Friday, December 26, 2014

How to Make Sauerkraut Balls (Traditional Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve Appetizer)

One of the foods I have always loved the most on my family's Christmas Eve table, ever since I was a young kid, is the Sauerkraut Ball. The sourness of the kraut, the crunchy outside crust, the mellowness of cream cheese, and the sagey sausage - I'm telling you these things are delicious. Here's the recipe I followed this year (making a slightly healthier version - well, as healthy as a breaded, fried thing can be), and, if I do say so myself, they were just as delicious as my grandmother's years ago (yes, I'm bragging a little;)).

Christmas New Years Appetizers Sauerkraut Balls

Sauerkraut Balls Recipe (Makes about 20 balls, Serves about 10)

Ingredients
2 tablespoons of Olive Oil
2 packages of sausage (this year, I used turkey sausage - mild Italian, because that's what my husband bought; if you're going all out, use regular pork sausage)
One medium-sized onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of paprika
1 teaspoon dried sage
2 14 oz. packages of sauerkraut, squeezed and strained
2 packages of cream cheese, room temperature (I used Neufchatel this year; I really don't think you can tell the difference)
2 tablespoons of brown mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon ranch dressing
1 handful of parsley, finely chopped
3 eggs
1/2 cup milk
salt and pepper
Bread Crumbs (Regular or Italian - up to you; eyeball this - you'll know when you need more)

1. In a large non-stick pan, bring the olive oil up to temp over medium heat. Brown the sausage and onion together in the pan, seasoned with the paprika, sage, and salt and pepper to taste.
2. While the sausage is cooking, strain the sauerkraut (be sure to squeeze it really well to remove the excess moisture - too much liquid could cause your balls to fall apart, and who wants that;)?). Also, in a gigantic bowl, mix the cream cheese, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, ranch dressing, and parsley with a fork until well blended.
3. Remove the sausage and onion mixture from the pan and strain in a fine strainer. Allow to cool to room temp.
4. Using your hands, mix together the sausage and onion and cream cheese mixture. Hands are essential here. Trying to use a spoon is just a waste of time.
The filling, pre-mixing.
5. Place the filling mixture in the refrigerator, covered, for at least 2-3 hours. The longer, the better, I think. The colder it is, the more likely the balls will hold together in the pan.
6. After 2-3 hours, preheat the oven to 375. Whisk together the eggs and milk and season with salt and pepper in a medium mixing bowl. Pour a decent amount of bread crumbs in another medium mixing bowl. Bring a large, non-stick pan of deep oil up to temp over medium-high heat (I watch the surface of the oil; when it starts to ripple, you're ready to go. Also, watch the oil temp throughout. I think it depends a lot on your stove. I usually end up dialing back to medium).
7. Using your hands, form the sausage and cream cheese mixture into balls, dip in the egg mixture, and roll in the bread crumbs. Place 5 of the balls in the oil at a time. DO NOT CROWD THEM. They won't brown properly and will be hard to move around. Brown on each side.
8. While the balls are frying, prepare cookie sheets topped with cooling racks. I use the cookie ones (this keeps them off of the surface of the pan and allows any excess oil to drip into the pan, which makes them crispier). After the balls are browned on all sides, place them on the wire racks.
9. Bake the sauerkraut balls in the oven for 15 minutes after they have been fried.
10. Eat. I swear they are delicious and well worth the work.

Have a great remainder of the holiday season:)!! A/J

Friday, December 19, 2014

Last-Minute DIY Christmas Gift: Glitter Dipped Mugs

As usual, I am rushing to get everything done at the last minute AGAIN this year. So, I find myself making glitter-dipped mugs this morning. But what a fun project:)!! I was inspired by Kellie's post over at Nest of Posies, and her "All Mama wants is a silent night" mug (you can read more about her mugs and the basic directions for how to make them here - PS they are dishwasher safe after curing; it's all explained over at Nest of Posies:)).

Sharpie Mugs

I wrote my own sayings on the mugs (that's part of the fun of the project - you can make up your own sayings that will be meaningful to the person you are giving the gift to).

Sharpie Mugs Sayings
Baking away. Basically, for the Sharpie part, you clean the mugs with rubbing alcohol, write your sayings on, and bake them in an oven at 360 degrees. Put the mugs in a cold oven and allow them to heat along with the oven. Also, leave them in the oven to cool completely. This prevents any cracking or breaking due to temperature changes. For the glitter part, see the Nest of Posies link above.
Such a fun, fast, easy, and fairly cheap project for Christmas. Have fun! A/J

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas Time Stories and Sweets: Part 3 in Our Baking and Books Series (+ a Giveaway!!)

Welcome back to the Stories and Sweets series!! (If you're just joining us now, be sure to hop back to our first post or last week's, featuring two healthy cookie dough recipes and two sweet books about cooking up holiday traditions). This week, my friend Betsy and I have teamed up to bring you our last book and cookie recipe to share.

Christmas Kidlit

This week, the book I'm sharing is the book I'm giving away, Robert Sabuda's pop-up version of The Night Before Christmas. Sabuda's work is amazing (check out this old post I did on my Alice Sabuda pop-up). The book's summary says it all: "Award winner Robert Sabuda brings Clement Clarke Moore's classic tale of The Night Before Christmas to life in this festive pop-up edition, sure to become a perennial family favorite."

Robert Sabuda Pop-up THe Night Before Christmas

Be sure to stop by Betsy's blog, where she is sharing a recipe for Real-Food Snickerdoodles, a holiday classic with a healthier twist (I just love Snickerdoodles!!). Also, check her out on Facebook and Instagram. Seriously great ideas and programs for getting your kids (and you) to eat more mindfully and healthfully all year long.  These cookies look chewy and delish; I can't wait to try them.


Last, but not least, the giveaway we've been running throughout the month of December (for a copy of Robert Sabuda's The Night Before Christmas and ingredients to make one of the recipes) ends today!!

1. To enter the giveaway, you must be a fan of both BMoore Healthy and Alice in East Washington on Facebook. Also, you must be receiving The Owl's Skull's monthly newsletters. You can sign up for our newsletter in the right sidebar on the blog (where it says "Subscribe to Our Mailing List").

2. Use the Rafflecopter tool linked up below to enter to win (gosh, I hope you win. I'm a little jealous I can't;)). This giveaway is available to US residents only. Good luck! The contest ends Wednesday, December 17th at 9:00 PM. A winner will be announced shortly after that.

Enter and share away:)!! We both thank you, and wish you a merry, merry Christmas!! A/J

PS If you liked this post, check out our other posts on favorite gift books and cookies linked up below: 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Robert Sabuda Pop-up THe Night Before Christmas

Sunday, December 14, 2014

How to Make a Reindeer Sockbun

My friend's daughter came to the girls' dancing party this past week with the cutest hairstyle I have seen in a long, long time, a Reindeer Sock Bun. I asked her if I could share it with you all on the blog, and she said, of course! So, here we go.

How to Make a Reindeer Sock Bun

Reindeer Sock Bun

Here's what you will need:
  • 3 brown pipe cleaners, cut in half.
  • 1 red bow (of any sort, but preferably one that looks like a gift bow)
  • 2 googly eyes (we have some of these laying around the house from other projects, but you could also just draw the eyes on paper; in either case, glue the backs of the eyes to bobby pins)
  • 1 red pom pom, glued to a wide-mouthed bobby pin
  • Sockbun "donut" (you can purchase these at any Dollar Store or Target, Wal-Mart, etc.)
If you don't know how to make a basic sock bun, there are some great tutorials on youtube. Check this one out, for example. Being a dance mom, I think I could create a sock bun in my sleep, so I skipped the research.
  1. After you have your sock bun finished, preferably not on the crown, but a little lower on the back of the head, affix the pipe cleaners into the hair, and bend so that the cleaners look like antlers.
  2. Next, pin the googly eyes just above the bun.
  3. Clip in the bow just above the eyes, rakishly to the side;).
  4. Pin the "nose" (the red pom pom) in the center of the sock bun, pushing the pin at a downward angle into the bun's center.
  5. You're done!
Super-cute right:)!! If you liked this post, it would be great if you would pin it:). Also, check out some of the other fun posts we have about how to brighten up your holidays linked up below. Have a great day!! A/J

Friday, December 12, 2014

8 Great Holiday Statement Tees

There's nothing much I love more, fashion-wise, than a fun statement tee. Here are eight great statement tees to brighten up your holidays (plus, where to find them - below the picture)!!

Holiday t-shirts Graphic Tees

1. "When in Doubt Add Glitter"
2. "Meowy Christmas"
3. "Peace Love Hot Cocoa"
4. "Santa, Stop Judging Me!"
5. "Oh, Snap!"
6. "Meet Me Under the Mistletoe"
7. "Dear Santa, Define Naughty."
8. "You Wish" Sparkle Tee

If you liked this post, check out some of the  dishes we love to cook around the holidays, linked up below.
Don't forget to also stop by our Christmas Stories and Sweets Blog Series and enter the giveaway. You will love the pop-up book I'm giving away!! Happy holidays to you and yours:)!! A/J

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Easiest Noodle Recipe Ever: German Spaetzle

My grandmother, God bless her, was one of those women who really enjoyed spending hours upon hours in the kitchen making egg noodles from scratch. I'm talking hand-cutting them, people. With a knife. So many batches of noodles that she wore a permanent valley in her cutting board from the persistent rocking, back and forth, of her knife-blade.

I am not one of those women. Enter my Spaetzle maker and the easiest noodle recipe ever.

Spaetzle Noodle Recipe

Let me take a few steps back before we get to this recipe. It's about 10 years ago. I'm living in St. Louis with a newborn, a new husband, and a household to make. My Dad comes out from Pittsburgh to visit and hands me this box as a housewarming gift.

German Spaetzle Noodle Maker

My first thought, upon looking at the contraption, was this: "What in the hell am I supposed to do with that thing?" At that point in my life, I had never eaten a spaetzle noodle, let alone tried to make ANY noodles from scratch. In my mind, at that point, I associated noodle-making with the long, treacherous, flour-soaked days in my Grandmother's kitchen, with her cutting noodle after noodle (the short, thin ones, good lord) while I belabored alongside her with my "angel knife."

Fast forward about five months. There is nothing in our kitchen to eat. I have butter. I have flour. I have eggs. And I have the German spaetzle maker. We are also super poor (hey, I was a graduate student), and there was no money in my account to buy any other food until Friday. Spaetzle it was.

My happy discovery? Spaetzle is really f*@cking easy to make (sorry for the cuss-word amplifier. I couldn't think of anything better suited to the situation). And it delivers the most delicious toothsome, chewy noodle I had ever tasted. Spaetzle maker FTW.

So, without further ado, here's my Easy Spaetzle Recipe: From None to Done in 15 Minutes Flat:

Ingredients:

3 whole eggs, beaten and frothy
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 cup whole milk
Boiling water

1. Get that water on the hob (use a pot that suits the size of your spaetzle maker - nothing worse than a pot too big to hold that maker). Bring it up to a boil.
2. In a medium-sized bowl, beat the eggs.
3. Add salt to the flour and stir with a fork.
4. In three steps, add one cup of flour and 1/3 of the cup of milk to the flour, stirring until the mixture forms into a heavy, wet dough (think a slightly heavier pancake batter; one note, the heavier the dough - more flour rather than less, the smaller the noodle. The thinner the batter, the longer the noodle).
5. Before starting the noodle-making process, I like to prepare another medium-sized bowl filled with cold water, to scoop one finished batch of noodles into before I start in on a second round.
6. Placing the spaetzle maker over the edge of the water (turn your heat down to medium-high, so you're not scalding your fingers), load the basket of the maker to the brim with dough.
7. Slide the basket slowly back and forth over the holes, allowing the dough to drop into the water, forming the noodles.


This is mid-process, but you get the idea. Man I hate my electric stove. Gas one day.

8. The spaetzle are done when they float to the top, as you see in the picture above. Remove the basket once it's empty, give the pot a stir, and then scoop the cooked noodles into the cold water with a slotted spoon. Transfer that batch to a colander, add new cold water to the bowl, and continue with the remaining dough.
9. The rest depends. I love my spaetzle in chicken soup, but I'll tell you what. Those suckers are amazing with just melted butter and pepper. The perfect poor man's - or woman's - dish.

Let us know if you try them and how they turn out:)) (PS You can get your own Spaetzle maker here). If you liked this post, check out some of the other dishes we love to cook around the holidays, linked up below.
Don't forget to also stop by our Christmas Stories and Sweets Blog Series and enter the giveaway. My friend and fellow blogger Betsy is sharing this yummy-looking Spiced Molasses cookie that is safe for children with nut allergies to eat. Happy holidays to you and yours:)!! A/J

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Christmas Stories and Sweets: Part II in Our Baking and Books Series (Plus, a #giveaway!!)

Welcome back to the Stories and Sweets series!! (If you're just joining us now, be sure to hop back to our earlier post last week, featuring a healthy cookie dough that you can eat both raw and baked - YES!! you heard me - and a sweet little book about cooking up holiday traditions). This week, my friend Betsy and I have teamed up to bring you a new book and cookie recipe to share, both of which I can't wait to sit down and enjoy this afternoon.

Christmas Kidlit

This week, the book I'm sharing is Fancy Nancy's Slendiferous Christmas by Jane O'Connor. We are huge (I mean, HUGE) fans of Fancy Nancy in our house. We love Nancy's unshakeable spirit, her desire to be unique, and her fabulous accessories. As a mom who teaches English, reading, and writing, I also appreciate how the Fancy Nancy books introduce difficult vocabulary in a fun and memorable way. In this lovely little number, Nancy is so excited that Christmas is nigh that her impatience leads to a small disaster - and a lesson that sometimes the things we make with our own hands are much more meaningful than the flashy things we covet and buy. I give this book five out of five stars. A must have for your Christmas shelves!!


Fancy Nancy Christmas Book
You can order Fancy Nancy Splendiferous Christmas here.
 
Be sure to stop by Betsy's blog, where she is sharing a recipe for Spiced Molasses Sunflower Seed Cookies (great for kids with nut allergies; also, she had me at molasses;)). Also, check her out on Facebook and Instagram. Seriously great ideas and programs for getting your kids (and you) to eat more mindfully and healthfully all year long.  These cookies look chewy and delish; I can't wait to try them.
Grain free, nut free, refined sugar free cookie recipes

One last thing - a fun thing! We will be running a giveaway throughout the month of December for a copy of Robert Sabuda's pop-up book The Night Before Christmas (I'll be posting about this book soon; Sabuda's work is amazing - check out this old post I did on my Alice Sabuda pop-up) and ingredients to make one of the recipes (details soon). One major thing, sign up for our newsletters to be entered (look in the right-sidebar for the entry form for ours). The winner will be announced the week before Christmas.

1. To enter the giveaway, you must be a fan of both BMoore Healthy and Alice in East Washington on Facebook. Also, you must be receiving The Owl's Skull's monthly newsletters. You can sign up for our newsletter in the right sidebar on the blog (where it says "Subscribe to Our Mailing List").

2. Use the Rafflecopter tool linked up below to enter to win (gosh, I hope you win. I'm a little jealous I can't;)). This giveaway is available to US residents only. Good luck! The contest ends Wednesday, December 17th at 9:00 PM. A winner will be announced shortly after that.

Enter and share away:)!! We both thank you, and wish you a merry, merry Christmas!! A/J

PS If you liked this post, check out our other posts on favorite gift books and cookies linked up below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Robert Sabuda Pop-up THe Night Before Christmas

What to do when your "new" house is filled with crazy old wallpaper ...

Sharing today how we dealt with the wallpaper situation in our house (this is an older post, but I'm re-sharing it because some asked for it after the Instagram/Facebook shot I posted of my daughter's bedroom). Some of that wallpaper we kept, some of it went the way of the perm.
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Sometimes, when life hands you lemons, you have to make lemonade. When we bought our house this past August, there was, um, "interesting" wallpaper everywhere. In each and every bedroom. In the kitchen. On the ceilings. On the doors. You name it.



1960s Blacklight Wallpaper
This blacklight wallpaper was my absolute favorite!! It was put up, according to the son of the previous owners (who lived here for 48 years), in 1968. It covered the whole room. It was super-psychedelic. It was awesome. It could stay. That carpet, not so much. Bright green, and when we pulled it back - horsehair padding. HORSEHAIR. Which is really, extremely super itchy, by the way. 


In the kitchen. Turquoise and peach. Perfect combination. There were, in some places, three layers of  wallpaper. Some of the cabinets were wallpapered. In short, nightmare. It all had to go, leaving behind damaged plaster walls that required some serious elbow grease on our part.
The Master Bedroom. Blue toile wallpaper EVERYWHERE (check the doors out). The room looked so small with the paper and the custom draperies, straight out of 1982. Also, when we pulled back the wallpaper, we had to deal with mildew issues. Another reason never to put wallpaper on your walls. It traps everything:(. 
Oh, yeah... There were also a lot of questionable carpet. All of which we removed. Fast. In this picture, I am sitting, cup of coffee in hand, staring at Carpet Mountain, thinking to myself, now what in the hell are we supposed to do with all of that shit? 
So, here is what we did with the rocking wallpaper. We made it work.

First up, we stripped the wallpaper off of three walls and then painted two walls bright green and one wall purple. We also refinished the floors. 
This was the floor underneath the horsehair padding. 
Pre-furniture. 
1960s Blacklight Wallpaper
Some funky and functional Ikea furniture, and  everyone thinks that wallpaper is the coolest part of her room.
My rule? Make it look intentional. Like it was always supposed to be there;).

PS Don't forget to sign up for the Baking and Books Holiday Giveaway we have going on at the Skull in conjunction with BMoore Healthy. Stop by and enter:)!! You will love the magical Robert Sabuda pop-up I will be giving away, and my friend and fellow blogger, Betsy, is giving away the ingredients to make Christmas cookies to accompany the book.

PPS If you liked this post, here's a few others you might also like about some of the other work we've done on our house.
~A/J

Monday, December 8, 2014

DIY Poetry Plates (Meaningful Gifts for Fellow Language-Lovers)

Re-sharing this post from post-Christmas last year about the DIY Poetry Plates I made for my mom, using plain old white plates and Sharpie paint pens.
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I was really stumped for a meaningful gift to give my mother this year. This sounds rather cliche, but my mom is my rock (usually the one standing between me and the hard place). And this year, funds have been rather tight, what with my husband starting his business and all of the other BS that comes with being a solidly middle-class professional who can no longer afford anything. I couldn't afford to buy her all of the amazing things I wanted to and that she deserves, so I had to improvise. First of all, I made her a photobook filled with all of the adventures she had with me and my daughters this year. And then I also made her these.

Each plate features the lyrics of one of the songs or poems I remember her singing or reciting to me when I was a child, teenager, and then adult.


DIY Poetry Plates: Great for Christmas or Birthday Gifts
This was actually the plate on the bottom of the pile, because I know how much these lines mean to her ... and to me. They are from the Cat Stevens song "Oh Very Young," and they read thus: Oh very young, what will you leave us this time? You're only dancing on this earth for a short while. And though your dreams may toss and turn you now ... They will vanish away like your daddy's best jeans, denim blue fading up to the sky. And though you want him to last forever, you know he never will.. (you know he never will).. And the patches make the goodbye harder still.  
DIY Plates with Nursery Rhymes
This one is from "I see the moon." Read my post about this poem and my mom here.  It reads: I see the moon and the moon sees me. Under the leaves of the old oak tree. Please let the light that shines on me, shine on the ones I love. Over the mountain, over the sea, back where my heart is longing to be. Please let the light that shines on me, shine on the ones I love.
DIY Plates with Sharpie Paint Pens
This one, a little blurry, is from "There's a Light on in the Attic" by Shel Silverstein. Read my post about this poem here. There were more. These are the few I remembered to take pictures of:(.
She cried. And I felt a little less terrible about not being in a better place in my life where I could afford to show her how much I really do care. In case you are so inclined, here's how you can make your own:

1. Purchase plain white plates (I found some in the "As-Is" room at Ikea, but you could also try your local dollar or craft store).
2. Clean the plate with a paper towel (and then avoid touching the surface of the plate. Any oil on the plate's surface seems to make the ink pull).
3. Using a black oil-based Sharpie, write the lyrics on the plate (I chose a circle pattern, but you could use whatever layout you want).
4. Decorate with your own flourishes using a gold oil-based Sharpie (available in packs at Michael's, Jo-Ann's, etc.).

Sharpie oil-based pens. Like, the coolest things I have discovered since I was, like, 13. 

5. Let the plates dry completely and then bake at 350 degrees. If the writing has pulled together at all, go over the writing again.

I also made these one-liners for my mother-in-law. I think I just might make myself a set next:).

Sharpie Paint Pen Christmas Plates

This year, I'll be making these "All Mama Wants Is a Silent Night" sharpie/glitter mugs from Nest of Roses for my sisters-in-law (maybe with some peppermint schnapps tossed in with coffee;)?). I love giving someone something handmade that they can cherish, something meaningful. We all have so many cast-off items these days.

All Mama Wants Is a Silent Night DIY Mug from Nest of Roses

Have fun:)!! If you ever make any, please share them with us on our Facebook page (if you're not following us there, stop on over. We share lots of different things throughout the day, aside from our own posts. Great ideas for the holidays, new books to read, fun facts about Disney, you name it).

PS Don't forget to sign up for the Baking and Books Holiday Giveaway we have going on at the Skull in conjunction with BMoore Healthy. Stop by and enter:)!! You will love the magical Robert Sabuda pop-up I will be giving away, and my friend and fellow blogger, Betsy, is giving away the ingredients to make Christmas cookies to accompany the book.

PPS If you liked this post, try out some of our other DIY Christmas ideas:
Happy Holidays! A/J

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Personalizing Your Christmas Tree

Sharing an old post today about how we personalized our Christmas tree (it kind of happened by happy accident, but I love it).
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I believe, firmly, that one's Christmas tree should tell a personal narrative. I hate those trees that are perfect, the ones that look like they popped magically out of Martha Stewart Living. When everything matches, you can bet that there is not one meaningful ornament to be found.

Our trees are famous among our friends for being wonky. Usually, they are completely crooked, with limbs shooting off in various directions like firecrackers. This year's tree is rather subdued, since we bought it; usually, my step-father cuts the top off of a tree in New York and brings it back to PA for us to squeeze into our living room (which in the past was tiny - think Clark Griswold trying to fit his dream tree into his suburban living room). But our trees have personality. Every ornament belongs. Even the one I made in first grade that looks like a really creepy clown (and I hate clowns, ever since I made the mistake of watching It in seventh grade).

A few of my favorites.

Personalized Christmas Tree
The spider I bought on clearance last year at Anthropologie.
Who doesn't love a spider ornament?
Cheshire Cat Ornament
The Cheshire Cat.
DIY Ornaments
One of many doll ornaments my mother made out of clothespins when she was a little girl.
DIY Picture Ornament
My handsome father.
Target Owl Ornament
The latest addition to our tree. Snagged him up today for $2 at Target.
Disney's Nightmare Before Christmas Ornaments
You know I have to have a Nightmare before Christmas ornament set.
What kind of creepo would I be without it?
Anthropologie Initial
The "m" I bought on sale last night at Anthropologie to top our tree this year.
Every ornament tells a story, don't it? ~Alice

 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Fun Book Project for Middle-Grade Readers: Create a Playlist for a Book

Recently, my kid came home with the coolest project for one of her gifted classes. She had been asked to design a creative playlist to go with Jerry Spinelli's book, Stargirl, a book that lends itself well to this sort of thing.

I loved the list she created. It was varied, and a lot of the songs matched up really well with the moments in the book she paired them with. Yes, this is not constructing a machine out of Kinex that will move ping-pong balls from one end of a table to another (a project she actually has to undertake later in the year), but it is a fun way to get young readers, especially those who are deeply into music, to make the books they are reading come alive.

Stargirl Playlist

So, here's her Stargirl list. We then had a discussion about how the Music Supervisors for films pick soundtracks, especially for movies based on books. It was pretty cool.

Book Projects for Kids

Let us know if you try this with your kids. We'll add their playlists to our song library. A/J

PS Don't forget to sign up for the Baking and Books Holiday Giveaway we have going on at the Skull in conjunction with BMoore Healthy. Stop by and enter:)!! You will love the magical Robert Sabuda pop-up I will be giving away, and my friend and fellow blogger, Betsy, is giving away the ingredients to make Christmas cookies to accompany the book.

Friday, December 5, 2014

"I love this book. I want to die with it." (Review of -How to Build a Girl- by Caitlin Moran)

When you love a book - and by love, I mean fall deeply, head-over-heels, in lust with a book and everything contained in its pages, you just have to share it. And so, I am sharing my latest favorite with you: How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran. One reviewer on the Barnes & Noble site perhaps said it best: "I love this book. I want to die with it."

Review How to Build a Girl Caitlin Moran
I do have to say: I have one objection to this cover, even though I love the general design (and its font referencing earlier covers of The Bell Jar). Moran constantly emphasizes the fact that her heroine, Johanna Morrigan/Dolly Wilde, is plump throughout the book (it's an important part of the heroine's characterization). So why then do we have a skinny-legged girl on the cover?
Let me say first of all that if you are at all prudish, you probably will not like this book (there's masturbation on page 1, and there are other scenes later in the book about sex that are so raunchy and funny because they are so raunchy I found myself laughing in the middle of Starbucks yesterday afternoon - people were staring. Oh, well).

Here's the thing. Moran often goes for shock-value in this story about a 14 to 17-year-old girl who is trying to write herself out of poverty and finds herself awash in a sea of sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll. Clearly riffing on the now somewhat outdated shock value of Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, Moran builds a new girl for a new generation: one who is able to resist being the place that the arrow shoots off from (if you're a Plathie, you'll get the reference) to become a weapon: "I am a bullet, being shot out of a dirty gun" (185) (also Dickinson; hmmm...). I like the shock value, don't get me wrong. But I really love this book because it is so beautifully written, in all its filthiness.


Johanna tells us in the book that "Explaining why you love something is one of the most important jobs on earth" (323). Since I feel I can't express my love for this book in my own words just yet, I'm going to let Moran speak for herself. These, among many, many others, are just a few of my favorite sentences:

"I feel like I've just flown 600 miles per hour head-on into the most beautiful metaphor of my life: If you fly high enough, if you get above the clouds, it's never-ending summer. [...] When we finally land in Dublin, and I go off to meet John Kite, I am essentially drunk on the sky."

"When the wind blew in on the street corner, you could see his heart beat under his shirt, and when the conversation accelerated, you could hear his mind chime, like a clock. He was bright bright bright, like the lantern above a pub door in November - he made you want to come in and never leave."

"If you can't save yourself from attack by being powerful - I, palpably, have no power; my hands are empty - then perhaps you can save yourself from attack by being ruined, instead. Blow yourself up before the enemy gets you."

"London feels like an infinite toy. Evenings never end - they just, without you noticing, turn into tomorrow."

"I doggedly taught myself to smoke. I'm impressed by how determined I am, because it is - and there's no two ways about this - filthy. It tastes of the worst brown ever. It's like sucking everything you'd ever put in a bin - ashtrays, burnt pub carpet, yellow snow, death."

"My heart explodes like a swarm of bees."

"And when you are being kissed like this, you are Christmas Day; you are the moon shot; you are field larks. My shoes were suddenly worth a million pounds, and my breath was the ethyl of champagne. When someone kisses you like this, you are the point of everything."

"So what do you do when you build yourself - only to realize you built yourself with the wrong things? You rip it up and start again. That is the work of your teenage years - to build up and tear down and build up again, over and over, endlessly, like speeded-up film cities during boom times and wars. To be fearless, and endless, in your reinventions - to keep twisting on nineteen, going bust, and dealing in again, and again. Invent, invent, invent."

If you are a lover of language, please read this book. Some of the writing is just so exquisite. And Johanna reminds of a figurine that exploded from the inside out into a thousand tiny, jagged shards and then stitched itself back together with words. I was so sad when the book was over I died a little inside.

book hangover
I really hate book hangovers. And this one is a doozy.
Oh, and put this song on in the background whilst reading. 'Cause it's perfect. A/J



Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Christmas Time Stories and Sweets (Plus, a giveaway!!)


Two of the things I love the most about the holidays are Christmas books and baking. Books I know a thing or two about. Baking, however, that's a whole other story. I tend to stick to the recipes I know best and have made about a million times (like my Little Twists or the tried-and-true recipe on the back of the chocolate chip bag). Enter my good friend, neighbor, and fellow blogger Betsy.

Christmas Giveaway

Betsy and I have teamed up to bring you a series for the Christmas season that pairs a delightful Christmas book with a delicious Christmas cookie recipe. Here at the Skull, I'll tell you a little about some new Christmas books to add to your December reading list, and Betsy, over at her blog BMoore Healthy, will share recipes for healthy, yummy twists on our favorite Christmas cookies. A perfect pair, right? Welcome to part 1 of 3 in the series!!



Christmas Cookies Book Baking
You can order a copy of Christmas Cookies: Bite-Size Holiday Lessons here.
The book I'd like to share today to kick us off is Christmas Cookies: Bite-Size Holiday Lessons by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Jane Dyer. It's a great picture book to get you and your kids in the mood for baking away the days of December (plus, there's a sugar-cookie recipe at the end;)). Here's an overview from the product description: "This scrumptious follow-up to the bestselling Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons captures the spirit of the holiday season. From making the same kind of cookies at the same time each year (tradition) to decorating them with lots of sprinkles (celebrate), youngsters will gobble up vocabulary words and holiday lessons in this charming dictionary of sorts. Amy Krouse Rosenthal's timeless morsels of wisdom paired with Jane Dyer's cozy illustrations are as irresistible as the aroma of cookies fresh from the oven. Go ahead, take another bite!"

Be sure to stop by Betsy's blog this week, where she is sharing a recipe for a healthy cookie dough that can be eaten cooked or uncooked (that sounds amazing, right?! Who doesn't love to eat the cookie dough? Admit it. You know you do;)). Also, check her out on Facebook and Instagram. Seriously great ideas and programs for getting your kids (and you) to eat more mindfully and healthfully all year long.  I cannot wait to try these cookies!

Edible Cookie Dough

One last thing - a fun thing! We will be running a giveaway throughout the month of December for a copy of Robert Sabuda's pop-up book The Night Before Christmas (I'll be posting about this book soon; Sabuda's work is amazing - check out this old post I did on my Alice Sabuda pop-up) and ingredients to make one of the recipes (details soon). One major thing, sign up for our newsletters to be entered (look in the right-sidebar for the entry form for ours). The winner will be announced the week before Christmas.

1. To enter the giveaway, you must be a fan of both BMoore Healthy and Alice in East Washington on Facebook. Also, you must be receiving The Owl's Skull's monthly newsletters. You can sign up for our newsletter in the right sidebar on the blog (where it says "Subscribe to Our Mailing List").

2. Use the Rafflecopter tool right here to enter to win. This giveaway is available to US residents only. Good luck! The contest ends Wednesday, December 17th at 9:00 PM. A winner will be announced shortly after that.

Enter and share away:)!! A/J

a Rafflecopter giveaway