Thursday, January 31, 2013

Not Every Girl has to be a Princess

Agnes and the Butterfly DragonReview of Agnes and the Butterfly Dragon by Nalin Desilva

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The world of little girls is most often filled with pink, princesses, and dresses. I personally don't mind the girliness of it all, but I can appreciate a girl character who isn't so girly.

Agnes of Nalin DeSilva's Agnes and the Butterfly Dragon is that non-princess, pants-and-sneakers-wearing little girl. And you know what? I think she's a good character to have out there in the universe of children's books. Agnes is brave and spunky, and what I appreciated most is that she doesn't whine, she's not sassy, and she's not a brat. Her bravery isn't even about fighting an evil king; rather, it's about everyday stuff - insects. Not being scared of insects leads to Agnes' adventure, and in the real world, could probably lead to some encouragement for parents who have kids who are afraid of bugs.

The book also features some wonderful artwork. DeSilva not only wrote the story, but illustrated it as well. The illustrations are amazingly detailed, and remind me of the kind you find in graphic novels. An added visual bonus, I think, for parents who read books aloud to their kids.

Reading aloud is probably a good idea when it comes to Agnes and the Butterfly Dragon. Some of the words and phrases may need explanations (i.e. gullet; soft, silky voice; vanished), but it seems like most parents want their kids learning "big words" at younger ages. Besides, don't people read books aloud to kids so they can introduce a higher reading level to younger ages?

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Finally, I Read Eat Pray Love

Eat, Pray, LoveEat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

For 187 weeks, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love sat on the New York Times Bestseller list. I refused to read it for every one of those 187 weeks.

It just was not my kind of book. I didn’t know much about it; just that it was about some woman who went on a trip, found herself, found love, etc., and I was not one of those women who needed to read this kind of book.

Fast forward to December 2012. I am emotionally lost, and struggling to right myself and be happy. Talking to my very encouraging and supportive friends is helping, but only temporarily, so I think, “Maybe it’s time to read Eat Pray Love.” Maybe if I can read about someone else’s struggles, I can be okay again.

It turns out that this was a good way for me to approach this book.

Yes, I enjoyed Eat Pray Love. Mostly I think because I identified with the author. From her neurotic tendencies to the racing thoughts to the inability to separate herself from a particularly unhealthy relationship, I got it all. My own brokenness was mirrored in hers, and I found help in the conversations she had with her friends and in her thought process.

At another point in my life, I don’t think I would have enjoyed this Eat Pray Love in the same way. I found myself thinking that Gilbert’s issues were very…well, very American. They seemed to be about personal fulfillment, and not very real world. At the same time, I felt like she acknowledged this in a way that satisfied me. She realized that she was lucky in that she could afford to travel for a year. I know it seems unfair in terms of life experiences (who wouldn’t love to escape for stretches of time to fix themselves when it all falls apart), but I have no problem with it. Gilbert had the means, she used it, and she shared her experience with anyone who wanted to read her book.

Without her book, I would not have read this:

“People think soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who you everything that’s holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake…Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then they leave. And thank God for it.” P. 149 (what Richard says to Elizabeth about David)

“Eventually, everything goes away.” P. 174 (Elizabeth’s own thoughts about mosquito bites, but related to life in general)

“Groceries, you need to control your thoughts just the same way you select what clothes you’re gonna wear every day. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind.” P. 178 (more Richard)

By the way, I read the hardcover edition, printed in 2006, with 334 pages.

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Yes, You Can Find Good Italian Food in Hawaii

When at home in Hawaii, I never want to eat Italian food. In fact, I secretly cringed a little after I read that the restaurant I was going to with my friends was the new Italian place (sorry, Ms. K.), Prima.

I was so wrong!

Prima was one of my better food experiences in Hawaii. It bills itself as modern Italian/American, and is located in Kailua. We ate pappardalle (with curry bolognese and fried curry leaves), Brussels sprouts (with prosciutto and bordelaise), di bologna pizza (pepperoncini, mozarella, soft poached egg, rosemary and mortadella), meatball pizza, and the pistachio glace (pistachio semifredo, dried sour cherry hibiscus, semolina, grapefruit and black sesame). I can honestly say that I enjoyed every single dish. I wasn't blown away by the Brussels sprouts, but that's because every restaurant does Brussels sprouts. But the rest of it...well, like I said, this was one of my better food experiences in Hawaii. And when I say "better," I mean that I was in a very happy food coma when dinner came to an end.

The pappardalle with curry bolognese is a great fusion-type dish. The curry is more like Japanese curry than Thai or Indian curry. The flavors work really well.

The meatball pizza, is actually a spicy meatball pizza. I like spicy foods, and I thought this had a pleasant kick to it. 

Now this was an interesting combination on a pizza. Mortadella, pepperoncini and a poached egg are not my go-to pizza toppings, but it was yummy.


Our group was torn over this dessert. I think two of us really liked it, and the other two were more like, "Meh." I was one of the ones who really liked it. I enjoyed the tart, the crunch, the creaminess of the pistacho semifredo. 

Prima also happens to have OnoPops on their menu, but none of the flavors my friends said that I had to try. After a fruitless search for the fun flavors (butter mochi, crackseed lemon peel, etc.), we decided to go to Bubbies for mochi ice cream. No kidding, this the best mochi ice cream ever.

From left to right, you are looking at mochi ice cream in chocolate peanut butter, salted caramel, and green tea. Forget the salted caramel. The chocolate peanut butter and green tea are way better!

My other great food experience while at home for the holidays was at SALT. This place has been on my "list" for months, so I was very happy to go with another group of food fans. We shared the oxtail empanadas and chicken fried local rabbit, as well as all three desserts. I can't remember the exact names of the desserts, but my favorite was the apple and bacon crumble, topped with cheddar ice cream. My entree was the brown butter gnocchi.

The empanadas and the chicken fried rabbit were delicious. I especially enjoyed the empanadas, which came with a tomato and golden raisin chutney. The apple and bacon crumble was amazing. Well, amazing if you like savory in your dessert, which I do. Some of us felt like there was too much bacon, but I was not part of that "us." As for my gnocchi? It was my favorite dish. Gnocchi is not normally something I order, but I did not want fish (not a fan), duck ramen (good ramen is easy to find in Hawaii and California), or the brick pressed jidori chicken (everyone does jidori chicken). I am so glad I went with the gnocchi!

The only thing I'm bummed out about SALT is that I missed the pork belly! I was looking for a dish called "porky belly confit", but it is actually called "bacon and egg." The dish is made up of confit pork belly, space egg, kim chee miso and english muffin. I will be back SALT!