floppy paws of joy at 1:17 in the video.)

It is small, practical and unpretentiously sustainable enterprises like these that I believe will populate (and create!) the future of successful American business.

What about you? Would you consider using an animal based service instead of a machine based one?

Monday, April 2

Simply Grilling

Combining her roles as pastry chef, experienced cookbook author and mother, Jennifer Chandler has brought some of her favorite beautiful, practical and delicious summer dishes in a new cookbook: Simply Grilling. In hopes of helping everyone share the joy of easy family-style and get-together-worthy meals, Chandler includes everything from hors d'oeuvre to dessert in this beautiful book.

The book was clearly designed by someone who likes to cook – it is well laid out, with easy-to-read pages, fonts and colors. New cooks especially will appreciate the handy symbols denoting everything from cooking tips to suggested sides and what page number in the book they can be found on. Acknowledging that not all climates allow for year-round grilling, it also thoughtfully includes an icon identifying recipes conducive to an alternative stove-top preparation in with cast-iron grill pan.

The photos are gorgeous, and the recipes feel neatly in what I find is most people's comfort zone: not so fancy or expensive you'll never make them (or find anyone willing to eat them) but not mundane repeats of standard fare either.

Best of all, Chandler relies almost entirely on whole, real foods as the basis for her recipes. There are extremely few objectionable ingredients (i.e. canola oil, white bread rolls), and they are all easily swapped for better alternatives.

Menu Idea Monday: English Muffin Toasting Bread

From Changeabletable, this was a recipe I tried on an impulse. I was looking for something easy and different for breakfast and English Muffin Toasting Bread sounded good!

(Photo from original site, as always.)


This recipe offers great results for little effort. The bread comes out with the same pleasing consistency as English muffins, but it's quick and neat to slice. If you're serving a crowd, these slices can be toasted up en masse on a griddle or under the broiler - no long waiting to rotate individual muffins through the toaster!

My Modifications:

The recipe as written makes four loaves, but since I didn't need nearly that much I cut it down to make just one. The recipe scaled nicely and I made no other changes. 

Dietary Mod Friendly?

The only potential allergen in this bread is the flour, and it's not conducive to being swapped out for GF flours. Otherwise, it should be a safe and popular choice.