Sunday, September 25, 2011

Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children


It has taken me a couple of days to digest this book and to decide if I really liked it or not. All I have decided is that it was o.k. and slightly overrated.  

The book is written from a 16 year-old boy's point of view.  Jacob is struggling with the death of his grandfather.  He was close to his grandfather and had fond memories of the unusual and unbelievable stories from his grandfather's childhood. No one believes Jacob saw a hideous monster run away from the scene of the murder.  The story continues with Jacob discovering that the outlandish tales of his grandfather were indeed true.

While reading this book, I found myself skipping paragraphs to move the plot along.  The climax of the book is exciting, but on the lengthy side, and despite the length of the climax, the book seemed to end abruptly.  This is the problem of most young adult novels these days.  Instead of writing a book that can stand alone, books are written to be a series.  I guess we can blame Harry Potter for that one!

I did enjoy the antique photos strewn throughout the book, and the explanation of how the author acquired the photos.  

I'm giving the book 3 out of 5 stars because despite the above mentioned flaws, my attention was kept long enough to finish the book.  I liked the premise and enjoyed the photos.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Downata Hot Spings Resort and Campground

It was pouring rain and dark when we pulled into Downata Hot Springs Resort a few miles outside of Downey, Idaho.  We quickly set up the pop-up tent after which we played a few games of cards and went to sleep.  The next day was sunny with a pleasant temperature and we were able to get out and experience the resort.  Because there is so much to tell about the campground, the best way to review the resort is to make a pros and cons list.


Pros

1) The bathtub-warm swimming pool that was fed by natural hot springs, has got to be the top of the pro list.  Because there was a slight chill in the air, the warm water was an exceptional treat.



2) Since it was the off season, we had the pool mostly to ourselves.  That goes for the campground as well.  There were only five other campers on Saturday and over 30 empty spots.
3) Great customer service.  
4) The pizza at the restaurant was quite tasty.  
5) This may not seem a pro to the rest of the world, but there was small arcade, only three games (I said it was small), but I was able to show off my mad pinball skills to my children.  They didn't know I was so cool!
6) Prices were reasonable.  The camping and the swimming costs were separate but the swimming was only $7.50 for the day pass.
7) Not only was there swimming available, there were volleyball courts, a basketball court, tether ball, horseshoes, and a swing set.  Cabins and yurts were also available for rent.

8) I didn't take advantage of it, but there is a massage therapist on staff.  Prices were reasonable for that as well, but an appointment is needed.
9) The most important positive features of this campground were the clean bathrooms, flush toilets and showers. What more can be said!

Cons

1) It was great that we were there in the off season because the camp spaces were right on top of each other.  No kidding. The RV and tent spots were about 5 feet apart. 
2) The resort itself has been around for decades and some parts of the pool area needed repair.  
3) I know it is a hot springs and hot springs are teaming with microscopic life, but I was still a little grossed out by the thin layer of algae growing in areas of the hot tub.  The least they could do would be to brush it out each day.  
4) The largest water slide on the property was closed for the season.  However, the other smaller slides were enjoyable.

Would I go there again?  You bet.  But only in the off season so I don't have to hear snores coming from the RVs next door.




Sunday, September 11, 2011

Three Northern CA Restaurants

This weekend I had a whirlwind trip to Northern California to visit my brother-in-law who is in the hospital in San Francisco.  When we arrived around dinner time,  my generous nephew took us to his favorite restaurant in Manteca, El Jardin.



As I have said many times before, Utah just doesn't have good Mexican food so I am always skeptical of, but at the same time looking for, a good Mexican restaurant.  This place did not disappoint me.     



The homemade tortilla chips were just the beginning of a delicious meal.  The salsa actually had a spicy flavor, and the bean dip with a large dollop of sour cream in the middle, was a treat on those homemade chips.  I ordered the Chicken Chipotle which consisted chicken,  onions and mushrooms in a cream chipotle sauce. Wow!  Talk about a spicy, roasted, creamy flavor.  The beans and rice were fantastic as well.  I kept eating and eating and the food never seemed to vanish on my plate.  When I was full, my plate was still covered with food.  My husband ordered a chile relleno and an enchilada with green sauce.  I've always referred to the sauce as tomatillo sauce, but the waitress just called it green sauce.  Regardless of what the name of the sauce, it was a perfect combination of tangy and spicy.  The relleno was excellent as well, without being soggy.  


Prices were reasonable and the servings were huge.  The service was attentive.  My glass was never empty, and two wait staff took care of us all evening.  The only mild complaint I had was that it was loud in the restaurant.  But hey, we tend to be a loud family so we talked right over it.  4 1/2 out of 5 stars.  



The next night for dinner we went to Tony's Cable Car Restaurant off of Geary and Presidio.  I probably would have never been to this establishment, but it was right across the street from Kaiser hospital.  Good burger.  Good fries.  Decent fish and chips.  Nothing special.  Decent prices for San Fransico. Limited seating.
Almost 3 out of 5 stars.   



Finally, we went to Yubic Frozen Yogurt in Lathrop.  This is one of those make it yourself places like a yogurt salad bar.  First you get your frozen yogurt, and then you put all the toppings on you'd like. You pay buy the weight.  The yogurt itself had a slight chemical taste and the toppings were stale.  The decor was colorful and it was super clean.  2 1/2 out of 5 stars.  The only reason I gave it the extra half star was because it was so clean. 

And finally, Ghiradelli chocolate is the best, but don't go to Ghiradelli Square during the chocolate festival unless you like to be in the same small area as 10,000 of your closest friends! Or so it seemed!  
   

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Oh So Cute Bias Tape: Dritz and Clover

I didn't mean to buy two 1/2 inch bias tape makers.  That's what happens when you go to two stores and you forget what you purchased at the first store.  I've acquired a lovely stash of sewing gadgets that way!


Bias tape, or bias binding as it is sometimes called, is such a great tool for quilting and sewing.  But I find that Wright's Bias Tape is often stiff, and it only comes in solid colors.  You can purchase patterned bias tape from Etsy or EBay, but it can be expensive.  So I decided to make my own.  To do this, it is much easier to have a bias making tool so that you don't burn your fingers making the folds with your iron.  

I used both the Dritz and the Clover brand 1/2 inch bias maker. They appeared to be exactly the same, but I found the Dritz brand had a larger opening for the fabric to exit.  This seemed to make the edges come to the middle of the bias better than the Clover brand.  On the other hand, the Clover brand came with better instructions including how to cut your fabric and the width to cut for the desired result.  In any case, I made some darn cute bias binding without burning my fingers.  




Stay tuned to see the project I am making with my homemade bias tape!



Monday, September 5, 2011

Dinner and a Movie: Back East and The Help

Thank goodness for the Cottonwood Heights Police Department! They will keep Back East in business because we aren't going back.  Back East is a cheesesteak and hoagie place on Ft. Union Blvd. in Midvale.    We both ordered the cheesesteak with provolone, I ordered a salad, and my husband ordered fries.  


The sandwich was just ok.  Although I did like the toasty bun, the meat was only moderately flavored. Granted I've never been to Philly so perhaps this was the way it was supposed to taste.  Apparently it's better with Cheese Whiz as a condiment. Not going to try it.   




I have bad luck with salad.  As one can see from the photo, the salad was just bagged lettuce with two cucumber slices and a slivered wedge of tomato.  Again, not that tasty. The fries were the tastiest part of the meal.


The funniest part was the signs.  Out of lemonade.  Ice tea machine broken.  And the sign on the restroom, well, the photo says it all.    


The best part about the restaurant was the price.  Very reasonable.  The decor was "skateboard cool" with band stickers littering the walls.  2 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Luckily, the evening was not all lost.  We went to see the movie, The Help with Emma Stone.



This movie was just as good as the book.  It was uncomfortable to think that in times so recent this blatant racism occurred.  The movie brought out the fear and the tensions of the time period extremely well.  

Emma Stone was excellent as Miss Skeeter although I didn't like how her mother was portrayed.  She was great for a little comic relief, but the book made her more "southern genteel" than the movie.  My only other criticism was having Stuart, Miss Skeeter's boyfriend,  as a character in the movie.  He was a large part of the book, but didn't add anything to move the plot along in the movie.  They could have completely edited his parts out and the movie still would have been fine.  All the other characters were spot on.  

I always love leaving a movie having been so entertained that I've lost track of time.  This was one of those movies.  4 1/2 out of 5 stars.