Book Review: Taft 2012

February 24, 2012

Taft 2012: A Novel by Jason Heller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

No wonder Americans had devolved into such a petty, sarcastic lot. They no longer had to look each other in the eye.

I don't know much about Taft's presidency, but this book comes at a great time in our history. Can you imagine it? A Republican with Progressive values? My, how the party has changed.

The book does go into a little history of the time so you can understand where and when Taft is coming from and how he relates to existing a century later. And how confused we are!

Heller writes a few speeches for Taft that actually resonated with me. Chapter 29 is probably my favorite:

"If there is a problem with America today--as I see it--it is that we look for self-worth in consumption, rather than in the pursuit of personal achievement. I may seem a hypocrite for pointing out such a finger, for I have obviously engaged in quite a bit of overconsumption myself! Nonetheless, it is true. We cannot fill the void in our souls by stuffing ourselves with physical comfort; we can fill it only by striving to achieve excellence."

from page 240 of the print edition 
The speech goes on and Taft is accused of being a Socialist by someone who refuses to understand his clear speech.
As a satire it really speaks to what's wrong with our current election year and how disconnected Americans have become from each other, and our food. There's a running gag about GM foodstuffs throughout the book that becomes a plot turning point near the end. I won't spoil it for you. (Puns intended).

If you have a long weekend, or an hour or two a night, this book is quite the fast-paced romp and can be read quickly. The "interactive" bits were a bit distracting for me, but you can follow the "campaign" online with twitter, Facebook, and the main site

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Paying it Forward 
I received this book as a sweepstakes winner from and I'd like to pass it along. Enter a comment, tweet about the giveaway (leave another comment with your tweet) and maybe even like me on Facebook for another entry. I'll use Random.Org to pick the winner.

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Wordless Wednesday: Batting Practice

February 22, 2012

Movie Review: Real Steel

This past weekend we watched Real Steel on vudu.

We argued over this film. I've wanted to see it since it debuted (honestly, only because of Hugh Jackman, plain and simple). My daughter wasn't all that into it -- it's boxing, not hockey, softball, basketball, or soccer, know what I mean? And the Hunk wasn't all that thrilled about it because it was clearly a "family film" and likely sappy and lame. And he didn't want to watch me drool over Hugh for two hours.

30 minutes in and we were all hooked! At the end I wanted to watch it again and we all agreed that it's a movie worth owning.

This is a story about a man (Charlie Kenton played by Hugh Jackman) growing up and out of a selfish self-centered, short-sighted jackass and finding himself to be something more lovable. It's also about a street-smart, strong-willed child who knows what's best for his father, and a robot with a secret. But Max (Dakota's character) doesn't come across as a disrespectful know-it-all. Even when his dad makes mistakes he doesn't rub his face in it. He is, however, very manipulative to get what he wants. And what he wants is to fight the champion - Zeus. Max pushes both Charlie and Atom to be winners, not only in the ring, but in life. (Cliche, I know, but true.)

Yes, it's a feel good movie with a hunky handsome underdog - well, both Charlie and Atom are the underdogs. If you like the Rocky franchise, you will probably like this movie as well. There were quite a few similar themes that kept the Hunk interested and he mentioned how it reminded him of certain Rocky scenes.


After seeing some stills of Dakota I predict he's going to be the next big heartthrob on the red carpet. Thank goodness my daughter isn't there yet!

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Pumped Up Weird

February 21, 2012
I don't usually watch daytime TV, but I'm working from home today. I finally needed some background noise and I got sucked into Ellen. How cute are they???


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Chocolate Cake for a Flat Belly

Source: via Annette on Pinterest
No, really, at least according to Dr. Oz. I don't have a trifle pan, but this works well on a plate too, considering how fast it disappeared!

5-Layer Flat Belly Dessert

Recipe by Gail Simmons

This was featured on the Dr. Oz show. We actually skipped the flax and walnuts mixture when I made it, but I will add it the next time. We thought it would last a few days, but my teenage son ate about half of it when he got home. I only got one slice! The only one who didn't like it was my daughter, apparently she doesn't like coconut!

Nice to know that I can replace egg and oil with Greek yogurt (or probably any yogurt).

Rating: ****** Will definitely make again
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes
Yield: 12 servings give or take
  • 1 box devil's food cake mix
  • 1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 cups fat-free ricotta
  • 1 cup coconut milk, well stirred
  • 1 cup shredded, toasted sweetened coconut
  • 4 tablespoons agave syrup
  • 1/2 cup toasted oats
  • 1/2 cup ground flax seeds or flax seed meal
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts, lightly toasted if desired
  • 4 cups total any combination of fresh well-washed berries (strawberries, hulled and halved, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries)
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, for shaving
Cooking Directions
Note: Ingredient quantities depend on size of pan. This recipe is for a 9-inch trifle dessert pan

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F degrees.
  2. Prepare two 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick spray or butter and lightly flour each pan.
  3. In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer, combine the cake mix, yogurt, and water and mix well until no lumps remain. Divide batter evenly into prepared cake pans and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake emerges cleanly. Allow the cakes to cool completely in the pans.
  4. While the cake is cooking, mix the ricotta, coconut milk, shredded coconut and agave. With a rubber spatula, gently fold them together to fully combine.
  5. In a large resealable bag, combine the oats, flax seeds and walnuts. Seal the bag and shake well.
  • Layer 1: Cake
  • Layer 2: "Whipped" topping
  • Layer 3: Walnuts, flax, oat mixture
  • Layer 4: Berries
  1. Remove the cake from its pan and place in desired glass dish with high sides (or on a plate). Evenly spread half of the whipped topping mixture on top of the cake.
  2. Sprinkle half of the mixture evenly over the ricotta, then top with the berries to cover the whole cake surface.
  3. Repeat all 4 layers with the other half of the ingredients. Using a vegetable peeler, shave the bittersweet chocolate decoratively over the top (Layer 5). Serve dessert by scooping portions of the cake and all its layers into shallow bowls.

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Read "Princess of Mars" Before the Martians Attack

February 17, 2012
With John Carter (by Edgar Rice Burroughs, you know, the Tarzan guy) coming out soon, I got on Project Gutenburg and found the first 5 books for free (which can also be bought online for your Kindle - The John Carter of Mars Collection (3 books) - but my Nook reads epubs, so I opted to go the free route rather than pay, because, you know B&N offers a similar collection too).

By the way, please keep in mind that this series was written at the turn of the 20th century and is set just after the Civil War.
Free Downloads:
  1. Princess of Mars also as an audiobook 
  2. The Gods of Mars 
  3. Warlord of Mars 
  4. Thuvia, Maid of Mars 
  5. Chessmen of Mars
I haven't been able to find books 6-11 for free, but I will keep looking. In the meantime, you can read it online, with illustrations at


A little digging around the interwebz helped me find the rest of the series. They are zip,text, and HTML versions at Project Gutenberg Australia. I link to the text versions here.

  1. The Master Mind of Mars 
  2. A Fighting Man of Mars 
  3. Swords of Mars 
  4. Synthetic Men of Mars 
  5. Llana of Gathol 
  6. John Carter and the Giant of Mars 
  7. Skeleton Men of Jupiter  

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Recipe: Whole Wheat Corn Bread

February 16, 2012
Modified from a classic cornbread recipe. It's not as bright yellow as traditional corn bread because of the whole wheat flour, but it's just as tasty with butter and honey. 
Whole Wheat Corn Bread
Recipe by Annette Holland

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
Yield: 8-12 servings
  • 2/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow corn meal
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup sugar in the raw
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup olive oil or unsalted butter (melted)
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F and grease an 8x8 pan. Set aside.
  2. Mix all wet ingredients together.
  3. Mix all dry ingredients together.
  4. Mix all ingredients together until moist. Batter will be lumpy. Pour into greased pan and bake for 25-30 minutes. Corn bread is done when a knife or toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean.
*Recipe formatted using Recipe SEO

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Twogether is WAY Better

February 7, 2012
As mentioned in my previous post, there's a lot going on at Knott's Berry Farm this month. I am so glad I finally went!

Check out the rest of my photos

*Disclosure - This post sponsored by Gigasavvy and Knott's. I received admission for myself and 2 guests to attend this event.
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