Friday, June 28, 2013

All about Jane Austen- Her books, film adaptations, ect.

I have read and re-read Jane Austen's novels so many times its ridiculous... some of them far more than others (Pride and Prejudice).  Over Spring break and afterwards I went back and re-read them again. There were a lot of things I noticed this time through that I hadn't noticed before and a lot of thoughts I had on certain characters. Maybe I've matured more... that could always be a possibly. ;) So here are just a few thoughts on each of them. At the end of each I have included my movie recommendations or condemnations.

Pride and Prejudice

My all time favorite book. The characters and lines are some of the best that have ever been written.  For this book I didn't noticed quite as much that I hadn't ever seen before... probably because I've just read it so many more times. However there were a few things. Lizzy's Aunt Gardiner had to warn her to be careful not to show too much interest in Wickham as she knew quite well she could not marry him. I don't know why but I never noticed it before and somehow had autocorrected that.  I think it shows a lack of judgement in Lizzy's character that I maybe didn't expect in her and it makes me slightly disappointed in her. That also makes me love her Aunt Gardiner even more though.  The Gardiners are some of my favorite characters in the books.  They are so loving and kind, ready to assist in every way they can and Aunt Gardiner is wise and gives helpful advice to Lizzy several times.
Another thought I had was about Lizzy was that after she finds out about Lydia and realizes that at the moment when she really loves Mr. Darcy she knows that he will never have her now.  She contemplates that he really was the only man she could have married because he was someone she could respect and they complemented each other so well.  I don't know why but I don't remember reading that scene before, I don't remember it being in the movie but I could be mistaken.  I like that scene though because Lizzy thinking through her feelings and realizing that she loves Mr. Darcy but also the reasons why... it's not just all lovey dovey, but they would actually work well together.
Movie recommendations and condemnations: Pride and Prejudice (1995) is the BEST VERSION EVER!!! The 1940 version is also good but not incredibly true to the story line. My family still likes it though. You'll have to watch it to understand. DO NOT watch the 2005 version. Want to know why? Read my earlier post about it. I seriously think it will kill your brain cells. I recently watched via YouTube the 1980 version. It was tolerable I suppose but not amazing enough to tempt me. Meaning it was okay, I definitely liked it better than the 2005 version but still, there were certain things that just weren't right. I haven't written a full review which you can read here.

Sense and Sensibility

I had a lot of thoughts about this one.  One of my main complaints, having re-read the book is that the love stories of both Elinor and Marianne is not developed enough.  You are told, but you don't see it play out.  This is especially with Marianne.  The movie does that very well though and because of that I never really recognized that the book didn't. I was disappointed in that but it doesn't completely ruin the book for me. Another thought that entered my mind when reading this was that Marianne was about the same age as Lydia Bennett and in some ways (but obviously not all) she acts like her in her relationship with Willoughby. I just never really thought about that before. One doesn't normally draw parallels between those two but I think there is one that can be made.
Movie recommendations and condemnations: I love the 1995 movie version of this book with Emma Thompson. While of course it isn't as long as to give the book full justice, it is as good as it gets I think.  The only other version I have seen is the 2008 version, which is okay. I really like the Elinor and the Colonel Brandon was good as well, however  I think that even though it is roughly two and a half hours, it doesn't tell the story as well as the 1995 version.

Mansfield Park

I have heard that the heroine of this story was Jane Austen's favorites and one doesn't have to wonder why. Fanny Price is sweet and selfless, unasking of attention or thanks but always deserving them. One thought as I read this book was I was surprised that Edmund did not see through Henry Crawford.  I have always been disappointed he didn't see through Mary, though to a point he did, but Henry I felt like he more should have. In many ways Edmund is a dissatisfying hero because even though he know Mary has certain faults and does not see the clergy as she should he still falls in love with her. However, when you read the conversations he has with Fanny and sometimes with Mary you see that his mind and heart are in the right place, though he was lead astray by Mary.  His thoughts on the duties of a pastor are incredible and that is what forgives him in my mind.
Movie recommendations and condemnations: Because of Fanny Price being shy and reserved, I think she is a hard heroine for filmmakers to portray... which is why they end up butchering her I suppose. I have only seen one version of this movie and I didn't even get to finish it, it was that bad. seen two versions of Mansfield Park. The first version I saw was the 2007 version with Billie Piper in the lead roll, which is quite bad in my opinion. My full review is here.  The only decent version of Mansfield Park that I have seen is the 1983 version. You can read my full review here


This hasn't ever been my favorite to read but I have always loved watching the movie. So let's just cut to the movies shall we? :)
Movie Reccomendations and Condemnations: I grew up watching the Kate Beckinsdale 1996 version, which to me is thee version. I know others really love the 2009 version with Romolai Garai. I think it has its good points but there are several things that I dislike about the film. You can read my full review here. I probably was too harsh in that review but it is pretty much how I feel about it. I have also seen the Gwenyth Paltrow version that I thought was an enjoyable version. 

Northanger Abbey

I can't think of anything new I noticed reading it through again. I still loved it a lot. Mr. Tilney is so great and, as I have mentioned before, my mom has compared me to Catherine Morland, which I'm still not exactly sure how to take.
Movie Reccomendations and Condemnations: The only film version I have seen of this is the 2007 version. I have reviewed it before but here are a few brief thoughts on it but you should just go read my longer review here. I do like this movie version, however there are a couple scenes I don't appreciate. I think it captures pretty well the spirit of the novel and the casting is incredible! I recommend it, but cautiously 


Anne Elliot is just about my favorite heroine. In many ways she is like Fanny, only more outgoing. I really didn't think many new thoughts when reading this. I found Elizabeth Elliot annoying, as usual, but a character that I found more aggravating than normal was Mary Elliot. In some ways I dislike her more than Elizabeth, even though Elizabeth is worse.
Movie recommendations and condemnations: The 1995 version is good, though if you haven't read the book you might have trouble following it. I have also watched the 2007 version, which was good, though I disliked the ending. 

Lady Susan

Lady Susan is a novelette written in the form of letters that I did review more than a year ago. You can read the review here. It is really excellently written and I enjoyed reading it. It takes a little bit to get into the flow of it but once you're in, you're hooked!
Movie recommendations and condemnations: There have never been any film adaptations made of Lady Susan.

The Watsons

I just finished this one recently. It is one of Austen's two unfinished novels. To be short, I liked it a lot and I'm sorry that Austen didn't finish it. When I was reading it though, I did have the feeling that I had read it before, meaning it read very much like Austen's other books. I don't suppose I ever thought about all of her books sounding the same as I practically grew up with them. Several authors have completed it before, but I've never read any of those and I really couldn't say if they're good or not. If after reading it you want to know a rough idea of how Austen planned on it ending, just go look at the Wikipedia article. 
Movie recommendations and condemnations: There have never been any film adaptations made of The Watsons


This is the other of Austen's unfinished novels. I didn't enjoy it as much as The Watsons. In this book, Austen delves into to some different aspects then she did in her other books. Probably that is why I didn't like it as much. It has been complete many time by various other authors as well. 
Movie recommendations and condemnations: There have never been any film adaptations made of Sandition

So I'm sorry that this post took me so long to complete. I have had it as a draft for a long time now and almost forgot that I hadn't already posted it. But here it is! 

Lois Johnson, avid writer, tea drinker, and reader but first and foremost, avid Christian.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

On an Audiobook Kick

It all began when at work I was given the job of cleaning all of the DVDs. That's a lot of DVDs people! So I just sat there and put DVDs in the little machine and waited, and waited, and then when it was done took it out and put and put a new one in, and waited, and waited, and... well you get the drift. There was a lot of dead time. My brilliant brain eventually turned on and realized that I had about four audiobook apps that I had downloaded when I first got my iPhone but never had used. It was time. So I started listening to Pride and Prejudice, because one can never get enough exposure to it (unless of course it is the 2005 movie version, and then even once is too much). It was a Librivox production, which has a bunch of free audiobooks, and really pretty well done. So I had so much fun with that and so many more DVDs that needed to be cleaned that after I was done with it I just kept right on going and next listened to Robert Lousis Stevensons's The Black Arrow, which I had never read but was on my reading list. I council you to not listen to an audiobook of something you've never read or else you will just be wishing it to go faster because YOU JUST WANT TO FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENS!!!! I ended up reading the second half myself because I could read it so much faster than I could listen to it.  It was really excellent by the way and I encourage all to read it.  Then I listened to Much Ado About Nothing, which wasn't quite as well done as the other two and now I am listening to The Taming of the Shrew. Besides listening to them while I'm at work, I've also started listening to them while I'm working out, keeps me going.
I have listened to some audiobooks in the past, most namely some of Focus on the Family's radio dramas, which are AMAZING!!! It's just now though that I am really getting into them and I can't wait to listen to more.
I have already made the executive decision that these audiobooks WILL count toward my reading goal for the month. That's all there is to that.
Is anyone else an audiobook fan? What's your experience with them? Any favorites? Comment below!

Lois Johnson, avid writer, tea drinker, and reader but first and foremost, avid Christian.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Recipe- Creamy Avocado Pasta

It's like having guacamole on pasta, which is probably healthier than having it on chips. I really enjoyed it (I mean come on, guacamole on pasta!) and so did everyone else that ate it. I can't wait to try it again! What's great about it is the avocado sauce replaces the normally fatteningly delicious alfredo sauce giving a far healthier alternative that still tastes amazing.
I did make some changes. The original recipe doesn't call for any meat but the person I got it from added shrimp. I am not a shrimp fan so I used a couple cubed and boiled chicken breasts instead. I also didn't bake the tomatoes. I don't like extra dishes or extra time. That's just me. I also omitted the pine nuts as we didn't have any and I'm not that crazy about them either.
So here's the original recipe, change as you will.

Creamy Avocado Pasta
10-12 smal Campari tomatoes, quartered (I eigthed them)
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
4 servings Fettuccine noodles (about half a packet)
2 ripe avocados, seed and skin removed
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 tsp salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup pine nuts
grated fresh parmesan (I used about 1/2 cup)
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350˚.
Wash and quarter the tomatoes. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil. Bake for an hour in the oven.
Cook fettuccine until al dente following the directions on the box.
In a food processor, combine remaining two tablespoons of olive oil, garlic cloves, lemon juice, and avocados. Pulse until the ingredients are smooth and creamy (I didn't have very ripe avocados so I ended up adding a little water to smooth it out).
Strain the pasta and combine with the avocado sauce in large bowl. Add tomatoes, parmesan cheese, and pine nuts as well as salt and pepper to taste.

Lois Johnson, avid writer, tea drinker, and reader but first and foremost, avid Christian.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Movie Review- Wreck it Ralph

This came out a while back, I know. I watched it a little more than a month ago and now, finally, I am writing this review.

So procrastinating aside, here is my review.

Synopsis: Wreck it Ralph, the villain of the game Fix it Felix, is tired of being the bad guy and being rejected and never winning a medal so after 30 years he decides to go win himself a medal... in another game. Havoc ensues and now Ralph must fix it along with the help of his new friend Vanellope.

First off, I did enjoy the film, it was fun and funny and as many before me have said, far more resembled a Pixar movie than a Disney movie. One thing I didn't like about it was that I didn't feel like it had much of a point. Yeah, okay, it somewhat of a point "you don't have to have a medal to be a hero", but I'm not sure it quite worked for me. Anyone else's thoughts or am I just being silly? I also didn't like the bit of crude humor that snuck in. There was also a little political stuff at the end I thought was silly/dumb but didn't ruin the movie for me.

There was lots I did like. The characters were great, unique in their own way and playing their part in the story well. The cute relationship that springs up between Vanellope and Wreck it Ralph is touching.  I liked that Fix it Felix actually was a good guy. I assumed on first seeing him that he wouldn't be and that Ralph's and his rolls would be reversed but I was wrong. However I'm glad I was because I really like Felix in this movie. King Kandy was a great villain and... no, no spoilers, just watch it. I think all of the characters had good back stories that pulled the movie along and added interest.

I am sure there was lots of video game humor that I totally missed (because I don't play video games) but I think I might have gotten some of it. That being said, it was quite funny. I loved the references they made to The Wizard of Oz, which completely cracked me up. King Kandy was hilarious too. As I mentioned before there was some crude humor that disappointed me.

So all in all, it was a fun  and entertaining flick. Let me know your thoughts on it! :)

Lois Johnson, avid writer, tea drinker, and reader but first and foremost, avid Christian.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Mid-Month Progress Report- June 2013

Well already half way through June! In some ways its been a little more relaxful but in other ways it hasn't slowed down a bit. So how are my resolutions going? Coming up, right below!

Read or Re-read at least 10 books

I'm doing alright with this. I read Jane Austen's two unfinished novels Sandition and The Watsons. I also started reading The Ultimate Proof of Creation and I am almost done with it. For re-reading, I don't know why, it must be my Tolkien geekiness shining through that certain people say doesn't exist yet (I apparently have to know the dying words of somebody in The Silmarillion), but anyways even though I re-read them at the beginning of the year, I am once again re-reading the Lord of the Rings. I already finished The Fellowship of the Ring and I am halfway through the Two Towers (I got halfway in one day too). I have also been listening to Pride and Prejudice on audiobook but I'm not going to count that unless I have to. So I've been reading quite a bit but still 10 books is a lofty goal so I'm going to have to keep up with that.

Exercise in some form at least 15 minutes a day

I have been doing it. Most days more than that but one day that was all I did just because I didn't want to mess up for my resolutions.

Stick to my diet

My more specific goal was to only have three cheat days this month and so far I've had but one. This month, because I felt like my weight was never going to drop again and that I was being too lenient with myself, I decided to not have any desserts, even if they would fit into my calorie goal. So I have passed up cinnamon rolls several times this week, which didn't make me happy. Next week, I'll probably take them back into the fold, but I'll still try and be more strict about them.

Cut down on my electronics time

Some, but not much.

Write at least five more blog posts this month

This is one I definitely need to work on. I have only written one about Greek Yogurt recipes and besides that... nada! 

Read through and study the book of Romans

I was doing really well on this at the beginning of the month but I think I got three chapters in and dwindled off. I'll be needing to pick that back up ASAP.

Work on my writing

I haven't written any outlines yet.... fail! However, I did write a little on one of my novels so I have been doing some.

Memorize some scripture

I was trying to figure out what on earth I was going to memorize, I wanted a plan you see and then at a meeting for VBS (I'm going to be a teacher! Pretty excited) it was suggested we memorize the verses that the children will be learning during the week of VBS. So now I know what I am going to memorize but besides looking at them, I haven't done anything else. So yeah.

Try at least three new recipes

I have tried three new recipes at least. I am trying to recall all that I made this month and not get them confused with those I made last month. First off, why did no one tell me about Chocolate Covered Katie (The Healthy Dessert Blog) before? Don't assume I know about all of the good food websites. Secondly, so far I've made a coffee cake for one in a mug, the yogurt biscuits and the egg salad featured in the Greek Yogurt Recipes post, and a really delicious creamy avocado pasta, which is like having guacamole on pasta pretty much. I should post the recipe so you all can enjoy it too. It was great! So that's four already and there are a ton from Chocolate Covered Katie I want to try as soon as my week of no desserts is up (i.e. Chocolate cake for one, and Reeses Peanut Butter Cup Baked Oatmeal... yum!). So apparently a goal of three recipes was an understatement. Well I have to go get dressed and get ready to make some MORE yogurt biscuits. Because I've been craving biscuits all week. :)

Lois Johnson, avid writer, tea drinker, and reader but first and foremost, avid Christian.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

My Favorite Greek Yogurt Recipes

I am obsessed, I repeat OBSESSED, with greek yogurt. Ever since I started trying to lose weight I started eating greek yogurt. It's amazing. Then I learned about using it as a substitute in recipes for the oil/fat. Amazing! So here are some of my favorite recipes using greek yogurt... and the recipe folder is always growing. 

Greek Yogurt Pancakes
Recipe makes one serving
-6 oz  Greek yogurt (I normally use plain but have used flavored in a pinch)
- 1 egg 

- 1/2 cup flour
- 1 tsp baking soda 

- 1 tsp vanilla extract 

- few dashes of salt 

- 1 tsp sugar or other sweetener (I normally don't use sweetener)
-1/4 cup milk (if too thick)
Mix ingredients together and fry delicious pancakes. OR Join me in microwaving pancakes.... another new OBSESSION!!! Just butter a plate and then pour batter on it (about half will cover a plate) and then microwave for a couple minutes. Obviously won't be crispy like a normal pancake but besides that much the same. There is no pan clean up, and no waiting for the stupid pancake to cook on both sides. It's amazing, trust me. I have pancakes most every day now.

Greek Yogurt Egg Salad
Recipe makes 2 servings.
You'll need: 
2 large eggs, hard boiled, chopped fine 
1/4 cup plain nonfat greek yogurt 
1 dill pickle spear, chopped fine 
1 tsp yellow mustard 
Salt, pepper, paprika, or other sesonings to taste 
Stir together all ingredients in a bowl until well mixed. Serve on bread, in a pita, or a wrap. 

Yogurt Biscuits
2 1/4 cups commercial or homemade self-rising flour, divided 
****For those who don’t have self rising flour… i.e. me- Self-Rising Flour (Per 1 cup flour- ½ tsp salt, 1 ½ tsp baking powder)*****
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain yogurt, divided
Butter, softened or melted, for finishing
****I added in milk because it was too thick, which I think was due to my using GREEK YOGURT*****
Preheat oven to 450˚
Combine 2 cups flour and salt. Set aside remaining 1/4 cup.
Add yogurt and knead into a dough. If to dry here is wear you would add milk... if too wet, add some flour.
On a floured surface pat out dough into a 1/2-1 inch thick round and then cut out biscuits. 
Place in buttered pan and bake for 10-14 minutes. 
Note- These are surprisingly delicious and you could scarcely tell they weren't the traditional biscuit.

Chicken Pasta Salad
Serves 6
8 oz whole wheat penne pasta
2 (6 oz) boneless skinless chicken breast (doubled)
1 cup halved seedless red grapes
¼ cup walnut pieces
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
½ cup chopped celery
½ cup low fat plain greek yogurt
½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
tsp sea salt
Boil a large pot of water, adding a drizzle of olive oil to prevent the pasta from sticking. Add the pasta to the boiling water, stirring once, and cook 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente. Strain the pasta.
While the pasta is cooking, trim the fat off the chicken, if any, and cut it into small cubes. Fill a separate, medium pot with water, and bring it to a boil over high heat. Add the chicken cubes (water should cover them), and boil for five to six minutes.
Drain both the pasta and the chicken. In a large bowl combine the pasta and the chicken with the remaiing ingredients, and mix well. Refrigerate for 20-30 minutes before serving. 
Skinny Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies
I've already posted this recipe before here. I love these so much. :)

So those are some of my favorites. I have so many more Greek yogurt recipes that I can't wait to try. Are any of y'all obsessed with Greek yogurt too? Any favorite flavors or delicious recipes? Comment below! :)

Lois Johnson, avid writer, tea drinker, and reader but first and foremost, avid Christian.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Monthly Resolutions- June 2013

So another month begins and resolutions must be made. I want to try some fun and different ones this month... to change it up a bit. I keep doing the same ones and it becomes too easy. Not to say I am getting a total revamp... but some new ones are required.

Re-occuring Goals... Though all tweaked a little bit

Read or Re-Read at least 10 books

That's right ten! I think I can do it and if I can't shame on me!  I want at least three of these to be theological/non-fiction. Speaking of which, at the homeschool convention this weekend I obtained several new books, which I am super excited about. I am now the proud owner of ALL of Jane Austen's books including, Sandition and The Watsons, which came in the copy of Northanger Abbey I bought. I can't wait to read those as I have always wanted to. I also loaded up on some Dickens, Tolkien, and Agatha Christie. 

Exercise in some form for at least fifteen minutes EVERY day

That's not asking for too much and already that is pretty much what I have been doing so this shouldn't be too hard for me. All I am asking for is fifteen minutes. 

Stick to my diet

I want to have less "cheat days". I have kept with once a week, and I really feel like I should have less then that. I am not trying to entirely restrict myself so sometimes I will indulge but I probably don't need to do that once a week. So I think for part of this goal I will try to limit myself to only three cheat days for the month of June.

Cut down on my electronics time

Computer and iPhone... though it would really be better if I used my computer more than I use my iPhone... if that makes any sense. 

Write at least FIVE more blog posts this month

I'm upping it this month! I have several drafts that I have let rot for far too long. They mostly involve movie reviews that I feel too lazy to think about writing. 

New Goals!!!

Read through and study the book of Romans

Romans is I think the most theologically heavy book in the Bible... though don't quote me on that... please. It seems to have all of those nuggets of truth though that people whip out at opportune moments. It has been awhile since I read it but I would really like to go back through it and spend some time studying it. 

Work on my writing

So I write in spurts... lame little spurts. I have the novel that I have been writing for forever, and the two that I randomly got inspired to write a few paragraphs on last month that I need to work on. I got a book from the library called First Draft in 30 Days, which really is more about writing a really detailed outline in 30 days. Anyways, so far it has been excellent and I want to make that kind of outline for everything I have going right now. That, and do some actual writing... that would be nice too. :)

Memorize some scripture

I memorized scripture back when I went to Sunday School and I more or less remember it. I am pretty good at paraphrasing a verse but definitely not knowing it word for word or where in the bible it comes from. So I really want to work on this. I am not sure quite yet what my plan is. I don't want to be too ambitious and I'll probably be starting small. Hopefully this can be a long term and ongoing goal.

Try at least three new recipes

Sometimes I get on spurts where I just start baking and baking. I love those moments... but my diet doesn't. Anyways, I digress. Though I did make a really good chocolate cake with chocolate peanut butter frosting recently.... recipe coming soon. So I want to find three new recipes and try them out. I have a ton that I have found over the last year or so on the internet that I just put into Evernote and forget about. I need to try them out!!!! What is the use of finding recipes if I never use them? Exactly. 

So old and new and hopefully plenty of fun for this month. I definitely wanted to add the goals about spending more time in God's word because eat the homeschool convention this weekend one speaker said something rather convicting. He was talking about how much time people spend watching TV, which I don't watch TV but I waste plenty of time on other stuff (cough, iPhone, cough) and he said that the average Christian is going to spend more time watching TV (or other stuff in my case) then going to church, Sunday school, spending time in the word of God. That kind of gave me a jolt about what my priorities are. 
If you missed it, I got accepted into the nursing program for my school for this coming Fall semester and I am SUPER excited. It's kind of crazy to think that it is finally going to happen. 
So make sure to check out Kelli's blog, which I am linking up with and have a great month! 

Lois Johnson, avid writer, tea drinker, and reader but first and foremost, avid Christian.
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