GG Summer Reads

July 18, 2010 by  
Filed under Books, Reviews

What I’m Reading This Summer

At the beginning of every school year, I sit down with my reading students, forming a circle – either with our desks or on the floor – and I share every single book I read over the summer.  I lug every single book in and give a little book talk on each one.  Regardless of whether every book is interesting and/or appropriate for them is irrelevant.  My goal is simply for them to understand right away just how much I enjoy reading – yes, I practice what I preach.  If one of the books I describe happens to catch their fancy, wonderful! – They have a book idea for the coming semester!  If not, I’ve hopefully at least motivated them to choose a book they enjoy as much as I’ve enjoyed mine.

Why is summer the most fun time to read?!

WHAT I’VE READ SO FAR (in this order):

Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult A:  Jodi does it again – the author’s known for her surprising twists and shocking connections.  This story of a man wrongly accused of statutory rape is a page-turner.  It was a good one for me to kick off my summer reading, and it is definitely in my Top 5 Jodi Picoult books (along with My Sister’s Keeper, 19 Minutes, and Change of Heart).

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hussein A+:  I should have read this a loooong time ago.  Let me tell you, it left an impression.  It is the story of a young boy from the a district of Kabul, who befriends the son of his father’s servant. The story is set against a backdrop of tumultuous events, from the fall of Afganistan’s monarchy through the Soviet invasion.  As a side note, the dirt imagery fascinated me all along.  Men, women, young and old will find this story of redemption so endearing!!!!

Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen A:  I already knew that elephants understood emotions but this story helped me appreciate just how smart they truly can be.  This fictional novel focuses on one man’s adventures with a traveling circus he runs away with after his parents’ sudden deaths.  The most poignant piece of this is the narration as flashback:  the protagonist, Jacob Jankowski, is a 93-year old man living in an assisted living facility; the reader catches a glimpse into the agonizing frustration one goes through as faculties fade away.  As he deals with the tribulations around him, Jacob flashbacks to his young self’s adventures.  I’m very much looking forward to the movie starring Robert Pattinson.

Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer  B-:   I finished this over-600 page book in 2 days!!  While I appreciated the passion and romance, I quickly grew weary of Bella’s whining. Parts were predictable as well.  The most fun part was shouting out turning points to my daughter as I approached them in my reading.  She finished the series long ago but still holds a passion as she just saw the movie (twice.)  I’m going next week and looking forward to it in spite of Bella’s inevitable drawn-out laments.  I’ll read Breaking Dawn soon before that movie comes out . . . but I can wait.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer B+:   The book’s narrator is a nine-year-old boy, Oskar Schell, who lost his father on 9/11 two years before the story began.  In the story, Oskar discovers a key in a vase that belonged to his father.  He is determined to find what that key opens; his determination takes him through all of New York’s burroughs.  What is so uniquely interesting about this book that will keep you on your toes as you read is that the author brings a multimedia sense to the book.  He uses type settings, spaces and even blank pages to give the book a visual dimension beyond the narrative.  Additionally, this brought back all my nightmarish thoughts about 9/11.

Complications by Atul Gawande A: This is a fascinating peak into the very human side of medicine.  I never was one to put all my faith into every single thing my doctors say – now I won’t for sure!!!  Dr. Gawande, who teaches at Harvard Medical School and is a general surgeon at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, is very VERY candid in his behind-the-scenes portrayals of hospital life.  Very thought provoking.  I may read his other book, Better, as well.

One Day by David Nicholls A-:  Dexter and Emma met on their college graduation day in 1988.  The book depicts a day in their lives (the same calendar day) over the next 20 years.  Dramatic irony takes great form here as the reader watches these two run circles around each other but never quite getting in synce in spite of their apparent strong affection for one another.  I actually exclaimed out loud at one point when reading – and I was outside at the pool.  Books rarely make me do that.  The movie version is already in production.  Run to the bookstore before the movie; you won’t regret it.

Eat, Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert B+:  My favorite line from this book talks about our power of thinking – we can choose our way of thinking just as we choose our wardrobes.  It’s up to us how we perceive situations occuring in our lives.  The author takes the reader on her mental and spiritual journey as she travels to Italy, India and Indonesia .  Her revelations are inspiring and endearing.  Plus, her sensory-detailed depictions of the Italian food she feasts on made me want to grab a deep-dish pizza that very second.

A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick B:  This is a darker novel than I normally pick up but it came highly recommended by two colleagues.  This is definitely NOT a recommendation for students.  Set in Wisconsin in 1907, Ralph Truitt places an ad for a wife.  Catherine Land, a woman with a scandalous past, answers the ad.  She secretly invents a plan to benefit from his riches; but, Ralph is more knowing than he seems.  The twists are shocking, the illustrations are sensual, and the characters are colorful.  The ending, however, was disappointing.  After the preceeding tumultuous events, I was left with an emptiness. 

The Power of Intention by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer A+:  This is one of those books that changes your life after you read it!  Some may be familiar with Dr. Dyer as he appears frequently on PBS.  This book emphasizes the belief that we can find spiritual solutions to problems by “living at higher levels and calling upon faster energies.”  This may sound like The Law of Attraction, but Dr. Dyer takes the belief much further with practical, every day steps to take along with fascinating research to back up the claims.

Boundaries – When to Say Yes & How to Say No by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend A: Physical boundaries are usually easy to discern (fences, walls, signs, etc) but emotional and spiritual boundaries are not.  This book illustrates how boundaries such as skin, words, time, geographical distance, emotional distance, etc. defines us.  It is up to us to make those definitions clear, understand what is within our boundaries (or responsibilities) and what is not.  I found myself nodding my head in agreement as I read this.  Well worth the read!!

WHAT I WILL READ BEFORE SUMMER IS OVER (also in this order):  I better get busy . . . . these books are all piled and waiting for me →

House Rules by Jodi Picoult – this is her latest, a story of a teenage boy with Asperger’s syndrome.

 A Thousand Splendid Suns by Kholed Hosseini – another one I should have read long ago – many told me they enjoyed this more than The Kite Runner.  We shall see . . . it has much to live up to.

The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine, MD. – can’t wait!  I heard this offers stunning insights into the “hormonal roller coasters” that seem to rule our lives sometimes.

The Male Brain by Louann Brizendine, MD. – this book promises to show how and why every phase of a man’s life is vastly different from a woman’s.  I’m looking forward to the new understanding. 🙂

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss – the story of lost love and the journey to find it.  Every woman needs to read at least one great love story over the summer.

comeback by Claire Fontaine & Mia Fontaine – a memoir recounting a mother and daughter’s journey through hell and back. I read a great review on this so I am anxious to see if it lives up to its critique.

Fair Isn’t Always Equal – by Rick Wormeli – this year’s summer read for my English department.  I am particularly interested to read the sections on grades and assessments.

**WHAT I READ EVERY DAY:  Until Today!  Daily Devotions for Spiritual Growth and Peace of Mind by Iyanla Vanzant A:  I  bought this at the beginning of the summer and it now sits on my nightstand as the first thing I read each morning.  It is filled with devotionals for each day of the year.  Each month focuses on a different spiritual principle:  June focuses on forgiveness, July on understanding, August on faith, and so on.  It’s a wonderful tool to ponder over aspects of ourselves and what we can do to transform to help us grow and learn.    GG side note:  I started reading this on June 21st and have already discovered four grammar goofs.  While the words inspire, the English teacher in me cringes when I read such lines as written for yesterday’s devotional:  “When you spend time honoring the dreams of one who has changed, when you continuing standing up for the things they believed in and when you. . . ”  Oops!!


I Scream, You Scream, We ALL Scream for Ice Cream

July 17, 2010 by  
Filed under Recipes

Blue Moon Ice Cream

I recently stayed overnight at the Grand Geneva Resort in Lake Geneva, WI and enjoyed a sweet treat I haven’t tasted since, well, since the last time I was in Lake Geneva about 6 years ago . . . Blue Moon ice cream!!!  Apparently, it’s only available in upper areas of the Midwest – Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.  As I sat savoring the indulgence, I attempted to identify just what is Blue Moon ice cream.  Coupled with its refreshing sky blue hue, it has a hard-to-describe taste all its own.  After happily testing my analysis over and over and over again, I decided it definitely had a hint of lemon with a touch of raspberry.  When I returned home, I frantically searched online and discovered the “original” recipe is a secret but there are two recipes out there that come close.  I dug out my ice cream maker, tried the one I’ve listed below and – sure enough – it is VERY close!!!   Oh . . . and I was right about the lemon and raspberry!!

Blue Moon ice cream = blue tongues! Fun!

This is definitely a repeater in my house.  The blue color is a refreshing pretty touch!  For next year’s 4th of July party, I’ll serve this in tall clear ice cream dishes with fresh raspberries and homemade whipped cream on top.  Voilà – a deliciously indulgent red, white and blue treat!! 🙂

Blue Moon Ice Cream

1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla oil (I used extract)
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1/8 teaspoon blue food coloring
3 teaspoons vanilla pudding mix
1 teaspoon raspberry flavored oil or 1 cup frozen raspberries, pureed (I pureed fresh raspberries)
1 teaspoon lemon flavored oil or lemon extract (I used fresh lemon juice)

-1/2 Cup of milk scalded in pan.
-add 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/4 tsp of salt. stir till dissolved
-add 1/2 cup of half and half.
-add 1 1/2 cups of heavy whipping cream.
-add vanilla, raspberry, lemon flavoring.
-add blue food coloring.
-chill in fridge till very cold.
-put in ice cream machine for about 20 minutes and devour!