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TBR Challenge: More Than One


So, it is now August, and I can’t help but noticed that I have not blogged the TBR Challenge in quite some time. I read a book for May but never blogged about it. Still, it seemed a shame just to skip three months! So, in May the criteria was something for which you had multiple books by the same author in your TBR pile. I couldn’t really find anything except Cassandra Clare, which only sort of counts because the additional books are all part of the same series. Still, I’ve been meaning to start the Mortal Instruments series for some time now, so this seemed like as a good a selection as any.

I have to say that I really enjoyed this, certainly enough to want to keep reading. It has some similarities to other YA series, but I am very interested in what happens to the characters. Also, while the ending leaves enough open to want to keep reading, it also answers enough questions that as a reader, I didn’t feel cheated or like I was just being teased into reading a series. I just picked up the audio version of the second book from the library, and I’m looking forward to getting started on it soon.


TBR Challenge: New to you author

The TBR challenge for last month was a new-to-you author. I finished reading this book on time, but I neglected to finish the blog about it.

I decided to read Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos. I’ve never read anything by Gantos, but I’ve heard him interviewed on NPR and thought he was really funny. I also heard really great things about his Newbery Award acceptance speech last year. There are a couple of his books that I’ve been interested in reading, and I bought a copy of this one at the ALA conference last June in Anaheim.


I have to say, that I was a little bit disappointed in this book. I really wanted to like it, but I just had a hard time getting into it. It was a little bit slow for me, and I didn’t find it as funny as I thought that I would.

Frankly, it’s taken me much longer than I planned to write this blog post, and I’m having trouble remembering exactly what I didn’t like about it. I’d like to be able to at least recommend it for boys in the target age range, but I’m not sure that I would do that either. Maybe if you know a 10-ish year old boy who also is really interested in history? For every book its reader, right? I’m just not sure that I’d recommend this broadly.

Anyway, I’m not letting this deter me from the other Jack Gantos books on my TBR shelf. I still hear great things about his memoir.

It looks like a really interesting program! I’m especially excited to check out at least one of the workshops.


The Program and Local Arrangements Co-chairs are pleased to announce that the conference program and registration are now available for the 41st Art Libraries Society of North America annual conference!

We look forward to welcoming you to Pasadena, California, April 25-29, 2013, and are excited to share the conference program, which will engage, enlighten, and educate with its sessions, workshops, tours and special events.

The conference will officially kick-off with an opening plenary on Friday at 1:45 p.m. A panel of curators, scholars and archivists will discuss Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945—1980, the unprecedented collaboration that produced nearly 70 exhibitions and 25 performances across Southern California which examined the birth of the art scene in Los Angeles and how it become a major new force in the art world.

The conference will draw to a close with the Convocation and a reception on Sunday night at…

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State Parks: Los Encinos SHP

Los Encinos State Historic Park is located in Encino, CA. It really is just right in the middle of the city, taking up a couple of city blocks. On one side, through the orange trees, it runs into a grocery store parking lot. Yet, the park still manages to be a lovely, quiet, refuge from any city noise or bustle. We visited on a weekend day, and there were several families out letting their kids run around, feeding the ducks, and picnicking.

The adobe is open for free guided tours, but I think at this point they are by appointment only. However, the visitor center (in another of the buildings) is unlocked during regular park hours so that visitors can go look around.

There are a lot of orange trees and other plants on the property.

There’s also a pond with lots of ducks in it. You can buy little bags of birdseed and feed them. The ducks get really excited about this.

Its just a nice park, a great place to go walk around on the weekend, and an interesting museum/visitor center. Currently its open Wednesday – Sunday from 10-5, but it would probably be best to check the website before you go.

State Parks: San Pasqual Battlefield SHP

First of all, I am really quite embarrassed by my lack of state park posts. We did visit quite a few parks last summer, but once I started graduate school in the fall we were no longer able to see as many. I neglected to really post any blogs at all, but hopefully I’ll get a few done here in the next few weeks.

Most of the 70 state parks scheduled to close will be still be closing by this summer. A handful have been saved, either through private partnerships or being taken over by another park system (national, county, or city). Hopefully more parks will be able to stay open at least on a limited basis in this way. I would highly encourage you to support the California State Parks Foundation, or at least to go to their site if you’re interested in finding out more.

Over Memorial Day weekend last year, we went down to Escondido to see San Pasqual Battlefield State Historic Park. For such a small park, this one is really great. The visitor center has excellent exhibits, beautiful views, and a short yet very informative video about the Mexican-American War. Travis and I felt much better about ourselves as California citizens after watching this; we realized as we went in the visitor center that we really knew nothing about that war. The person staffing the visitor center was incredibly knowledgeable about the history of the area.

The park has a nice quarter mile nature trail as well as a longer (one mile I believe) trail. However, when we visited, the longer trail had not been maintained in a while, and we were advised not to try it. I don’t know whether or not this is still true, but I would assume that it is, due to the ongoing budget issues.

The view out to the valley from the visitor center and from the nature trail is really lovely. The valley is where the majority of the battle was fought.

At any rate, I highly recommend this park. It is basically next door to the San Diego Wild Animal Park in Escondido and is currently still open on Saturdays and Sundays.

New Year’s Dinner

Cooked dinner for the first time in our new house today! I made a pot of collard greens and some cheesy grits, then just included fried chicken from Albertson’s (best grocery store fried chicken ever). It was pretty good, although the grits weren’t the best I’ve ever made.

I also tried to think about New Year’s resolutions. I made a resolution that I would try to do meatless Mondays. Then (as shown above), I promptly forgot that it was Monday. Next week! My other resolutions are:

1. Take my multivitamin.
2. Don’t get so stressed out all the time.

We’ll see how it all goes. Happy New Year!

Almond Cheesecake and Brownies

In all fairness, this should be called Almond Cheesecake Filling. It was a bit awkward how it all turned out.

A while back, I saw this recipe called Decadent Chocolate Layer Cake in Cooking with Paula Deen. It’s two layers of chocolate cake with a layer of almond cheesecake in between, with chocolate frosting. You’ll notice that it looks AMAZING. However I’ve been trying to eat better, and although I don’t deny myself dessert if I want it, I was still fairly sure I should never make that. It sounds like it could kill you after a few bites. So I had another thought. What if I saved the filling recipe and the cake recipe separately and just made them as separate cakes?

As you will undoubtedly have noticed, what happens to the cheesecake part is that it has no crust. It’s not a cheesecake, it’s a molded cheesecake filling. Tasty, but a bit odd and definitely too rich to eat on its own. So, what’s a girl to do in this situation? Why, make a batch of brownies and smear small amounts of the cheesecake on top of them. Voila:

The verdict? They were okay. I think the biggest problem is that I don’t like cheesecake, but I do like cheesecake brownies. So, I definitely believe that if you swirled this batter into brownie batter before baking it, fantastic things could happen. Maybe someday I’ll try it, because this recipe is actually really easy to make.

Almond Cheesecake Filling


2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons almond- flavored liqueur (or almond extract)


Preheat oven to 300°. Line a 9-inch round baking pan with aluminum foil, letting edges of foil extend over sides of pan. Lightly grease foil.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add sugar, beating until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in sour cream and liqueur. Pour batter into prepared pan; bake 45 minutes. Turn oven off; leave cheesecake in oven with door closed for 1 hour.