“My Antonia”- Willa Cather

This book made me cry, actually I wept- but in a good way if thats possible. I had never heard of this book, or the author. Now that I have read this book I tell everyone about it. The way the author describes the prairies and wide open spanses of Nebraska is breath taking. Reading “My Antonia” was like reading a “Little House on the Prairie” episode, but a billion times better. Normally, “My Antonia” wouldn’t be a long or hard read, but it seemed like every time I would sit to read, I would get distracted, so it took some time. It was a pretty easy read, and very easy to fall in love with the characters of the book. I absolutely adored Antonia, and the other girls of the town. Reading about the children growing up, it felt like I was growing up with them. Anytime I read this book, it was easy to be transported to the hot Nebraska summer, especially with the heat we’ve been having.

By the title, I assumed this would be a love story, and it was, but not in the happily ever after, boy meets girl, boy wins girls heart, love , marriage and a baby carriage. There is a different type of love, a bond and a friendship and is uncommon between opposite sexes today. The way they so freely and easily cared for one another is both touching and astounding. No matter what amount of time elapsed, they still had an undefined and unsaid love for one another.

Reading this book made my heart ache. It was so sad to read the trials and struggles of the families in the harsh environment. This book made me laugh at the childish naivety of many of their situations. It was a wonderful summer read. Not too heavy, not so easy that it was dull. A kid in middle school or high school could read this book, enjoy and get different points out of it. Personally, I was not disappointed.

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Mini Cannoli Cups

Everyone loves a classic cannoli. Not everyone loves trying to figure out how to make those shells, and then once that’s accomplished, making them efficiently. This recipe is a cheat sheet cannoli without the fuss and takes about a half hour start to finish. This is a fool proof recipe that will get rave reviews. No one has to know you didn’t spend the day in the kitchen.

Ingredients:
2 premade pie crusts OR a homemade pie crust (Recipe linked below)
1 container ricotta cheese (at least 16oz)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Powdered Sugar
2 tablespoons granualted sugar
Chocolate chips of your choice, dark/milk/white regular, jumbo or mini

First mix the filling. It is imparative it is chilled before filling. Combine the ricotta, vanilla, and granulated sugar. Add at least 1 tablespoon of powedered sugar and continue to add to taste. Put the filling in a gallon bag and refridgerate.

Second, make a double pie crust recipe. I love the Betty Crocker recipe that I grew up on. The recipe for that can be found here. For those who are pressed for time, 2 premade pie crusts work just as well. The benefit of homemade crust is being able to add in the cinnamon like real cannoli shells.

Preheat oven to 425

Unwrap the pie crusts and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. With a rolling pin roll out the dough just a bit. If it is too thick it’ll be a pain to get in the mini cupcake tins. The same applies to the homemade dough.

With a 2 inch biscuit/cookie cutter or glass, cut out circles. Lightly grease a mini cupcake tin and line with pie crust. With a fork poke the bottom so that it does not puff up. Cook about 8-12 minutes or until golden brown. LET COOL!

Once the cups are cool, cut tip of bag with filling. Use the bag like a piping bag and fill the little cups. Add a few chips on top and dust with powdered sugar. And now the best part- ENJOY!

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Best Snickerdoodle/Sugar Cookie Recipe EVER

This is the best snickerdoodle/sugar cookie recipe I have EVER found. They are soo fluffy, and soft. Though an avid baker I have a tendency to fail at cookies. I believe the only reason these turned out so well is because my boyfriend Eric helped make them…and instead of an electric mixer, we did it all by hand. But they were well worth the effort, they didn’t last very long.

1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
sugar (topping)
cinnamon (topping)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Mix butter, sugar, and eggs.

3. Blend in flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt.

4. Chill dough in fridge for at least 30 min. This will make balling the dough much easier. Shape dough into balls with your hands (great time to get the kids or significant others involved)

5. Mix cinnamon and sugar in a shallow bowl. Some like a lot of cinnamon, some like a little. Make it how YOU want. Roll each dough ball in cinnamon sugar mixture.

6. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheet. THIS IS IMPORTANT! They do fluff up and expand. I forgot this and ended up with snowmen and gingermen blobs when I used this recipe as a sugar cookie dough..

7. Bake 8-10 minutes until just golden. The longer they bake the crunchier they will be. Remove from baking sheet. Eating them warm is obviously the best, but if you’re not eating them right away definitely store in an air tight container to keep them nice and soft!

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“The Bell Jar”- Sylvia Plath

Wow. Every once in a while, a book comes along into your life and makes you go “hmmm.” Every once in a while you are lucky enough to read a book that you can truely relate too in some way shape or form. This summer I’d read romance novels, and silly books on manliness, but I had yet to read a true novel, a true book written in such a way as this. I loved this book. Early on, I made it my tubby time book. After working a 8 hour shift at work, I came home and started myself a nice hot bubble bath. It just so happened that “The Bell Jar,” was the book I grabbed on my way into the bathroom. As I lowered myself into the steamy tub I grabbed this jewel of a book. As I read I came across an exerpt that I love “There must be quiet a few things a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them. Whenever I’m sad I’m going to die, or so nervous I can’t sleep, or in love with somebody I won’t be seeing for a week, I slump down just so far and then I say: “I’ll go take a hot bath.”” At that precise moment, I knew I would love the rest of the book, for indeed I found myself taking a bath for such similar reasons. I then made it a habbit to read this book whenever I took a bath.

Reading this book was very interesting. As I read the book it was weird how much one could relate to it. Although I am not such an accelerated scholar as the main character, she had so much pressure placed upon her. Personally, and based on society standards she was only allowed to be one thing. Her mother was badgering her, her teachers, peers and everyone was just bearing down on her. It really was no more or less than most people, but it was just so interesting to read how it affected her, and to understand how she felt. To understand her qualms with what she was going to do with the rest of her life, her issues with her family, trying to fit in socially, and her internal struggle with being stuck under “the bell jar.”

The first time I had ever heard of Sylvia Plath was in my 11th grade high school English class- we read “The Doll House,” if I remember correctly. She wrote about how she felt like she was stuck in a plastic world, only allowed to do what was socially acceptable, only allowed to be what the world thought she should be- plastic. Plath again makes a reference about being a plastic doll in “The Bell Jar,” her only novel. How true is it, even today, decades after this was written, that our society hasn’t changed? Women are still put in a catagory, expected to act and bend to the world.

Another thing I found interesting, was the characters struggle with her virginity. While the world aroud her was out fooling around, she was still a virgin. This was not such an issue however, until she found out a boy she liked was not. The issue continues to pop up through the story, this internal struggle with the world and what her mama taught her. Again, even though decades separate, the problems have really not changed.

I really must, at this point stop. I fear I will give too much of the book away if I continue on as such. I highly recommend this book. I recommend it especially to teenaged girls. Although it is a somewhat depressing book, and I in no way encourage them to take the same radical steps that are described, it’s nice to know that nothing has changed. Sure the fashions have changed, the look of women has changed, many surface things have changed, but nothing else has. It’s nice to know that sometimes, the best thing in the world truely is, just a hot bath.

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Angel Foodcake Cupcakes

I (Anna)  decided for the food recipe that I would share one of my all time favories…or well one of the general favorites! Now and again I get the urge to make something “healthy.” Having grown up in a family of blood pressure and heart problems it’s a necessity. One of the best ones I’ve done is my Angel Foodcake Cupcakes. It’s a health alternative to a bowl of ice cream, and still satisfies even the most ravenous sweet tooth!

1 box mix angel food cake (or a homemade recipe)

1 qt diced strawberries

1 small carton heavy whipping cream

Vanilla

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Powdered sugar

Step 1: Bake angel food cake in cupcake tins according to box recipe. If using a homemade recipe, put batter in cupcake tins and check after approx. 14 min. Let cool.

Step 2: Dice strawberries and mix in bowl with sugar.

Step 3: Make sure your whipping cream is nice and cold. Put in mixer with whip attachment (or hand mixer) and whip it until nice and fluffy. Add in vanilla and powdered sugar to taste. About a teaspoon of vanilla and tablespoon of powdered sugar is lovely

Step 4: In a small sauce on med-low heat pour about half of the strawberries in and stir. They will cook down becoming soft, sweet and juicey!

Step 5: Take a melon baller or spoon and scoop out the center of the cooled cupcakes. Fill with strawberry compote you made previously. Top with a dollop of your homemade whipped cream and a few of the diced strawberries you didn’t cook down.

This is what your finished cupcake will look like!YUM!

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