Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Big Day for "A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust"

I feel like I've been transitioned from apprentice to journeyman. This is a big day for my blog. It's the day I received my first ARC.

The Life You've Imagined by Kristina Riggle

And the best part? She's from Michigan!

Thank you to Jen at Devourer of Books for hosting this online book club. I can't wait to finish reading the book and participate!

Doing YOUR Part

In my last post, I shared with you some of the things that I do in my home and in my life to help the environment. But one person isn't enough. We need to get more and more people outraged at the way our earth is being treated by, most specifically, big oil companies. I just sat down this afternoon and watched a fascinating documentary called Fuel. Josh Tickell, the creator of the film, is sort of the Michael Moore of the biofuel movement.

The movie starts out very bleak and makes you feel outraged at how oil companies have ravaged, not only our environment, but the health of its inhabitants. Yes, I will be the first to admit that this movie is slanted to the left, and that there isn't much room for oppositional arguments, but I think Tickell feels like we're running short on time here. If we don't do something about this dependence on fossil fuels NOW, then our nation is going to implode. I can forgive his overzealousness because I understand his plight. As Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. says in the film, "We have lost our greatness because we put oil before the Bill of Rights."

As the movie progresses, however, the bleakness transitions into hope and you start to see how it is possible to eradicate our country and our world of its dependence on fossil fuels if we just stop letting oil conglomerates run our government.

I was at first skeptical of the idea of using biodiesel due to the possibility of the need for fuel to take over the food supply, but once Tickell showed that it's possible to create the fuel from waste rather than virgin crop, I was sold.

There's no doubt that the politics of this movie lean to the left, but to me, the future of our children and our world goes beyond politics. Everyone should go out and buy this movie or, better yet, spend less money and create less waste like I did and check it out from your library.

Watch the Fuel movie trailer:

Spread the word.

Doing My Part

Besides the fact that I love to read, write, cook, and travel, I'm also a zealous environmentalist. Ever since I was old enough to understand that trees help us breathe, I've been a proponent of the three r's: reduce, reuse, recycle.

But it wasn't until my husband and I moved to Germany and I saw how preserving the environment was more important to Germans than consumption that I really developed my passion for saving the environment. Now that we've been back in the states for over five years, I am saddened and sickened by the sense of entitlement Americans have displayed over the years at exploiting, not only our resources, but the resources of other, much poorer nations.

I want so badly for that to change. I despise being wasteful. It pains me to throw away a piece of paper or a plastic bottle. Before our school implemented a paper recycling program, I would tote all the paper used in my classroom home and recycle it curbside. Even today, we have yet to implement plastic recycling, I tell all my students to throw away their empties in a crate at the front of the room and I will take them home to recycle them when it gets full. Bonus points for anyone who brings in a reusable water bottle instead of disposable (not really, but they will receive my utmost praise).

My husband and I have made a conscious effort these past five years to become less wasteful and to recycle more than we throw away. And now, to reduce our waste even further, I have finally started composting. I have wanted to take on this endeavor for a couple years now, but never knew how to do it in such a small area since my husband and I live in a condo. Luckily, our condo has a backyard, but not much of that backyard is actually space that we own.

I have been concerned about starting this project because I feared that an open compost container would attract rodents and other unpleasant creatures and we already have a mice issue in our basement. But I also didn't want to purchase one of those ridiculously expensive compost tumblers because the whole idea of composting is to be cost-efficient, not cost-promiscuous.

So I was doing some research online about how to compost in small spaces, and I came across a website that talked about just doing it in a plastic storage tub with holes drilled throughout for air. I liked this idea, there was just one problem with it: it's an eyesore. My husband and I have worked really hard at making our back patio a pleasant place to hang out and enjoy the sun and shade. I didn't want an ugly storage container jeopardizing that feeling of serenity. But, my desire to be green was still overriding my desire to make my backyard beautiful.

As luck would have it though, I was cruising around Target the other day and found a small deck bench that gave me an idea: what if I used the plastic storage container and put it inside the more aesthetically pleasing deck bench?

The results were, I think, exactly what I was looking for.

At the present moment, these are the only holes I have drilled in the bench itself. This may change if I think it needs more aeration. I didn't want to put too many holes on the outside for fear of ruining the aesthetics of it.

All our plant waste waiting for the magic of decomposition to do its thing.

My next self-improvement project for helping the environment is to reduce my meat consumption. This has been a much more difficult step for me, but I'm trying really hard to introduce myself to new flavors and textures in my culinary repertoire that will reduce my fixation on meat.

What do YOU do to help the environment?

Monday, July 26, 2010

How to Eat: The Pleasures and Principles of Good Food by Nigella Lawson

Nigella Lawson is one of those people you just like watching on TV. She could be making a tuna noodle casserole with Campbell's cream of mushroom soup, but the way her satiny voice describes food and ingredients, you'd think she was making the most delicious dinner ever created. I find myself frequently hypnotized by her way with words and she never fails to make cooking feel like a sensual experience.

Part cookbook, part dissertation to the merits of understanding food, Nigella wins you over in the very first paragraph:

"Cooking is not about just joining the dots, following one recipe slavishly and then moving on to the next. It's about developing and understanding of food, a sense of assurance in the kitchen, about the simple desire to make yourself something to eat. And in cooking, as in writing, you must please yourself to please others."

I did not find a vast array of recipes that I will use without fail in this book. What I did find was the assurance that it's OK to trust your instincts in the kitchen and that a recipe doesn't have to be followed to the letter. As time goes by, I often find myself following recipes less and less. How to Eat gave me a new take on things. As Nigella says in the preface, "You need to acquire your own sense of what food is about rather than just a vast collection of recipes."

How to Eat: The Pleasures and Principles of Good Food by Nigella Lawson
First Published: 1999 in Great Britain (I read the American version published in 2007)
Pages: 474
Genre: Cookery
Audience: Adult

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Wish by Alexandra Bullen

From Goodreads:
For broken-hearted Olivia Larsen, nothing can change the fact that her twin sister, Violet, is gone... until a mysterious, beautiful gown arrives on her doorstep. The dress doesn't just look magical; it is magical. It has the power to grant her one wish, and the only thing Olivia wants is her sister back.

With Violet again by her side, both girls get a second chance at life. And as the sisters soon discover, they have two more dresses-and two more wishes left. But magic can't solve everything, and Olivia is forced to confront her ghosts to learn how to laugh, love, and live again.

The "Don't judge a book by its cover" platitude does not apply when it comes to this book. I have never seen such a stunning book cover in all my life. It's what drew me to read it.

But did the book live up to the cover? Not entirely.

There were a lot of great lessons in this book about love and loss, but there was also a lot of fluff too, fluff that masked some of the beauty. At the same time, that fluff I'm sure helped to lure in girl readers who like reading about fashion and cute boys.

Line that finally won me over:
"What's the point? Violet repeated, her voice becoming gravelly and almost harsh. "You know, life doesn't have to be something you watch happen to everybody else. You say you want things to change, but nothing's going to change until you change it."

This line came at the midway point in the story and made the reader understand Violet's purpose to the story. There's an even more powerful line uttered by Violet towards the end of the story that relates to this one but I would be giving too much away if I told you what it was.

This book did not blow me away as much as the cover did, but it was definitely worth the read and I think it teaches a valuable lesson about not dying along with those we lose.

Wish by Alexandra Bullen
First Published: January 2010
Pages: 336
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult

Saturday, July 24, 2010

GoD And DoG

If you're a dog person like me, this song by Wendy Francisco will move you to tears. It's stunning in its simplicity, but it expresses everything that makes dogs so lovable. Apparently it has made quite the rounds on YouTube with over 2 million views, but tonight was the first time I'd ever seen or heard of it.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Dystopian as Science Fiction: Help Me Understand

After reading Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer a few months ago, I have been inspired to model my classroom around hers and have students choose their own books but give them guidelines by making them read specific genres.

So at the beginning of the summer, I took all the books from my classroom library and labeled them by genre. Here's my frustration though: I need to understand why all dystopian fiction is considered science fiction. There are books where the science fiction label is obvious (Feed, Brave New World) but I look at books like The Hunger Games, and the classic 1984, which are clearly more political than scientific and wonder what it has to do with science (political SCIENCE? I don't consider that pure science. Should I?). I'm assuming because it fits within the "speculative fiction" label rather than the science label and those two descriptions get used interchangeably for this genre. Or maybe just because it deals with the FUTURE?

I guess the reason I'm having such frustration about this is because I have books in my library like The Hunger Games that I'm torn as whether to label them science fiction. Yes, they are clearly dystopian, but science? I'm not so sure.

What say you?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Summer Doldrums

We've come to the point in summer vacation where I start itching to get back in the classroom. Now I don't want anyone to mistake this statement as a lack of desire for this lengthy hiatus from working. On the contrary. What I'm going through right now is the dichotomy of emotions I feel every June through August when I praise God for giving me three months of the year where my mind is not constantly on something teaching-related, yet longs for the intellectual stimulation of being in a classroom full of kids.

Working with kids and guiding them on their educational journey is a natural high for me. To watch their physical, emotional, and intellectual growth throughout the course of a school year never ceases to excite and inspire me.

But this ceaseless inspiration comes at a cost. That cost is the vestige of a life. From September through early June, my entire life is held hostage by the rigors of this job that many people rarely understand unless they know someone who teaches. So many people have the misconception that unless you work in the inner-city, teaching is a cake job. 9-5 job. Weekends, holidays, summers off. Must be nice, right?

What is rarely mentioned, however, is the amount of work teachers put into their jobs after the school day ends. Don't tell me I have a cushy job with lots of time off when my evenings are spent grading papers and my weekends planning lessons. I earned these three months off and I'd like for all you judgmental curmudgeons to stop thinking I'm a slacker for sitting around my house reading books and catching up on DVR'd shows. Those two days off that YOU all get during the week, for me have been crammed into three months in a row thank you very much.

Because I earned every minute of these three months due to the amount of work I put into my job during the school year, the thought of letting it fly by kills me. I like to savor every moment out of principle. Yet, as we're beginning to creep into August, all I can think about are the bright, shining eyes of students whose minds I have the ability to impact. They are so full of life and doubt, and come mid-year, develop tons of junior high attitude. Yet in the end, they are the ones who end up affecting me more. It's a job I continue to do purely out of selfishness: it makes me feel like I'm making a difference. There's no greater sense of satisfaction than to walk into that environment everyday, knowing you're impacting the future.

But right now it's still July so I'm just going sit here on this couch with my DVR and remote control and catch up on NCIS.

All over the place

I'm having a major case of literary ADD lately. I've abandoned three books in the past week. That is unheard of for me. I need a book to strike my fancy pronto! I just started listening to Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson and it seems to be doing the trick. The writing is wonderful and the narrator has a very pleasant, calming voice. Let's hope I have the motivation to see this one through.

Since I seem to be meandering in my reading, I figured I'd let this post meander. On something totally unrelated, I was introduced to this adorable video on Maw Books Blog. It's a spoof of the Old Spice Guy. I dare you to try only watching it once. I thought for sure I'd be able to do it, but sadly, I've already watched it like four times.

So be honest, how many times did you watch it?

Meandering again, lots of people have recently been reviewing The Tension of Opposites by Kristina McBride. I wasn't sold on weather I wanted to read it until I watched this book trailer

Putting this book on my "to-read" list as we speak...

OK, I'm back.

And finally, to end this catch-all post, here's a fabulous NPR article about why libraries might be the next pop culture trend. So that headmaster of that school in Massachussetts who got rid of all the books in his school's library in favor of a cappuccino bar? Yeah, I hope he's feeling pretty stupid right about now.

Friday, July 16, 2010

My biggest fan

Frank loves lying at my feet whenever I play the piano

Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins

I love books that introduce kids (and adults!) to moments in history or injustices in the world that are otherwise foreign or unknown to them. Mitali Perkins does this in her newest book Bamboo People. She takes the story of two boys, Chiko and Tu Reh, two theoretical enemies, one Burmese, one Karenni, and shows how their lives collide.

I found Chiko's story incredibly gripping and tragic but I had a more difficult time following along with Tu Reh's story. The character names in his half of the story were all so similar (Sa Reh, Bu Reh, Ree Meh...) that I couldn't remember who was who.

With books like this, I often find myself reading the author's note either at the beginning or mid-way through my reading because it helps to give context to the story. That is something I encourage all readers to do. I'll be doing a book talk on this book with my new class in September, and the first thing I'll do is read the author's note, and then I'll lead into telling them about the story.

I highly recommend this book as a parley into teaching and learning about the injustices of modern Burma.

Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins
First Published: July 2010
Number of Pages: 272
Audience: Middle grade
Genre: Realistic fiction

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Almond Buttercream

I have a confession to make: I'm a terrible baker. So I faux bake. I took a box of (gasp!) Duncan Hines red velvet cake mix and then I made my own buttercream. The results were pretty darn good.

Almond buttercream frosting
1 cup butter, room temperature
3 cups confectioner's sugar
1 tsp almond extract

Combine ingredients in stand mixer (or a large bowl with a hand mixer) until smooth. Frost cupcakes once cooled. Add toasted almonds to top.

Easy Peasy!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two teens—both named Will Grayson—are about to cross paths. As their worlds collide and intertwine, the Will Graysons find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, building toward romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history’s most fabulous high school musical.
- from Goodreads

I want to start off this review by saying that I heart John Green. He is so funny, and witty, and his books really make you think. I haven't read anything by David Levithan until now so unfortunately I can't really profess my love for him but I will definitely be seeking out some of his books now that I've read Will Grayson, Will Grayson.

So it's with total love and admiration that I say I have mixed reactions about this book. I labeled the genre realistic fiction, but I'm not entirely sure how realistic it is. And the most unrealistic part of the book had nothing to do with two Will Graysons meeting through happenstance. No, what I found the most unrealistic was that a high school in a town in middle America would put on a musical that revolved around the life of a gay high school student and no one would balk about it. I realize that controversy over a gay teen musical wasn't the point of the book, but it still struck me as strange that no parents or students around the perimeter of the plot had anything intolerant or homophobic to say about it. Yes, there were a couple homophobic things said by football players about Tiny being on the team, but the actual approval of the musical went off without a hitch and I found that quite strange. There were no protests or parents speaking out at school board meetings. Given how often books are protested in schools today, I find it strange that the musical written and directed by Tiny Cooper wasn't.

Then again, perhaps the scenario of no one balking is Green and Levithan's vision of what an American high school in middle America can be like one of these days.

In terms of the characters, I found myself not really empathizing much with the Will Graysons. Both of them were rather grating. Instead, I found the secondary (Jane and Tiny) and even tertiary characters (gay Will Grayson's mom and straight Will Grayson's mom and dad) much more likable.

Despite my mixed reactions, it was an enjoyable, thought-provoking read.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan 

Published: April 6, 2010
Publisher: Dutton
Pages: 310
Audience: Young Adult
Genre: Realistic Fiction

Reached a Milestone for Books Read in 2010

Today I reached book #50. It took me a little longer this year than last year to reach this mark, but 50 has always been my goal. I did make it to over 100 last year, so hopefully I'll do the same in 2010.

This is my list of books I've read and listened to so far:

1. How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O'Connor
2. Al Capone Shines My Shoes by Gennifer Choldenko*
3. Holding on to Good Ideas in a Time of Bad Ones: Six Literacy Principles Worth Fighting For by Thomas Newkirk
4. What Do Fish Have to Do with Anything? by Avi
5. Son of the Mob by Gordon Korman*
6. A Thousand Never Evers by Shana Burg*
7. The Maze Runner by James Dashner
8. Making History Mine: Meaningful Connections for Grades 5-9 by Sarah Cooper
9. Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron
10. Graceling by Kristin Cashore*
11. In Mozart's Shadow: His Sister's Story by Carolyn Meyer
12. Going Bovine by Libba Bray*
13. Coffeehouse Angel by Suzanne Selfors
14. Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo*
15. The Bear Makers by Andrea Cheng
16. The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson*
17. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
18. City of Thieves by David Benioff*
19. The Dog in the Wood by Monika Schröder
20. Angel on the Square by Gloria Whelan*
21. Stitches by David Small
22. Traveling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor*
23. "Is It Done Yet?" Teaching Adolescents the Art of Revision by Barry Gilmore
24. Shug by Jenny Han*
25. The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence by Gavin de Becker
26. The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child by Donalyn Miller
27. 360 Degrees Longitude: One Family's Journey Around the World by John Higham
28. Fat Cat by Robin Brande*
29. Travel as a Political Act by Rick Steves
30. The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood*
31. Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman
32. Lost States: True Stories of Texlahoma, Transylvania, and Other States That Never Made It by Michael J. Trinklein
33. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle*
34. Educating Esme: Diary of a Teacher's First Year by Esme Raji Codell
35. Smile by Raina Tegelmeier
36. Big Green Purse: Use Your Spending Power to Create a Cleaner, Greener World by Diane MacEachern
37. Notes from the Dog by Gary Paulsen
38. Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr*
39. Impossible by Nancy Werlin*
40. Word After Word After Word by Patricia MacLachlan
41. Mockingbird by Kathyrn Erskine
42. Monsoon Summer by Mitali Perkins
43. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
44. Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt*
45. Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce*
46. No Plot? No Problem! A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days by Chris Baty
47. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster*
48. The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister*
49. Honeymoon with my Brother by Franz Wisner
50. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan*

* indicates audiobook

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Honeymoon with My Brother by Franz Wisner

When Franz Wisner is dumped by his fiancee only days before their wedding and then demoted at his job a week later, he knows his life is in need of a change. Touched by his brother Kurt's care and concern when he helped Franz make phone calls and cancel plans, he decides to go on with the wedding, without the bride.

Also unable to cancel his honeymoon plans and in a delirium of love and appreciation for his friends and family who came to his "wedding" to support him, Franz asks his brother to go on his honeymoon with him. Though instead of champagne and rose petals, they ask for beer and double beds.

While on their honeymoon of sorts, the brothers decide that they need an even bigger change in their lives and set out on a year long adventure around the world.

I have read many travel memoirs, and after a while, you'd think I'd start to get sick of them, but I continue to eat them up. I enjoyed this one just as much as the others, and I especially loved how Wisner told part of the narrative through letters to his ninety-nine-year-old step-grandmother, LaRue. She was an integral part of the story because she was one of the few people in their lives who encouraged the trip.

Just as with anyone who travels for an extended period of time, Franz and Kurt find themselves changed to their very core. Life back in California will never be the same.

This book was rife with lessons, but everything to be learned from it and the beauty of travel can be summed up in this one passage on p. 250:

Before leaving Millie's village, I decided to take an afternoon run on the country roads leading to her property, pas dozens of shacks made with plywood and tarp...

A barefoot man in drawstring shorts pushed an old bicycle out of the bush. He hopped on and decided to ride along in silent partnership, slowing his pedal to match my pace, occasionally yelling words of encouragement in a tongue I could feel but not understand. Then a happy, shirtless boy, no more than seven, legs speckled with clay, ran out of a shack, using all his speed to catch me. I slowed. After a handful of hollers, a few of his playmates joined him from compounds along the road. Boys and girls devising entertainment in a world without The Wiggles or Dora the Explorer. Now there were a dozen in the parade, with the man on the bicycle our grand marshal.

The sun cast lengthy shadows across the road. Darkening but still warm The children's giggles mixed with the music. Down to a fast walk now while they still ran, I stared, trancelike. Oh, those faces, those high-octane, pure-joy faces with teeth bent and noses crusted. The kids yelled and pumped their hands in the air as if they were prizefighters after a TKO, forcing me to stop beceause I was laughing so hard.

The smallest of the group, a little girl, pushed through the others. I could see the dress she wore was no more than a bedsheet with some creative stitching. It couldn't hide a bloated belly or limbs that should have been longer. What she didn't have in size, she had in affection and elan. Curiosity pushed her to swipe my leg, then stare at her fingers. I smiled and she reciprocated by hugging my knee with all her body would allow. Soon, too, the others.

A father's voice from a hut pulled them off my leg and forced a trot back to their homes. The man on the bicycle pedaled ahead. I stood in the middle of the dirt road, frozen, and I started to cry. Here was Africa.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister

This book gathers together a group of eight people at Lillian's restaurant every Monday for a cooking class. We are thrust into the stories of each of these people's lives and how they came to be in the class, starting with Lillian, the teacher.

The descriptions in this book are dripping with words, almost excessively so. In fact, the overuse of similes becomes comical after a while, and then progresses to irritating. When just about every sentence ends with one, you start to question the judgment of the editor.

What I did enjoy about the book, however, was the care the author took to creating a character who cooks by feel rather than being chained to a recipe. It shows how food can be a pleasure rather than the typical frazzled wives and moms who struggle to get dinner on the table every night.

Cassandra Campbell narrates the audio version of this book and has a sensual, lustrous voice. Perfect for the food porn that is described in its pages. Just a word of warning though: the descriptions of food in this book can quickly fling you into a binge. Don't read or listen to this on an empty stomach. You will be sorry.

The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister
First Published: January 2009
Pages: 256
Audience: Adult
Genre: Realistic Fiction

Friday, July 2, 2010

New Title

So you may have noticed the new title. I was thinking that "Beth's Food, Books, and Travel Blog" was just too "blah." I needed something clever that still described the theme of my blog. I'm still not convinced of its cleverness, but at least it's better than what I had before.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Dinner al fresco

Tonight my husband and I took advantage of the beautiful weather we've been having lately in Michigan and ate dinner on the patio. We gave up trying to eat outside a while ago because the mosquitoes always eat me alive. Tonight, however, the weather was so mild which left most of the mosquitoes at bay.

For dinner tonight I made an old favorite, a new favorite, and a new dish that's likely to become a favorite.

The new favorite I made was the skewered potatoes with a smoked paprika rub that I made a couple days ago.

The old favorite was grilled kale marinated in coconut milk and lemon juice. If you're a carnivore looking to cut down on your meat consumption, I highly recommend this dish. I first ate this dish last summer at Vij's in Vancouver and upon returning home, I immediately purchased the cookbook so I could make some of the delicious dishes at home.

But as I was saying, if you're a meat lover, this is a great veggie dish for you to try because it tastes like meat! You really could make a main dish out of this it's so hearty.

To make grilled kale you combine the juice of one lemon with a can of coconut milk, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 tsp each of paprika and cayenne pepper. Let marinate 1-4 hours.

Then grill on medium until wilted and slightly charred on edges.

I'm telling you, it's a better meat fix than a soy burger.

The new dish likely to become a favorite comes from Guy Fieri. It's Gaucho Steak with a 4-Herb Chimichurri.

Chimichurri is one of those condiments that I believe is under-utilized in North America given its commonness in South America. I've heard it to be likened to the Argentinian version of ketchup because it's used so much on food in the land of tango. If , however, we're using the frequency of people slathering it on food as cause for comparison, I'd have to say Chimichurri in Argentina is like ranch dressing to my husband.

But how could you ever want to slather ranch dressing on your food again after eating this bright, vibrant accompaniment:

Buen Provecho!

My reading buddy

Because the weather here in southeastern Michigan continues to be so glorious (sunny and mid-seventies which is unheard of this time of year), I'm spending a great deal of time reading on my patio. Frank likes joining me whenever I go outside to read.

Pleading to come up on the chair

He got his wish

The Poor Man's Panini Maker

I love making panini, but I've never felt compelled to buy one of those fancy sandwich presses. All they do is take up cupboard space, and they're a pain to clean.

Besides, why buy a panini press when all of us have the utensils to make one right in our very own kitchens:

All you need are two different pan sizes and a large can of, well, anything.

Still makes pretty darn tasty panini, even with the lack of sandwich making technology: