Tag Archive: Bible


My Crafty Book Club meeting was last Thursday and I was so much looking forward to it. Getting out of the house, even with my child, is a welcome relief. My son managed to charm all the ladies that attended (which is kinda crazy really as he was running around, bumping into things the entire time), and but we didn’t manage to get much book discussion done. I am still trying to read Hitler’s Piano Player: The Rise and Fall of Ernst Hanfstaengl: Confidant of Hitler, Ally of FDR, which is actually a really excellent biography. I’m just incredibly slow when it comes to reading nonfiction biographies. I discovered the subject matter, Ernst Hanfstaengl, when I was listening to Erik Larson’s book In the Garden of Beasts, which is about Hitler’s coming to power in the 1930s, as seen through the eyes of the American Ambassador to Germany and his family. I found it fascinating that this guy went to Harvard and lived in the States for awhile and yet was a German in Hitler’s Inner Circle, and then later betrayed him by becoming a spy for FDR. So I’m reading this biography, which as far as I know, is the only book written on the man, apart from his personal biography. I am also  finished with the audiobook version of Lirael (Abhorsen, #2) by Garth Nix.

Aside from that, I have been having some luck in the job search. I got an email about another position in a local library and interviewed for it last Tuesday. Still no word back, but I’m still hoping that good news will come out of it. I’ve also got an interview coming up with a local museum that I hope will pan out, if the library one doesn’t. I know it’s only been about 2 1/2 months, but I’m going stir-crazy in this house and we could use the extra income. Well anyways, on to the book reviews. As always, I rate things from 1 – 5 stars, one being the lowest and 5 being the highest. The Caldecott Challenge is my attempt to read all of the Caldecott Honors and Award winners from 1938 – the present.

Children

Bearskin by Howard Pyle, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman

I found this book after looking up other Trina Schart Hyman illustrated books and it looked interesting. The storyline was predictable and seems like it had just borrowed elements from other tales. Basically the king wants to prevent a prophecy from coming true, so he pays off the miller and takes his son and tells his huntsman to get rid of it. The huntsman’s wife takes pity on the baby and they leave it in the woods and bring the king back a rabbit’s heart. The baby is then raised by a motherless she-bear, who later helps the man, called Bearskin, out on his quests. He prevents the princess from marrying a deceitful steward of the king after it is revealed that he, not the steward, actually slew the dragon. The illustrations were great and featured an African princess and wise man, as well as other characters scattered through the story who were from a variety of different cultures. This was a nice change to your traditional fairy tale. I also like that the illustrator included top of page illustrations, so it made it look like a much older book. Recommended for ages 5-10, 3 stars.

The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? by Mo Willems

I enjoyed this quick easy read from Mo Willems. I think the combination between the whiny slightly annoying Pigeon and the super cute Duckling is fantastic. Basically the Duckling asks for a cookie wit nuts(politely) and gets one, then the Pigeon rants and raves about how he always asks for things but never gets them. Then the Duckling gives him the cookie, and the Pigeon is blown away. Afterwards, the Duckling asks for a no-nut cookie. My son loved this book, I think mostly because I loved doing the voices for it! Recommended for ages 1-7, 5 stars.

Queen Esther Saves Her People retold by Rita Golden Gelman

I never really knew the story of Esther so I figured getting a children’s picture book would be one of the easiest ways to find out the story. Well that and I’m trying to find more books to put on my Biblical Children’s Book list. The story is basically this: The King of Persia (called Ahasuerus in the Bible but in actuality it is Xerxes) has banished his wife for refusing to dance, and a few months later, he is lonely. So his advisors look for a woman to replace the queen. Esther is a beautiful young Jewish woman who lives with her cousin Mordecai. She is soon found by soldiers and brought to the palace. She lives in the harem with the rest of the young women brought to see the king, and one day she meets him and she is named Queen. Mordecai stops a plot to kill the king. Now Hamen, was the king’s vizier and he demands that people bow down to him. Everyone but Mordecai does because he will not bow before another human, only God. Hamen vows to kill all the Jews because of this, and Mordecai finds out and tells Esther to talk to the King. So she does and saves not only Mordecai but all the Jewish people as well, so now Jews celebrate this victory in a celebration called Purim.

Now I enjoyed the overall story, but I didn’t like the way the author dumbed down the story because it was meant for children. You can always use the correct words (like harem instead of “special house” or vizier instead of “prime minister”) and have an index in the back of the book or put definitions in the book. The illustrations were really good too, and helped to put the story at a child’s level. I would recommend this book for ages 7-10, 3 stars.

Caldecott Challenge

Click Clack Moo: Cows that Type by Doreen Cronin

This book won a 2001 Caldecott Honor. Like her other books I’ve read “Giggle, Giggle, Quack” and “Duck for President,” Betsy Lewin’s illustrations are what make Doreen Cronin’s books awesome for kids. Well that and the cutesy storyline about cows that borrow a typewriter from the barn and start making demands of Farmer Brown. The best one was when they promised to give back their typewriters for electric blankets, because the barn is too cold. Now if only he could stop those ducks from making demands. My son loved the pictures. Recommended for ages 1-7, 3 stars.

So Want to Be President? by Judith St. George

This book was the 2001 Caldecott Award winner, though I must preferred “Casey at the Bat” or “Olivia” to win that year as I thought they were much better done books. This was an interesting take on the US presidents, giving fun factual information like what kind of pets each president had, who was the tallest/shortest, thriftiest/spent the most money, and what kinds of sports they liked to do. It gets the most props for the illustrations, which were amusing and full of caricatures. The back of the book featured a list of the illustrations, in case you couldn’t figure them out from the descriptions and a list of all the presidents and their major achievements in office. Recommended for ages 5-8, 3 stars.

The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

This book won a 2000 Caldecott Honor award. It is a gorgeous nature-filled adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic  fairy tale, done in Jerry Pinkney’s glorious watercolor illustrations. The ugly duckling spends a year being bullied by all sorts of animals and birds before finally realizing that he is a beautiful swan that everyone now adores. I loved the paintings of the Canadian geese and the swans. Highly recommended for ages 5-8, 4 stars.

Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin

This book won the 1999 Caldecott Award, and I must agree with some others that have said that it was nice that a non-fiction book won. I will say though that I waited forever to read this book as it was so touted as a good book that I tried to avoid reading it. Once again, I was proven wrong. Snowflake Bentley was the name of a man who lived in Jericho, Vermont and loved the winters there. He was so fascinated with the different shapes of snowflakes that he asked for and got a special camera that could photograph them. He became the world expert on snow and when he was 66 years old, with some help from fellow scientists, he finally got a book of his photographs published. The back of the book features a picture of Snowflake Bentley with his special camera, as well as some reproductions of some of his snowflake pictures.

I like how you have the main story in the middle of the page and the facts on the outskirts, for more information. I love the illustrations that are woodcuts that are hand-tinted by watercolors. They really make the story more awesome. Highly recommended for ages 5-10, 5 stars.

Olivia by Ian Falconer

I loved the diva Olivia and her zany adventures dressing up, building sandscrapers, going to the museum and unleashing her inner artist. My favorite lines are at the end where she is reading books with her mother before bed and her mother says “You know, you really wear me out. But I love you anyway.” I totally know how that mother feels, as I feel the same way about my son. This book was a 2001 Caldecott honor winner. Recommended for ages 1-7, 5 stars.

The Graphic Alphabet by David Pelletier

This book won a 1997 Caldecott Honor award. Now it is supposed to be for kids, but really I think adults will appreciate the graphic design of it more (after all, that is what the author/illustrator’s main job is). As a reviewer on Amazon said, this book would be great for art teacher to use in their classes. It is definitely not your traditional ABC book. Recommended for ages 4+, 3 stars.

Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra by Andrea Davis Pinkney

This book won a 1999 Caldecott Honor, but it would’ve been really hard to choose between this book and “Snowflake Bentley” for the Caldecott Award, because they are both excellent books in story and illustration. The author does a fantastic job in retelling the life of Edward Kennedy Ellington, otherwise known as Duke Ellington, jazz musician and composer, and his orchestra. The illustrator Brian Pinkney, who happens to be Jerry Pinkney’s son, did a fabulous job at making the pictures match the music. He did it in scratchboard renderings with dyes and paint, which makes the artwork look like it is in constant motion, just like a musician does when they feel the music flow through them. The back of the book contains a small biography of Duke, as well as the source materials used for the book, which included books, videos and a museum exhibit. Recommended for ages 7-11, 5 stars.

The Paperboy by Dav Pilkey

This was a 1997 Caldecott Honor award winner. I can see why for its lovely painted illustrations, which help depict the life of a paperboy. The young boy goes out and does his paper run in the dark and only returns to bed, just as light is about to dawn on the rest of the world. My favorite painting was the last one in the book where the boy and his dog are floating off into dreamland. Recommended for ages 1-7, 3 stars.

Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann

This book won the 1996 Caldecott Award, but I have been putting off reading it forever because there was so much press about it. It was actually a really cute book, and even my son liked it. Officer Buckle knows all there is to know about safety and regularly lectures about it at the local school. However, no one listens to him until he gets a new K-9 dog named Gloria who makes his lectures fun and everyone wants to see them. I especially liked the girl with the star-shaped paper. Cute story and good illustrations. Recommended for ages 1-7, 4 stars.

Adult

My Life As a Furry Red Monster: What Being Elmo Has Taught Me About Life, Love and Laughing Out Loud by Kevin Clash

I found about this biography after I blogged about the Muppets yesterday and put a link to the Muppet Wikia, which listed this book. I had already seen the documentary “Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey.” I absolutely loved the movie and it gave me a little more respect for Elmo, whereas before I just found him to be incredibly annoying. Kevin Clash has had a fascinating career and he is doing something that he loves doing (and it gets paid for it!). If only all of us were that lucky. In the book, he and his co-author give a short biography of himself and how he came to be working for Jim Henson and Sesame Street. By being Elmo’s puppeteer, he has learned love, joy, creativity, tolerance, courage, friendship, cooperation, learning and optimism. Some of the cool things I found out in this book include the following: Mo Willems (one of my favorite children’s author/illustrators) was a Sesame Street writer who came up with the concept of “Elmo’s World,” the mix of computer-generated and live action that brings out a child’s imagination. The Elmo’s World segment of the show was created in the late 90s to get to their new audience: two to four year olds. Originally the show’s audience was 5-8 yr olds. In the section on friendship, Kevin discusses Jim Henson, something I always find fascinating because he seems like he would be a really cool guy to work for, and apparently he was. I also found it interesting that in 2002, “Elmo and Kevin went to DC to testify in front of Congress at the Education Appropriations Subcommittee, to help prevent them from eliminating funding for school arts programs.” Kevin talked about his own experiences in music and drama in school, and how important he believes it is for children to be able to get the same opportunities he did. In the Tolerance section, he discussed the South African version of Sesame Street and how they had decided to put an AIDS-infected character on there to represent the thousands of infected Africans who had the disease. I thought that was a really cool thing they did to address issues of modern society that some people aren’t willing to deal with, but it’s okay to do it on Sesame Street because it is almost like it is in a neutral setting. Anyways, overall I really enjoyed the book and it was a nice quick read. 5 stars

Preacher, Vol 3: Proud Americans by Garth Ennis

Overall, didn’t like this one as much as the last one, but they did explain a lot more storyline in the second half of this volume. I guess the title is about Jesse being overly full of pride and an American, which is one of his downfalls. Continuing the storyline of the last volume, the Grail organization has control of Cassidy and they are slowly killing him. Jesse doesn’t want Tulip to get hurt, so he leaves her at a motel and asks to meet up in a couple weeks in NYC. He goes on to Masada alone. Starr’s mutiny plans aren’t quite working out as the Allfather decides to show up with the actual Grail (inbred offspring of Christ)and figures out that Starr is working against him. Oh yeah, and the Allfather is distantly related to the L’Angelle family, so he’s pissed that Jesse killed Aunt Marie (Jesse’s crazy grandmother). The Saint of all Killers finally catches up with Jesse and almost kills him, until they find out that Jesse knows the secret of what really happened to the Saint’s family. The only problem is he has to be able to access Genesis’s memory, which is currently locked up, according to the angel father of Genesis (who was cast out of heaven and has been imprisoned by the Grail organization). God appears to Cassidy and tells him to tell Jesse to back off and stop trying to find him. Jesse and Cassidy manage to escape and head to New York. The end of the volume we learn of Cassidy’s story, and turns out he’s not quite 100 yrs old. The funniest part was learning Cassidy’s first name. 4 stars.

Preacher, Vol 4: Ancient History by Garth Ennis

This was my least favorite volume of the Preacher series so far. It was solely about minor characters, in this case, the Saint of Killers, Arseface, and the rednecks Jody and T.C. who used to torment Jesse Custer. I will say that my favorite, though definitely the bloodiest/gun-riddled part of the story was about the Saint of Killers and how he got that title. I’m still not sure exactly what miraculous thing Jesse is going to reveal about him and his family, but we will have to wait and see. The Arseface section is where the son of Sheriff Root earns his name and appearance, and vows to hunt down and kill Jesse Custer for his role in his father’s death. You kind of feel sorry for the kid, even though he did it to himself. The Jody and T.C. section just explained how bad-ass they were, despite appearances, and how they took care of business. Overall, I give it 2 stars.

Preacher, Vol 5: Dixie Fried by Garth Ennis

This was much better than the last one as it actually involved storyline. In this volume, we see the less glamorous side of Cassidy. We see his past, where he meets up with another vampire in New Orleans, decides he’s a douche and kills him. Herr Starr goes back to San Francisco to meet up with Featherstone as the new Allfather and is pissed at Jesse for scarring his head, and vows to kill him. Tulip meets up with Jesse and Cassidy in New York and can’t decide whether she wants to stay with him or not, but a conversation with her friend Amy, helps her decide after Jesse swears that he will always trust her. Ever since Cassidy saved Tulip, he has developed feelings for her and finally tells her in NY, which she naturally gets really pissed off about (as she loves Jesse and Cassidy just swore a vow that he would stay with them till the end of this conflict). Arseface returns and eventually finds the gang (Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy) but the boys manage to convince him to stop and take him with them to New Orleans. They are going there to get a friend of Cassidy’s who can hypnotize Jesse and help him remember Genesis’s memories. Only things don’t go quite according to plan for anyone, and Cassidy’s stupidity/selfishness is partly to blame. The only major thing we find out is that God is responsible for the existence of the Saint of Killers and the death of the Devil, and that makes Jesse even more determined to find him. 5 stars.

Preacher, Vol 6: War in the Sun by Garth Ennis

This volume is like volume 3 as it is chocked full of storyline and action! It starts out with Herr Starr’s story of how he got into the Grail and worked his way up the ranks. The new Allfather enlists the help of the American military, via his connections to the President, to help kill the Saint of Killers, so he can get to Jesse Custer. Cassidy apologizes to Tulip for his behavior, then ends up hanging out with Jesse philosophizing about life. The gang (Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy) head to Monument Valley, where Jesse brings some peyote and plans on accessing Genesis this way, only things don’t go according to plan. They run into the Saint of Killers, and Jesse tells him that God is who made him what he is and the Saint swears that they’re even. Despite shooting him with a tank and about a million bullets, the Saint doesn’t die. The gang tries to escape on a plane, but the Allfather drops a nuclear bomb on the Saint (which still doesn’t kill him), and Jesse ends up falling out of the plane. Tulip goes into a horrible depression thinking Jesse is dead, but he miraculously survives and only loses his left eye. One of my favorite parts is when Jesse meets up with the guy out in the desert, Johnny Lee Wombat. After a month goes by and Jesse is healed (thanks to Johnny), they go out to drink beers and smoke in the desert. Johnny is explaining himself and his choices and says “See, you gotta remember, man…It doesn’t matter who you are, or how good you got things. Sooner or later, sh*t goes wrong for everybody. Sooner or later, there comes a time when all you want to do is shout f*** you to the world.” Jesse manages to make his way to Phoenix, where he believes Tulip is and finds her with Cassidy, and he is blown away. Can’t wait to see what happens next! 5 stars.

Preacher, Vol 8: All Hell’s A-Coming by Garth Ennis

So for whatever reason, someone decided to permanently borrow Preacher Vol 7 from the library and I’ve not been able to find it anywhere else in the area. So I had to skip it and go to Vol 8. From what I can tell, not much happens anyways, so there ya go. Tulip has had enough of Cassidy keeping her drugged and drunk, so she skedaddles outta there right quick. We finally get to see Tulip’s back story, how she was raised by her dad, met Amy and Jesse, and eventually meets up with Amy in the present. Amy informs her that Jesse isn’t dead, and that he’s coming to her house to get her help in finding Tulip. Jesse and Tulip reunite and she spills the beans on Cassidy and what he did to her. Jesse finds someone from Cassidy’s past that tells all his secrets and Jesse means to punish him for what he did. Meanwhile, Herr Starr is trying to get rid of the one person that can screw his plans up. Arseface has been disgraced and lost everything. It ends with an episode from Amy, Jesse and Tulip’s past that explains a bit more about Jesse’s cowboy tendencies. Overall, it was action-packed edition that explained a lot of storyline that was left out in the past. Highly recommended, 5 stars.

Preacher, Vol 9: Alamo by Garth Ennis

I enjoyed this volume, but the ending was a bit disappointing. Jesse teamed up with the Saint of Killers to give God his comeuppances for the havoc he’s caused. He plans to have his final showdown at the Alamo, which is rather fitting given that he is a Texan, with Cassidy. Herr Starr finds out his plans and plans an attack of his own. Arseface finds Salvation, Texas (where Jesse was in Vol 7) and meets the girl of his dreams there, and decides to settle down. Jesse tries to save Tulip again by drugging her, but she wakes up in time and reeks mayhem on Herr Starr and his men. Cassidy and Jesse beat the crap out of each other, and then they both pay for their crimes. Or do they? Can’t give away more because you’ll want to read it. 4 stars.

Anti-Inflammation Diet for Dummies by Artemis Morris

I picked up this book because I have joint issues and thought that this diet would help, as it is supposed to help those that suffer from asthma, arthritis, heart disease, cancer, obesity, and diabetes due to inflammation. It very plainly outlines anti-inflammatory nutrition, how certain foods can be toxic for your body and cause allergies/sensitivities, and some really great recipes to use on the Anti-Inflammation diet. Anyways, they break down their food requirements like this: heavily dependent on fresh organic fruits and veggies, beans/nuts/seeds make up 3-4 servings per day, at least 3 servings of omega-3 rich seafood per week, only 1 dairy serving per day, 3-4 servings of whole grains per day, 2-4 servings of lean meat per week, anti-inflammatory herbs and spices to be used at least once per day, and anti-inflammatory oils (olive, sesame, sunflower or coconut) 2-4 Tbsp per day. So basically I need to cut out red meat and eat more whole grains, legumes, seafood, healthy oils and spices. Also stop eating so much professed food, white sugar/flour, and drink more water. While I may not be able to get my husband on the anti-inflammation bandwagon, I will try to be healthier and hopefully that’ll help with some of my issues. 4 stars.

The Inflammation Syndrome: Your Nutrition Plan for Great Health, Weight Loss, and Pain-Free Living by Jack Challem

A bit too technical/doctor-speak for my liking, this book was pretty much a much more in-depth look at what I previously read in “Anti-Inflammation Diet for Dummies.” Mr. Challem’s diet varies slightly from the Dummies version in that it follows more of the Paleolithic caveman diet that has become so popular lately. I get that organic is healthier for you, but it is also more expensive and with the cost of grocery products rising every day, it is sometimes hard to justify the cost. Also as much as I like fruit and veg, I don’t see myself getting 5-10 servings per day. Other than a couple good recipes, the only other good thing I got out of this was the section on fish oils improve mood, which detailed how “omega-3 fish oil supplements were helpful in treating depression, reducing impulsive behavior and hostility, and those that take it are less likely to develop cognitive problems and Alzheimer’s disease.” 2 stars.

Vegetarian Indian Food & Cooking: Explore the Very Best of Indian Vegetarian Cuisine with 150 Dishes from Around the Country, Shown Step by Step in more than 950 photographs by Mridula Baljekar

I found this one browsing the new cookbook section at the library. I have been looking for more vegetarian recipes since I started looking at starting the anti-inflammation diet, which expects you to eat 5-9 servings of veggies a day. I love Indian food, so I figured it was a good place to look. It is a well-done cookbook with a whole introduction section on every province of India and the type of food they cook before getting to the actual recipes, which all had gorgeous photos with every recipe. My biggest issue with the book was that most of the recipes were fried (shallow fried vs deep fried, but still), which I am trying to avoid. Aside from that, it had some really yummy-looking food, like Plantain Curry, Chickpeas in a spice-laced yogurt sauce, Masala Dosai (rice pancakes filled with spiced potato mixture) from South India, not to mention Wheat-flour flat bread with spiced greens, Cardamom-and rose-scented mango drink, and Soft mango fudge. 4 stars.

Vegetarian Entrees That Won’t Leave You Hungry: Nourishing, Flavorful Main Courses That Fill the Center of the Plate by Lukas Volger

I picked this up at the library this past weekend as I’m trying to eat more veggies/fruit, but have run out of ideas of what to do. This book caught my attention as it is frequently the problem I and my husband have with vegetarian food, i.e. it fills you up but you’re hungry afterwards. While I’m not a fan of squash, which the author is fond of in the book, overall I thought it was a great cookbook that definitely expanded the world of vegetarian cooking outside of pasta and pizza (though those are in there too). I found the vegetarian Kimchi to be intriguing, as well as dishes like Bulgur Salad with Kale and Feta, Pumpkin Risotto with Spinach and Chestnuts, and Soba Noodles in a Mushroom-Ginger Broth. He also had five marinades for tofu, which is excellent for me because I am no expert on it either but it is full of calcium and protein and a non-meat source, which I’ve been trying to eat more of. Plus I get bored with my traditional tofu marinade, i.e. soy sauce, seasoned rice vinegar and chili-garlic sauce. I wouldn’t mind owning that book. Highly recommended, 5 stars.

Five-A-Day Cookbook: 200 Vegetable & Fruit Recipes by Kate Whiteman, Maggie Mayhew, and Christine Ingram

I’ve been looking for more veggie-themed recipes lately and thought this book would help, so I picked it up at the library yesterday while I was browsing. I definitely marked more desserts than entrees, but found a few good recipes like Spinach in Filo with Three Cheeses and Gnocchi with Oyster Mushrooms. I think the only reason I would give it three instead of two stars was because of the fruit and veg dictionary parts at the beginning of each section, as they were very thorough and I discovered some things I’ve never heard of or seen before. 3 stars.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer

I had no idea that this place or the cookbook existed until I saw it mentioned a couple times on one of my favorite food blogs, Culinary Concoctions by Peabody. Now I don’t have an ice cream maker, but this cookbook definitely makes me want to buy one right away. Jeni has such amazing and intriguing flavor combinations that I would’ve never thought to put together, like Sugar-Plumped Cherries and Earl Grey tea, Goat Cheese with Roasted Red Cherries, Gorgonzola Dolce with Candied Walnuts, or Cucumber, Honeydew and Cayenne. I definitely would also want to try the Tuscan Sundae, which involves whipped cream, Salty Caramel Ice Cream, Honey/Vin Santo (a sweet Italian dessert wine) Sauce, and topped with a real cherry and Biscotti on the side. Yum, ’nuff said. Highly recommended, 5 stars.

5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth and Other Useful Guides by Matthew Inman

I had looked at a few of “The Oatmeal” comics online via some of my friends, and thought they were pretty funny, so when I found this at the library the other day, I checked it out. I will say that most of the comics were definitely geared towards guys, and would probably be more funny to them. However, I did enjoy the grammar and other food-related guides, even if you learned totally useless facts, which I happen to enjoy. Like I learned that if you’re lactose intolerant (which I think I am), you can have cheddar and other aged cheeses because it doesn’t really contain that much lactose. I loved the section on Nikola Tesla, which just made me want to read a biography about him. 4 stars.

The Book of New Israeli Food: A Culinary Journey by Janna Gur

I liked that new Israeli food is much more diverse than people think of as traditional Jewish food. There are so many different cultures and languages spoken in the country that the food can’t help but be changed by that. Israeli food has influences from Morocco, Yemen, Ethiopia, Russia, Poland, Spain, Austria, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Iraq. The cookbook recipes reflect these countries with dishes such as Shakshuka (traditional Israeli breakfast with eggs, tomatoes and hot sauce) with Spinach and Feta, Chreime-North African Hot Fish Stew, and Chicken Albondigas in Tomato Sauce (Sephardic chicken dumplings). I am very much looking forward to cooking items from this cookbook. 4 stars.

Joy the Baker Cookbook: 100 Simple and Comforting Recipes by Joy Wilson

I’m pretty sure I’ve been on her blog before, to check out a recipe or two, but never really looked at it. This cookbook was awesome, full of not only amazing recipes like Chocolate Malted Buttercream Frosting and Oatmeal Raspberry Ginger Scones, but also it had a really personal funny family touch as well. I enjoy it when bloggers/cookbook writers tell you about family history and anecdotes and not just make it all about the food. It gives their story personality and makes you want to come back and read it again. This is one of those books. Can’t wait to try out the recipes! 5 stars.

I’m sorry for not writing this week. Things have been rather crazy at home and work this week, and I’ve not had the time to post. I’m hoping to make things up a bit with this post, as it is on two of my favorite subjects, art and history. This week, I started watching the 2011 TV series Borgia, about the Italian Renaissance Spanish family, the Borgias. I knew something of the family before watching the series, but I must say that this show has seriously peaked my interest again in the Italian Renaissance. I will admit that normally I lean toward the Northern Renaissance in art (this will be a future post), but I also understand the importance of the Italian one, which is the one most people remember because of great artists like Michelangelo, Botticelli, da Vinci and others. I have had the good fortune to live in Italy for a few months when I was an undergraduate, and it was amazing. Not only because of the food (which cannot compare at all to American Italian, trust me), but because of the art, architecture and history of this great country. I stayed in Siena for 3 weeks and Florence for 3 months, and traveled around the country as I was able. Although I love Firenze, Rome I think is my favorite city in Italy (although I will admit, I like the food better in Florence).  The history and artwork in the Eternal City is just so amazing. You have Roman ruins right next to Baroque palaces, and those are right next to modern buildings. It sounds crazy, but it works. I have been to Vatican City, so seeing it in the show made me think of Michelangelo and all the work he did in St. Peter’s. Granted the show is about 40 or so years before he worked on the basilica himself, but he did do a lot of church commissions, so I figured it would be a good link for this week. Well that and I’m reading a book about his most famous sculpture David, as seen through the eyes of the model he used.

Because I was based in Florence, I was able to see a lot of the work Michelangelo completed for the city, as well as Casa Buonarrotti, where the artist lived and worked during his lifetime. The first time I saw a Michelangelo was in Paris, not Italy. I had gone to the Louvre as part of a summer abroad program in high school called People to People Student Ambassadors. In the Louvre, I saw his Bound Slave and Dying Slave sculptures. I was fascinated by these works of art. I discovered later, as it is explained on this website, that these pieces “were conceived of the figure as being imprisoned in the stone, as in his Third Captive piece. By removing the excess stone, the form was released.” The next Michelangelo piece that I saw was in Bruges, Belgium in the Church of Our Lady. This piece was the only one to reside in the northwest of Europe during the lifetime of the artist. According to this website, “The man who would later become pope Pius III (who only ruled 26 days in late 1503) commissioned Michelangelo in 1501 to create a set of 15 sculptures for the Siena cathedral. Michelangelo accepted but never finished the assignment. This finished sculpture was acquired in 1504 by a Bruges merchant, whose family gave it to the city in 1516.” It is a gorgeous sculpture, and as the webpage mentions, the model for this work and the Virgin in the Pieta, must be the same.

Madonna with Child, 1501

When Michelangelo was 13, he caught the attention of Lorenzo de’ Medici, aka Lorenzo the Magnificent. He was invited to join the household of the family and studied in their sculpture gardens. It must’ve been an amazing place to work and grow up, as Lorenzo’s household was a center for learning and famous humanists and poets of the day congregated at his house. When he was 16, he created the marble relief sculpture of The Battle of the Centaurs. The piece is so full of energy and movement, with the Lapiths and the Centaurs fighting each other, and it seems to come alive when you look at it. This story was taken from a Greek myth, which was told by one of the poets living in the de’Medici palace. For a more detailed description of the piece, please check out this page.

Battaglia dei Centauri (The Battle of the Centaurs), 1490-92

One of my favorite pieces of Michelangelo’s is Moses, from Julius II’s tomb in San Pietro in Vincoli (St. Peter in Chains). I have seen it and it is quite impressive, much in the same way that his most famous statue David is impressive (though David is taller, at over 14 ft, the statue itself being 9 ft). It was one of a series of six sculptures completed for Pope Julius II’s tomb, though the original plan was to do over 40 sculptures. Julius II was the pope after the Borgia pope, Alexander VI. Moses is depicted as the great Lawgiver with the Ten Commandments in hand. He has horns coming out of the top of his head, which comes from a misinterpretation from the Bible during the Renaissance. The translation came across as Moses had “horns of light” instead of “rays of light”, in reference to the way Moses glowed after he came down from Mount Sinai, after being given the Ten Commandments by God.

Moses from the Tomb of Julius II, c. 1515

The final work I would like to discuss is another of Michelangelo’s most famous pieces, The Last Judgement. Although the entire Sistine Chapel is gorgeous, this painting was what I had come to see when I visited the Vatican. I had written a paper on the the work for the Italian Renaissance art class I was taking, so I was excited to see it in person. It is enormous, covering an entire wall, and according to this webpage “was the largest ever painted in that century.” The painting, which depicts Judgement Day, also known as the Second Coming of Christ, was proposed by Pope Clement VII and after his death the commission was extended by his predeccesor, Paul III Farnese. It is interesting to note that the artwork was proposed after the French sacked Rome, which was seen as a sort of Judgement Day in and of itself. The painting caused a great scandal when it was revealed due to Michelangelo’s propensity for painting nude figures. I am especially amused by the following quote from Biago de Cesena, the Vatican Master of Ceremonies, who had this to say about the work (as quoted from the previous webpage) “it was mostly disgraceful that in so sacred a place there should have been depicted all those nude figures, exposing themselves so shamefully, and that it was no work for a papal chapel but rather for the public baths and taverns.” Michelangelo had his revenge by depicting Biago as a demon in the painting itself, in the extreme bottom right corner. The nudity, however did not bother the pope until the Council of Trent, who had condemned nudity in religious art,  met 24 years after the fresco was completed that and the nudity was covered up by artist Daniele da Volterra (who was later nicknamed Braghettone, or “The Breeches Maker”).

The painting shows Christ the Judge in the center of the painting, deciding which souls will go to heaven and which to hell. Below him, according to this webpage are “angels blowing trumpets and the Archangel Michael reads from the book of souls to be saved. The larger book on the right contains a list of the damned destined for hell.” Michelangelo snuck himself into the painting as the flayed skin held by Saint Bartholomew (how he was martyred) directly belowed Christ. To the immediate right of Jesus is St Peter holding the keys to heaven, and is a portrait of Michelangelo’s patron Pope Paul III. Further down on the right (in the green dress) is Saint Catherine of Alexandria holding the instrument of her intended martyrdom, what is called the breaking wheel or later the Catherine wheel. The bottom right of the painting shows the boatman Charon, who ferried the dead over the River Styx in Greek mythology, is now taking them to hell. The bottom left shows the dead rising again so they can ascend into heaven.

The Last Judgement, 1534-41

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