Sunday, April 16, 2017

Vibrant India


Vibrant India: Fresh Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Brooklyn by Chitra Agrawal is a colorful introduction to the vegetarian fare of South India. The unique recipes in this book reflect the author's background, and she does an excellent job of introducing vegetarian Indian cuisine to those of us who are unfamiliar with the cooking methods and ingredients required to create these mouth-watering dishes.

Vibrant India contains a lengthy introduction where Chitra Agrawal explains the cooking methods and different ways of seasoning the recipes require. My junior chef and I enjoyed learning what ingredients and cooking tools we needed to acquire, and we couldn't wait to dig in and try cooking things like Fragrant Eggplant and Green Pepper Rice, Potato, Carrot, and Red Lentil Stew, and Stuffed Shishito Pepper Fritters. After reading about the author's background, we learned more about South Indian traditions and were intrigued to experience Indian culture though our kitchen. We are learning how to temper spices in oil and are putting together our own Masala dabba (spice tiffin).

A trip to an Indian grocery is a must in order to get the pantry stocked, but the author teaches how to create the dishes in a clear and conversational tone. I also appreciate that she provides substitution suggestions for some items like certain vegetables and herbs. The beautiful illustrations and photographs add a nice element to the cultural experience that is Vibrant India. If you need me, I'll be in the kitchen!

The publisher provided a review copy of Vibrant India.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Yellow Owl Workshop's Make it Yours

Make it Yours

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Unique crafts that don't cost a fortune help me keep my artsy kids busy. Yellow Owl Workshop's Make It Yours: Patterns and Inspiration to Stamp, Stencil, and Customize Your Stuff is a treasure trove of patterns and ideas using a variety of techniques to craft things using stamps, stencils, and more. From clothing to household items, and even cookies and cakes, this book is filled with inspiration.

My junior chef especially enjoys the techniques for making table linens and a kitchen message board. The fondant icing, drawing with chocolate, and patterns for spring cookies are also favorites. And, we cannot wait to try making the delftware with some thrift store bowls.

In addition to the kitchen-related crafts, my boys couldn't wait to try making handmade stamps following the instructions in Make it Yours. They will be used to personalize everything from notebooks to recipe cards.

The book features clear instructions and tons of color photographs, with several pages of patterns to carry out all of the projects. My favorite thing about the book is the limited 'ingredients' list for each project. It is pretty easy to gather all of the materials without having to go shopping if you stock basic craft supplies in your home. We've raided Daddy's workshop for a few items, but it's nice to be able to recycle things and keep costs down, especially when you have kids who love to create.

The publisher provided an advance review copy of Make it Yours.

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Mark of the King

The exciting new historical novel, The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green, is a sweeping, not-to-be-missed inspirational story.

Julianne Chevalier is a young midwife in 1719 Paris, France, who experiences a tragedy with a client that leads to her being imprisoned and branded as a criminal beyond redemption. The author did extensive research into the customs and laws of that time, and she discovered things about the notorious Salpetriere Paris women's prison, the one Julianne is sentenced to in the story.

Based on historical events, Julianne trades her life sentence for exile to the 'fledgling French colony' of Louisiana. On top of this daunting future, the price of her transport is a forced marriage to a fellow convict. Julianne ends up in New Orleans where more tragedy eventually strikes.

With no news of her soldier brother Benjamin, who is embroiled in the war between the French and Chickasaw ''now known as the First French-Chickasaw War," Julianne must find her way in the dangerous 18th century frontier, where only faith can see her through:

"From now on let no one cause trouble for me,
for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus." --Galatians 6:17

With "...God's grace covering them all..." (395), the characters of The Mark of the King continually pull at your heartstrings and the plot keeps you turning the pages.

This book is ideal for a book group and includes detailed and thought-provoking discussion questions at the end. The Author's Note explains how the story is based on real events of forced immigration and exile to Louisiana between 1717-1721. Not only were convict girls ages 12-26  shipped from Salpetriere prison to help colonize Louisiana, but the French military in Louisiana also endured horrible living conditions as the French government basically abandoned them.

The publisher provided a review copy of The Mark of the King.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

For the Record


For the Record by Regina Jennings is a fun and inspirational novel set in 1885. This historical romance features the spunky Betsy Huckabee, who lives in the town of Pine Gap Missouri, where she writes for her uncle's newspaper.

Deputy Joel Pucket leaves his home in Texas and moves to Pine Gap, and he finds that the small town is rife with lawlessness. As Betsy creates a hero based on Deputy Joel to star in a serial for the ladies' pages, she realizes it would cost him. As the story progresses, she grows to admire him.

I like the light-hearted tone of the book, and the way the characters are shown, flaws and all. There are laugh-out-loud moments and plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing.

For the Record transports readers back to the late 1800's through nice detailed descriptions and period dialogue:

"Doctor Hopkins entered and fell into his wife's arms. She sobbed as she inspected him from his soot-covered head to his scorched feet." (167)

The characters are easy to like, and the story demonstrates how faith and grace get us through difficult circumstances. Though the story is set many years ago, the lessons it teaches are still very applicable today. And the heroine, Becky, proves that a woman can be independent and tough, yet still have a soft side. The mild suspense of the plot kept me up at night wanting to read 'one more' page.

The publisher provided a review copy of For the Record.