Monday, July 25, 2011

100 ways to eat a pancake

I'm not going to lie. I'm really not big on meeting new people and making new friends. Perhaps it's some kind of residual stranger anxiety tracing back to my toddler-hood. Perhaps it relates to my secluded childhood home in the Colorado mountains. Perhaps my first college roommate is right and I simple have an "aura of darkness." Whatever the reason, I don't look forward to social functions or gatherings that don't involve a carefully hand-picked circle of friends.

Unfortunately for me, I recently moved to a new state, leaving that carefully hand-picked circle far behind. Amidst the whir of welcoming picnics with my husbands co-workers, visits from neighbors, and salutations from church members, I found myself in possession of a Friendship Bread starter. It didn't take me long to realize the conflict between Friendship Bread and my reclusive nature. I could clearly visualize my pantry filling up with with bags and bags of batter. I could see my counters strewn with bread pans and spilt milk, my hair dusted with flour.

On the other hand, I thought of knocking on my neighbors' doors, in one hand a neatly wrapped loaf of golden bread, and in the other, a squishy bag of gooey batter. I could see the fake smile hiding the nervousness on my face and the fake smile hiding my neighbor's lack of interest in my offering. This option sounded more unappealing than the first. I was tempted to simply through the starter away and scrap the whole endevour.

Instead, I turned for help to the great and unfailing champion for introverts everywhere: Google; and I quickly found the ultimate solution to my problem: Pancakes. Pancakes are truly amazing things.
  1. My kids eat them
  2. You can eat them for any meal of the day
  3. There are more ways to eat a pancake than one blog post can identify
  4. You can freeze them!
It was settled then. I would finally have a way to easily make more pancakes than my 4 year old could eat in one meal. I would never have to wake up early in the morning to make mountains and mountains of pancakes to satisfy the bottomless pancake receptacles of my children. I would be the Queen of Pancakes.

The problem? I'm not really into that whole fermented yeast flavor that is the inevitable outcome of leaving a  yeast-flour-sugar-milk mixture in your pantry for 10 days. I made up my first batch of pancakes and thought they tasted awful. The kids wouldn't even eat them. In fact they haven't wanted to eat pancakes since!

But the actual friendship bread tasted yummy. Why? The recipe is packed with cinnamon, sugar, vanilla pudding . . .  all kinds of yummy flavors to hide that less appealing "sourdough" taste. So I'm not giving up on the pancakes, I just have to find new and interesting ways to mask their original flavor.

Like I said, the great thing about pancakes is that they are so versatile. You can top them, you can fill them, you can drown them. You can eat them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a snack.

I am now on a quest to find 100 different ways to eat a pancake.

#1 of course will always be good old fashioned Pancakes with butter and syrup. It's classic, it's yummy, and comfortable. It's hard to beat this option (unless you are eating Amish Friendship Pancakes -  then it's somewhat sad and yucky).

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Darklight & Tempestuous

In Leslie Livingstong's Darklight, the first sequel in the Wondrous Strange series, we finally get to spend some time in the world of Faerie, childhood home of Sonny Flannery and birthplace of Faerie princess Kelley Winslow.

Kelley tries to get back to her ordinary life as a rising theater actress in New York, but finds it difficult to concentrate on becoming Juliet when Mahb keeps appearing in her dressing room mirror, and her Romeo (Sonny) is off in the Faerie world hunting down the last of the Wild Hunt. Somehow, Kelley continues to find herself in Central Park and in trouble, but now Sonny isn't around to protect her. Instead, Kelley finds herself forming an unlikely friendship Fennris, the most ruthless among the Janus guard. After a frightening attack by a vengeful Leprechaun, Kelley and Fenn are hurled into the Faerie world, and right into Sonny's lap. All Sonny wants to do is protect Kelley and get her home safely. Unfortunately the only way he can do that is to entrust her to Fennris' care. The Wild Hunt, angry Leprechauns, and Mahb's continuous meddling become the least of their worries when they find out that Auberon is deathly ill, and someone is trying to wake the sinister Green Magic that created the portals to the Otherworld in the first place.

Livingston's characters are unique and distinct, and it was fun getting to know some of the other characters in Darklight. It was particularly enjoyable to get to know the character of Fennris, the noble, humorous protector hiding beneath the ruthless Janus guard exterior. Like so many of her other characters, it's nearly impossible not to like Fennris, and by the end of the series, he's one you don't want to let go.

Otherwise, I found Darklight to be somewhat less enjoyable that the other two books in the series. Sonny is too willing to trust Mahb, too quick to be jealous of Fenn, too quick to blame and be angry with Kelley. Likewise, Kelley is pouty and dramatic, and together they are immature and angsty. For teen books, I was surprised at the maturity of the characters in Wondrous Strange. Darklight unfortunately slips some and reminds us that we actually are reading a Teen Fantasy novel.

Tempestous picks up the drama somewhat, but also picks up some depth and makes for a more enjoyable read than Darklight.

At the end of Darklight, Kelley knows that the only way they can be safe is if she and Sonny aren't together. She has to make him leave her and the only way she can think of to do that is to lie to him, something that everyone knows Faerie don't do. Kelley isn't sure if it's because of the charm that she wears to suppress her power, or because she's lived ignorant of the Faerie world for so long, but for some reason Kelley does have the ability to lie. And she lies to Sonny. "I don't love Sonny Flannery," she says, "I just want him to go."

So Sonny does go. He doesn't belong in the Faerie world, where frivolous Fae toy with the emotions of others. He doesn't belong in the human world, a place foreign to him. He feels like he doesn't belong anywhere, until he meets Neerya, the sweet, fun-loving water sprite who leads him to the underground refuge for Lost Fae. His welcome by the Fae is hesitant and Sonny learns that the Janus have suddenly started hunting the Lost Fae, rather than simply keeping peace in Central Park. Sonny, knowing Auberon's state of ill health, assures the Fae (and later Maddox) that the Janus are not acting on Auberon's orders and that he has had no part in their actions for some time. Sonny finds himself making a new home with the Fae as he earns both their friendship and their trust.

His short-lived peace ends when the Janus guard find and attack the underground sanctuary. Sonny finds the division in their loyalties and convinces those who do not want to kill the Fae that the orders do not come from Auberon. He learns that whoever has been controlling the Janus have also been giving orders to the Leprechauns and deadly Glaistigs. When Kelley gets involved in the battle, Sonny struggles between his feelings of love for her and his painful feelings of betrayal. Kelley admits that she lied to Sonny and explains that her charm allows her to lie just as it suppresses her Faerie power. They don't have much time to solve their relationship problems, because they have to stop the Janus guard, find out whose after the Green Magic and keep them from unleashing it on New York, return the Faerie royalty to full health, and face the Wild Hunt for a second time.

*************

Though I disagreed with Kelley's decision to lie to Sonny, I was touched by the pain she suffered on his account. The mature way to handle such problems is honestly, but Kelley chose to sacrifice her own happiness to protect someone she loved. What Kelley didn't take into account is that she had no business or right sacrifice someone else's happiness (Sonny's). After she admits her lie to Sonny, he remains hard.

       "When it's all over, I'm going back to the Otherworld, Kelley. Alone."

Kelley, unfortunately, still doesn't explain the truth to Sonny. She merely tells him that she did what she did for a good reason, and that he has to trust her. But she has lost Sonny's trust. She has done everything possible to not earn his trust.

"I just don't know if I can ever actually trust you again."
"Because I lied to you."
"Because you can lie to me . . . . How in hell will I ever know when you're telling the truth?"

The interchange is interesting. Sonny has lived his entire life among the Fae, who don't lie. He has been raised to trust blindly his entire life. He has always lived secure in the fact that he may not like the behavior of the Fae and he may disdain their shallowness, but at least he believes he can trust them. Suddenly, faced with Kelley's ability to lie, Sonny doesn't know how to trust. How can he devote himself to someone who has so much potential to hurt him.

"It's called being Human," Kelley tells him. "No one ever knows! Somethings you just have to take on faith and believe in at the risk of getting hurt."


Throughout Tempestous Livingston brings out what it means to be human. As humans we make stupid mistakes. We hurt each other. We lie to each other. We take it upon ourselves to decide what is best for others. Sometimes when we try our hardest to be good and do what is right, we end up hurting others and we feel like everything we do turns out wrong. But we keep trying and so we keep changing, hopefully getting a little better each time we've fallen down.

The vision Kelley sees of Manhattan reclaimed by nature is beautiful. It is paradise. And to Kelley, it is terrifying.

She understood something in that moment. As pristine as [the Faerie] kingdom was, it was stagnant. Stale. Without the unpredictability of mortals, without their foibles and strangeness and odd, surprising strengths, the Fair Folk grew bored with their unending perfection . . . . Kelley had a vivid mental picture of what [this] 'wish for humanity' would result in . . . . Human innovation . . . wiped out--buried forever beneath a thick pall of unbroken beauty.

Mankind as meant to strive. Mankind was meant to struggle and face hardship caused by our own mistakes. Goethe writes, "For man must strive, and striving he must err." This is the only way to grow. this is the only way to progress. We aren't meant to live in Eden, "having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good for they knew no sin."

Kelley and Sonny remind us of what it means to be human, of why we are here on this earth. In Darklight they make some pretty serious (stupid) mistakes. But in Tempestuous, they seek out redemption. They find ways to improve, to grow, and to become better. They learn to live better, to love better, and to trust more. Very importantly, they learn to forgive.

"Forgiveness, huh? she said softly. "That was pretty smart thinking."
Sonny nodded. "Sometimes people who do very stupid things--things like telling lies--deserve that."
Kelley blinked at the wetness on her lashes. "I--"
That was a very stupid thing you did, Kelley."
"I--"
Sonny's lips crushed against hers, and his arms wrapped her in a fierce embrace. He didn't know if the tears on his cheeks were his or Kelley's. It didn't matter. She threw her arms around his neck and melted into him, and he knew that she would never let go of him again.

--------------------------------------------------
Cited:

Livingston, Leslie. Darklight. New York: HarperCollins, 2010.

Livingston, Leslie. Tempestuous. New York: Harper Collins, 2011.

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. Faust: Part 1. London: Penguin, 1949.

Book of Mormon. 2 Nephi: 2:23