Friday, August 28, 2015

Friday Five

Whoa! What a week!  I've been back for nearly the full week now, and am still alive, so I guess that's a success.  

The girls started school yesterday, and students will be reporting to my school on Monday morning.  

I didn't have as much time to spend shopping but there are still plenty of things I enjoyed.

1.  Woman in Gold

I rarely watch television, and it's even more rare for me to sit down and watch a movie, but I've been wanting to see this one ever since my mom told me how good it was. I agree. It's excellent.  In brief: based on a real-life story of a woman who seeks restitution from the Austrian government for the artwork (valued at over $100 million) that was taken from her family by the Nazis.

2.  Joule Women's Lightweight Sweatshirt, Floral

I love Boden, a British company, and now that I know about Joule, I also love them.  This floral sweatshirt has a hood on back and a narrower torso, so it's not too square of boxy.  I'd love to add this to my wardrobe.

My older girls are at that age where they are enjoying looking and experimenting with a few beauty products.  They don't wear makeup regularly yet, but Middle Sister is way (too) into doing her hair, and I can see her loving a box like this that arrives every month.  Christmas is only a few months away, so I'm keeping it in mind for a possible gift.

I saw this at Von Maur last week when I went with a friend.  I don't think I'd have a lot of opportunity to wear a poncho, but I loved the look of this one.  

It must be nearing fall. There are some beautiful sweaters out there. I always love Sundance's selection of sweaters, but wish they wouldn't be priced as high as they are.

And, since my internet surfing time is limited right now, that's it for this week.  What's caught your eye this past week?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Prisoners of Breendonk

The Prisoners of Breendonk: Personal Histories from a World War II Concentration Camp by James Deem is an exceptional look at World War II from a concentration camp in Belgium. 

Deem's book has taken the experiences of a variety of Breendonk prisoners and made them personal for the reader by giving a glimpse at their lives and who they were as people.  It is one thing to read about a group of people but as bits and pieces are revealed about each prisoner, it is hard to imagine the torture they went through.

Breendonk was not labeled a concentration camp, but instead was termed a reception camp where prisoners would be held until their release.  However, the torture endured at Breendonk was no less than at any concentration/death camp, and roughly half of the prisoners didn't survive.

Deem's book is well researched and provides many photographs and sketches along with some maps that give a better idea of what life was like in Breendonk.

I have read other non-fiction accounts of life in the concentration camps during World War II, and this is a fantastic addition to this growing collection.  

This is geared toward middle school - high school readers and will help satisfy their curiosity about World War II.  Although it doesn't go into Belgian history, it does give a glimpse at this country during the war as well. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week's pick: The Guise of Another by Allen Eskins
Due out: October 6, 2015

Product Information taken from Amazon:

Who was James Putnam? Answering that question may mean salvation for Alexander Rupert, a Minnesota detective whose life is in a serious downward spiral. A Medal of Valor winner, Alexander is now under subpoena by a grand jury on suspicion of corruption. He’s been reassigned to the Frauds Unit, where he is shunned by his fellow detectives, and he fears his status-seeking wife may be having an affair. When he happens across a complex case of identity theft, Alexander sees an opportunity to rehabilitate his tattered reputation.

But the case explodes into far more than he could have expected, putting him in the path of trained assassin Drago Basta, a veteran of the Balkan wars who has been searching for “James Putnam” for years. As his life spins out of control, Alexander’s last hope may be his older brother, Max, a fellow police detective who steps in to try to save his brother from the carnage his investigation has let loose

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Thunder Bay Titles For Fall: Must Reads

Earlier this summer I received an email from Thunder Bay books advertising some new fall titles they had coming out.  After looking at the titles a little more seriously, I realized that there were many I was really interested in.

And then I did something I have never done before. I emailed Casey at Thunder Bay books and asked if I could look at some titles.

I was thrilled when Casey kindly arranged a few titles to be sent to me to review and I was not disappointed with any of them.

In fact, I'll be sharing these with my library colleagues as soon as school starts back up.

A Tower of Giraffes: Animals in Groups by Anna Wright
I think I have a minor obsession with the interesting names given to groups of animals. This book features a different animal on each page, giving the collective name of each animal with a brief paragraph about the animal featured. The illustrations are highlighted by unique patterns, feathers, and knits.  This is a great book to add to my collection of animal books.

Clothesline Clues To Sports People Play by Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook, illustrated by Andy Robert Davies
Each page features a rhyming text giving hints about the sport featured in the illustrations on each page. Baseball, soccer, tennis, fencing and football are a few of the sports featured.  This is a fun book, great for read alouds and getting kids thinking about the various sports and the equipment needed to play them.

I'm New Here by Anne Sibley O'Brien
Three new students share their feelings about being the new student at a school where the language and customs are unfamiliar.  The author draws from her own experiences as a new student in a foreign country when she was a child.  Just as with the author, the children in this book now find a place in the United States they can call home.

Poppy's Best Paper by Susan Eaddy, illustrated by Rosalinde Bonnet
This is a cute story about Poppy, who plans to be a writer someday. When her class is given a writing assignment, she is sure hers will be the paper that the teacher will pick to read aloud. Unfortunately, it is her best friend, Lavender's paper, that is shared.  Poppy is extremely jealous of Lavender and vows to have her writing shared the next time.  Except things don't go exactly as Poppy planned. I love this story and am excited to use it as a read aloud at school, knowing that students will identify with Poppy.

The Inventor's Secret: What Thomas Edison Told Henry Ford by Suzanne Slade, illustrated by Jennifer Black Reinhardt
As soon as I saw this story I knew exactly which grade would enjoy it and where it would fit in the curriculum.  Our fifth grade spends a lot of time on inventions and reading this picture book would be a great springboard for this unit.  I appreciated that this book provides a glimpse at the friendship between these two important men, something I knew nothing about.  Also provided are additional notes at the book's end that give a better picture and more detailed information about the inventors and inventions shared in this book.  I love The Inventor's Secret!

Thunder Bay books impressed me wholeheartedly.  I loved every single title and can imagine various classes or lessons to use each book with.  I will be telling the librarians in my district about these books, but also investigating other titles that they have coming out. I could easily purchase their entire collection for my library and am already excited to see what they have coming out in spring 2016.

Thanks again to Casey and Thunder Bay for these five titles.  Although I received the books in return for my review, the opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Did You Ever Have a Family

I am lucky enough to have read Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg months before it was published.  And for all these months, I have thought of those characters many, many times.  

When a tragedy occurs the morning of her daughter's wedding, June finds herself alone and grieving. As various people affected by this tragedy narrate portions of this story, the ways they are connected are revealed. Each one has played a part in the way the events have unfolded.

There were points where I found this story utterly heartbreaking, where I wanted to change how I knew things would end.  And yet, there were also parts that were revealed and allowed me to see a glimmer of happiness, of the way people come together and that life does go on.

Did You Ever Have A Family is an amazing novel, one that I think people will be talking about for a long time, that book clubs will read and enjoy and that is absolutely unforgettable.

I have struggled with what to write about this novel, not wanting to give too much away.  Did You Ever Have a Family is a must read novel for 2015.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sunday Salon: Seizing the Day

It's officially the last day before I begin another school year. This upcoming week is filled with meetings and time to prepare our classrooms, but the real world is starting again tomorrow. 

I'm up fairly early, relaxing a bit at my sister's house in Des Moines before the girls and I head back home.  I've got my grocery list ready and despite the fact that my kids aren't excited about it, we'll stop off before we get home to get some food for the week. 

Yesterday we made a quick trip to the Iowa State Fair; I had never been before which surprises most people since I am an Iowa native.  

After we got there I remembered why this isn't really my type of thing - the hordes of people.  Ugh.

This is Little Sister next to the second biggest pumpkin of the year.  The first one was 500 pounds larger than this.

And the largest pig.  We also saw the Butter Cow (a cow carved out of butter), and a sheep being shorn.

Our only food purchase was a funnel cake that we shared, so we totally didn't have a true state fair experience since the various fried foods is what people usually talk about.  

Maybe I was just tired out because on Friday night Little Sister had her birthday party and first sleepover.

We started with a trip to the pool

Supper at Noodles and Co.

and mani/pedis for all three

They still unwrapped presents, played games, watched a movie and stayed up late after returning home.

Little Sister declared this the best party she ever had, so it was a successful celebration for a girl who will be nine next week..

My husband missed out - he's on a kayaking trip in the UP - or perhaps I took one for the team, knowing how much he enjoys a bunch of giggling girls running around til all hours of the night.

Despite the fact that I feel like I need a weekend to recover from the weekend, I'm seizing the day and organizing things for a busier than we are used to week to come.

Enjoy your Sunday!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Kitchens of the Great Midwest and Temptation

Last week I missed Beth Fish's Weekend Cooking meme because for the second weekend out of three, our internet was down.  Turns out our neighbor was attempting to fix a leak in his backyard and cut through the neighborhood phone lines with his backhoe.  An accident, but a frustrating weekend nonetheless.

However, without the internet, there is more time to read actual books, so it wasn't all bad.

J. Ryan Stradal's novel is about a number of different things. First off, there's Eva, who possesses the type of palate most chefs only dream of having.  Her father, Lars, must have passed down this gift since he was already dreaming of the foods he would introduce her to when she was still an infant.  

Eva grows up and eventually starts her own very successful business, a destination meal that blends together the food with the locale where it is served.  The wait list to attend a meal like this and the expense ensure that those who are able to experience this are extremely lucky.

In addition to the main character, Eva, Stradal introduces a new character in each chapter who has somehow been a part of Eva's life.  Each chapter also focuses on a midwest food or dish - lutefisk and venison are two of them- that also blend seamlessly into the storyline.

And while all of this works so well together, Stradal's novel is also about mothers and daughters and the ties that bind them together even when they are apart.  

With recipes included, I can't find anything missing from this amazing novel.  Kitchens of the Great Midwest has already garnered great praise, which in my opinion is well deserved.

And, since there were some amazing recipes included, I decided to try one out myself.  Bars must be a midwest thing since nearly every potluck I've ever attended has always had a great selection.

I had to try the county fair winning bar recipe of Pat's from Kitchens of the Great Midwest

2 1/2 c crushed graham cracker crumbs
1 cup melted Grade A butter
1 cup peanut butter
2 1/2 c powdered sugar
1 c milk chocolate chips with 1 tsp Grade A butter

Mix together graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, peanut butter and powdered sugar.  Pat into greased 9x13 pan. Melt the chips and butter and spread them on top of bars.  Set in refrigerator until firm.  Cut into bars.

I can't tell you how many little wedges I've cut out of the pan of bars this past week.  An easy recipe and a little too tempting to have around my house very often.

If you're interested in reading other food related posts, head over to Beth Fish Reads and check out her Weekend Cooking meme.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Friday Five

Apparently fall is right around the corner because not only are there fall clothes hitting the stores, but I have had to wear a jacket the past few days in the mornings on my way to exercise.  I'm still a little in denial about this, but today is the last day of summer school and on Monday my regular teaching contract starts.  So, so long summer!  

Fall and winter clothes are my favorites (probably because in Iowa that's what you wear for most of the year!), so it wasn't really any trouble finding things I'd love to buy this week.

A picture of this one popped up in an online ad and I searched until I found it.  It needs to be slightly more discounted than it is, but I'll be watching this one in case it ever gets clearanced out.

I really do need a new pair of tennis shoes for my exercise class, different than my running shoes.  I've had great luck with Brooks and these are catching my eye right now.

I don't need this top, but I love the colors and the fact that I could wear it by itself or under a jacket of some sort. 

This style top is really calling my name this year.  I love that it can be worn with jeans or khakis - pretty much as dressed up as I need to get for my job. 

5.  Lucky Brand Border Print Top

This is another top in that same style.  I like that it's not form fitting and could work for work or on the weekends.

6.  Pave Disc Pendant

This looks like something I would be able to wear with nearly everything I own.  A selling point for me when it comes to jewelry. And it's 40% off right now at Ann Taylor Loft.

By the time my next Friday Five rolls around I'll have been back at work full time for a week!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A Window Opens

I have been waiting for a few months to blog on this book. I was lucky enough to receive an ARC through Net Galley and devoured it.  Although it's late in the summer, it would make the perfect beach book, but isn't a title that can be enjoyed only from the side of the pool, either.

Alice Pearse's professional life is looking promising.  She has just been hired by Scroll, a start-up that plans to revolutionize reading.  (Seriously, I never quite got how they were going to do that and I'm pretty sure Alice didn't know, either).  Her husband is making a career change, so they could really use her income. 

Although she has a life that most people would be envious of, there are a few struggles that Alice has: a marriage that has been neglected, a career choice that isn't turning out to be nearly as promising as she thought, and her father's health crisis.

Alice has too many irons in the fire and the stress is getting to her.  And add to that, she and her best friend who owns a bookstore have had a falling out since Alice's new career is essentially putting bookstores out of business.

As a reader I was nervous for Alice. The stress just kept piling up and Alice was barely keeping her head above water.  I knew where I wanted this story to go, and Egan delivered, tying up the ending nicely without making it seem too predictable or trite.

A Window Opens reminds me of I Don't Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson, one of my favorite mommy-lit reads.  This should be popular with women's fiction readers and book clubs.  I'm excited it's finally out and I can talk to other readers about it.  I'm already waiting to see what Egan writes next.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that allows bloggers to share books that will be published soon.

This week's pick:

Couple Mechanics by Nelly Alard
Due out January 19, 2016

Synopsis taken from Goodreads:

At once sexy and feminist, this is a story of a woman who decides to fight for her marriage after her husband confesses to an affair with a notable politician
Juliette, a computer engineer, and Olivier, a journalist, have two young children and the busy lives of a modern Parisian couple. On a beautiful spring day, while sitting by the river watching her children play, Juliette’s cell phone rings. It is her husband. When Olivier confesses to having an affair, Juliette’s world is shattered.
How do you survive betrayal? Can a couple ever be united again? What lengths would you go to in order to save your marriage? These are the questions that this novel, with great intelligence, honesty, and humor, tries to answer. In its acute depiction of intimacy, Couple Mechanics exposes the system of forces at work in a marriage, the effects of the inevitable ebb and flow of desire, and the difficulty of being a man today