Thursday, July 18, 2019

Farmer's Flatbread

Yesterday I got to make another amazing Raddish meal using some of our garden produce! We have had a large garden this year, and almost more cherry tomatoes than we can eat. This recipe, Farmer's Flatbread, is perfect for adapting to whatever veggies are in season. It uses a winning combination of homemade flatbread, homemade white sauce, a combination of cheeses, vegetables and basil.
The flatbread comes first- a simple dough, although it takes a while to knead. Then comes the white sauce, which just may have been my favorite part and could be used for many other recipes. It uses ricotta cheese for texture and rich flavor, then heavy cream to smooth it out, and lastly spices to give the sauce depth. Once the flatbread is assembled, it is crowned with mozzarella, Parmesan, and lots and lots of cherry tomatoes! We substituted in some bell peppers (from the garden as well) that added some nice crunch.
The white sauce and cheeses were the perfect hearty complement to the fluffy bread, and the white sauce accented the cheese wonderfully (even though we used inexpensive, bagged Parmesan). We added garden-fresh basil to the top, and the tomatoes were like the cherry on top. This will definitely be a "make-again"!
Image may contain: Samuel Cross, smiling, child, food and outdoor

Image may contain: food

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Raddish Review- Pad Thai


Pad Thai is one of my favorite Thai dishes, so I was excited when it was included in their Thailand box. This rendition was marked by a strong fresh, cilantro flavor, which I enjoyed but found to be too much since there was little savory flavor to balance it out. The recipe included soy sauce, brown sugar, and chopped peanuts as the only savory components, and those were drowned out by the bright and sour flavors of the green onions, limes, and cilantro. It was pretty good, but not to the standard I typically hold to Raddish recipes. If I make this one again I will add in some spice and some umami flavor!

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Raddish Review- Tapas

Tapas are a traditional Spanish dish that I took a stab at (using the Raddish recipe supplied in their box) a few days ago. They are typically served in between meals, but I cooked three of them for a snacky lunch.
Tapas probably originated in the 18th century, as “lids” of bread and meat to cover drinks at bars. The saltiness of these toppings also helped the bartenders sell drinks. Now, this style of snack has transitioned into a plethora of savory appetizers. Some of these include Spanish Olives, Croquetas, Gambas al ajillo, and Albondigas. I made a selection of Bacon Wrapped Dates, Patatas Bravas, and Pan con Tomate.
The first dish I cooked was the bacon wrapped dates. They were an amazing blend of rich sweetness, reminiscent of brown sugar or molasses, and savory crisp bacon. However, the date-to-bacon ratio was a bit off; when I make this treat again I will halve the dates to keep the candied flavor from being cloying.
The Patatas Bravas were an easy appetizer of baked fingerling potatoes served with a simple smoked paprika sauce. The potatoes are cooked with a crispy skin on the outside and a soft, pillowy mash on the inside. The rich smoked paprika set off the milder flavor of the potato, and was accented with the tomato paste in the sauce.
Lastly, the Pan con Tomate was another simple appetizer- toasted baguette with grated tomato on top. I gave up on the grater after a while, and just finely chopped my tomato. The lighter flavors of this dish helped to balance out the stronger ones of the other two.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Eat 2 Explore Review- Shrimp Moqueca with Bell Pepper, Spinach, and Rice



This aptly named dish was the last recipe in our eat 2 explore box- Shrimp Moqueca with Bell Pepper, Spinach, and Rice. It is a one-skillet, one-pot, and one-cutting board operation made out of the aforementioned ingredients, plus a few finishing touches to make it pop. Small amounts of vinegar and lemon juice are added, and their burst of acidity makes the umami and earthy vegetable flavors stand out. My brother's astute observation- “I like how there’s a little bit of kick to it.”

The dish is constructed similarly to a soup, with the ingredients being layered on top of each other according to their cooking time needs, and a broth building around everything, all the juices combining. I decided not to drain my diced tomatoes, which made more broth and added even more tang and acidity. The base of the broth was coconut milk, made from a mix that came in the eat 2 explore box. It added a bit of richness and helped to tie everything together.

Unfortunately, I was paying too much attention to building the Shrimp Moqueca and slightly burned the rice it was served on, but fortunately for me the shrimp was good enough to mostly override that mistake.

I loved the layering of flavors and textures in this adaptable recipe! It featured all sorts of veggies without being overridingly herbivorous, and was a fun and easy dish.


Note: Attached is a picture of my little brother with his unique shrimp-eating utensil (an ice cream scoop!).

Another note: All thoughts and opinions in all the eat 2 explore reviews are my own.

Last note: Thank you so much for reading!

Friday, April 5, 2019

Eat 2 Explore Review- Feijoada with Rice and Collard Greens



The second Eat 2 Explore meal from their Brazil box that I cooked was the Feijoada with rice and collard greens. Although it at its roots it is a very simple dish, this recipe layered umami flavors on top of each other to make a savory, rich, balanced flavor profile. The feijoada is a mixture of smoky bacon, chorizo adding depth and a bit of spice, onion for its bright flavor, and chicken to tie it all together and add substance. Beans are added after the meats cook, bringing a creamy texture and earthy flavor. Then the whole thick, rich, savory mixture is spooned beside a warm, fluffy mound of rice. Wilted kale and sliced oranges accompany them on the plate. A mixture of farofa, a crumbly toasted flour mix, is sprinkled liberally over the feijoada to bring in a tad of crunch. 
This was a dish with a remarkably balanced flavor profile, especially for featuring so many savory meats. The orange served on the side helped to mellow the savory, adding a bright burst of acid. The kale also complemented the rich flavor. I will definitely make this dish again!

Monday, April 1, 2019

Eat 2 Explore Review- Pasteis with Tomato Watermelon Salad



I am going to be doing a review on the new recipe box, “Eat 2 Explore”, over the next few days. Each box explores foods from a different country, and the box I am reviewing centers around Brazilian cuisine! They provide recipes and gadgets in their box, along with spice mixes for your recipes and information on the country that you are cooking from. The box is very cute as well- with a world map and fun illustrations.

The first recipe I cooked was Pasteis with Tomato Watermelon Salad. A pastel (singular of pasteis) is the Brazilian spin on a savory pastry, made using flaky puff pastry dough. The filling is made of ground beef and onion, along with tomato paste and lime juice- but the thing that makes this basic filling special is the spices that are added. The “Pastel Mix” that came in the box was made of a mix of predominantly cumin and cinnamon. I was surprised at adding cinnamon to beef, but the result was a warm, hearty slightly sweet flavor that was perfect with the flaky pastry. It was a sophisticated comfort food- hearty, aromatic, with depth of flavor in the balance of savory, with notes of mellow sweetness throughout.

The tomato watermelon salad was a fun, simple to make, but remarkably complex to eat dish. It was made from bite sized pieces of watermelon and tomato, then topped with a balsamic vinegar glaze- olive oil, salt, pepper, honey, and vinegar. The acidic tomato and vinegar combined with the light, fresh watermelon and the indulgently sweet honey made for very multi-dimensional flavor in every bite. Although the flavors contrasted, similar to opposite colors on a color wheel, they were beautiful paired together.

The one thing I would have changed about this recipe is that the pastry gadget was a bit to small and not sturdy enough for the hearty pasteis, but that was offset by the wonderful recipe.



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Friday, February 22, 2019





The most recent meal I cooked was staple Indian cuisine- naan, yellow rice, and Tikka Masala. First I chopped onions (which made me sob for the next ten minutes), grated ginger, and prepared my ingredients. This was one of the more time-consuming parts of the recipe, so next time I’ll recruit some of my siblings to help.

Then I started cooking the rice- although using a different method than I had expected. Before the actual rice is added, diced tomatoes, garlic, onions, ginger and a wonderful array of spices are sauteed until soft. Then is added the rice, and it is stirred until coated with the vegetable mixture- and lastly broth is poured over the whole thing and the rice is cooked until tender. A few minutes before it is ready, frozen peas and carrots are poured over the top, and mixed in at the end of the cooking process. The result is perfectly cooked rice, full of lovely flavors and textures. The ginger, garlic, tumeric and garam masala play off of each other nicely.



While the rice was cooking, I prepared the Tikka Masala to go with it. Tikka Masala is a flavorful dish of chicken and curry, typically served over rice and/or with naan. As with the rice, the first step in this recipe was to saute onions, garlic and ginger until soft. Then tomato paste, brown sugar, chicken, and a variety of spices- more garam masala and tumeric, in addition to cumin, paprika and salt join the mix. The chicken is given a few minutes to cook partly through, and then crushed tomatoes are added to cover the whole dish and create a luxurious sauce. The chicken simmers for about 10 minutes (mine required more time because my pot was deep), until cooked through. Heavy cream is added to the dish at the end, making it even more silky and rich. The curry is just thick enough- not too soupy and not too thick to coat the rice. Although the rice and Tikka Masala both have strong flavors, the similarity in their ingredients keeps them from clashing. The chicken is cooked through but tender, and the sauce is so aromatic it fills the whole house with a mouthwatering complex blend of scents. The spices build off of each other in a crescendo of contrasting and coordinating flavor.



The last item on our menu for the night was naan. I started the bread before I cooked the other dishes- mixing and kneading yeast, water, flour sugar… and a more unusual ingredient, yogurt. Yogurt gives the flatbread a slight bit of tang and substance, and adds to its melty, buttery flavor. I allowed the dough to rise until the other dishes had finished cooking- around 45 minutes. Then I rolled it into small balls, rolled them out, and brushed each doughy disk with a blend of butter, oil and salt. The naan cooks in a skillet rather than in the oven, until the dough starts to bubble and brown. Then it is flipped and repeated- and finally, it is served warm with the Tikka Masala and rice. It is buttery, tangy, and light, a perfect complement to the bold flavors of the curry.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Chicken Parmesan Meal


Today I’m going to write about a meal that I made- chicken parmesan and garlicky green beans, followed by chocolate and caramel fondue.

The chicken parmesan was a dish that I had never prepared before, made up of flattened chicken breasts coated in parmesan (hence the name) and with a hearty coating of marinara. The first step is to cut the chicken breasts in half, then put them inside a zippered bag and pound them, and pound some more. Then the chicken is coated in a variety of substances- first flour with salt and pepper, then egg, then panko bread crumbs and parmesan. After that, they are coated in marinara and even more cheese and baked. The coating protects it, and its flat shape helps it to cook evenly, so it was well cooked without being dry. The coating was savory, and the marinara added nice texture, along with the breadcrumbs.

Next I cooked the garlicky green beans, a very simple but delicious recipe. Lemon zest, toasted panko bread crumbs, garlic, salt, and parsley are combined to make a coating for the green beans. (The recipe actually called to add parmesan cheese as well, but since I coated the chicken a bit too thoroughly we were out). After the green beans are cooked, they are coated in the bread crumb mixture. This results in a lot of flavor, something I find to be lacking in many green beans. Add this to their easy prep and they’re definitely something I will make again!

Lastly, I cooked the fondue. The chocolate was extremely easy- cooking chocolate and heavy cream until melted, then adding vanilla and salt- but the caramel fondue was a little bit harder. You add butter, brown sugar, corn syrup (I substituted honey!) and salt to a pot, until melted. This results in a dreamy, thick paste with a remotely sand-like consistency. Then it is boiled, and heavy cream is added. Both fondues tended to turn out watery, so if I re-create this recipe I will probably add less heavy cream. We served the fondue with strawberries, apples, and marshmallows. The chocolate fondue was overpoweringly chocolate-y, so next time I will probably use milk chocolate rather than semi-sweet. The caramel fondue tasted lovely, and the honey flavor blended in nicely. It was a bit thin, but it still clung well to the strawberries and apples.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Rendang Restaurant Review


Instead of Christmas gifts this year, we had the gift of an experience - one 24 hour trip alone with a parent. Mom and I went to Tulsa to explore and see the sights - among them Philbrook Museum and the Gathering Place. One of my favorite destinations was the Indonesian Bistro, also known as Rendang, which an Indonesian friend had recommended to us. The timing for our trip was amazing- the restaurant had opened just the day before. I had never tried Indonesian cuisine before, but this was a marvelous introduction to the culture’s food.

The restaurant was unassuming from the outside, but inside the smell combined with colorful tapestries and flowers on the wall, along with a beautiful map of Indonesia set the scene. We were able to learn about the history of the dish Rendang through a very interesting plaque on the wall, which I enjoyed.

The waitress that greeted us was very friendly, and talked to us about the foods as we ordered. We tried Rendang, the dish that became the namesake of the restaurant, along with Bakmi Ayam Bakso (an egg noodle and chicken dish with meatballs on the side) and Bakwan Sayur (a kind of vegetable fritter).

The owner of the restaurant talked to us as we began on our food, and he was extremely friendly, giving us more information about his restaurant with a warm smile.

The first thing that I tried was the Bakwan Sayur. It was a light fritter with vegetables inside and a creamy taste. It was a good palate cleanser for the bolder flavors of the other dishes.

The Bakmi Ayam Bakso was full of subtle flavors that built on each other- nuttyness and sesame, along with a hint of sweetness and spice. The noodles were full of these flavors, despite the absence of a sauce, so even a bite without chicken in it was packed with umami sensations.

Along with the Bakmi Ayam Bakso was served a dish of meatballs in a clear broth. I was interested to try them, because a clear broth typically doesn’t indicate flavor, but I could tell this one was different by the smell. The meatballs themselves were good, but a bit too salty and chewy to be exceptional. But the broth… the broth, despite its coloring, was meaty and rich, complemented by the lighter flavors of green onions.

And now for my favorite part… the Rendang. It was a beautiful dish, the star of which was pieces of beef coated in a flavorful paste. Chilis made it slightly spicy, but not overpoweringly so, and the other flavors of other seasonings, nutty flavors, and umami came through. It was served alongside perfectly cooked rice to balance its strong flavor, and tomatoes and lettuce added splashes of color to the plate. I could easily see why Rendang is Indonesia’s national dish, and why it was was voted the World’s Best Food by CNN in 2017.



Although Indonesian food is a new style for me, it is something I will definitely be coming back to. I am so glad that I tried it!

Monday, February 11, 2019

Cream Puffs (French Feast)

Finally, this French feast concludes with a favorite dessert- cream puffs. This version
of the classic dish features ice cream as the filling, and boasts a melted chocolate
coating on the top.

The cream puffs were baked with an amazingly simple list of ingredients- water, butter,
salt, flour, and eggs. It is the method of cooking, rather than the ingredients, that make
this dish unique. First the water, butter and salt are combined in a pot and melted and
boiled. Then the flour is added, and the dough is quickly removed from heat. The result
is a smooth, thick dough in a matter of minutes.

The next step is to add eggs, but not directly to the pot. First the eggs are whisked by
themselves, until thoroughly thrashed, and then they can be added to the dough.
Whisking the eggs separately first introduces air bubbles to the egg white, which is
important to the cooking process.

After the dough is thoroughly mixed, the cream puffs go into muffin cups, then in the
oven. My cream puffs rose incredibly well despite their lack of yeast, baking powder or
soda, bubbling up far over the top of the muffin tin. After the desserts have cooled, they
are cut into halves and chocolate is melted. Then all that remains to be done is to
assemble the cream puffs. First the tops are covered in melted chocolate- then they are
sandwiched around scoops of ice cream. I used salted caramel, but almost any flavor
will work.

The cream puffs consistency was light and airy, but also just slightly rubbery, like an English Muffin.
It paired very well with the ice cream, and made a delightful ending to our French meal.
















Amazing recipes for all these dishes can be found from Raddish Kids.




Friday, February 8, 2019

Nicoise Salad (French Feast)

The next dish in my French meal was a “Nicoise Salad” (pronounced nee-swaz).
It originated in a city called “Nice”, located near France’s border to Italy. This salad
features boiled eggs, tomatoes, white beans, black olives, greens, and a unique
homemade vinaigrette.
Although simple to prepare, this salad balances many complex flavors and textures.
The white beans and eggs balance out the bolder flavors of the tomatoes, olives and
vinaigrette, and add a bit of creaminess. The vinaigrette consists of lemon juice,
Dijon mustard, honey and olive oil, adding a sophisticated hint of tang.
Nicoise Salad was a very fun, easy and unique dish to prepare, and it is very likely
that I will do so again.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Croque Monsieur (French Feast)



Over the next few days, I’m going to write about a French meal that I made.

Hopefully these articles will inspire you to make these dishes yourself!


Croque Monsieur is a classic and delicious French dish, similar to grilled cheese.

The name Croque Monsieur literally translates to Mr. Crunch! It is made with a

thick butter sauce, ham, and gourmet Gruyere cheese, making the most complex

and delicious variation of grilled cheese I have ever eaten.


The first component of Croque Monsieur, the thick butter sauce, was a new concept

for me. It is made by mixing melted butter and flour over heat. This mixture, with the

consistency of dough, is called a roux. Then milk is slowly added. The result is a

surprisingly thick and rich mixture, Bechamel, that adds creaminess to the dish.

After the it is cooked, an ingredient is added that surprised me quite a bit- nutmeg.


After the Bechamel is completed, the sandwiches are assembled. I layered bread,

butter sauce, Gruyere cheese, and ham, adding more cheese and Bechamel on

the top of the sandwiches. Then they are baked until the cheese is browned and

the edges are crisped. (Hence the name, Mr. Crunch).




These sandwiches are so delicious, I don’t think I will ever be able to go back to

grilled cheese. The melted Gruyere is subtly nutty and a bit acidic, and the roux

adds warmer flavors and a gooey texture. The ham brings substance, and ties all the

other components together. It was very delicious, definitely a “make-again”, as my

Mom would say.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Character Descriptions




These are a few character descriptions I wrote. Tell me if you have

written any character descriptions of your own! They are quite a bit of fun.






The girl was completely absorbed in her book, her mind on an adventure

in a far away land. She was high in the branches of an enormous oak tree,

perched on a thick branch and leaning against the trunk. Her brown hair fell

around her shoulders, and she reached up absentmindedly to push it away

from her grey eyes. Her gaze moved back and forth quickly along the page,

devouring line after line of the story under her emerald green canopy.






The librarian looked over the edge of her laptop at them with a gaze of utter

disdain. She was a very meticulous person, and did not like to have her sanctuary

of organization meddled with- especially not by children. Even her hair, which was

painfully straight with brown bangs styled with what must have been three jars of

hairspray, reflected her desire for order in all things. Her makeup was harsh and

meticulously applied, her nose and chin long and straight. There was not a speck

nor wrinkle on her black business suit.



She was a skinny mite of a thing, with freckles scattered generously over the bridge of

her nose. Her hair was long and blonde, with one long, loose braid down her back. She

had deep green eyes, that looked observant at times and in others far away, deep in

thought.









His head was covered in robust brown curls, which would have looked like a halo had

he not such a impish expression. His eyes were filled with a dangerously mischievous

spark, and every part of his face was playful and roguish- from the slight upturning of

his nose to the corners of his mouth, turned into a lighthearted grin.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Amazing Quotes



Here is a list, (I'll try to keep it fairly short!) of some quotes from my favorite authors- C.S. Lewis, Corrie Ten Boom and J.R.R. Tolkien. I'll include the links to any online sources I use so that you can find even more amazing quotes. Enjoy!




“Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.” -C.S. Lewis


"God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing." -C.S. Lewis


"Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: 'What! You too? I thought I was the only one.'" -C.S. Lewis


"When Christ died, he died for you individually just as much as if you had been the only person in the world." -C.S. Lewis


"In our own case we accept excuses too easily; in other people's, we do not accept them easily enough." -C.S. Lewis


"If God forgives us we must forgive ourselves otherwise its like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than him." -C.S. Lewis





“God takes our sins – the past, present, and future, and dumps them in the sea and puts up a sign that says NO FISHING ALLOWED.” -Corrie Ten Boom



“Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.” -Corrie Ten Boom



“Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.” -Corrie Ten Boom






“If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. But if you look at Christ, you’ll be at rest.”-Corrie Ten Boom






“There is some good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for.” –J.R.R. Tolkien






“If most of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold it would be a merrier world.” –J.R.R. Tolkien






“I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay, small acts of kindness and love.” –J.R.R. Tolkien






“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no telling where you might be swept off to.” –J.R.R. Tolkien


Sources:


https://www.deseretnews.com/top/817/0/Top-100-CS-Lewis-quotes-.html


https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/spiritual-life/inspiring-quotes/40-powerful-quotes-from-corrie-ten-boom.html


https://www.skipprichard.com/32-tolkien-quotes-for-hobbit-day-and-your-next-adventure/

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Sacagawea



This is an essay on Sacagawea working towards my American Heritage Girls Native American badge.






Sacagawea was a Shoshone native american, born in around 1790. When she was only around 12 years old, she was captured by the Hidatsa tribe. They took her to North Dakota, where she was sold to a fur trapper named Toussaint Charbonneau. She, along with another captured Shoshone girl, became his wives when Sacagawea was less than 16 years old.


Charbonneau was hired by the Lewis and Clark expedition as, in Clark’s words, “an interpreter through his wife.” She could speak Hidatsa and Shoshone, while Charbonneau could speak Hidatsa and French- and though six months pregnant, Sacagawea was vital to the expedition. She negotiated with the Shoshone tribe the expedition met to provide horses and a guide for their journey through the Rocky Mountains, and when Charbonneau nearly capsized the boat she was in, Sacagawea remained calm and retrieved several valuables from the water. During the expedition, on February 11, 1805, Sacagawea gave birth to a son, Jean Baptiste. Though only 17 years old, she braved the remainder of the expedition with her baby on her back.


On return from the expedition, Charbonneau received $409.16 and 320 acres for his services. In 1809, Sacagawea and Charbonneau traveled to Saint Lewis, where their son was baptised and then left in the care of Clark for his education. Sacagawea later gave birth to a daughter, Lisette, and is believed to have died shortly afterwards.











Resources-





Sacagawea


https://www.mrnussbaum.com/sacagawea/


https://www.britannica.com/biography/Sacagawea

http://www.pbs.org/lewisandclark/inside/tchar.html





Friday, January 25, 2019

Books VS E-Books and Audio Books



Books vs E-books and audio books





Lately, with all the new technology in America, there has been some debate on whether reading E-books or listening to audiobooks has the same educational qualities as reading an actual paper book. In my view, there are benefits to all of these options.


Books, actual paper books, have proven their worth in many ways. In addition to being the most tried-and-true way of reading, many would agree that seeing the words on a page in front of you allows you to soak in more information than you would by just listening to them or by seeing them on a screen.


The downside to books is that they take up a lot of storage space, and that you must give your full attention to them; reading the print with your eyes, and holding the book with your hand limits your multitasking skills. While it is inconvenient and difficult to multitask with a paper book, I must say that by my own experience it can be done. I have pulled off reading while riding a bicycle.


Audiobooks are very controversial. Though convenient in that you can listen to a story while doing another task, they make it easier for your attention to wander. However, I find that I have more fun with a task when listening to a book as well, and while I may not retain as much information as I would with a paper book, I still absorb most of it. You should not listen to audio instead of reading actual books, but I find it very fun to listen to a story while doing tasks that require little concentration; for example knitting, doing the dishes, and putting away laundry.


Actually having to devote your full attention to something maximizes how much information is taken in; if you have your whole mind engaged then of course you will remember more. On the other side of things though, you see that with a simple and fun story, a story that you do not have to devote much attention to, you can enjoy a story while doing another thing.


The question about E-books is if there is any difference between them and paper books. One opinion is that reading on a device with other things on it can be distracting; the other view is that it is beneficial for its’ storage space and compact size of the device. Honestly, I think it goes both ways. Reading on a multipurpose device is distracting because of the appeal of the games also on the device, and the electronic light can be glaring and annoying.


However, on a kindle made specifically for reading, you get the benefits of reading electronically without the down sides. Reading kindles have special lighting to get rid of the glare, and you can change font sizes to fit your liking. They have only books, getting rid of the distracting aspect. Also, you can fit many different books into one small kindle. Even the lighting adjusts so you can read in dark rooms, or at night without using a lamp. This is one of my family’s favorite reading options.


My overall conclusion is that all these methods of reading are wonderful, though different in some aspects. I enjoy using each in different scenarios. What is your opinion? Please tell me!

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Abraham Lincoln's Fish



This is an essay I wrote for my Language Arts a while back about a story of

Abraham Lincoln as a boy. I experimented with writing it in the present tense, which is

quite a bit out of my comfort zone- and though I still prefer to stick to past tense it was

a fun experiment!






Young Abe skips along the path. He is in a fine mood this morning- he is about to go fishing.


“Catch a huge fish for dinner!” his sister, Sally, had called out after him as he left- and Abe

plans to do just that.


He is glad to be outside and done with the chores that occupied him just a few minutes

earlier- gathering firewood, weeding, and hauling water. Now Abe is free for a few hours

to fish by the tranquil stream that winds its way down the hill near his cabin. As he walks,

Abe notices the gentle breeze that is playfully ruffling his dark hair. It is a pleasant feeling,

but the sign of falls’ coming is not welcome. The crops have not done well this year, and

fall means the end of the growing season. However, Abe forgets his worries for a moment

and grins brightly, seeing a flock of geese in the sky above him. When he comes to the

stream, he makes himself comfortable on the bank, folding his ill-clad legs under him, then

searches around for a worm to use as bait. A worm isn’t hard to find in the soggy ground,

and soon Abe casts his line into the water. A gentle “plunk” is heard as it hits the water, and

then all is still. Abe’s mind wanders as he patiently waits for a fish to bite.


He thinks of dinner- though he has just eaten, fast-growing and scrawny Abraham is

hungry. He also thinks of the war his mother and father have spoken of- he knows very little

about the conflict that is taking place in this year of 1812, except that his mother has told

him stories about the bravery and devotion of the soldiers fighting in it.


“Now, Abe, remember that you must always be kind to soldiers. They are risking their

lives to protect this country.” She often reminded him after finishing one such story.


Suddenly, Abe is pulled from his wanderings when he feels a sharp jerk on his line. He

leaves his thoughts of war behind him and struggles with the pole. The fish is a huge

silvery shape in the water, and soon he is able to wrench it out. First comes the head, then

fins, and lastly even the tail is thrashing out of the water. It is massive, at least in Abe’s eyes,

and he proudly sets off for home to show his mother his fine catch.


Walking back along the path, he sees a figure that is heading in his direction. Abe stops,

and watches it get closer. Soon it takes the shape of a young man, not more than twenty,

with dirty blonde hair and sad grey eyes- and a rumpled soldier’s uniform. Abe realizes

with delight that this must be one of the soldiers his mother told him of, and, thinking of

how she had instructed him to always be kind to soldiers, Abe ran up to the young man,

holding out his large fish.


“I want you to have this.” he says, gazing up into his face.


He stares at the fish, then looks at Abe- the boy could use a fair meal himself, fast as

he’s growing, the soldier thinks. “I can’t take this.” he says, looking sorrowful and hungry,

but handing it back. “It’s yours.”


“Please, I want you to keep it.” Abe replies, and with a grateful smile, the soldier walks

away, whistling like a man who is thoroughly content.


Now Abe’s hands are empty, and his prize fish is gone, but Abe is happy. He could well

have thought that his fishing trip was wasted- and yet, he ponders, was it not all worth it

to make another happy?


He finishes the walk home, still hungry, but excited to tell his family of the soldier.

It isn’t long before the dinner bell is rung and Abe’s mother, father, and sister are

all seated on crude three-legged stools around the poor little table, outfitted with bread,

potatoes and cheese, their largest meal of the day. Abe’s father says the blessing,

thanking God for the family’s blessings, small as they may be. Then he turns to Abraham.


“Didn’t you catch anything?” his father asks.


Abe nods. “Sure I did,” he replies stoutly, “and it was awful big too.” And then he recounts

the story of how he had given his catch to the soldier. His father just grunts disapprovingly,

but Abe’s mother looks at him proudly with her beautiful hazel eyes.


With that kind heart, she thinks, he will be a great man.


She has no idea how right she is.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Mayan-Style Coffee



This is a recipe I made up for traditional Mayan-inspired coffee.





You will need:


1/4 teaspoon Chili Powder


3/4 teaspoon Cocoa Powder


1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon


About a tablespoon Honey


1/2 cup Half and Half


One mugful Coffee





Brew a cup of coffee, about three-quarters full.


Mix first 5 ingredients to taste (or use measurements provided). It should amount to about a quarter to half cup.


Pour cream mixture into coffee.


Enjoy!

Monday, January 21, 2019

Sir Norlan, Chapter 6



I hope you have enjoyed this story- tell me what you think!






In Which Sir Norlan Makes an Astounding Discovery


It doesn’t take long when trapped in a cell, however comfortable, until you begin to

feel desperate for human company. It took longer than it would for most people for Sir

Norlan to feel lonely, but soon he realized that he actually missed the companionship

that another person brought. While this may be a familiar sensation to most, the knight

had always convinced himself that he was better than others, and so never thought about

the value of individuals besides himself. So it was that Sir Norlan became lonely for the first

time- after several days he realized, with a trace of horror, that he would even be glad for the

company of the Duke of Bealbarley or Sir Quentul the Noisy, despite their horrendous table

manners. He was very distressed, to say the least. The knight tried wishing for company, at

least a visitor- but as he had found out earlier, the wishes did not work for living things. Finally,

as a last resort, Sir Norlan decided to plead for help to the dragon.
“Please let me out!” he begged, but his only response was a faint chuckle from outside the

door.


The days dragged on, each seeming longer than the last. That strange, new feeling of

loneliness grew and grew as time went on. Sir Norlan now would even have welcomed a

conversation even with Billy, the boy in charge of the castle’s pigs (who, like the animals he

tended, only spoke in grunts).


It had been twelve days since the knight had been captured, though to Sir Norlan it seemed

closer to a year.


“Surely,” he thought, “they will have someone looking for me- perhaps I will be rescued

soon.”

Indeed, there were several knights out looking for the Lady Eleanor, all of whom had found

the castle with relative ease using the knightly “Find a Damsel in Distress” guidelines. They

entered, however, to find no dragon- Leolian had taken flight from the castle just minutes

before to avoid the knights. (He was not a very cruel dragon, and did not wish to slay so many.)

To their surprise, Leolian had not taken the Lady Eleanor with him. The knights were about

to leave the castle and return the Damsel, no longer in Distress, to her home when they

remembered that Sir Norlan had come to the castle in search of the Lady Eleanor as well.

Sir Quentul the Noisy, who was really a very noble knight, (despite his table manners),

conducted a search for Sir Norlan, and the Duke of Bealbarley was the one who opened

the jeweled door in the feasting hall and freed the knight at last. Sir Norlan never thought

he would be so happy to see the Duke. In fact, once back at court, the knight was surprised

to find how much more he appreciated other people. He was no longer thinking only of

himself- he had enough time to do that while imprisoned by Leolian. Everyone at court

noticed the change in Sir Norlan, and he became one of the most trusted and respected

knights. He rescued many damsels in distress, never forgot the knightly “Find a Damsel in

Distress” guidelines, and never required a reward for his services. Because of this, he

never became rich enough to horde up piles of gold, but his heart felt much richer than

ever before.





The End

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Sir Norlan, Chapter 5



In Which the Deal is Sealed


Sir Norlan pondered this. He had, after all, come here to gain riches- if he accepted this

deal then he would never want for anything. “What is the price?” he asked.


“That, you will find out once you accept the deal.” The dragon said, “But it involves no

physical harm on your part.”


“Don’t do it. It’s a trap!” The Lady Eleanor shouted to him from the other side of the

room.


The knight knew he should not even consider the offer- dragons were tricky creatures

and it was probably a trap- but the thought of endless gold intoxicated him enough to

make him pause. This was all the opportunity Leolian needed. The dragon shoved the

knight to a door in the wall that Sir Norlan was sure had not been there before. It was

covered in gold, with an enormous gemstone near the top. Sir Norlan, recovering his

senses, struggled against the dragon’s grip, but it was no use. The knight expected to

find a cold, hard dungeon when the Leolian shoved him through the door, but he found

something entirely different.


The knight toppled over inside a massive room, hearing the door close loudly behind him.

It was a sitting room, with a large table in the center and the walls covered in tapestries.

There was a roaring fire at the back of the room, and another door at the side. Sir Norlan

opened it, and there found a bedroom equally as splendid, with a canopy bed and golden

draperies.


Though these chambers were beautiful, the knight realized he was in a sort of prison. He

tried the door that led outside, but it would not budge. He kept trying to get out for what

felt like hours, though he had no way of keeping time. At one point, realizing that trying to

escape was futile, he slumped to the ground. Sir Norlan muttered to himself grumpily,

“I wish I had some food, at least.” (This was the most intelligent thing he had said on his

quest thus far- when trapped in a dragon’s lair it is always nice to have something to eat.)

There before him, as soon as the words were out of his mouth, there appeared a spread of

all sorts of things to eat- chicken and potatoes, cookies and bread.


“Amazing!” the knight exclaimed, jumping up from his place on the floor in a mixture of

fear and excitement. How had the food appeared so quickly, seemingly out of nowhere?

Would it be safe to eat? Was it because he had wished for the food that it had come? Sir

Norlan tested his theory, saying, “I wish for gold coins.” He held his breath in anticipation,

and soon- sure enough- there was a stack of coins in front of him.





The knight was so awestruck by his discovery that he spent the rest of the day in his chambers,

wishing for all sorts of things- from rubies to pies and gold to chicken legs. He fell asleep that

night atop a huge stack of all sorts of treasures, and awoke in the morning, when he fell off

of his stack of gold and acquired a large knot on his head. Sir Norlan tried to wish the knot

away, but his wishes seemed to only work with supplying materials, not healing wounds. So,

the rest of his day was spent much like the one before- wishing for things and hoarding piles of

treasure.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Sir Norlan, Chapter 4




In Which There is an Interesting Plot Twist


The dragon lay there, still seemingly asleep- except for one of its eyes was wide open,

staring menacingly at Sir Norlan. It was a startling icy blue, with flecks of gold and green

at the center. Almost more surprising even than the fact that the dragon was staring right

at him, was that now Sir Norlan saw where the Lady Eleanor had been held captive.


She was trapped in a corner of the room, fenced in on every side by the dragon’s body.

Though in a terrifying situation, she maintained her composure. Her face, pale and drawn,

showed no sign of fear, but a silent determination. Sir Norlan had heard that this lady was

fair, but this description fell altogether short. Her black hair fell almost to her waist, her

face delicately molded and blue eyes strong and unyielding. Trapped by a dragon, her

demeanor was still of one who has no need to be rescued.


Sir Norlan had been expecting a more typical damsel in distress, possibly wailing and

crying over her hopeless situation, until of course he in his shining armour came to rescue

her- but this lady looked more the type to fight the dragon herself if armed with a sword.


Her eyes were wide as she looked at him, moving her hands as if to tell him something.

She mouthed the words, Escape now. There isn’t much time. I will be alright on my own.


If the knight had been paying less heed to the Lady Eleanor, (and more to the gigantic

dragon who was standing next to him), he might have been more prepared for what

happened next. Unfortunately though, Sir Norlan was agape and so even more taken

aback when the dragon rose up to its full height, almost reaching the high ceiling of the

feasting hall, and breathed on the knight a huge burst of scorching flame. He blocked it

with his shield, but not before he had become uncomfortably toasty.


“Why have you intruded into my chambers?” the dragon called down to the knight, his

voice sounding like a clap of thunder.


“I have come to rescue the Lady Eleanor,” Sir Norlan replied, adding to himself, and to

become the richest knight at court. The aforesaid Lady Eleanor, in the corner of the room,

renewed her efforts to tell him to escape. The knight ignored her.


“Indeed?” The dragon questioned, looking amused. “Or have you come to steal

my treasure?”


Before the knight could reply, the dragon continued. “My name is Leolian. I do not

harm humans often, but you on the other hand…” Leolian fixed the knight with a

piercing gaze. “You are too full of greed and pride. These are traits I do not appreciate-

they are the characteristics of the bounty hunters that seek my demise so often.

You do not care about the Lady Eleanor’s fate, only the reward given for her rescue.”


Sir Norlan was startled. How could this dragon have seen his intentions with only one

glance?


“You ask how I know you?” Leolian seemed to answer a question that Sir Norlan had

only thought of. “I have seen many of your kind before. You forget how long my life has

been, young one.” After a moment’s pause, Leolian continued. “Because of this, I will

give you the same fate as the many knights that have come to capture me for the gold

that I have stored over the years.”


“What do you mean?” the knight asked, suddenly afraid.





“I mean that I will give you what you have always hoped for.” Leolian said with a

knowing smile. “You will have all the riches you wish for, all the finest foods, gemstones,

gold and silk- in return for a very small price.”

Friday, January 18, 2019

Sir Norlan, Chapter 3

In Which Sir Norlan Encounters a Surprise


He walked along dark passageways, and through more richly decorated rooms,

but discovered no trace of life. I could live in a place like this. There would be not

a soul to bother me, just my glittering gold and me, The knight thought. After he had

been traveling the maze-like corridors for quite some time, Sir Norlan stumbled upon

a huge, cavernous room- even larger than all the others he had come across. The

ceiling was at least forty feet high, and there was an enormous stained glass window

at the far wall. There were chairs and bits of smashed feasting tables all over the floor,

and Sir Norlan could see why. There was an colossal creature curled on the floor- even

in this cavernous feasting hall there was scarcely room for it. Its chest rose up and down

as if it was sleeping, and Sir Norlan had no intention of waking it. He had read stories about

such creatures, with their gleaming scales like molten gold and fiery breath, but never had

he thought he would one day face such a beast. Sir Norlan could hardly believe it, but he

was now in the presence of one of the most feared creatures of all time- a dragon. He had

expected to face a dragon- but he had never considered how powerfully built and

threatening it might be in person.


The knight pondered for a moment what to do. In a situation as dire as this one, he

contemplated running away- but then he thought of the gold reward. It would be best, then,

he thought, to find the Lady Eleanor and then to run before the dragon wakes. The less

dragon-facing Sir Norlan endured, the better.


After deciding on this, the knight wondered where to look next for the Lady Eleanor. He

was fairly sure that he had scoured all of the palace except for the dragon’s chamber- so

with much trepidation he crept around the edge of the feasting hall. Sir Norlan had just

reached the far wall, and was walking around the dragon’s scaley back leg when he saw

a startling sight.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Sir Norlan, Chapter 2



The next chapter of the story!










The Chapter in Which Sir Norlan Invades the Dragon’s Lair


Now, you would think Sir Norlan would have to be more concerned about locating

Lady Eleanor- after all, no one knew where the dragon had taken her. Sir Norlan

understood, however, that it was always quite easy to locate fair damsels in distress.

All a knight must do is to follow a path- the spookiest one that heads into a thick,

dark woods is best. The path should lead him to some sort of dark and foreboding lair,

such as a cave or gigantic dark tower. If it does not, than a knight knows to turn back

and head on another foreboding path. Once he has followed these steps, anyone may

find all sorts of lovely damsels in distress quite easily. Sir Norlan’s journey was made

even easier by the fact that dragons live in places that


Have abandoned castles, fortresses and the like on the premises


Contain massive quantities of dragon’s breath, (smoke and sometimes fire),


billowing from the abandoned structures.

It was no surprise, then, when Sir Norlan found this gigantic tower with smoke pouring

from the windows in the middle of the forest. This place had been rumored to house

dragons for centuries, and now it was up to him to vanquish the one who resided here-

freeing the Lady Eleanor- but more importantly finding those massive piles of gold.


Thinking of the riches that were soon to be his, Sir Norlan mounted three flights of stone

stairs until he came to the massive entrance of the tower. The door was huge, more than

twelve feet high, and made of what looked like solid brass. It was barred with massive bolts,

and a giant padlock sealed the entrance.


The knight looked at the doors for a moment, contemplating ways to get in. He then

looked above him and saw a slit in the wall, sighing in resignation. Sir Norlan could find

no other way- he would have to climb the stones of the tower all the way up to the window.


He made his way up the door first, hoisting himself onto the bars that held it in place. Then

he inched sideways towards the edge of the door, finding a foothold in a crack of the

rough stone. Sir Norlan then reached his hand up to a stone that jutted obstinately out

from the rest, then found another foothold, higher up this time. He continued laboriously

in this fashion until he had reached the window.


The knight excitedly grabbed the sill of the window, trying to pull himself up, but then his

foot slipped! Sir Norlan was left hanging from one hand, thirty feet above the ground. He

gasped for air, trying to gain back his composure. He tried to pull himself up to the window,

grasping for another foothold, but without his legs to help pull him up, his armour was too

heavy. Finally he was able to support himself with another hand on the windowsill, and

soon he had pulled himself to the top.


The knight toppled from the window to a room where he lay for a while, catching his breath.

A knight like me, he thought, should not have to go through such exertions to get the gold

he deserves. Soon he brought himself to get up and look around at the room.


It was a grand chamber, with a painted ceiling and fine draperies on the walls. The floors

were white marble, and there was a massive, empty fireplace near one wall. Many golden

objects were displayed around the room, and it was to these that Sir Norlan ran to first.

He found a large gold vase near a couch, and another on the mantel. There was also a pile

of gold coins atop a table at one side of the room. Though the vases were too heavy to carry

with him, Sir Norlan stuffed many small gold coins in his bag.





The knight would have stayed there, reveling in the golden treasure around him for much

longer if he had not needed to rescue a damsel in distress. And when I rescue her, he

thought to himself, I will have so much gold that these coins will seem like trifles. So he

pressed on to find Lady Eleanor.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Sir Norlan, Chapter 1



This is the beginning to a story that I wrote- I am going to post it in installments over the next few days so stay posted!



A Tale of a Knight, a Dragon, and a Damsel in Distress
(Along with Very Large Piles of Gold)





Chapter One- In Which Sir Norlan Embarks on a Quest to Find Gold

(And Rescue a Distressed Damsel)


The forest seemed thicker, darker today. Its trees closed in on Sir Norlan

of Engford as he rode at a steady trot through the woods. The Lord of Linoloch

had sent him on an urgent quest, and he did not intend to fail. Not that he cared

about the damsel in distress he was trying to rescue. Indeed, Sir Norlan believed

himself too great a knight for such petty quests as these. He was focused more

on the large sum of gold that was to be given as a reward to anyone brave enough

to face the dragon guarding Lady Eleanor the Fair. Sir Norlan daydreamed wistfully

of the massive sum as he rode along. It would be enough gold to give him all the

riches he deserved, and everyone would admire him. He would build a massive castle,

and eat the richest foods every day. He dreamed that he would throw massive banquets

and then invite only himself- no more would the great Sir Norlan be forced to look upon

the atrocious table manners of the Duke of Bealbarley or Sir Quentul the Noisy.


To this end, Sir Norlan continued determinedly on his quest. He rode all through the

night, which tired out his horse- but Sir Norlan did not care. The sooner I get the treasure,

he thought, the better. He did make several short stops to eat- he had a remarkable

appetite, especially for sweet foods- but this was only to keep his energy up, and soon

he was back on his way.





It was the next day, when the sun was just starting to lean towards the west half of the

sky, that Sir Norlan spotted a large turret reaching up into the clouds, proud and lofty. He

ordered his horse to go faster, and the poor beast complied for as long as it was able- then

stopped short and fell asleep where it was standing. The knight was exasperated, and pushed

and prodded his animal, but it would not budge. Finally, Sir Norlan had to abandon his horse

and start walking towards the castle. He complained the whole way about having to walk.
“A knight of my station,” he said to himself, “On a quest as noble as this one, should not have

to be reduced to walking! I am far above having to do this sort of thing. It is too much

unnecessary strain on the legs.” (Not that the rarely-exercising knight knew very much

about “strain on the legs.”) And so he huffed and puffed through brambles and mud puddles,

‘til at long last he came to the castle.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Sunset Poem




This is a poem I wrote about an imaginary sunset while experimenting


with poetry. I hope you enjoy it!




Paint splashed across the sky


Vibrant color astounding my eye


Taking in the setting sun


Over the hill where the river runs


Flowing to the ocean.


Red at first, fades to yellow,


Pinks, bold, and blues, mellow,


The sky a giant canvas coated


With colors that are devoted


To making this beautiful view tonight.


We sit on the hill, you and I


Watching the night take over the sky


The sun is gone, the moon glows


And the hill where the river flows


Is overtaken by night’s shadows.


Stars shine bright with icy light


Through the warm summer night,


Keeping vigil across the skies


Until again the sun shall rise.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Chocolate Reviews!




This is a review of two very different but extremely delicious chocolates. I hope you enjoy it!






Trader Joe’s “Chocolate coins from around the world” are wrapped in beautifully

designed gold foil. Each has the imprint of a different coin from around the world.

They are some of the best milk chocolatesI have tasted, combining milky

creaminess and hints of nutty flavor. At the first taste you can distinguish

the difference from a typical American chocolate, with cloying sweetness

and little to no actual chocolate flavor. This chocolate was rich and silky as it

melted, and the flavor was lovely. The only thing that I didn’t love was the aftertaste-

it left my mouth with a bitter taste and unpleasant watering. All in all, a very tasty treat.





Moser Roth Dark Chili chocolate is truly a gourmet experience in every manner-

except the price tag. This delicious chocolate sells at the very unassuming price

of two dollars for 4.4 ounces, although it is high-quality European fair-trade chocolate.

It has an exotic, slightly spicy aroma and a pleasant snap. When it first hits your tongue

it delivers a very nice woody dark chocolate flavor. As you swallow, it is followed up by

a very delicate and delightful pop of spicy flavor from the chilies. Surprisingly, this flavor

does not contrast with the chocolate but pairs very nicely to make an indulgent, unique product.