Tuesday, February 26, 2013

One Year Ago Today

Trayvon Martin
February 5, 1995 - February 26, 2012

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)

The Gentle Mom

Monday, February 25, 2013

People Who Buy Things Are Suckers

Just when I thought I couldn't possibly love Parks and Recreation any more, this happened.


The Gentle Mom

Thursday, January 31, 2013

My January Reading: Lots of Fantastic YA

We're definitely a family of readers!
I'm so excited to start tracking and sharing the books I read in 2013. I've never done it before, but I think it will be fun!

January started off slowly, with two less-than-stellar choices in a row.  But then I really hit my stride, first with an amazing short story collection, followed rather unintentionally by lots and lots of YA novels - and all of them were awesome.  I highly recommend checking out the titles I've reviewed below (and if you'd be kind enough to make any purchases through the links provided, I'll receive a small stipend from Amazon - just a couple cents, but every little bit helps, right?)

I was really looking forward to reading The Highly Sensitive Person. I've always known I'm an HSP, and was eager to learn some new coping tips for those days when I'm feeling emotionally and physically overwhelmed. However, I realized almost immediately that the book was full of overly saccharine language and pop psychology cliches. I had a hard time working my way through it, and am ultimately disappointed to say that this isn't a book I'll be returning to.

I knew The Rape of Nanking would be a tough read, but I was truly not prepared for just how brutal the content would be. I think it's important to study and learn from history, including its worst atrocities, but in this case I just couldn't bring myself to keep going. I had to send this one back to the library less than a third of the way in.

Before I even cracked the spine, I was prepared to adore Unaccustomed Earth. I'd loved Jhumpa Lahiri's previous books (Interpreter of Maladies and The Namesake), but this particular short story collection grabbed hold of me in a way I hadn't thought possible. Miraculously, each brief tale is as fully realized, and as satisfying, as a substantial novel. Lahiri has a special gift for presenting characters, places, stories, and themes that are as real as the world outside your window. I was heartbroken to finish this book, and look forward to revisiting it in the future.

I decided to give Sharp Objects a try based solely on the strength of Gone Girl, which was one of my favorite books of 2012. But murder mystery just isn't my genre, and the imagery was far too graphic for someone as squeamish sensitive as me. This one also went back to the library unfinished.

It's been quite a few years since I read The Giver, but that book is so unforgettable that I still remember it in vivid detail. So when I dove into the final three books of The Giver Quartet, it was like returning to a place I lived long ago - both familiar and changed. Gathering Blue was, structurally, probably the strongest of the three books, and Kira is a heroine I won't soon forget. At first I thought Messenger was going to be too heavy-handed for my taste, but I got swept away in the story and, by the end, was sobbing like a baby. And Son? Well, reading that book was like having my heart and soul shredded into a million tiny pieces, scattered across the globe, then slowly gathered back together and patched into something once again whole and healed. The book ended perfectly, but I still want more.

Girlchild was an engrossing debut novel with an extremely likable protagonist. At first, I thought the "brilliant but damaged white trash girl comes of age and learns Important Life Lessons" plot was a bit hackneyed, but there were enough interesting twists to keep me engaged. The quality of the writing alone is enough to recommend this book.

I picked up Among Others after hearing the tail end of a positive review on NPR, but I didn't know much about the story. I quickly discovered that this book was one of the realest, rawest, most identifiable portraits of adolescent loneliness - and the longing that comes with it - that I've ever read. Even better, the all-too-realistic tale of Mori's isolation is beautifully interwoven with a compelling fantasy narrative, as well as ruminations on her most beloved science fiction books. That's not a genre I'm overly familiar with, but the narrator's loving descriptions of her favorite novels have inspired me to check some of them out.

And, finally, I grabbed The Age of Miracles off a table displaying the best books of 2012 at our local library. I had heard good things, but didn't really have any specific expectations. It turned out to be a quick, compelling read, interweaving plausible science fiction with a painfully real coming-of-age tale. I think this would have become my new favorite book, if I'd read it in middle school.

For more great book recommendations, be sure to visit Booking It! at Life as Mom, where lots of bloggers (including me!) are sharing their favorite reads from the last month.

The Gentle Mom

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Multigrain Peanut Butter Pancakes with Chocolate Chips

Yesterday, Trey wanted me to make chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast. Since I was only cooking for the two of us, and we both LOVE whole grains, I decided to healthify my usual "cooking for a crowd" recipe. The results were absolutely delicious, and much healthier than traditional white flour pancakes.

Multigrain Peanut Butter Pancakes with Chocolate Chips

1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 milk
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 Tablespoons extra light olive oil
1 Tablespoon ground flax seed meal
1 Tablespoon no-sugar-added peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup quick oats
2/3 cups white whole wheat flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Chocolate chips to taste (I just sprinkle a few on each pancake as a I cook)

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, sugar, oil, flax seed meal, peanut butter, and vanilla. Stir in the oats, flour, baking power, salt, and cinnamon, mixing only until just combined.

To prepare: heat a buttered griddle pan over medium heat. Drop a scant quarter cup of batter onto the griddle for each pancake; sprinkle on a few chocolate chips if desired. Cook until pancakes are puffed and dry around the edges. Flip and cook other side until golden brown and cooked through.

Serve warm with maple syrup and lots of fresh fruit!

The Gentle Mom

Monday, January 28, 2013

Easy, Healthy, Homemade Granola Bars

I adapted this recipe from Brigette's original. It's actually not any cheaper than buying a box of Quaker Chewy granola bars, but it's much more nourishing, and certainly tastier!

I whipped up a batch a earlier in the week, and they were a huge hit. They are sweet, salty, chewy, and delicious!

Easy, Healthy Homemade Granola Bars

2 1/2 cups toasted oat cereal
1 3/4 cups quick oats
1/4 cup ground flax seed meal
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup pepitas
2 Tablespoons honey
2 Tablespoons agave nectar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup sugar-free peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chocolate chips

In a large bowl, mix together the first 5 ingredients; set aside.

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, melt together the honey, agave nectar, maple syrup, brown sugars, and salt. Bring to a complete boil, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds. Remove pan from heat, and stir in the peanut butter. When fully combined and smooth, add the dry ingredients, mixing thoroughly to combine.

Allow mixture to cool for 4-5 minutes, then quickly stir in the chocolate chips. Press the mixture into a 9 x 13 baking dish. Allow to cool completely before cutting into squares.

The Gentle Mom
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