Easy, summery and delicious: Bean salad with bruschetta

I love entertaining in the summer, because the meals are always lighter and, it seems, a little simpler. You throw a few veggies together, toss a few chunks of meat on the barbecue, and everyone is happy because it’s hot out.

I came by this recipe when looking up something easy for a rather impromptu dinner party. It was a party pleaser, mainly because of the fresh ingredients. And also the base of bread and cheese. You can never go wrong with bread and cheese.

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Summer Sips

In honour of the (finally) good weather we’re having in Calgary, and in hope that it lasts, I’ve been whipping up some yummy summer drinks of the strictly non-alcoholic kind. The first is one of my favourites, my Mom’s Iced Tea.

Mom is a fantastic cook and used to always have a snack whipped up for my friends if we came over after school. This made her a favourite with my friends, who I understand still have cravings for some of her treats. Her refreshing iced tea is one of these. It’s also really easy to make, you just need to have a little foresight as to when the good weather is going to happen.

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Renovations Weeks Nine and Ten: Being homeless with a six-month old has a lot of disadvantages

Sorry for being so silent for so long. My little family was out of our old condo, but the new house just wasn’t ready yet (well, not habitable for a baby, anyway). So, I’ve been a little homeless, bouncing around between friends and family for the past two and a half weeks. And it’s hard. Between this and being evacuated during the flood in June, I feel like we’ve had no real home base for the last six weeks. I feel like a terrible mother right now, since X hasn’t had a lot of consistency and that’s not easy for a baby. He views every new place we stay now with suspicion. I don’t mean to complain, though, we have been incredibly lucky to have so many wonderful, generous people in our lives who have put us up graciously without a second thought. To all of you (and you are many), thank you!

But that all changes now. The house is thisclose to being finished, and we have finally moved in. It’s still a little dirty (the dust! Where does it come from? I scrubbed the floors on hands and knees last night, and this morning it is covered with a fine layer of dust. So. Frustrating), but livable. And beautiful. We are very very very happy with the caliber of work that has been done to turn this place from a monstrosity to a stunning place to live. I don’t want to put up any before and afters until things are totally done (and I’ve managed to rid this place of dust), but here are a few teasers:

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Summertime desserts: Rhubarb crisp

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I’m a big fan of fruit-based desserts, and there is no better time to indulge in them then the warm summer months when produce is fresh and, if you’re lucky, actually locally grown. I actually just discovered in my new backyard a giant raspberry bush covered in ripe little berries. Made me so happy. We haven’t move in yet, so I don’t think we’ll get to take advantage of it this year, but next year? There will be many a raspberry recipe.

As I’m writing this, I’m wondering whether rhubarb actually is a fruit. It’s not, right? The taste has always reminded me of sour celery, but in a good way, so I figure they must be “related.” Anyway, fruit or no, rhubarb makes delicious desserts. My longtime favourite is a simple rhubarb crisp. When I was lucky enough to have my sister give me a bag full of rhubarb fresh from her garden, I had to make some up. It’s so easy, and so delicious.

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Book reviews: YA, YA and more YA!

The Hunchback Assignments, by Arthur Slade

Finally holding true to my promise, I let myself go into some easier-to-read YAs this summer. I find that this genre can be so surprising. Some of it is really good, some of it is quite bad, but a lot is unexpected. Take Arthur Slade’s The Hunchback Assignments. It’s a steampunk Victorian mystery, already a very cool premise. The protagonist is Modo, a hideously deformed hunchback who has the ability to change his appearance. He takes on some of the darker minds in London, set on destroying order and good government, or whatever.

The book was interesting, but I found it a little childish. If I were twelve, I would be all over this book, however.

 As it was, the book was good. I’d put the reading level close to that of Harry Potter, so clearly this is the type of thing I can read for enjoyment.

 

Nevermore, by Kelly Creagh, unfortunately fell into the “truly dreadful” of the YA category. Maybe I’m being harsh. The idea, a fantasy YA based on the works and mysteries of Edgar Allen Poe, sounds awesome. The head cheerleader falling for the goth guy is also a good idea. In reality, though, I don’t think Creagh pulled it off. A lot of the characters were nonsensical, and behaved in ridiculous ways. The “love” between the two protagonists was equally as ridiculous, as there was essentially nothing to support it. I thought that could be developed a lot better.

This books major flaw, for me, was that it was boring. I found myself skipping whole sections, something I never do, just to try to figure out when the plot was going to do something. Creagh is very descriptive (maybe influenced by Poe on purpose here), but when the setting description goes on and on and on … well, you get my point. If this had been cut down by 100 pages, and the two lovers had absolutely any reason to like each other, I might get behind this.

Dark Inside, by Jeyn Roberts

This book was a little bit stunning. I will put my biases right out there and say I love supporting me a Canadian author, and it’s always fun to read about your home city where the streets and buildings are recognizable to you, even during the apocalypse.

That said, Jeyn Roberts’ apocalyptic novel is something new. The world is ripped apart by earthquakes, which lets out an ancient evil that infects humans, causing them to become monsters. Not everyone is affected though, and the book follows four teens from different parts of the continent trying to survive.

Intense action, pacing and tension. It was almost breathtaking, as in I found myself often holding my breath. I’m a big fan of zombie books, but this one was by far the scariest. I think because the monsters weren’t slow, dumb zombies, but former human beings, often friends and family of the survivors, who were fast and smart and hunting them down. It was terrifying. And awesome. I will definitely be searching out the next book in this series.

 

Dust Girl, by Sarah Zettel

I had no big expectations on Sarah Zettel’s Dust Girl. Oh look, another fairy book. But I was pleasantly surprised. Set in 1930s Kansas, during the Great Depression when that part of America was turned to a great plain of dust, made this book fresh and interesting. Even more interesting was the main character’s struggle with trying to hide the fact that she was half black. A little disappointed with the cover again, I wouldn’t think the protagonist was half black from this. Although maybe that was the point.

Anyway, the story was inventive and creative. I didn’t know what would come next. So it was a really enjoyable read, one I’d recommend for someone looking for something light. I might maybe look up the next installment.

Word of the day:

Gubernatorial: (Americanism) of or pertaining to a state governor or the office of state governor.