Month: January 2014

The Fault in Our Stars – a book review

book review - john greenOne of the great things that my 12 year old niece and I have in common is we’re both avid readers. Give us a few hours at the local Chapters and we’re happy! I always try to include a book with her Christmas gifts and this year was no exception as she asked for John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. It was only after I’d wrapped it up and tucked it under the tree that the subject matter hit me – teens with cancer. Ugh, not at all light or festive. I was worried that I’d given her a dud so I read it for myself.

The general story line follows three teens that meet through a support group for kids with cancer. Two are the lovely Hazel who has terminal cancer requiring her to haul a respirator everywhere she goes and the very charming Augustus who is in remission after losing part of a leg to the disease. A sweet friendship develops over banter about procedures, cancer ‘perks’ like passing your driver’s license when perhaps you shouldn’t have and teasing over a wasted ‘fill a dream’ trip to Disneyland. Because of their illnesses, these kids have the usual teen filters and bravado stripped away and are fully aware that their infinities will be much shorter than most. They live every moment, tell the truth and accept each other for who they are without all the angst of many teen characters.
book review - john greenCancer is also a central character and its impact on family, friends and patients are all glimpsed. Green delivers a fairly predictable tale but keeps us following right along. He includes so much humour and insight in this story and deals realistically with its heavy subject matter. The dialogue is quick, witty and touching. There truly are just as many laughs as tears in this one – a real mix of tenderness and heartache.

I recommend it as a quick, rainy weekend read. The best part for me was knowing that I’d at least given Sydney a well-written account of teen illness. Weird, right?
Oh, and she loved it!

One pot pasta – quick & dirty dinner

one pot pastaIt’s been awhile since I’ve tried a new recipe and I admit cooking hasn’t been a top priority lately. So, when I came across Martha Stewart’s One Pan Pasta it seemed like a good fit. New recipe, little effort. Win, win. I made a few changes just to use what I had on hand rather than buying special ingredients. I’m not sure why I think I can get away with this since my expertise is in the craft room, not the kitchen. Luckily, it worked out fine. Here’s my take on the one-pot dish.

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz linguine (about 1/2 of a 900 gram package here in Canada)
  • 1 jar or can of prepared pasta sauce, I used Ragu
  • 1 small sweet onion, cut
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed or cut into thin slices
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups vegetable broth (or water, or chicken broth)
  • parmesan cheese, optional for topping

one pot pastaPlace all ingredients except the parmesan cheese in a large stock pot. Stir, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and let simmer for about 10 minutes stirring every few minutes. Pasta will be soft and most of the liquid will be cooked away when ready. Season to taste with salt and pepper, garnish with parmesan. Makes 4-6 servings.
one pot pastaHere it is piping hot and ready to serve.  I was skeptical about the cook-it-all-together method but am pleasantly surprised. It’s super tasty and I love how it’s hot all the way through and holds the heat. One of my pet peeves is how pasta tends to cool down so quickly.
one pot pastaIs this the best pasta I’ve tried? Not by a long shot. Will I make it again? Absolutely. For a quick, weeknight, meal-on-the-table-in-minutes you can’t beat it. Next time I’ll try spaghetti noodles and add mushrooms to the sauce. I’ll also mix all the ingredients together in the pot before adding the dry pasta to it. The photo with everything piled in the pot is really just for dramatic effect – it’s not that practical and led to a very dirty pot. Thankfully that was the only clean-up though! Gotta like a one-pot plan that works out. Will you try it?

 

Olliblocks – just for fun

Olliblocks DIY This is the cutest project I’ve done in a very long time. Of course, there’s a little story behind it. About a year ago, I stumbled on these adorable toy blocks on Pinterest. I purchased and printed the files and it ended there. I was so reluctant to cut them up!
These graphics, and many more options are available from the Caravan Shoppe. You can purchase them on-line and have them emailed within minutes. The designs are gorgeous, full of detail and charm. I’ve ordered calendars and two block designs so far and am really happy with them all.
Olliblocks DIYBut back to the project at hand. I had the blocks on my ‘to-do’ list and when my niece asked if she could come hang out, I knew exactly what we’d do! We picked up wooden blocks from Michaels and got to it. Here’s how we made a set of 9, 1 1/2″ blocks:
1. Cut out 3 sheets of the graphics, making one pile for heads, one for bodies and one for legs.
2. Brush a light layer of modge podge onto one side of the block and attach one graphic. Repeat. You want one block that has all heads on it, one with all bodies and another with all the legs. We made 3 blocks of each for a total of 9 blocks. Let them dry.
3. Brush on a light top coat of modge podge to seal. Let dry, overnight is best.
4. Play and display your new Olliblocks!
Olliblocks DIYThese would be an ideal project for a craft night or girls get-together. They’re easy enough that you can chat while making them and the results are so darn cute! What a great gift for kids!
Olliblocks DIYOlliblocks DIYNow, Sydney and I are both a bit old to actually play with these but we’re pretty smitten with them. Next up for us….the Valentine’s blocks!

Just to be clear: I have not been sponsored or paid by the Caravan Shoppe (I wish!). I’m simply sharing a project I loved.