Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sunday Salon /Sunday Post - Christmas Spirit Sign-up #csreadathon and Thankfully Reading Weekend

I realize that its been a few weeks since I have posted a Salon post and at least a couple since I posted anything at all. I've been busy reading books and watching videos and hence my blogging has suffered.

I know that 2015 is coming to a rapid end and I have made a few decisions, especially in regards to my reading challenges.  I am thinking that I am going to back down on the number of reading challenges that I participate during 2016, at least at the start.

I am also signing up for Michelle @ True Book Addict's Christmas Reading Challenge and Christmas Spirit Readathon.

For the reading challenge, I am going go for the Mistletoe level, in which I am hoping to read 2-4 Christmas books and I am also going to do Fa La La La Film challenge as well.  I hope that you can join as well.  And to kick things off, Michelle is hosting a read-a-thon for the first week.  I hope to read at least one or two books during this time.

And to add to that Jenn at Jenn's Bookshelves is hosting the Thankfully Reading weekend.  I hope to spend a bit of time reading during the weekend.  

I will get back to my reading and hopefully I can start to catch-up the book reviews that have been piling up this coming week.

Hope you have a great rest of the day and a great week of reading.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Weekend Cooking - Vegetarian Lasagna

From Beth Fish Reads: Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.


I normally don't like cooking.  The less time I have to spend cooking, the happier I am.  But there are a few items that I do enjoy making and prefer the taste of them to premade stuff.  This is one of them.

1 jar of spaghetti sauce
1 cup water
1 box of oven ready lasagna noodles
1 container Ricotta (about 500 g)
2 cups grated Mozzarella cheese
1 pkg Yves Italian Veggie Ground Round
1 large can of diced tomatoes

Large bowl for mixing sauce
Non-stick frying pan
9"x 13" glass baking pan
Mixing spoons
A fork
A drinking glass
Aluminum foil
Measuring cup

Instructions for preparation:
Open jar of spaghetti sauce and can of diced tomatoes.  Add  1 cup water.  Stir well.

Open package of veggie ground round.  Crumble it into the frying pan.  Fry the ground over medium heat until it is browning.  Keep crumbling it with your spatula to make the pieces small.  After 5-10 minutes, take it off the stove and add it to the sauce bowl.  Stir well.

Set out everything on your counter: sauce in bowl, ricotta in its container, grated mozzarella cheese, open box of noodles, pan, spoons, fork, glass.   Half fill the drinking glass with warm water.

Put 1/3 of the sauce into the bottom of the pan (about 1 and 1/4 cups).  Cover with 3 noodles.  Drop half of the ricotta in spoonfuls on top of the noodles.  Dip your fork into the water glass.  Use the wet fork to spread the ricotta.  When the fork gets dry, dip it again.  The cheese won't be perfect, but it should be evenly distributed. Sprinkle with 1/2 of the Mozzarella cheese.  Top with 1/3 of the sauce (about 1.25 cups).

Top with 3 lasagna noodles.  Spread with remaining ricotta.  Use wet fork to spread it evenly.  Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of Mozzarella cheese.  Top with 3 lasagna noodles (no sauce in this layer).

Pour remaining sauce on top.  Cover with mozzarella.

Wipe the rim with a clean, dry paper towel to remove any sauce or cheese. Cover with aluminum foil.

To refrigerate or freeze:
Cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate/freeze.  Take out of freezer about 8 hours before you want to bake it OR take out of fridge 1 hour before you want to bake it.

Baking instructions:
Preheat oven to 350F.  Put in foil-covered lasagna.  After 30 minutes, remove foil.  Insert oven probe (you can find these at most places that sell kitchen gadgets) that has been preset for 160F.  Return to oven.  When probe beeps, check to see if cheese on top is buble and brownish.  If not, turn on broiler. Keep watching.  When it's the way you want it, turn off broiler.  Remove lasagna.  Let sit on rack for 10 minutes so that the noodles will absorb excess liquid.  This helps the lasagna hold together.

I realize that a lot of you here probably know how to make a lasagna, but if you don't, this will help you make one yourself!  Thanks to my mom for giving me the above instructions.  Hope you enjoy.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Sunday Salon - Getting back on the reading bandwagon

Don't know why, but for some reason I got off the reading bandwagon. It felt odd and different and even though I wanted to read, I just didn't have the urge to pick up a book and even if I did read, it wasn't for long periods of time and it was things that I had to read for a few book review tours that I had signed up for during the summer.

But for whatever the reason, the 24-hour Readathon a couple weeks ago energized me to start reading again on a regular basis.  I guess what I needed was some sort of focus in my reading for a sustained amount of time and that really jump started me again into reading on a more regular basis and to enjoy reading again and less of a chore. It's kinda of funny, but I sense another lull coming, but I suppose it depends on how many required books I have to read and whether I am enjoying the books that I am reading for enjoyment. And how I am feeling physically.

I am also hoping to make a vegetarian lasagna today that I will split up and freeze on a cookie sheet before I put them in containers or ziploc bags for easy lunch (don't know how I missed the mozzarella when I went to the grocery store the couple times I made trips).

Here is what I finished this past month:
• Yellow-Billed Magpie by Nancy Schoellkopf (review)
• Port of No Return by Michelle Saftich (review)
• In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume
• Birds of Passage by Joe Giordano (review)
• The Dead in their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley
• Mãn by Kim Thúy
• Bone: The Complete Cartoon Epic in One Volume by Jeff Smith

Here is what I am hoping to finish in November:
• The Buried Giant
• Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell
• The Orphan Master's Son
• The Accidental Empress
• Circling the Sun

Hope you have a wonderful Sunday, however you choose to spend it.

Sit Down and Write 7 - #NaNoWriMo Edition #sitdownwrite

A good blogging friend of mine is hosting a write-a-thon through out the month for the month of November.

Its for those who wish to participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) or for those of us who are really backed-up on book reviews, like myself.  If you wish to join, you can link up here.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Birds of Passage - Joe Giordano

Title: Birds of Passage
Author: Joe Giordano
Pages: 260
Published: 2015
Challenges: E-book, Historical Fiction
Genre: Historical Fiction
Edition: Ebook
Source: ARC; I received this book for an honest review from Italy Book Reviews

Description: What turns the gentle mean and the mean brutal? The thirst for wealth? The demand for respect? Vying for a woman? Birds of Passage recalls the Italian immigration experience at the turn of the twentieth-century when New York’s streets were paved with violence and disappointment. 

Leonardo Robustelli leaves Naples in 1905 to seek his fortune. Carlo Mazzi committed murder and escaped. Azzura Medina is an American of Italian parents. She’s ambitious but strictly controlled by her mother. Leonardo and Carlo vie for her affection. 
Azzura, Leonardo, and Carlo confront con men, Tammany Hall politicians, the longshoreman’s union, Camorra clans, Black Hand extortion, and the Tombs prison.  (via Publisher)

Thoughts: The story took me a while to capture my attention due to a number of factors including I couldn't get easily into the main storyline.  I felt that the book was a bit disjointed and felt that it could have been a little more polished and the storyline a little more flowing.  It also felt that it was  a bit of an easy read for me and I was able to quickly read the book.  The book could have easily been about another 50 pages, with the story a little more fleshed out and have a little more meat on the bones.

What I did like was the setting of the story.  Having seen images of that era in New York, I think it was good to see a book set in what would be considered the rougher side of early 20th century New York.  I also felt partial to Leonard and would have liked to see his story a little more fleshed out.

Overall the book was an okay read and there really wasn't too much that was really bad about the book and would probably interest those interested in the experience of immigrants in the early 20th century in New York.  Recommended.

Author's Bio:

Joe Giordano was born in Brooklyn. His father and grandparents immigrated to New York from Naples. Joe and his wife, Jane have lived in Greece, Brazil, Belgium and the Netherlands. They now live in Texas with their shih tzu Sophia. Joe's stories have appeared in more than sixty magazines including Bartleby Snopes, The Newfound Journal, and The Summerset Review.

Connect with the author:   Website  ~   Twitter  ~   Facebook

eBook Promotion: 

The Kindle copy of Birds of Passage will be free to download  for five days starting the day after the end of this virtual tour (Saturday, November 7th through Wednesday, November 11th)

Tour Schedule:

Oct 19 - Working Mommy Journal - review / author interview / giveaway
Oct 20 - FLY HIGH! - book spotlight - guest post / giveaway
Oct 20 - Room With Books - book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
Oct 21 - Jayne's Books - review
Oct 21 - Notes from Verona - review
Oct 22 - Jaquo Lifestyle Magazine - review / guest post
Oct 23 - The Autistic Gamer - review
Oct 26 - Library of Clean Reads - review / giveaway
Oct 26 - Readers' Muse - review / guest post
Oct 27 - The World As I See It - review / giveaway
Oct 27 - Kimberly's Bookshelf - review / guest post / giveaway
Oct 28 - 3 Partners in Shopping - book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
Oct 28 -  A Bit Bookish - review / giveaway
Oct 29 - The Cubicle Escapee - review / giveaway
Oct 29 - Cassidy Salem Reads & Writes - review / giveaway
Oct 30 - Deal Sharing Aunt - book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
Oct 30 - Puddletown Reviews - book spotlight / author interview
Nov 2 - Life as Leels - review
Nov 2 - Worth Getting in Bed For - review
Nov 3 - Bound 4 Escape - review / giveaway
Nov 4 - Studentessa  Matta - review
Nov 4 - Writer With Wanderlust - review / giveaway
Nov 5 - Singing Librarian Books - review / author interview / giveaway
Nov 6 - Essentially Italian - review / author interview / giveaway
Nov 6 - - review

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Port of No Return - Michelle Saftich #historicalfiction #Italy #WW2

Title: Port of No Return
Author: Michelle Saftich
Pages: 238
Published: 2015
Challenges: Historical Fiction
Genre: Historical Fiction
Edition: Paperback
Source:  ARC; I received this book for an honest review from Italy Book Reviews

Description: Contessa and Ettore Saforo awake to a normal day in war-stricken, occupied Italy.

By the end of the day, their house is in ruins and they must seek shelter and protection wherever they can. But the turbulent politics of 1944 refuses to let them be. 

As Tito and his Yugoslav Army threaten their German-held town of Fiume, Ettore finds himself on a list for execution and running for his life. His wife and children must also flee. 

Ettore and Contessa’s battle to find each other, and the struggle of their family and friends to rebuild their lives, provide a rich and varied account of displaced people in war-torn Europe.

What can you do when you have nowhere left to call home? Port of No Return considers this question and more in a novel that is full of action, pain and laughter -- a journey you will want to see through to the very end. (via Publisher)

Thoughts: This book has been sort of simmering for  me since I completed the book over the weekend and as I have thought about the book, I could see my maternal father's parents going through a similar experience as the Saforo's go through.  I liked how the characters felt real and hence  I feel an affinity to the main characters.  I can't imagine what my great-grandparents went through when fleeing Stalinist Russia in 1926 to a country they barely knew anybody and a language they didn't know how to speak.  Like my maternal great-grandparents, I can't imagine the agonizing decision that the Saforo's had to go through.

I quite enjoyed the book and by allowing it to filter a bit, I was able to empathize with the decision that the parents had to make and would recommend this book to those that enjoy historical fiction and those that would like to have something that isn't typical of the Italian immigrant experience.  Recommended.

Author's Bio:

Michelle Saftich is a first-time author who resides in Brisbane, Australia.  She holds a Bachelor of Business/Communications Degree, majoring in journalism, from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT).

For the past 20 years, she has worked in communications, including print journalism, sub-editing, communications management and media relations. She is married with two children.

Connect with the author:   Website    Facebook    Twitter

I am also doing a giveaway and it is open internationally.

Win 1 of 5 copies of Port of No Return & 1 $30 Amazon gift card
(open internationally)

Saturday, October 17, 2015

24 Hours Readathon - 2nd Update #readathon

I had thought I would be updating more than I have up until this point, but the important thing is that I have been reading.  Since my last update, I have completed one book and am almost finished my second one.  I have currently read for about 11 hours, which considering my "nap" between 6 am and 10 am and the two hours I took to do some things in town this afternoon, is pretty good.  I realize that the next 6 hours are going to be a bit of a challenge, but I have made a dent into the shows left on my PVR and am actually seeing a difference in how much I have left on it.  I have also read over 500 pages since my last update about 11 hours ago.

Wish me luck in the next 6 hours.
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