review: it sucked and then i cried

Title: It Sucked and then I Cried: How I Had a Baby, a Breakdown, and a Much Needed Margarita

Author: Heather Armstrong

Genre: autobiography

Form: hardcover

Recommended: yes – for all those people who have or are considering having children or who deal with depression in yourself or loved ones

Thoughts: Heather writes her autobiography much like how she writes her blog – candidly, verbosely, and full of humorous images. Nothing is off-limits, everything is worth discussing, and humor is found in the smallest moments. I found that I devoured the first half of the book and then took the second half much slower as her writing style is one better digested in small pieces. I love her honesty about life, children, and depression. All three are much less intimidating when approached openly. Read it with a drink in hand while laughing a loud, honest, and obnoxious laugh.

bread pudding

bread pudding 2


A couple of years ago I had a marvelous realization: I loved good bread puddings. And this realization of course made me want to learn to make a good bread pudding. I searched for recipes of various shapes and sizes to find the key ingredients, timing, and baking. Then I had fun. It is a perfect winter dessert – not too sweet, but moist and warm and begging for a cup of coffee, tea, or milk to go alongside. The recipe was resurrected for Christmas dinner this year and enjoyed by all. This is an approximate recipe – modify it to your heart’s content.



  • 2/3 – 3/4 loaf of American style French bread (goal: a white bread that does not have a thick crust – you want a crust that will ‘disappear’ rather than become tough in the custard)
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup 2% milk
  • 4 small eggs or 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1+ 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 medium apple (honey crisp, braeburn, or one with equally good texture and flavor)
  • Rum


  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 4 Tbsp flour
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon


  • The night before, put the raisins in enough rum to cover them, cover with a plate, and leave out.
  • Cut bread into 1 inch squares and let sit out for an afternoon to dry the bread. (You can also cut these the night before and place in a bag to let dry. If the bread has thicker crust on it, cut the crust off of the bread as it will become tough when baked.)
  • Dice the apple into very small pieces (approx. 1/2 the size of a raisin). You do not need to peel the apple. Toss apple with 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 2 Tbsp rum.
  • Beat the eggs until they are thick and foamy. Add the coconut and cow’s milks, sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon.
  • In a large bowl, toss the bread, raisins (drained of the excess rum), and apples. Place the mixture in a greased 8 x12 baking dish. Pour the egg & milk mixture over. Leave out for 30 min – 1 hr before baking, pushing the bread down with a fork or spatula to soak up the egg & milk mixture regularly.
  • Melt the butter. Mix in flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Use your hands to spread this topping over the pudding in small pieces.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 40 minutes (until the pudding has set). Let cool for 10 minutes before serving. Makes 6 hearty servings.

review: balzac and the little chinese seamstress

Title: Balzac and the LIttle Chinese Seamstress

Author: Dai Sijie, translated from French by Ina Rilke

Genre: fiction

Form: paperback

Recommended: maybe

Thoughts: This is one of many books that I have picked up at used book stores simply because it seemed like it would be a good story; it was ok. The book tells the story of two young boys in China who are sent to the countryside to be ‘re-educated.’ They find treasures in hidden books, storytelling, and a young seamstress. The story and writing were both good, and yet I find that this book did not capture me and hold me in the way I had hoped. Maybe it would be better in the original French, or maybe it was just my mood. If you read this, let me know your thoughts.