What I’ve Been Reading

I haven’t had a ton of time or energy for reading lately, which for me, basically means the end of the world is coming.  I used to get in trouble for reading books under my desk during class, and always beat the local library’s summer reading challenge within a month in elementary school. I pretty much always have a book or two with me, and don’t get me started on the number of books I bring with me when I travel (hey, I need some reading options!).  

But lately, I’ve been so busy with century training, food preservation and work, that I’ve really only been reading for five to ten minutes before bed every night.  So I’m putting this out there now: sometime soon, I am going to set aside an entire afternoon just for reading. I’ll make some iced tea, maybe put on some music, and sit out on the porch with a stack of books, allowing myself to indulge and devote a few hours solely to reading.


Don’t think this means I haven’t been reading at all, though. I’ve still worked my way through several books since May. Here are some of the highlights:

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.  

Yes, I finally finished Les Mis this spring. (Remember when I was going to be done by September 2011? Ha!) I love that I read it, but here’s the thing: I wouldn’t actually recommend it unless you really, really love the story and/or musical. Hugo has a tendency to go off on long tangents. Oh, you know that convent where Jean Valjean and Cosette hide out? Let’s talk about that convent. But not the convent when they are hiding there. The convent 100 years before that. For 45 pages. Or, “We’re not going to write a full history of the battle of Waterloo, because this isn’t a history book” (paraphrased). Followed by 30-some pages on the history of the battle of Waterloo. He also isn’t a fan of ending sentences, and is a huge fan of semicolons and commas.  There were honestly sentences that spanned multiple pages. That can be extremely difficult to read, because by the time you get to the end of a sentence, you forget what it was even about in the first place.

However, the story hidden among all the tangents is a good one, and I loved seeing what they changed or didn’t change for the musical.  So if you can commit to the 1,200+ page book and don’t mind tangents and run-on sentences, give it a shot. Otherwise, maybe try the abridged version (never though I’d say that!).

3 out of 5 stars.

The Tao of Martha: My Year of LIVING; Or, Why I’m Never Getting All That Glitter Off of the Dog by Jen Lancaster.

I read this one during our trip to Ohio. I couldn’t stop reading it, and I didn’t want it to end. This is by far my favorite Jen Lancaster book yet (and you know I love her other books!), and I ended up bookmarking a ton of passages in my Nook to read for creative or organizational inspiration later.

5 out of 5 stars.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell.

It wasn’t until I had read well into the second section that I really “got” this book.  But I found both the story and the structure fascinating; each section is about a different main character, years or even decades after the previous storyline. The tone and voice changes with each shift through time, which can be jarring for the first few paragraphs of the new chapter.  But then you reach the peak of the book, and the stories start working backwards through time, tying up the loose ends for each previous characters as you go, until you end up back at the beginning.  I’ve been told that Mitchell’s other book, Ghostwritten, is structured in another different but interesting way, so it is on my “To Read” list!

4 out of 5 stars.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan.

I’m not 100% sure how to describe this book.  It is a mystery, but not the murder & intrigue type that you might think of when you hear “mystery.”  I guess I would say it is a literary mystery about the intersection between books and technology.  Whatever it is, I loved it. It is an excellent story, and a quick read. It would probably make a great beach read!

5 out of 5 stars.

Now let’s all schedule an afternoon of reading, shall we?  Here’s what is upcoming on my to-read list:

Currently Reading:


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DIY Maraschino Cherries with Amaretto

Maraschino Cherries 2

Some friends and I tried to go blueberry picking on Friday, just before the heat wave hit.  The farm’s newsletter said that blueberries would be ready last Wednesday, so we figured that there would be plenty of ripe, plump berries for us to brush into our buckets. I should have thought to call ahead, but instead we drove for 35 minutes only to find that….the blueberries weren’t ready yet.  Cue the sad trombones.

But we had driven all that way, with our containers packed into the back seat.  We were slathered in sunscreen and had quickly-melting ice water at the ready to rehydrate. So we asked if they had any fruit that was ready for U-Pick.

“Some sour cherries and red raspberries,” they told us.  Sour cherries it was.

Side note: I don’t know why, but I have it in my head that only black raspberries are June/July fruits, and that the reds and goldens are only in late summer/early fall.  So I almost never pick raspberries this early in the season, other than the black ones in our backyard. I have no idea why.

Because I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to do with the cherries, I left two of my three containers behind, bringing only the largest with me to collect the fruit. Still, I ended up with 5.5 pounds of juicy sour cherries, destined to become amaretto cherry preserves and a crumble…or so I thought at the time.

Another note: Oxo sent me a cherry pitter to try, and it is a lifesaver. It is so much quicker and cleaner than my “pit the cherries with a straw” method!

Maraschino Cherries

While I was soaking the cherries in amaretto and sugar for the preserves, I checked my canning inventory and saw that I still had a few jars of the preserves left from last year. And while I love those preserves, I decided to do something a little different, and turn them into cocktail cherries instead.

As it turns out, when you make my amaretto cherry preserves into cocktail cherries, they come out tasting just like maraschino cherries. Except they are a little more tart and a lot more real (no corn syrup or food coloring here!). Win!

Maraschino Cherries 3


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